Saturday, March 6, 2010

Should you lie about being a ghost hunter?

There’s no need to lie, but there are times when omission is the better path. For instance, with people you know are highly conservative and might be offended by “dabbling with the devil,” or perhaps work cohorts who might pass the word around you’re kind of “woo-woo.” It’s a lot like when to discuss sex and religion. For as far as we came physically off the Mayflower, much of American ideals are borrowed from a very puritanical time. We may legally have freedoms, but socially we do not really.

If someone asked me straight out “are you hunting ghosts?” I’d definitely admit to it, but even in these days when ghost hunting is popular amongst the general population, some folks “don’t take kindly to people poking around in search of ghosts and such.” (said with a deep rural dialect for more menacing effect).

I’ve found that if I’m checking out an area of potential haunts, say a small town’s Main Street where all the old buildings are lined up, I tend to call myself a “history buff.” That’s definitely not far from the truth. I want to know all about the life of the building and how many incarnations it has seen. It tells me a lot about haunting potential, but also about the overall mood of the building. Some buildings are just dark and murky from their birth onward; others are quite contented little gathering places with positive energy. Being a history buff upon first meeting someone helps to segway into the next truth, "I actually hunt ghosts."

Downtown shop owners are generally some real history nuts and romantics about their buildings. They like to talk about what they’ve learned and uncovered, what they’re done during renovation. All aspects of this intrigue me. My ultimate dream was always to do reclamation work and the thought of old parts of a building being reused again makes my psychic fingers itch with excitement. I’m one of those freaks who adores junkyards, as well.

You get the shop owners talking about the romantic history of the building and then it easily comes around to the subject of spirit activity. “So, when you’re in here after hours, does it creak and groan a lot? I think it’d be pretty alive at night.” That line normally gets the conversation open. I don’t know a history lover who doesn’t claim to have activity, but sorting out the kinds of activity is crucial. One lonely shop owner with a love of history and ghosts might romanticize it, but several workers at the shop seeing similar things is pretty significant on my “potentially haunted” meter.

My favorite activity is being the "live haunt" amongst the dead in cemeteries. I love being in cemeteries at nighttime. I know you’re not supposed to, but somehow it seems the most brilliant time to view the graves. There is nothing like rows of glistening headstones in the moonlight to make you compare the nearby shadows and feel a moment of fear that something moved. It’s even more silent in the nighttime and it holds all the secrets of death in the inky blackness. Some of my favorite photos were taken in nighttime cemeteries.

I’ve usually scoped out the cemetery to be certain I won’t run into anyone and that it has no closing gates. I also am prepared with camera to explain that I’m a photography buff and wanted just a few shots of the graves as the sun was setting and time got away from me. (I go at sunset and stay until just after dark—I’m not stupid. If I’m found there at midnight, I’m definitely going not up to any good.) Since I do happen to leave flowers for the older graves no one visits anymore and I like to say the person’s name out loud (since no one has probably said their name for a century or more), I usually look like a very benign visitor for any investigating park rangers or police. Still, people get arrested all the time for trespassing, so like I said, the best time to be there is just after sunset with a camera in hand. I never explain I’m a ghost hunter to officials. I would rather appear to just be a ditzy female who likes to take pictures than a person stalking the cemetery and disturbing its eternal peace.

I do admit to a very rebellious side that gets angry when people try to define me. I am unique and I’m very protective of that, so sometimes blurting out “I’m a ghost hunter” after “what do you do in your spare time?” is just a way for me to assert my difference. I was very much this way in high school. I would dare people to like me after finding out how weird I was. I practiced a mental form of "shock and awe" in which the ones I didn't want to associate with were shocked, and the ones that suited me were in awe. I still like to test people that way. Those who are intrigued are definitely “my people.” It’s not easy to find “my people” out here in Arizona. Admittedly, everyone is pretty much a suburban conservative drone. So, to shake things up, I like to remind them that I write erotic horror and hunt ghosts, even though I have a very perky and jokingly light-hearted personality. It’s possible to be all different things. I don’t ever want to be a “type” you can peg.

The reasons for admitting you’re a ghost hunter are really dependent on the company you’re with. I always ask myself “if I reveal this, what will I gain or lose?” Sometimes, it simply needs to be done in degrees; a hint of your love of horror movies, a comment about an abandoned building you photographed. Remember, you’re testing the waters just like on a first date.

I’m proud that I can call myself a “ghost hunter,” but the meaning of that title differs for me than for others. Some are in search of their first experience, some are in search of proof to show others, some are wanting a scary moment to disorient them from their dull life, but for me it’s a confirmation of what I’ve experienced in the past and a quest to find an explanation that rings true for me. I'm not out to impress anyone but myself and I am a harsh critic of my own findings.

