Is ghost hunting dangerous? Absolutely. But so is driving
a car and going to work. Virtually all activities in life
carry some sort of risk; it is up to you to make informed
choices about what you are willing to participate in. So
what are the occupational hazards of paranormal investigation?
It's more than you would think, I guarantee.
1) Physical Hazards - I have yet to hear of someone getting
slimed or seriously hurt by a ghost. But investigations
necessitate a lot of bumbling around in the dark, and it's
easy to trip while wandering around in an unfamiliar space
while looking through your Sony D-8. Fear can also be a
big problem as it induces panic and poor decision making.
Many get hurt by running when they get scared, and even
without that, accidents do happen. So never hunt alone and
keep a first aid kit and cell phone handy.
It is also a good idea to make an honest evaluation of your
physical condition and take steps to prevent problems down
the line. Is your blood pressure high or are you out of
shape? Investigating can be more demanding than you think;
climbing up several flights of stairs, carrying equipment,
running like hell from an apparition, etc. Don't be a candidate
for pulled muscles, hernias or even a heart attack if you
actually do see something. Take medication if you need it,
eat right and exercise.
Think of the safety of others besides you and your group.
If you have equipment connected by cords, tape them down
or mark off areas with safety tape to prevent trips, falls
and broken equipment.
2) Negative Spiritual Influence - Some of the places and
people that you meet have an unhealthy energy about them,
and it can contaminate you. Be wary of these dark things
and monitor yourself. It is not unusual for investigators
to experience mysterious physical symptoms and mood swings.
On one occasion while investigating a cemetery with an unusual
energy signature, I got a really pounding headache which
is not like me. I have heard of other hunters coming back
from an investigation and feeling "beat up" and fatigued
for days afterwards. Others get nausea, vertigo and a range
of other difficulties.
Outright spiritual possession is incredibly rare, and from
what I have gathered, it only occurs after a number of mental,
emotional and spiritual barriers have been broken down.
As the chilling voice in the movie Session 9 recounts:
"I dwell in the weak, and in the wounded..."
Demonic obsession is a far more common, though subtle phenomena.
Have you ever been around a person that you thought that
you knew well and maybe they have been going through a tough
time for a while and were already a bit ragged, but then
one day they just acted extraordinarily hostile, aggressive
or just plain weird? Uh-huh. I have a theory that sometimes
unsavory beings can pull puppet strings in certain vulnerable
areas. Watch out.
I discuss this in a little more detail under Spiritual Safety.
3) The BS Money Factor - A lot of places that are reputed
to be haunted really aren't. Lots of people like to talk
about their paranormal experiences, or better yet, relate
"friend of a friend" stories. Stay polite but skeptical
and keep in mind the old Latin question: "Who benefits?"
When the group I was with at the time investigated Manresa
Castle, we were all hoping for a good scare. We tromped
up and down taking pictures, wowing people with our equipment,
and looking forward to meeting a spirit. It was supposedly
haunted by the ghost of a young Jesuit priest who hung himself.
Later, we were set up with the manager of the hotel and
interviewing him on camera. We asked him about his experiences
and what he thought was going on. He came flat out and told
us that the Jesuit priest was concocted by a former employee
(the bartender) in order to appease customers who wondered
about the strange noises they heard at night (it was an
old building with multiple floors, all creaky). And it just
so happened that the "haunted" room was the most expensive
one in the place. Hmmmm....
Everyone else was floored - I was mildly amused. Especially
when I went to the attic and saw the noose left there by
the History Channel team who put it in for a dramatic recreation.
But it was featured on TV, how could the building not be
haunted? Think about it. Does a camera crew want to go out
and find nothing? Does a non-haunting sell a program? The
media is just as guilty as anyone of playing up a spooky
house in order to keep people glued to the tube.
4) Direct Assault
Normal Terrestrial - Many buildings that you investigate
may be located in unsavory parts of town, and you may encounter
everything from homeless panhandlers to violent murderers.
Don't wind up becoming a victim or ghost yourself. Travel
in groups, carry a cell phone and stay ALERT to your surroundings.
Also, in rural (and not so rural areas) be wary for wild
dogs and other denizens with tooth and claw.
Entity Assault - This is one of the most rare of hazards,
but it has been reported by hunters in the field. The most
you usually hear of is someone getting pushed. But there
exists a video of a hunter sticking their head into and
attic and nearly getting strangled by electrical wire. Never
hunt alone and keep a good first aid kit and cell phone
5) Upsetting property owners and getting sued or arrested
- This is a pretty obvious one. Remember that you are a
guest on someone else's property - get permission and be
nice. I have heard of members trying to pull down boards
from walled off sections of a building and trespassing.
Try to err in the opposite direction and have impeccable
manners. Send a thank you card for letting you visit or
even give a small gift certificate at a local coffee shop.
Your reputation will go a long ways towards opening doors
and you might be surprised at how small a world it really
6) Boredom -This can be the biggest killer of any group.
