Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Take it or Leave It, I'm here to stay (How to cope with people's perceptions about ghost hunting)

I’ve had this conversation a hundred times with different people, each one adding something new to the array of reactions folks have about ghosts, ghost hunting, and the paranormal.

When I first started ghost hunting, I was so excited I was finally doing something active about the questions rattling in my head about things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, that I entered the "eager to tell people I’m a ghost hunter" phase. The reactions were always quite similar (this was pre-“Ghost Hunters” show era). They would stare blankly, blink a few times, mouth usually open, and then make that little humming sound in their throats as they tried to think of a polite way to say, “did I hear you right?"

Disheartened by initial reactions, I tucked that bit of myself away and didn’t share it with anyone but my closest friends and family. I continued my search and then hit the "outrage/rebellion" phase. I’ve supported all of these people on paths that I thought were completely wrong, but I knew deep in my heart that as long as they were on their own life journey, they’d land on their feet because I believed in their inherent wisdom and wherewithal. Where were they for me? I went from tail tucked between the legs, ashamed I hunt ghosts, to in-your-face “I hunt ghosts, whatcha gonna make of it?” attitude. That was met quite briskly with fundamentalist relatives dropping out of touch with me completely, but not before they first voiced their concern with me conjuring up the Devil. I promptly told them that it wasn’t their business if I’m seeking spiritual answers, they became backwater Baptists and I didn’t go nutso on them for their blind obedience and fear of everyone and everything. Well, honestly, that weeded out the dead weight anyways. You really need to know who actually will support you, if you get a bad haircut, divorce your wife, or buy a Corvette at the age of 60. Most folks that love you unconditionally will actually take pride in you being such a complex and interesting human being. That you hunt ghosts becomes an endearing character quirk to them.

Inevitably I entered the "let me differentiate myself from the spiritualists" phase. There are, admittedly, some people in the ghost hunting world who rely only on the spiritual realm. That's kind of weird for me because it's like taking one supposition and using it to treat another supposition. We can't prove spiritual contact and we can't prove ghosts, so why use one to prove the other? A lot of people associate ghost hunting with the old turn-of-the-century Victorian era ghost hunting tactics. I’m talking about the folks who talk to spirit guides and become possessed at the drop of a hat ("Most Haunted" show). It’s probably not for me to judge if what they’re doing is working or not, but when ghost hunting becomes “religion” that is very concerning. It was very important to me in this phase to let people know that I don’t talk to spirit guides, I don’t do possession, and I won't be blessing their houses. I'm not, however, against the use of my psychic abilities to know where and when in a house to approach a situation, but it's not something I would broadcast as evidence. I would use it hopefully capture activity but not as proof of activity. It's very much like the use of your senses to know when something's happening. I insist on using whatever instruments I have for documentation and stray away from the theatrics, they don't help the industry progress.

After the last stage, the next one inevitably becomes, the "where are my people?" phase. You've had enough time at it and enough exposure to other people's methods, so you kind of know where you belong. You might be in between science and spirituality, you might be hardcore proof on film and audio, you might be leaning towards cleansings and counseling. I found a body of folks who have a similar attitude as mine which is more along the lines of admitting we have no true answers about what ghosts are and if they exist. We want to have experiences, make conclusions, find ways to test the conclusions, and seek proof that will help move us along in understanding what hauntings are. This is a liberating phase because this is when you realize that you have people who really get you. You have others to talk about theories with, share strange experiences with. It's kind of like being in battle together with the bonding you make when no one else around you ever will really get what you've been through and what goes through your mind about it.

I finally got to a place in my life now where I don’t mind that people know I ghost hunt, but I don’t offer it unless I meet a kindred spirit who would find it fascinating. They can ask all their interesting questions and I can give them what answers I might have formed so far (which are few and far between even after years of searching). They soon learn that I’m earnest, that I’ve experienced things that are genuinely unexplainable, and that I seem to be looking for definitive evidence of what a haunting is and why it exists. Usually, they end up admiring me and even sharing things that happened to them that they never told anyone else. People are very afraid to talk about the paranormal, afraid of being ridiculed. No one understands that better than you. (Your counseling training has officially begun).

You’re going to run into these responses from folks and I thought I’d give you some insight into what I think in my head (in brackets) and what I actually say to them.

“I could never do that!” (Honestly, I wasn’t asking you to). “It’s just something I’m doing to find answers to things I’ve witnessed that I couldn’t explain.” (The driven by a higher purpose explanation. This usually satisfies, even if the person shivers visibly at the notion of going into scary places. This isn’t the person to tell about cobwebs and doors that slam on their own.)

“Do you use a Ouija board and have séances?” (I doubt TAPS is packing Parker Brothers when they go into prisons and lighthouses). “There are actually some new tools nowadays for ghost hunting." (Education without explanation. If this person is genuinely interested, they’ll ask more questions, then you can divulge the equipment list. Less is more when talking to people the first time about your hobby).

