Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Get back on the bus

Over the past five years, the road traveled by paranormal investigators has morphed from a scenic, two-lane street to a congested, frustrating superhighway. A deluge of ghost hunting groups descended on a previously pristine area resulting in frustration due to unearned competition in the investigative field. It would be wonderful to have a traffic cop standing at the crossroads directing things, “Solid, tech-based investigative groups straight ahead; weekend warriors turn left; psychic based groups turn right; folks hoping to get an autograph from Elvis or the Amityville Horror, pull to the side, turn off your engines and take the tour bus back home.” Yes, it would be wonderful. In the absence of this improbable solution, it is up to individuals seeking membership in a group or considering which group to have investigate their home, to do the police work.

In too many cases my research and what I’m hearing from my group’s clients are most folks interest falls under the thrill seeker. Instead of taking the bus back home, these individuals are willing and able to take advantage of private citizens who have sincere concerns or questions about hauntings. They crave to experience the bizarre encounters that can come from lurking around on haunted properties ‘as seen on TV’. Whether it’s for the adrenalin rush or to see if there’s any truth to claims reported on the abundance of TV shows hyping frightening encounters, these folks are crowding the highway like looky-loos at an accident scene.

An investigator, on the other hand, is devoted to better understanding and learning. They are willing to do the work to protect and build credulity to support his or her accomplishments or evidence. This is someone who understands the hard work and sacrifice needed to pursue sustainable, documented data in this overgrown field. So who has the right to carry the title Ghost Investigator or Hunter?

First, I believe people need to be honest with themselves and focus on where they are willing to put forth the work. To be a good investigator, it’s all about passion, devotion, and patience in this field. If you believe you carry those, then you very well could be a top investigator. But if you find yourself bitching because there’s too much work that needs to be done or that it’s no longer fun, then I’m sorry to say you are NOT a paranormal investigator. Do noteworthy scientists sit in their labs crying and complaining because it’s no longer fun to split molecules? Do top detectives leave the scene of a crime because it’s 5pm and they don’t get paid overtime?

To pursue true paranormal research we all need to be willing to step up and face the challenges ahead. If you can’t or won’t, then accept the fact that you may be just a thrill seeker or enthusiast. This is fine, I’m not making a judgement call. Just please step aside and let serious investigators do their job. If you’re looking for thrills, then check into a haunted room at a hotel or venture off to your local cemetery and do all the ghost hunting you want. I mean, you might be a die-hard Mariners fan, but you haven’t gotten together with a bunch of other fans and formed your own team, have you? Haven’t advertised your team as being worth watching and asking Safeco Field for field time? At what point are you going to ask yourself, “Can I really deliver the goods? I’ve seen dozens of games on TV and like what Ive seen, so of course I’m an athlete, right?” Not so much.

Businesses are constantly bombarded by requests for access to the point where they are no longer allowing these types of investigations, even from credible groups. Potential clients truly dealing with paranormal activity are confused as to who to let in and help them with their shared environment. When did it become fair to the clients to have groups walk in uneducated, untrained and hoping only to encounter phenomena for their personal thrills? It ticks me off when those lacking in research and education want to get clients involved in their search for creepy side shows. I’m a very patient person, but I find myself indignant on behalf of my clients past, present and future. They’re taking a big step allowing strangers into their homes and are often being taken advantage of by thrill seekers.

I have been investigating for twenty-plus years and formed AGHOST ten years ago. Being in the field so long, I’ve seen the pattern of groups starting up and falling apart within a few years at best, a few months most often. The reason for this is lack of time, effort, and patience mixed with an abundance of drama and boredom. You will find that when these groups don’t encounter the events they where looking for, they loose interest. It clearly takes a very diverse type of person or persons to be the right kind of investigator or group. So, if you are not sure what’s driving you toward pursuit of the paranormal, ask yourself these questions:

What am I really looking for?
Do I believe it exists?
Do I have the time, energy and patience to pursue this?
Am I willing to learn first before investigating?
Really, how eager am I to get out there and have an experience?

Now, it’s only human to be curious about the unknown, especially with the heightened trend of ghost hunting. We also find that it’s now COOL to call yourself a ghost hunter. But as trends tend to go, we find people will be moving on to next big thing, losing interest quickly in something they believed they were so passionate about. The media and Hollywood’s focus couches us in what should be hot and what no longer is. Right now, paranormal shows are giving way to the supernatural and mythological. I predict an upcoming movement in Vampire Hunting so, Blood suckers beware. You just might get a stake through the heart!

All in all, with amateurs provoking spirits, screaming in fear at every little creak, and running away from all trivial oddities, the sincere paranormal investigator is left in a difficult place. Those clients who really want to know if they are experiencing a haunting are finding it more and more difficult to reach out. We seem to be getting swallowed up by the lack of professionalism required to find true paranormal evidence. For the truth to be found we all need to remember that in this field, credibility holds true and you are only as good as the evidence you can back up. So if you aren't supplying written follow-up to clients who allowed you into their home or business, if the only answer you have to offer your client is, "Yep, the place is haunted. Goodnight," then I’m sorry,. You are NOT a Ghost Hunter.


  1. AWESOME post, Ross. I completely agree. I have struggled for years dealing with those types of 'less than professional' groups, several of which personally & publicly attacked *my* credibility when I called theirs into question (I don't believe in making up evidence for clients, just cause they want to prove a place is haunted or it sells tickets!). Every has an "experience"...without cold hard measurable science fact & evidence, it means nothing & cannot be given as proof of a 'haunting'.

    Like you, I've been researching this field for over 20+ years & am always disgusted by some of the groups out there, taking advantage of people for their own selfish, thrill-seeking goal, instead of focusing on advancing the field of research. It's hard enough to get science to recognize our research as valid, without having to deal with all the shenanigans and 'crap' those groups cause.

    Thanks for the great post! Keep up the good work! Hope to work with you in the near future. Been following AGHOST & its research for most of its 10 years! :)

  2. Ross: your post actually leaves the door open for self-doubt on my part. I've always considered myself someone who would be a great paranormal investigator. I've been interested in the paranormal since I was a kid in Elementary school.

    But I ask the questions of myself that you suggest and I'm unsure of the answers. I have the curiosity as the drive; is it real? Initially, I say yes- there is phenomena, experiences, unexplained happenings that are perceived by more than one person.

    I believe that it is real but my drive to to decipher what it is. Can it be quantified? Are we measuring the RIGHT thing?

    But the other side of me gets that thrill, the thrill of experiencing the unknown, the unexplained.

    I'm an intelligent person with little schooling, no professional credentials. I have the willingness to believe that it's something besides my mind trying to put things in order so that my slippery memory can accept the data. I want CERN to discover the mechanics of the extra-dimensional experience so that we can say once and for all: this is what we're seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, sensing. This is how we measure. This is how we communicate and this is what it all means.

    Seeing as that CERN is not working on the paranormal at present, and more Universities (than not) resist adding Paranormal Studies to their courses, we as lay-people are blessed with the opportunity to advance this field.

    Sorry, I'm just talking right now; I think it comes down to "it should be done" but it's difficult to say why, who, and how. I don't know if I have the meddle to be the "who" in that equation.

    So, what is the ideal?

  3. Hey Rob,

    I really love the honesty from you in not really knowing where to go in your interest in this field and that is completely fine. If it’s something you choose to pursue, you really need to know at what level your willing to go. If you just want to observer from a distance or be a weekend hobbyist or even the hardcore investigator is something that is only within your power. All I ask is that you truly understand that at whatever level you wish to step up to, that you are passionate, honest and devoted to what will be expected of you.

    Safe Hunting my friend