If people get bored, they will find other things to do with
their weekends. Boredom may also encourage people to be
more reckless with the investigation, so watch out. True,
on many investigations nothing will happen which is the
law of averages, but try to screen your cases as best you
can. Interview the witnesses carefully and evaluate if it
is worth your trouble. Doing a quick preliminary with a
limited number of members can save time down the road and
But despite your best efforts, dull vigils do happen. Take
the opportunity to learn something new while you are there,
talk to the property owners and so forth, but do it without
compromising your research. Try to have alternate plans
to do something fun afterwards, and most important: Hunt
with people you like. That way it is time well spent. :)
7) Not saying "No" when you should - It's tough when your
best friend, neighbor, etc. wants to go on a real live ghost
hunt with you. In some cases, you may be able to accommodate
them. But in others, if you don't say "No" soon enough,
you can end up with a nightmare. Once, at a paranormal convention
that I attended, I had an employee come up to me and relate
how the hotel (that the convention was being held in) was
haunted. I was rather skeptical, but asked if he could show
me the area.
It looked like an ordinary wing of a hotel, but the feelings
I got were quite extraordinary. I literally felt my stomach
getting pulled downward and there was an energy that was
very odd. I went back and told the group that I was with
that it seemed legit and we planned for a SPECTRE setup
along with camera gear. This was in the early afternoon.
By the time (10 PM) the investigation came up, a gang of
approximately FIFTEEN people were wanting to tag along,
including someone's pre-teen child.
I was not as amused in this case, though I understand how
situations like this can happen. But all in all, a smaller
group is easier to manage and less likely to trip over each
other in the process of investigating.
There can also be problems with the property owners themselves.
All too often, especially with residential investigations,
you schedule a night to come by, and when you arrive you
find that they invited the whole damn neighborhood over
to meet the "Ghostbusters." It is their property and they
can do as they wish, but it's YOUR time, so nicely ask them
to refrain from having extras over unless they were witnesses
to the phenomena.
Sometimes, they may know a friend who is also a medium/psychic/sensitive
or whatever that wants to come over and have a sťance. Fine.
But they can do it another time when your team isn't there.
It can be difficult to run an investigation when there is
a wild card in the mix. Furthermore, while I respect the
"soft" side of the paranormal, I find that some who claim
to have psychic powers can also have a real ego about it.
Beware of the conflict this can engender, especially if
there is more than one team member who claims to have special
The other factor to keep in mind is investigating public
buildings or property during normal business hours. Naturally,
this can arouse curiosity or even fear due to these uncertain
political times, so it may be best to get as much privacy
as you can or just be extremely low key about your ghost
I am offering these suggestions on the premise that you
wish to have the best possible data and an efficient hunt.
However, if socializing and meeting new people is more your
thing, then by all means encourage everyone to join in.
In actuality, a lot of valuable networking, investigation
leads and friends come about in the course of this sort
of contact, so you need to strike a balance between openness
and getting your work done.
8) Lack of diplomacy about the investigation with the property
owners - While it may seem that I've already covered or
at least alluded to this in previous paragraphs, I feel
this deserves special attention. Bottom line, you need to
be damn careful what you say to the public, especially in
someone's residence. A lot of times, people believe their
place is haunted by their dear Uncle Sal and by golly, that's
what they want to hear from you as well. But you find no
evidence to support that, so what do you do? I would say,
well, I'm not finding anything on my instruments but I can't
refute that Sal is here in some way.
What if you suspect poltergeist activity, and you think
it centers around the 13 year old daughter? Well, maybe
you're right. But if you word things wrong, they may get
the idea that she is "to blame" and that may make things
much worse. Family systems can be very dysfunctional, to
an extent that they may take your "diagnosis" and pervert
or twist it way beyond anything you meant. Which leads me
to another subject...
9) Uncovering things you didn't want to - What if on an
investigation of a residence it becomes somewhat obvious
that child abuse is going on? Or an affair? I can't make
this call for you, though I think it is best to try and
screen out these kinds of situations. (Hint: do a damn good
phone or email interview first and use your gut instincts)
I will warn you that the signs can be very subtle. Just
because someone thinks their house is haunted doesn't mean
you are obligated to investigate. There are a number of
reasons why someone might call you in on a case which has
nothing to do with it being haunted.
Misinterpretation of phenomena
Lonely and in need of attention
Validation for emotional reasons
Potential monetary gain from notoriety or other income sources
Hoax for fun
Using the supernatural as an excuse for their behavior
Mental illness (USE EXTREME CAUTION)
The final item bears SPECIAL MENTION. There have been a
number of reports in the field from investigators who were
called out to a private residence to investigate a haunting
only to discover there were far worse problems than ghosts.