There’s no shame in being a ghost hunter, only shame on others for their negative reactions.


  1. "We may have legal freedoms, but socially we do not". A-f'n-men sister! I know exactly what you're saying here and in so many ways. It's funny how a mainstream strange idea can sound normal to society when compared to a less popular yet equally strange idea. Example: Resurrected Jesus versus Zombie Jesus (kidding), but I would definitely consider Occultism versus Christianity a big one.

    You've hit the nail on the head with pretty much everything you mention in this post. I don't so much as "hunt" ghosts but instead try to verify my own personal experiences by trying to run into the same thing twice. For me, I really could care less who believes what I do and who doesn't. When you've run into the paranormal, you just KNOW. That "knowing" really eases any fear of self-doubt one may hold regarding their experiences. The only person I'm trying to convince either way is myself.

    And oh, I know what you mean. I also walk around acting like a history buff while all the while always trying to subtlety inquire on the paranormal. I know this shop keeper here who runs this artsy-fartsy place that used to be a bank back in the late 1800's. I asked her about the building and it didn't take long for me to get her talking about the haunted activity that apparently goes on there at times. I also know a bartender from another building in a different city with activity. Inquiring about the building is definitely the best way to get people to let you in on any possible hauntings. And always make sure to reassure THEM that you don't think THEY'RE crazy or else they WILL clam up and you'll lose your insider info!

    It also appears we both share a love of stalking cemeteries at night. If caught by the right person this could either be really funny or somewhat painful for me. But I can't help it. I've always been a rebel at heart and there's something about doing the exact opposite of what's expected of you that gets me going. Besides, I know all the great hiding places and escape routes in this fifteen-plus acre graveyard and if I get caught, it's not only my fault but I should get the idiot-klutz award of the year. PLUS there is only ONE entry--a gate that only opens one way after dark--and that is out! No one can come in off the street which makes it uber-cool.

    Besides, nighttime is always the best time for graveyard shots and there's something so refreshing about being the only living human in a cemetery, isn't there? The living get tiring to be around. Sometimes I welcome the silence of the dead. Or is that just me being weird?

  2. i'm not a 'ghost hunter' per se, but i love to be anywhere that you can feel ghostly stuff. like antique stores down on main street, etc, or scary feeling houses...

  3. Grim;

    Freaky, huh? We're both haunting both ends of the US. Yeah, I had a therapist for time long ago to sort out issues and learn a few coping skills and I told him I went rock climbing and rapelling down a mountain to get over my fear of heights and then I went speluking to get over my fear of closed places. He said, "you're counterphobic, you know that?" I have a tendency to poke at my weak spots, hoping to strengthen them by doing the very thing I feel uncomfortable with. That's probably why, even though was an excessively shy child, I am now a ham and love an audience. I just work on what goes on inside my head so I can find a place inside me to push past any fears. It's not so easy with flying, though. I really detest it, but I realize that's because a complete stranger is flying my body 30K feet up at a few hundred miles an hour and defying every bit of physics I think make sense... hee hee. Admittedly, it's harder for girls to do these nighttime things. I've done cemeteries at night alone, but it is very uncomfortable. I'm pretty helpless. I refuse to own a cell phone and I only carry a pocket knife. I keep meaning to get a tazer or pepper spray. I probably should. You have a lot more freedoms to do those things, lucky boy. It's a different world at night, for sure. I guess I'm a Noctophile, but I have to be out there under the moonlight, in the shadowy places, playing it a bit risky by taking the alleyway. I don't think we realize how asleep we are in our lives until we sit alone in a creepy attic in an abandoned house for an entire night and face our biggest fear-our own darkest thoughts. Oh, and this Halloween month when I do my crazy blog stuff, I plan to do a series on "alone" describing being alone in lots of scary places, so I have a few more places to try being alone in that most people wouldn't tolerate so I can describe them. The research is the fun part!

    You are the typical version of ghost hunter--the seeker of old places and antiques. That's really just another form of it. We're so very sensitive to the things we touch and don't realize it. You go in and old building and feel pleasant or you feel really disturbed. That's a ghost hunter using her senses, but it's also a psychic. I suspect you have that sensitivity. You've risen above the BS of a majority and have a perspective that would make you a great bloodhound to send into the building first and tell the group if it's haunted and worth the inspection.

