Friday, March 03, 2006

Ghost Hunt Anyone?

The ghost hunters
I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks…
-Cowardly Lion

Ghost hunt, any one? Post mortem paranormal investigating is on the rise all over the world, and pro-ghost hunting organizations are becoming a growth industry, both in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Wait a minute, what are ghost hunters? Well this seems self explanatory to me, but the short of it is this, a ghost hunter is a person who is so fascinated by the possiblity of ghosts or spirits that they set out to proove or disproove the existance of said spooks through several different means of investigative tools and protocals.

And that is what this article is all about!

The belief in ghosts and haunted houses has been on the rise the last ten years. The latest Gallup poll suggests a 13% increase over the past decade, or four out of ten Americans believe we leave a spiritual residue of some kind after we die in particular ghosts.

That being said is it any wonder that more and more of these organizations are popping up? In this chapter you’ll learn how to have your own paranormal investigations.

You’ll get the latest information on the tools the tricks and rules (yes rules) that all the top paranormal investigators use on their investigations.
You will also learn where to get your supplies and how to find places to investigate.

Reasons why you may want to have an investigation:

  • Sounds like fun
  • You’ll do any thing once
  • It’s the latest craze
  • You have an undying interest in the paranormal
  • The truth is out there… somewhere
  • You want to help spirits cross over
  • You want to help others

    First of all, if any of the first three is your reason for going out and rustling up spirits of the dead you might as well close this chapter right now.
    Shoo…go on now… I’m ashamed of you. Your mother taught you better manners than that. Remember to respect the lives past and present that you may be affecting by your investigative efforts.

    What are ghosts? No one seems to really know, but here are some theories:

    Spirits Of The Dead- The most prevalent is that a ghost is the spiritual energy left after the body ceases to live. In short, a ghost is a dead person (or animal) that has not passed on to the “other side” and may be stuck in a sort of limbo due to either not knowing that they are dead or sticking around in order to complete unfinished business.

    Projections- Many skeptical minds believe that a ghost is just a projection from the mind of a grieving family member or friend of a dead person. Merely the psychological delusion of a very sad person who wishes for a chance to say goodbye or I love you one last time.

    Some may even go so far as to say that the power of the mind can create physical manifestations that others can see or hear as well.

    Residual haunting- Many haunting seem to be the recording of a traumatic or highly emotionally charged event that is somehow impressed on the very environment in which it happened. These are the “repeat performances”. These are the hauntings that never seem to change. It’s like watching a video or listening to the recording of an event over and over again.

    These haunting are different from other ghostly sightings in that the phantoms appear to be unaware of the living and do not interact. They seem to be nothing more than the energy residue of an often traumatic or highly emotionally charged event that is stuck on replay.

    Delivery Gram- Delivery Gram- Often an important message delivered by a freshly dead loved one, but not exclusively.

    My friend Kate had a visit from a person she had never even heard of before when she was in Hawaii visiting her friend Bea. It happened one night long after everyone had gone to bed, she was awakened by a large booming thump in the middle of the night. She was convinced that the house was struck by loose boulder from off the hill.

    She got up to see what happened and found nothing unusual and no boulder.

    After she got back in bed she noticed at the foot of the bed a small slightly built old gentleman with a wide brimmed hat looking at her from the foot of the bed. Startled she asked him “Who are you?” He replied that he was Grandpa Cummers and wanted her to tell Bea that she was going to be fine. He said “You tell Bea that it will be painful for awhile, but she’ll be alright.”

    In the morning she asked Bea who Grandpa Cummers was. Startled, Bea told her that was her long deceased and much beloved step father and cofirmed that he was indeed a small man who very often wore a large brimmed gardening hat.

    Bea had been suffering from a strange illness for about 3 months and thought that she was going to die soon, she was 85 at the time and just felt that this illness was the final aloha.

    However it turned out just as Grandpa Cummers said it would, and she is a healthy young woman of 86 now.

    Poltergeists- Also known as the noisy/mischievous ghost. This type of haunting is most often believed to be caused by prepubescent children who are going through a lot of stress. It is thought that the energy of some young people can affect a psychokinetic phenomena such as throwing thing across the room, hiding possessions and retuning them later, toilets flushing themselves, opening or slamming doors, slapping people pulling hair, tugging clothing, flicking lights on and off, banging or rapping on walls, footsteps or other unexplainable sounds.
    Because these actions can sometimes be violent, some believe that it is not caused by the preteen, but by a malevolent spirit or even a demon that may be drawn to the child’s energy.

    Indications of a possible haunting :

Unexplained noises - footsteps; knocks, banging, rapping; scratching, voices that seem to whisper in your ear or are just in the other room but no one is there.

Unexplained feelings of presences- Most of us seem to know when the house is empty or not, you can feel the energy of another presence. So why do some places feel like that whether there is another person in the house or not. Feeling like your being watched or not alone in an empty room is usually the first indication of a haunting.