Some people cultivate such a nasty and degraded energy field
that it permeates their surroundings. If you are contacted
by someone and the communication has an incoherence or weirdness
about it - BEWARE. If you drive by their home and see trash
piled up, an overgrown lawn and other signs of significant
neglect - double danger. If the home is strewn with garbage,
smells bad or shows signs of illegal activity then you are
long past the danger point.
10) Crimped or Ruined Investigations - Even the best laid
plans can go awry. Both of the marine ship investigations
I went on happened to be on weekend nights and in both instances
we were right next to the "party vessel" where young yuppies
got drunk and played loud music. Nothing really bad happened
except the noise was an extra distraction. Outdoor vigils
can be scrubbed due to weather conditions, or even if they
are not completely ruined, they can certainly alter your
style. Here are some examples:
Rain - Obviously, this can make you and your equipment wet,
plus carrying an umbrella leaves only one hand free. Flash
photography is almost a joke and the slippery footing can
be dangerous. Mud can make walking unpleasant and give you
no place to set equipment down. Watch out for flash flooding
in certain areas.
Fog - Again, so much for ectoplasm photos, but in theory
you might see something on video moving through the mist.
Pretty rare to be investigating under these conditions,
depending on where you are at, though the extra creepiness
in atmosphere may be worth it. Just be real careful driving.
Humid - This can cause condensation on camera lenses and
windows, so keep a cloth handy.
Heat - There are few things more miserable than poking around
in an attic during the summer, where in Texas it can easily
get to 140 degrees in enclosed spaces. Also, leaving equipment
in the car can warp and destroy certain plastics like film
and instruments. Get tinted windows, reflective sun shields
and drink way more water than you think you need. Dehydration
can cause errors in judgment and lead to heat stroke.
Cold - Can cause your breath to condense, producing false
photographic anomalies. Certain equipment such as electronics
may fail below a certain temperature. Also, freezing temperatures
can present hazardous walking and driving conditions as
well as danger from hypothermia.
Wind - Without a windscreen, microphones and recording equipment
may have trouble operating in these conditions.
Storms - Obviously, thunder and lightning will make photography
difficult and dangerous if you are outdoors. You can almost
forget EVP indoors as well, but it might be worth trying.
Watch out for high winds and tornadoes in areas prone to
Ambient Noise - For outdoors, proximity to busy streets
is a big problem. You may be able to mitigate this by going
out late at night, though your flashlights may alert passers
by to your presence. Hope you talked to police dispatch
beforehand. The other big problem is insects and other wild
life. In swampy areas of Louisiana on a sultry summer night,
the noise field can be quite considerable.
Ambient Light - Glaring security lights on certain properties
can make it difficult to get good video and still pictures.
So can the headlights from passing vehicles which can reflect
and cause false images. (a big peeve of mine for urban investigations)
Wildlife - Bugs can cause false orb impressions on film
and on video. And speaking of wildlife, once I was doing
a recon of a cemetery and found a fairly good sized dog
roaming around. Fortunately, he moved off without incident,
but it makes a good case for pepper spray.
The other big problem is group members and property owners
canceling out on you at the last minute, which personally
annoys me a lot because it can send a message that "Your
little ghost club just isn't that important." But things
do come up and it is best to try and be understanding.
Just bear in mind things can and do happen, so try to keep
Plan B waiting in the wings.
11) Property Owners telling you "No" - This is a big disappointment,
but it happens plenty. You find a really cool place to hunt,
get your hopes up and contact the people in charge. Unfortunately,
they say they are not interested, no way, no how, go away.
There are a myriad of reasons why this may be.
Maybe they wish to preserve privacy and anonymity. Perhaps
they don't want attention drawn to the place so that every
other local yokel comes tramping on their property. It could
be a matter of not wanting to be held liable if someone
gets injured or the place could be condemned. Certain industries
& companies may even perceive a negative stigma with haunted
locations or it may conflict with their religious beliefs.
I have even known some people so uncomfortable with the
idea of ghosts that they may not even want to know if it's
haunted or not.
Even if they don't have any of the above problems, they
may not want to fool with it because it will require them
to stay after hours for free, or they are afraid of dealing
with kooks. I once had a serendipitous moment in a possible
haunting at a high school here in Dallas. I mean, all of
these improbable events fell into place and seemed to tell
me - "Go here, investigate." Finally I got ahold of the
principal and told him that I heard the place was haunted,
which he pooh poohed away. Then he asked me what I wanted
- I asked if he was interested in having our group take
Up till then, he was reasonably polite, but at that moment
his attitude snapped 180. "No, no way, not interested" and
I got the feeling that he stopped just short of hanging
up on me. In his defense, the school in question has a bad
reputation to begin with and a large Korean population.
My understanding is that many Asian cultures can be quite
superstitious and hauntings are not perceived of as cool
by any stretch of the imagination; in fact they are often
seen as very bad luck and quite undesirable.
Can you imagine the potential liability to a senior school
staff member's career here in a Southern Bible Belt city?