  4. All of my family, friends and co-workers know I am a ghost hunter, and yes they thin I am a woo whoo, but to be honest I don't care what they think. Now on the other hand if I am out exploring in a public place I am like you, I will telll the shop keeper/owner that I am a history buff, because I have found that a lot of historical places do not want the reputation of being haunted, so they will not talk to me if they thin that I am there to "investigate" something. I don't usually go into the graveyards at night, but I have been known to be on the Yorktown battlefield when I should be ha ha. Since Gettysburg is my favorite "haunt" and we visit there a couple of times a year I am thankful that the battlefield doesnt close until late. Lots of fun places there to explore. My area of course has it's share so I am always out and about checking out the "history"

  5. Patty;
    Lucky locale. Of course, here in the desert if you go to a ghost town, you're likely to run into all types including coyotes (not the animals-the human traffickers) so you really have to think about where you go and who you go with. I prefer an entourage including a few friend's bored boyfriends and husbands because they can at least stand sentinel. The great battle areas here are on Reservation and not accessible, but honestly, given the spirituality of Native Americans and the blood shed on their lands, I'd give anything to have access to these spots, but much of AZ is really off limits. In fact, the citizens can only live on like 8% of the land or something crazy like that. I can't wait for my next trip back east so I can really hit some places I took for granted when I was growing up, like Gettysburg. I miss how many well maintained historic spots there are back there. Of course, we have Tombstone and Bisbee and Jerome and lots of crazy well maintained historic sites, you just have to put up with gun-shooting cowboys in campy tourist shows (yeah, just like the Grand Canyon bar in National Lampoon's Vacation). You sound like you have a good attitude about being a hunter. The people who are uncomfortable with it, I just ignore. My oldest brother is that way, he and his family are freaky fundamentalists. It was a line he drew in the sand, but honestly no loss for me because he's been a completely absent brother my entire life, so I'm not surprised at all and I'm not missing out. People like that don't deserve to be part of my magical life. Their loss. It really can sometimes be a way to do spring cleaning by saying "this is who I am." Very liberating, indeed!

  6. I agree with you on being hush hush about certain things. I'm not a ghost hunter but just being interested in this stuff would raise eyebrows among my social circle. At least with some of them.

    I may not be a ghost hunter but I think there should be a certain degree of respect among the field. Too many people trespassing on private property in the name of collecting evidence or merely looking for a cheap thrill.

  7. Andrea;
    Yeah, that's the truth. I've run into a lot of hunters who go into places of business like B&Bs and hotels that are haunted and then at night run up and down the halls with equipment and filming and calling out and stuff when the staff told them they're not allowed. It's made it very hard to get anyone willing to let people do studies anymore. You have to establish a good relationship with folks who will let you come and do a study with whatever guidelines they give.

  8. I consider myself conservative/centrist, but I think I'm different than a lot of conservatives. I like to think, imagine, and I'm terribly curious about any and all things. lol I like me the way I am and wouldn't want anyone to act like something they're not. I'm comfortable with my beliefs, but I certainly won't go hitting someone over the head with them. I get along with most people. I think your uniqueness is awesome...don't ever change. I hate hearing that about your brother. I know so many like your brother, (sigh) and most of them are troublemakers. lol
    I'm not sure that I could ghost hunt, b/c well, I think I've already established that I'm a scaredy cat. lol. I do however, loooove old things, old buildings, old cemetaries, and atmospheres where everything seems as though it's from another time (not sure if that makes sense). So, naturally I love your blog...b/c you talk about a lot of that and way more.
    So, when are you coming back east? Didn't I see somewhere in one of your posts that you are from NC? Sorry if I'm wrong. Have you ever been to Gatlinburg TN? It's very touristy, but it has an "old" kind of atmosphere. They have a lot of "old" everything there and some pretty cool haunted history. They have an awesome ghost walk there...I've been on it. I wish now I had taken my camera with me. I probably would have picked up some cool things...there's buildings there that were built on top of cemetaries. I think you'd like it there...lots of ghost hunting opportunities. :)Here's a link to read a little about the ghost walk there.


    Sorry, I don't think I posted it well the first time around.

  10. Hey Kim;
    Your attitude is healthy and progressive. How refreshing. So far as my brother is concerned, it's not loss at all. He's 13 years older than me a complete and total stranger. He made a choice to break off from the family and its his loss. He has only two siblings left, my sister and I, and he's missing out big-time because we are the types who would do absolutely anything for people we care for. I don't want to live that way. I'm extremely huggy and comforting and motherly towards people. I can't help but want to give people happy little moments in their lives and let them know how awesome they are. We had the same upbringing, I just chose to do something different with it--something that actually makes a change in the world. Besides, you don't get to pick sibs, but you get to pick friends, so I find fun people like yourself out there.