“What do you do once you catch `em? (said while leering at me)” (I tell them your address, of course!) “I usually like to transport them in a Ghost Trap until we get to headquarters where I place them in my Ecto Containment Unit.” (Meet humor with humor. Folks are going to poke fun at what you do, beat them to the punch.)

Ghost hunting will weed people out. Folks who don’t want to be seen as weird or different are going to drop out at a fast rate of speed. Others will never let even their office friends know about what they do at night and why they’re drowsy in mid week after a house call on Wednesday night. Some folks will decide it’s part of their identity and will wear it proudly on t-shirts that scream “Ghost Hunters Do It In The Dark” (I never understood that one, it's hardly worth boasting you do it like a Puritan)). Other folks will want to tell everyone around them everything they think on the subject as if they personally know each ghost and know exactly why they’re trapped and how to release a house of their presence.

A few more subtle folks will continue on a personal mission, eyes straight ahead, passing by the masses as if they’re on a different plane in search of something that sings to their tune and no one else. Those folks, like me, will look for answers regardless of what others think, come to conclusions on their own, and not influenced by others in the industry who think they know what a ghost is, why it's haunting a place, and how to "send it to the light."

We are the ones who seek our own conclusions, ask our own pointed questions, and those who love us admire us for those very qualities because as an ancient said, “the way you anything is the way you do everything.” The same qualities that make people seek you out as a friend are the same qualities you take into the field.

Trudge on, head held high! And remember, there's hundreds of hunters out there who admire your courage--they live it every day too.

(*The next post will be at 6 am EST tomorrow, a Q&A)


  1. Just keep believing in what you believe in.
    There is a lot of unanswered question out there.

    I mean really we use everyday electronics ,and do we know how they really work,and the answer would be no ...well unless we sit down ,and take the time to understand ,and be taught how they work and how they were made.
    How do they fit so many pictures on those memory chips ?

    The unknown other world works the same way.
    You have to take the time to understand it, so keep searching for those answers.

    Hope you get what I mean .
    Keep hunting ,and you may get all the answers you want.

  2. i could care less about most folks' thoughts, or even if they're capable of same...

  3. I for one am glad you didn't let the naysayers stop you from ghost hunting. I'm learning a lot from you, thanks. Lately I have found more people interested in ghost hunting than making fun of it. I am all to happy to tell them about it and what I have experienced.

  4. When people don't understand something, they make a joke of it to hide their own ignorance or fear. I say be proud of what you are and what you do. I am proud to be a ghost hunter and I am proud of you for being one as well.

    I for one want to know what is out there and that is why I write ghost books and my blog. I agree with laughingwolf "I could care less about most folks' thoughts"

  5. I am proud of you, Sharon, for sticking to your principles. I expect nothing but greatness from you. Say, have you ever been to the Russian paper, Pravda's English language web site? I only just found an article on weird phenomena occurring around certain digs that are referred to in couched terms as conducted by "black archaeologists", essentially because they're breaking the law to find certain kinds of relics. It's two pages. I'd've really liked to have seen a more indepth one, with photos. The beginning is here. Enjoy. Now? Sequoia & I are off to the 10th Annual Human & Fairy Relations Congress in Washington (the state of). We still have an extra bed in our cabin. World renowned Faery Seer, RJ Stewart is conferring the Sight to me, or, I daresay, giving my already inheritted Sight a jumpstart. See(r) ya when we're back ~ (•8-D

  6. Max;
    Yeah, the post was pretty important to me because I hear from a lot of newer hunters that they are under ridicule. I can certainly stand the pressures and anyone will tell you who went to high school with me, when you don't like what I do--I do it more. I refuse to join the mainstream and rebel against it when people try to pigeonhole me. I am a complex person. I'm perky and happy and have a ridiculous sense of humor, have a huge heart, genuinely love humanity and yet at the same time, I can be a bitch on wheels, protective, assertive, and downright skeptical of the "collective" of sheep who fall for status symbols and such. I rebel against all those things which is probably why I'm a hold out on owning a cell phone. I don't want to join the zombie generation. So, the post was hopefully for those who are still in that gray area of trying to explain themselves. Once you've had paranormal encounters, no one will ever understand what you've been through anymore than a civilian can understand a returning troop's experiences. It's just foreign to them. But, the important thing is that the person has changed and has a new reality and neither side should deny that. You are wise person.

    LaughingWolf, my friend, I suspect you don't give a flying fig what people think. You are genuine and that is much appreciated.

    Julie; you are lucky entering the field during the heydays of GH. I started before the shows were on and people were completely confused by the concept. It really is a good dividing line to see what people love you for yourself and your personal process and who love you for your image and your compliance. I am mostly a noncompliant human because my own experiences and my own intellect and thought processes lead me on an individual path. I see no benefit to assimilation, it's the same as inbreeding and creates no new dialogue or change or adaptation. So, be proud of what you do--it's part of why you're so damned complex and I love you so very much, my new sister.