Principals are funny creatures and like to keep their jobs
for some reason, though some of us would wish they would
go somewhere else. At any rate, perhaps you can see their
side of the story. The one thing about the whole affair
which continues to annoy me is why in the holy hell I got
led down the garden path on this one, only to find out that
I wasted my time. I know The Force works in mysterious ways,
Then there was the restaurant on First Avenue in Seattle
which used to be the first city mortuary. At the time when
they were first approached, I was the Tech Director for
AGHOST, and while they would let us in only on the condition
that we didn't give the exact address or name, which was
still plenty good for us. However, the very night that we
were supposed to go in, they cancelled on us, citing that
whoever was in charge couldn't stay late that night. While
disappointed, we kept trying to arrange a date.
Unfortunately, the place changed owners while we were in
this process, and the new management wasn't nearly as hip
as the original folks. When I approached them as SPI, they
told us "Uh - uh. Hell no." At this point, the frustration
level can be such that you can be tempted to do something
like, oh, say, put the place on your website anyway and
while you can't testify to any particular paranormal activity,
point out certain historical facts such as they used to
keep dead bodies in the same area where people now dine.
But I strongly advise against this sort of dirty tactic
because is is thoroughly unprofessional and bad karma to
try and harm those that irritate you, though I imagine there
are a LOT of ghost research groups out there who can strongly
empathize and are having a good chuckle over the thought.
I bring this point up as well because some individuals in
these groups are less than mature and may be inclined towards
similar shenanigans. I ask for the sake of yourself and
the rest of us out here trying to build up the reputation
of the field to please restrain yourself and save the venting
for private conversations with other hunters.
I have wondered recently why being told "No" makes me feel
a little bit unaccountably hostile, as I tend to be pretty
understanding of the two letter word. I believe the reason
why is because the reason behind it is usually fear on their
part, and I don't respect fearful people. Long ago, there
were people in my family who used to always be scared, and
they used their fear to control others. Manipulation by
anyone in any form really irks me and my instinct is to
call them on it.
The other reason why it is tough to deal with "No" is because
it is a form of rejection. A lot of us may approach someone
knowing our own good character, hard work, talent and experience,
and it can be amazing that this individual does not recognize
our greatness. I used to work on multi-million dollar switches
for Nortel, and to have someone think that I cannot walk
do an investigation in an off limits area to the public
is a bit deflating to the ego.
I recall the story of a fatal accident at Six Flags some
years ago in the Roaring Rapids Rafting Ride. One day it
capsized and dumped people into the water, and an individual
who was there just happened to be a professional Search
& Rescue worker. The Six Flags personnel staff actually
forbade her from assisting, but bless her heart, she didn't
listen to those $10 an hour shmoes and dove in anyway. This
is the same Six Flags who forbade off-duty police officers
from carrying their guns inside the park because their own
security staff could "take care of things". Many jurisdictions
REQUIRE their officers to carry off duty.
Eventually, Six Flags relented with the police officers
(as well they should have) but their misplaced estimation
of how good their staff was still sticks in my mind. Don't
be surprised by such parochial attitudes in the field and
try not to react to it. Stay calm and try to address their
concerns as best you can.
The soft "No" is harder to spot, but I believe the First
Ave Seattle case mentioned above with the original owner
is a good example of that. The part about not being able
to stay late, I figured, was an excuse; they really didn't
want us in there. To be blunt, Seattle is a city which EXCELS
in passive aggressive behavior so I grew wearily accustomed
to this sort of mode.
To head off this type of problem, try to anticipate where
they're fear may be and be prepared to address it. Find
selling points that will work in their favor. (more publicity
= more business, a haunting will almost never drive people
away, despite popular misconceptions) Even if they say "No"
initially, your professionalism and patience may eventually
The following list of places will probably give you considerable
resistance unless they approach you first:
Schools & Dorms, Government Buildings, Military Bases, Wealthy
Residences, Churches, Very Large Cemeteries, Banks, Jewelry
The following types of places may be easier to get into:
Small Graveyards, Historic Sites, Libraries, Hotels, Restaurants,
Bars & Taverns, Marine Vessels, Private Residences, Bookstores,
Battlefields, Parks & National Forests (generally have to
get a permit beforehand - which can take weeks or months)
Oh, and one other thing. If you are traveling a considerable
distance to a famous historic spot (like the Myrtles Plantation)
try to ask for permission as far in advance as you can.
At least three weeks, or better yet, as soon as you know
your travel plans or even before. You never know if they
are having a special event that weekend, (or having other
ghost hunters) and it might behoove you to find out before
you make arrangements. The people at the front desk rarely
have the authority, so you usually need the contact information
of the owner or manager. For larger four and five star hotels,
there is normally a Director of Marketing. For historic
properties, the Education and/or Public Relations Officer
is probably who you are looking for. Email or fax your standard
permission/release form and make it look professional.