    I'm from Fairfax,VA which is basically the DC area. I'm way overdue to come back east again. My family is almost all in West Virginia, but some are in the Maryland area, so I usually end up trying to get around them both and that's quite a haul. I think next time I want to try and hit our old summer home on the Chesapeake too. Jeez, I miss that area. I've lived out west so long that I totally don't belong in that area. I have to laugh when I'm in the DC area with the traditional homes and people in navy blue suits. I'm a real laid back, casual, eco-weenie type. I still love the place and the people though. When I hear the local dialects, I feel like I'm home again. I love Tennesse and it's seriously a greatly haunted state. My ultimate goal is as soon as I get published as an author, I'd like to rent a cabin in West Virginia for at least a month and spend some time jaunting around and doing some ghost hunting and writing the next book. Of course, I'll keep you posted.

    Oh, and keep going to old places. Everyone has a way of going about finding the mood and atmosphere of ghost hunting and antique shops and and historic buildings are subtle ways you feel the history--I believe everyone has that ability.

  11. Great post! It's the same with "Monster Hunting". Even though, thanks to shows like GH (and similar), MQ, DT, the cryptozoology/paranormal community can emerge from the closet a little more, you can still raise an eyebrow or two when talking about the subjects to some people. Much like the "history buff" approach you mention with ghost hunting, when checking an area for a history of cryptid or monster sightings it's sometimes helpful to say you're researching history and folklore.
    Kim raised an interesting point about "conservatism". By and large I consider myself pretty far to the right on a lot of matters. But my personal beliefs and views aren't necessarily the same as my political views. I may be "conservative" on a lot of issues, but I don't believe it's government's role to "push" or legislate my own beliefs on everyone else, just as I don't want government to try to impose someone else's personal views on me, and I despise political correctness.

  12. Burt;
    I just knew you were complex like me. I can't really be pegged. I'm anti-gun for people aquiring them (you hate that, I know). I am pro-choice but also think we don't do nearly enough capital punishment and am extremely hard on convicted criminals and certain types being completely nonviable to be amongst the population again. So, you can see, I'm strange. My personality is happy and bubbly and cuddly, but I'm super into dark, scary, and nighttime shadows. You are just as complex, no doubt. I've found that admitting you're a ghost hunter is the same as saying you're an evangelical. People sort of take a step back and assume a lot about your mindset for believing so much in the unprovable. It's a delicate dance, but it definitely separates the people you don't want to associate with from the ones you should associate with. You know how they say within the Hispanic world and African American world there is snobbery about the amount of pigment in one's skin? Well, in ghost hunting (and I'm sure monster hunting) there is a similar snobbery. I admit that when I hang with other ghost hunters who have a very old-world way of ghost hunting and are a bit too new-age and into possession and theatrics and such, I roll my eyes and step away. I don't want to be associated with them. So, even within the profession there is a certain degree of distancing.

  13. I think everyone needs to make their own choice on these matters. I'm very open with all of my weirdnesses and I think even my most conservative aquaintances at least find me amusing. I'm not an official ghost hunter, but I spend a lot of time writing about and chasing ghost stories. I tell everyone and I don't like to pretend to be something I'm not. People may not like me and I'm comfortable with that.

    Grim. You compared Jesus to a zombie and I just saw that comparison in a movie called American Zombie. They called Jesus the first zombie.

    Autumn: Poking at your weak spots to deal with fears is treating yourself. Your using a technique called flooding which is the fastest and most effective technique to deal with any phobia. Good for you! Very few people are comfortable with flooding so most therapists use systematic desensitisation. You are a very brave woman.

  14. Jessica;
    It has definitely taken a while to be comfortable with telling people I don't know well, what I do. The reactions by some family members and a few friends was so frustrating that at first I withdrew from telling anyone, then I got angry and the rebel in me decided to poke at them. I had a conversation with my brother and told him, "you're not going to stop being a Christian and I'm not going to start being one, but can we still have a relationship?" I didn't hear from him, so I'll take a wild guess. I would much rather pick the people who are honored to be in my life because they are repaid many times over. Flooding is the right word for it. I hadn't realized what I was doing, but I get so angry when something makes my world smaller, that I have to shove at it until I realize I didn't die or go crazy. It's the most liberating feeling in the world. I still have issues with heights, but honestly, I have a problem with depth perception and I just get all catywompas (my favorite term from my mother) when I look at things from heights. I don't like going upwards--in planes, escalators or glass elevators, but coming down, I have zero fear. It's the weirdest thing. I keep pushing at it so I don't get unused to it. What was it Eleanor Roosevelt said that liberated me long ago??? "You can't have any bravery if you don't have any fear?"