I hear it all the time... "Jon, I want to be a ghost hunter... How do I get into doing this?"
The truth about paranormal investigation is that it is far more than the investigation. For those of you new to the process, it can seem like work and is often filled with boredom, equipment troubles, people issues and more. For those trained and who know what to expect, it can be rewarding, enlightening and a source of great comfort.
To investigate and appreciate the unknown which we all aspire to meet in our field work, requires passion and patience, often in equal measure. So this article describes the realities one can expect as a new investigator diving into the great unknown of paranormal research!
So if you are reading this, it can be assumed you really want to be like the TAPS guys or Ghost Adventures Crew and think it is just about grabbing a recorder and heading out.
Not so fast there Pilgrim...
You've got research to do. And you need to do preparation and planning before going out there. And you'll wade through a lot of junk information to find good sites to investigate along with learning HOW to investigate in the first place.
The first thing is to ask yourself what is driving you to hunt ghosts or paranormal phenomena. In my own case, my many psychic experiences over a lifetime drove me to question and attempt to debunk the things that happened around me and led me to this place I am at now, a full-fledged team lead with a real organization and cases in the hopper. I deal with the paranormal daily.
The question is, is that what YOU want? So you need to decide right now if this is for you and if you want to make the investment in time, experience, learning, energy and equipment to do this. Oh... And I forgot that you need to make lots of mistakes so you know what NOT to do!
You might want to strike out on your own and fumble your way through. I did and it cost me a lot of time and effort to realize that I did need instruction and I spent a lot of time getting to know other groups and to watch how they worked and what they did. That effort has payed off and I'm much more comfortable with the process than when I first started.
The process involved making forays to check out other groups and teams, to see their internal politics and procedures and to decide what would work for me and what I could accept or not. You too will find yourself evaluating what works for you in this way and to decide if you are the more independent type or need guidance from a stronger team structure. This is a purely personal decision, but one you'll need to make.
What I don't recommend is going out alone on investigations. I've done it, but I also knew what I was doing and always had an itinerary and time set for me to return with people knowing where I'd be. This is a safety thing and now, I prefer a minimum of two people on investigations to be safe.
There is also the matter of spiritual safety and knowing what you might encounter on a case and how to handle yourself. If you have no idea of what a ghost is, or what sorts of supernatural creatures exist out there, then you have no business hunting ghosts! I mean that!
The other key thing is to trust yourself. If you do experience unease or fear on entering a site, then heed your body and mind warning you and back-off. I'm not afraid to say I've had more than one case where that has happened to me and I've listened to myself and backed off. It was the right thing to do!
The other item of note is that you will be spending real dollars to hunt ghosts. Yes, it costs $$$ and lots of it! Equipment, gas, research, books and travel expenses. It adds up.
To make it all work, I plan constantly. Planning and constant tweaking of your cases will provide you with a guide to get you where you want to go.
I like to visit my case files about once a week and to keep meticulous records. And, since I spent those $$$ on evidence collection by going to a case and working hard to capture the evidence, I'm developing a healthy respect for taking time to process the evidence and do my case reports.
I've learned that I cannot depend on everyone submitting their evidence who was on a case AFTER the investigation, so we try to grab the evidence right there if possible. A netbook is great for dumping photos and audio to. Video is a different story, but the other item, especially in a team scenario is to really know who has the evidence and if it has been submitted. Record-keeping again.
I've also learned that holding up a case report to wait for someone to turn in evidence you know they captured is a mistake. It's all too easy for that case to just stop in it's tracks while you chase the files down. Better to file the report and then amend it if that team member gets around to getting you the files. This is just common sense and the reality of paranormal research!
If you are content with being a team member and not running your own team, realize that many cases are very boring or filled with efforts to debunk claims of the paranormal.
And the analysis is triple-boring. In my own experience, only a couple of our investigators have stepped up to help with this aspect of the work and believe me, it is a great thing to see in a truly dedicated investigator who knows what we're trying to do.
The deal is this; If you are willing to collect the evidence, then you need to be willing to analyze it and promptly after the investigation!
So your patience will be tested and your passion equally so. But let me tell you, there is nothing more rewarding than an amazing piece of evidence to truly knock your socks off and turn your otherwise solid grey matter into water that pours out of your ears! When those magic moments happen, it shows you just how crazy and amazing the paranormal can be!
Historical research and knowing the location is your best avenue to getting to the crux of a haunt. And you need to go in with a balanced perspective and not convinced one way or another that a location is haunted. It is just as exciting to me to find a place NOT haunted as it is to find one that is. Frankly, it's tough to find places in my area that are not haunted, so when we can visit a place a few times and nothing happens, we see that as a good thing! You should too!
And you need to take time to take stock and re-examine your mission and what you are trying to prove by being in this field. I do this on occasion and just did it for the team once again. Make changes to suit the times, the environment and people around you. It isn't easy and you won't be the most appreciated person by some of your team. But if you love the paranormal like I do, then you'll acknowledge when change needs to happen and then to take the steps to correct the course you are on. You'll know when to take those steps and will be the better for it.
Also, watch your personal health and see if you are stressed from hunting. If so, take a break and do something decidely NOT paranormal! Life is to be lived and it makes sense to do those LIFE-ORIENTED things that you love so you can keep a balanced perspective. This is really important! Take heed - It is all too easy to lose balance and go too far into this!
When you are hunting, be sure not be go out when ill or sick and definitely do NOT drink or do drugs! It isn't a good idea at anytime anyway and most definitely can open you to negative influences that might follow you home.
Speaking of that, the fact is that there will be times when someone DOES follow you home and they are not alive! I've had it happen and now sage my home regularly and take precautions not to invite spirits to my domicile.
I'm also very respectful of spirits and do not encourage provocation. I believe it to be a huge mistake and feel that many spirits who do follow you home do so out of anger at having been provoked. It's tough enough with you being nice and convincing them to stay where they belong anyway!
Besides, you never know if you are confronting an elemental energy, a ghost or something else. We can never truly know all of the spiritual species we'll encounter and I'm convinced that by being respectful and kind to what we encounter in the field that the good manners will be reciprocated by these entities we seek to encounter in our investigative travels.
The same also goes for your fellow paranormal groups and investigators. I find it much nicer to just get along and if there are disagreements or people you would prefer not to deal with, well... then don't deal with them. It's a big universe and there ARE people out there who will like you and whom you can identify with. Trust that like finds like and things should work out.
Remember, the biggest thing in all of this is to have fun, care about one another and to even help a lost spirit find the light (I have done this many times now). And test to see if you are enjoying the process. If not, then you need to change something. Listen to that small voice inside. It is your best guide and friend!
A final note; You never are too big a person to stop learning. Staying humble, admitting to human frailties and being straight up when you don't know something is a sign of great personal power. If you can keep that aspect of yourself intact as your paranormal experiences grow and you do learn a thing or two, then you have a great future ahead of you. Helping others to grow just does that much more to teach you more about yourself.
Good luck and may your ghost hunting be fun and filled with class-A EVP captures!