12) No place to hunt - If you are unfortunate enough to
live in a remote part of the country (like Montana) or in
a city which sucks as far as paranormal activity... (Dallas)
Well, pardner, that's a real tough one. Try to bone up as
much as you can and save up to travel and vacation in haunted
spots around the country. Perhaps you can find some webcams
to stare at - that is how many people that have trouble
getting out to ghost hunt get their fix.
13) Too much to see - A great example of this would be spending
a week in New Orleans. Where the hell do you begin? Like
any vacation, try not to bite off more than you can chew,
and use the plethora of places as a source for backup plans
in case your primary sites don't work out. Just don't be
rude and schedule at sites that you probably won't make.
You never know how much trouble people go to for you - don't
take advantage of it.
I would try to set up some main attractions, and reserve
other places for recon. Pace yourself, relax and enjoy just
being there and connecting with people. Try to let serendipity
14) Theft / Damage of Equipment - Oh and speaking of NOLA,
be careful with this one. Use common sense and don't flash
expensive gear, perhaps even keep the fact that you are
a hunter a little low key in certain areas. Lock things
in a safe, a car trunk or underneath junk inside the car
so that it isn't a magnet for low lifes. Carry Renter's
Insurance, though watch out for the deductible. ($500 can
really suck) If during an investigation in a public or semi-public
area, keep an eye on portable yummies like camcorders and
And as above, make sure that you don't hand your Sony D-8
to Mr. Butterfingers. Use camera straps and place tripods
in areas where people won't trip. Consider using bright
hazard or glow in the dark tape to cordon off areas so people
can see them in the dark, and make sure everyone has at
least one if not two good flashlights, even the property
owners if they are with you.
If guests want to borrow equipment you may even want them
to sign out for it, and mark your equipment as members can
often have identical makes and models. Also, note serial
and model numbers, as that can help in case of confusion
or theft. Take inventory photos for insurance purposes.
15) Instrument Tunnel Vision - When wandering around in
a dark area, you are completely focused on the viewfinder
or EMF meter looking for activity while trying to navigate
over what is often unfamiliar terrain. It is VERY easy to
trip over something as the Sony D-8's have a really narrow
field of view and it will miss things on the ground immediately
in front of you. I hang a red night light from my neck which
illuminates a circle at my feet and move very slowly. You
might consider having a second team member "spot" you by
shining light right in front and verbally alerting you of
any danger. Or you may just have to go with dim light instead
of absolute darkness.
16) Property Damage - It's fairly rare from what I have
seen, but accidents do happen. Be careful of getting too
many people in one area and be conscientious about fragile
and valuable furnishings. In areas of historical significance,
don't set drinks (or yourself down) without checking first.
The Myrtles Plantation now requires proof of insurance (as
in commercial insurance) in order for you to hunt after
hours in the downstairs part of the house. After seeing
the expensive antique furnishings they have in those rooms,
I can see why. From estimates I'm getting, this insurance
can run upwards of a $1000+ a year, though you might be
able to combine it with your normal business insurance if
you have some.
17) Driving/Transportation Hazards - This could take up
a chapter in itself, but be extra careful with the condition
of any vehicles you take and the driver as well. You will
often be driving in the dark and sometimes in unfamiliar
rural territory. As a former auto mechanic and experienced
driver, I have a natural edge here, but everyone should
be able to check basic fluid levels and tire pressure. Throw
an emergency road kit in the trunk, make sure the spare
is inflated (and you have a working jack and lug wrench)
charge your cell phone up and get a AAA Plus or Premiere
(American Automobile Association and the Plus / Premiere
level is much better than the Standard Membership level
for towing) membership for the unexpected.
At $80 a year, I consider this one of the best deals around
as they can take care of a flat, lockouts, low on fluids/gas,
or give you a tow to civilization.
Getting lost is quite easy, especially in less traveled
outlying areas where you may have trouble getting help (poor
cell phone reception) so be sure and carry plenty of maps
(MAPSCOs, state and county maps are good to have) and check
out with the client and online EXACTLY where you need to
go, plus print off an larger area map which includes major
roads or highways so that you can find your way back in
case of detours, wrong turns, construction, etc. Above all,
carpool and / or have a caravan out to the site.
18) Playing Psychologist - This is a common issue in dealing
with residential clients. A lot of calls we get originate
from people who have suffered a loss of some kind. The natural,
caring thing to do is to console and give answers to those
who are confused and in pain. But the line of appropriate
response can be crossed and you can wind up doing more harm
than good, not to mention expose yourself and your group
to needless liability.
I have sat in on debriefings between homeowners and ghost
hunters and been astonished at the lack of knowledge and
sensitivity displayed by the team. To be blunt, the worst
offenders tend to be the pseudo-psychics, or those who imagine
themselves to be wiser and smarter than they really are.
We are fortunate to have someone on our staff that has a
background in psychology/HR - their presence on interviews
is invaluable as they can supervise and educate the process.