    My dear sweet friend, you are my rebel friend. Yes, we make our own paths, but then leaders always do, right? We are no sheep. We ask too many questions of authority to be compliant.

    Bror; My big brother, you have a safe and wonderful trip. You lucky boy to go to Washington State. That is one of my favorite places in the world. In fact, at Mt. St. Helens sI had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. It was truly amazing. I think about it and still shiver. The land is alive there. It speaks so loud, even the ocean can't drown it out. Suck in some clean air for me. I live near a freeway and breath dust particles all day long. Yeah, feel sorry for me, honey, very very sorry.... I'm intrigued by the black archaeologists-hmm... If I ever want to know about something totally amazingly fringe and interesting--my big bror knows it. Love ya!

  7. Would anybody ever accomplish anything if they listened to what other people say?

  8. Gabriel;
    My wise friend, you hit it on the nose. If that were so, why would the Vikings cross the ocean and find America? However, because of conservative factors nowadays, we're sort of backsliding. Over 100 years on fossil fuels and yet in a few decades computers go from room-sized to palm-sized. Our priorities are fucked to hell, huh?

  9. Thank goodness there are many different people in the world, with many different interests and ideas. Wouldn't it be a boring world, otherwise? I think even people who aren't so involved in the ghost world are careful about how they say things when they have had an odd experience... after you've said said something you wait to see the reaction and breath a sigh of relief when the person doesn't think you are crazy. Wish people wouldn't be so quick to judge.

  10. You are so right. I always say, I don't want almost 7 billion of me in the world--good god! Even I wouldn't want to live here! But, we need all the types. It's a matter of balances and good breeding to mix your varieties. I just hope we can stop breeding the more dull of the crowd and breed some more Einsteins. Oh hell, I just wish we'd get zero population growth and the ones that are here would become more complex and interesting. When I meet a new person and they have no hobbies or interests or passions, I think "you haven't met yourself, have you? So exactly how can I meet you?"

  11. You go girl....I wonder if belly dancing helps stir up any ghostly activity???

  12. Hey "Sun-seeker"! Yeah, I think I might take my freakin scarf on our next hunt. We can hang it up and see if the ghost wants to jiggle it... He'll probably do better than I did!

  13. As for what I do is really to find interesting people,and you are very interesting.
    As for status,and the wanting to be a online whore dude is just a running joke that I have ran with for years at some other social networks.

    People like yourself,and others keep me wanting to read more online.

    Just keep on doing what you do,and never stop posting what you feel,and want to share.
    Your Blogger Pal,
    Max ;-)

  14. Oh, and as far as cell phones go ...
    I hate them too !
    I do own one for emergencies,and it is left in my glove compartment of my car.
    I don't get why people need one glued to their ears 24/7.
    LOL ... had to say it .

  15. First, I'm copying down what Gabriel had to say and hanging it above my computer - LOVE IT!
    Second, I used to agree with the cell phone thing and still do to some degree. I only have one because my sister tried to get a hold of me once when her car broke down and then she put me on their family plan and handed me a phone. Then this weekend when I went into the clinic to care for the animals, (both veterinarians where out of town) my cell came is REAL handy because I was able to take photos of a dogs leg that was bleeding through the cast and also show the degree of swelling to the foot. Something like that is too hard to convey in just conversation and the vet had the head tech come in and we sawed off the cast before he lost his leg. So....yeah, stupid little teeny-boppers with cells growing out of their ears, I agree with but after this I'll never leave home without one.
    Third, I'm just starting to get to know this world of Ghost Hunting and you are making me want to get cable now! (Now that's WHAT I've been avoiding! I feel like I watch too much of the boob tube on regular broadcast as it is but...)
    I WANT to see these Ghost Hunting shows (and I also want to see American Pickers and this other comedy show that everyone is liking about "Cleveland"?) I digress, anyway...
    My thought on this is that the kind of people that distance themselves from you because of it aren't worth it anyway. You don't need them in your life. BUT you need to keep an eye on them because THEY are the ones to be afraid of! The kind who would shoot or imprison someone if they don't believe in their conversative, radical right-wing ways as they stock pile their guns for the end of the world that all of us liberals are bringing down on them.
    Just my opinion.

  16. Hey Max;
    You're a smart man. I'm really glad you enjoy reading the blog. Honestly, I let every day guide me on how it's going to go down cause the people reading it are a helluva lot more interesting than anything I've gotta say and the comments are the best part.

    Gabriel is a wise man, huh? He basically summed up the whole article in a few words. You can catch up on a lot of the ghost shows online. SyFy channel has a bunch of episodes of Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth (Destination Truth is my favorite show). I got locked into a cemetery with my son in a bad part of town and a relative gave me a cell phone for Christmas, but I just gave it to my teenaged son, knowing that he'd be driving around and needing it. I know eventually I will have to cave-in cause I like to hit the road and females with broken down cars--scary thing. But, I will never be the type to answer it in the middle of driving or shopping or being out and about on my own time.