Try to identify or find someone who is trustworthy and competent
for this position and rotate in other members to assist
and learn from them. It's generally a good idea to tag team
as more than one person has a better chance at spotting
emotions and other cues which may shed light on the case.
Also, for legal reasons, it is our policy to have more than
one person present when a minor is being interviewed (and
preferably their parents are there or nearby) and not a
bad idea for young, single women.
In general, be honest and kind, but also learn to spot when
people need professional assistance and have some references
on hand for them. It's not your job to save them, and for
virtually any type of situation, there are specialists that
are far more able and experienced than you in the arena
of grief/bereavement counseling. The one caveat that you
might want to keep in mind is to try and match the professional
to the client. If you are approached by someone who believes
in Wicca/New Age etc. then bear in mind some psychologists
are not too open minded and may try to cure the client of
A good counselor can work within the framework of almost
any belief system without trying to change the core of who
the client is.
1) Intragroup Conflict - This is number one on my list to
watch out for. Yes, I and many others recommend that if
you are new to this field, that you hook up with an organization
in your area. But beware as not all are created alike, and
many "open" groups do not screen their members carefully.
See also Fruitcake Factor. SPI now requires background checks
on all prospective members along with a probation period.
The problems you typically may run into include cliques,
gossip, snide remarks, verbal abuse, sexual harassment,
etc. Basically, the same stuff you can find in any organization.
But it could easily get a lot worse if you allow a sexual
predator or molester into your midst.
I guess what gets me is that I have met individuals you
were claim to be mediums/psychics and so forth that have
all this sensitivity towards the dead and can usher them
into the light blah blah blah, but ironically sometimes
they can have an astonishing lack of maturity.
There are cases too when there are no direct conflicts between
members, but there's that special someone in the group that
drives you nuts because of certain personality quirks. Some
of it may be due to your own sensitivities, so learn to
recognize where their insanity ends and yours begins. Use
it as a springboard for personal growth to figure out why
you want to strangle them and hide the body in a deep ditch.
see also MUTINY! #8 BELOW
2) Intergroup Conflict - Many of the ghost groups out there
have friendly people that are willing to talk to you and
help you along. But sad to say, other groups have individuals
with insecurities and ego problems and they hate to see
anyone potentially outdo them. A few join these groups because
they are sad and pathetic beings that desperately want attention.
Remember the movie Twister with the rival storm chasers?
I thought it was silly at the time, but my historical expert
made a comment that stuck with me. Anytime you are dealing
with people in a field that has scant opportunities for
fame and money, they tend to get more petty and crude by
direct proportion, as there is a perception of scarcity.
One thing you may see is groups declaring themselves as
the "exclusive" or "official" investigating group for a
particular site. While in rare cases it may be that they
are unusually well trusted by the property owner and the
owner wants them to put this disclaimer up so as to discourage
every other group from trying to tromp around in there,
in general I find this to be egotistical snobbery and it
is probably not going to keep YOUR group out if you ask
nicely and act professional.
So don't be too surprised by seeing flames on message boards,
groups getting badmouthed to potential clients and ideas/research
getting stolen. While I am disappointed by such immaturity
and dishonesty, I believe in not returning evil for evil
as it is a waste of energy and spreads negativity.
3) The Fruitcake Factor - You meet a lot of really good,
interesting people in this field. But there is the occasional
loon that always seems to come out of the woodwork if you
make yourself too accessible. Social leeches that do nothing
but talk and suck the life right out of you, fill your head
full of crap or just amaze you with their bizarre behavior.
Learn to make the sign of the cross with your hands and
back away without making eye contact.
4) Poor Leadership and / or Ineffective Members - There
are few things more annoying than having bad leadership
or members that won't act as a team. Poorly managed groups
can waste time and resources, ultimately frustrating the
members and causing unnecessary conflict. But no one is
perfect and giving people a chance is the kind thing to
do. Have a space where constructive feedback is welcome
(not generally in front of the public) and be open to changes
in policy if it helps the group as a whole.
There are many hats to wear in running a group, and not
any one person can do it all. Make a habit to delegate to
those most qualified to do the job. But the biggest problem
I have seen with members is a lack of initiative and consistency.
This can also waste time and resources because you invest
in a new person and then they may leave or have to be dismissed.
5) Looking Stupid - Usually, the public and media are pretty
forgiving in this area, as they generally have the least
amount of knowledge about the paranormal and want to be
thrilled and excited by a live ghost hunter talking to them.
But it can be easy to look dumb in front of other hunters
with your latest "orb" photo (which may happen to be a dust
particle) or by declaring a place haunted before you have
done any thorough investigating or research.
But sometimes, the media may be out to make you look like
a fool. There was an incident recounted in the Complexity
of Crop Circles book on pp 47-48 wherein Dr. Haselhoff was
interviewed by a news crew and asked about a crop circle.
He gave a good honest reply, but they totally rearranged
the questions OUT OF SEQUENCE and made it look like he said
something that he didn't. He found out months later when
the program he was on totally made a fool out of him. British
TV is ruled by the BBC, but here in America, someone might
be getting sued. At any rate, be careful of the statements
you make in public.
For me, the one area in which I am really a stickler is
in the area of Internet correspondence. Nothing sours my
perception of someone faster than seeing an email, message
board posting or website which has blatant misspellings
and bad grammar. I realize that it is linguistic snobbery,
and there are many people who are very intelligent but cannot
spell worth a damn. Hey, and everyone makes a typo here
What I am talking about is rampant and reckless abuse of
the English language. I have received emails that were near
incomprehensible and seen websites which purported to be
experts on the occult who had trouble spelling the word
"phenomena". If you picked up a book on the paranormal and
saw there was a language error in every other sentence,
how much would you trust the author and what they had to
I don't diagram sentences, but what I am asking is please
don't sound like you are uneducated. In ceremonial magic,
names are everything, and mispronouncing one redirects the
energy in an unintended direction. Don't make this mistake
in your message. Computers come with spell check - use it.
6) Group Inactivity (or the perception of) - I saved this
one for near last because this can result from many of the
above reasons. It's a common enough problem. People start
off being excited about joining a real live ghost group
and have all sorts of hopes and visions of what it will
be like. But then they start running into problems: Group
conflict, equipment expense, difficulty in consistently
finding places to hunt, time demands, boredom, etc.
Before you know it, it's been months since you've been on
an investigation, the website gets stale and everyone starts
to drift off. Sad, but true in many cases, and I'm not going
to tell you that it's entirely preventable. Not everyone
is cut out to be a ghost hunter, and in many cases even
if you are, you won't always have the time and money to
7) Computer Issues & Security Breaches - This is yet another
topic that could span several volumes, and there are other
resources that discuss this subject in more detail and expertise
than I could, but I feel it is worth a brief mention. While
ghost hunter sites are not typically the number one target
for hackers, they can certainly draw the attention of rival
groups seeking to discredit or just plain hassle you and
your group. External attack is somewhat rare - you are more
likely to have a problem with opening an email virus or
having personnel problems from within.
But do not underrate the danger this presents. One pissed
off member with passwords to your site can easily demolish
or hijack a webpage that took years to build. (I've seen
this happen TWICE to two different groups) Also, many free
hosting sites like Tripod or Yahoo can delete all of your
data without warning or recourse which is why I insist on
either running my own server, or paying a professional hosting
service. If you are lucky, you can go to the Internet Archive
and pull up an old copy of your site, though often many
links won't work.
Regardless of what you do, back up your data regularly and
keep your domain name ownership firmly within your control.
For those of you who have a Members Only section, I recommend
that you hide the link and don't even mention the area so
it won't encourage script kiddies to run up your bandwidth
and compromise your security with a brute force password
8) MUTINY! Hijacking and other Revolutions - Speaking as
a Dictator, er.. Director, I never like to see this one,
but it happens pretty often. It usually results from multiple
issues as outlined above, but here is the most common scenario
A group of friends get together and decide to form a ghost
club. In the beginning, things are great. Everyone is excited
and learning, the first few investigations go well, and
so on. But eventually they attract attention to where other
people want to join. Eventually they meet someone with a
strong personality who claims to have all kinds of magical
powers, and a hidden agenda to run the group. Within a few
meetings or investigations they begun using their charisma
to begin commandeering the club, telling people what to
do, setting policy, and most importantly, getting access
to the group website.
Eventually factions and cliques are formed, people get upset
and then a showdown occurs. Depending on the makeup of the
group one of two things happen. If it is isolated to a single
individual, then they are usually forced to leave, but they
typically try to do as much damage as possible on the way
out. As described above, if they happen to be the webmaster
then you can probably kiss the site and domain name goodbye.
This is known as hijacking and it is not good, as a website
is one of the most important links that a group has to the
In other cases, if several individuals decide to leave,
they will probably form their own group or hijack the original
one and oust the resistance. More than one president of
a club has been forced to leave the very group they started.
The other problem besides emotional damage is the data and
pictures gathered on investigations. If the other faction
has it, then again you can probably say hasta la vista.
If you make sure that members/friends are added slowly over
time, with membership status and access to important data
carefully managed, then that will minimize the damage from
ejecting members and they are less likely to have support
from other like minded individuals. Remember, they often
travel in packs. And be careful of your legal liability,
though I doubt most rejects from a ghost club are able to
mount an effective lawsuit of any kind. Be more cautious
about this if the officers or the club is doing well financially.
Keep careful written documentation, known as a paper trail.
But the very best form of cure is prevention and restricting
membership. This is where nice people get hurt because in
theory more members is a good thing, but I can tell you
it usually isn't so. I would much rather have two very high
quality members than 20 goobers tromping around in a cemetery.
You owe it to yourself and the rest of your group to screen
these folks and not give them the keys to the kingdom. What
do you look for? Someone who has issues with insecurity,
personality disorders or poor coping / life management skills.
Now this next part is going to be a bit charged and controversial,
but I feel compelled to say it. In my experience, it seems
that psuedo psychics and false sensitives have more than
the normal share of power issues as compared to the rest
of the population. I'm not saying that all of them have
serious problems - there are healthy and effective psychics
out there. But I am advising those that are planning to
utilize psychics that they need to use more than the average
caution in membership policy.
I have heard of this type of hijacking several times and
in each instance it was one or more "psychics" behind the
I will have more on this in a future article.
1) Ostracism by Family/Friends - A lot of people come from
a religious background which frowns on investigating the
paranormal. From the other end of the spectrum, the business/science
world doesn't always look so favorably on it either. Should
you casually mention to your boss or elderly aunt that you
hang out in cemeteries late at night? Think carefully, because
once the cat is out of the bag, that's it. Ditto for going
on TV and appearing in the media.
2) Extramarital Affairs - You may be shocked by this one,
but in my experience it's one of the most overlooked risks
in hunting. When I was the member of a large group, I had
more married women hit on me than ever before in my life.
I talked to Troy Taylor about this and he confirmed my suspicions
- that it is a common issue.
Why? Are ghost hunters just so incredibly sexy?
Well, yes. And many people who join a group tend to be married
and want to get out of the house. (and/or away from the
spouse) There can be an artificial intimacy created by the
sense of danger and teamwork. Of course for some people,
this issue may not be seen as a disadvantage, though I think
mixing infidelity and the paranormal is bad mojo.
3) Obsessiveness with the Dead - It is very easy to get
caught up in ghost hunting to such an extent that you spend
a lot of time, money and energy involved in this field.
But then important responsibilities and relationships can
get ignored and sacrificed unknowingly. Many people use
ghost hunting as an escape, which is fine up to a point,
but it can be an excuse not to deal with certain issues.
Don't get blindsided by this one. Take a break and spend
time with living people in the sunlight.
4) Ego Inflation - Yeah, it's real cool that you can run
around in cemeteries alone with that steely gaze of yours
reflecting in the moonlight, but be careful about having
Mulder / Buffy delusions. I know everyone has their gifts
and superpowers, but know your limitations and back off
when you get close to the edge. Even if you don't put yourself
in danger, the "paranormal badass" attitude can be a real
turnoff to other mere mortals and they will treat you accordingly.
5) Fear - This was so obvious I'm surprised that I didn't
mention it sooner. Fear is detrimental for a lot of reasons:
it causes stress, poor judgment, interferes with an investigation
and it can be downright dangerous. Getting hurt by a ghost
virtually never happens, but many people hurt themselves
by running away from what they perceive to be supernatural.
And there are certainly incidents where intense fear can
trigger a panic or heart attack.
If you even remotely suspect you might have a tendency for
this sort of issue or have a very nervous temperament, you
should seriously consider either not being an investigator
in the field, or be very selective where and when you investigate.
A lot of psychics I know have very defined limits for the
sorts of places they will go into, and some will not work
alone. Please be considerate of the people you are working
with. If you push yourself into situations you can't handle,
it can be a burden to the rest when they have to carry your
unconscious ass out of the cemetery.
I know I sound a little intolerant here - for more background
on this, please see #11 Property Owners saying no under
Field Hazards on page 1. Some of my irritation comes from
watching a lot of people join an investigation for what
seems to be the sole purpose of putting on a little drama
show for the rest of us. Please. Spare us the dramatics
and get a grip on yourself.
6) Money Drain - Ghost hunting can get expensive as hell,
and if you are like a lot of people, you may be under or
unemployed and just trying to scrape by. Justifying a drive
of 40 miles out to a cemetery to burn up Digital 8 tapes
when you need to get up in the morning and earn money for
food can be tough to do and I'm not saying you should. Watch
your money and don't go hog wild on equipment until you
prove that you can and will use it.
7) Administrative Overload & Burnout - As alluded to before
in organizational hazards, running a group can be very demanding.
Adding members and doing more investigations often begins
to increase the workload exponentially, as you find yourself
mired in a sea of documentation, emails and people to call.
If you don't get responsibilities and expectations clear,
you will find yourself doing everything that is administrative
and very little of the enjoyable or rewarding work that
paranormal research can offer.
Be realistic about what you are able to do and take on.
No one group can investigate everything or admit everyone
as a member unless they are lucky, wealthy, or have all
the time in the world. If you don't set definable limits,
you will find yourself burned out within a few years and
may leave the field entirely.
8) Borrowing Equipment & Gear - It's nice to share and even
nicer to return things. I recommend a sign out sheet for
any and all lent gear - not because I don't trust people
to have good intentions, but because I forget where the
stuff goes to.