Doors, cabinets and cupboards opening and closing -Often, these phenomena are not seen directly. return to a room to find a door open or closed when they are certain that it was left in the opposite position. Sometimes furniture, like kitchen chairs are perceived to have moved. Very rarely will the witness actually see the phenomenon.

Lights turning off and on - This can also happen with TVs, radios and other electrically powered items. A note should be made as to whether the items were plugged in or not. That’s right, sometimes they turn on even when unplugged!

Items disappearing and reappearing- Fun and games time for that feisty spirit in your life. Mostly benign but this behavior has been known to escalate into more destructive behavior. Usually attributed to poltergeist activity.

Shadow People- Catching fleeting shapes and shadows, out of the corner of your eye. Also known as shadow people, these shades are vaguely human in shape for the most part but not always and are rarely seen head on.

Strange animal behavior- animals are naturally more sensitive than humans in most areas of the senses, whether it’s sight, sound, smell or ghosts! Dogs may suddenly start to growl or bark at some unseen intruder or may even refuse to go into a certain room for no apparent reason although they have been in there before without incident (dogs sensing ghosts is very common) . Cats are crazy enough as it is just being cats. How often have you observed your strange little feline watching things move around the room that you can’t see? Horses have been known to rear up at some unseen threat and caged birds often become agitated for no known reason.

Where are ghost and spirit hunters hunting?

The real question is where won't you find them.
The more driven of the ghost hunters or paranormal investigators (as many without a sense a humor prefer to be called) can be found with their EMF meters and EVP recorders straped close to them in just about any place imaginable now. As long as there is an interesting enough rumor or haunted history attached to a place they will eventually be there snapping pictures and asking entities for their life story.
Of course, the places that really gets an investigator excited are peoples home's and work places where it is purported that strange happenings are...well...happening. That is, call's from private citizens requesting an investigation.
Should you happen to start an organization of your own and want to offer your services to those in need, here are some guidelines for the witness interview.

Interviewing witnesses:
A correctly handled interview is like gold to a paranormal investigator, most paranormal cases will be prepared for based on the testimony of your witness. The better the information gathered from the witness the smoother the rest of the investigation will go.

It is very important that you treat your witnesses with respect, the first time you look at a witness like they’re crazy it’s over. Even if you think that this one just might be off their rocker remember the golden rule and keep a zip-lock on your smart mouth. Of course some will be off their rocker, if so, you may politely decline any investigation that makes you feel "too uncomfortable", just reserve the right to say ”No thank you, your case is a little beyond my scope of expertise.” this saves face for the potential loon and you get to keep your credibility as well as any sanity you feel is jeopardized by continuing any further into this investigation.

Here are some guidelines for interviewing a witness:

  • Do unto others/the golden rule strikes again!
  • If there is more than one witness you will need to interview them separately from one another. This will give more depth to the investigation and will keep the witnesses frommuddying up each other’s version of events.
  • Make sure that the time you schedule will be ample (no slam-bam) and that your witness is well rested and in a good and present head space for the interview i.e. alert and not on any mind altering substance such as alcohol, pot, mushrooms, pain meds, opiates or chocolate. (Just kidding, chocolate is fine, especially if they are willing to share.)
  • Be professional in every way; be on time, be courteous, take a shower and brush your teeth (B/O and dog breath are bad form!) wear something casual but nice.
  • Open the interview by telling the witness a little about yourself and your group, but don’t be a bore stick to the short version. Allow them to ask questions, its important to let them get comfortable before you start the interview.
  • Make sure you know how to work your equipment and can answer any questions pertaining to them. But again, try to be brief this is not a lecture.
  • Keep control of the interview by letting the witness know first off that if they have additional questions there will be plenty of time for them after the conclusion of the interview. This will insure that all the info you need for the investigation is gathered.
  • Remember you are talking to a real person with valid emotions, concerns and fears that need to be respected.
  • Pay close attention to how the witness answers your questions as well as the body language they use.
  • Keep an open mind reserve your verdict for after the investigation has concluded.
  • Have a tape recorder and always ask for permission to use it then ask again when the tape is first rolling.
  • Have your interview form(prepare your questions before hand) in front of you so that nothing is missed.
  • When the interview is concluded ask if they have any questions before you take your leave. Make sure they understand what to expect when you and your team conduct an investigation.
  • Schedule the investigation and put it in your calendar as well as making sure that they have a date reminder card with your phone number.
  • Get written permission to conduct the investigation if it is on private property that has been signed and witnessed before you leave with the specified date and time on your calendar.
  • Ask them if there are any known dangers to be aware of in the vicinity of the investigation.
  • Thank them politely and make sure you leave them your calling card with the date/time scheduled for the investigation and your phone number in case they have more questions or have to cancel. Let them know that they may cancel anytime for any reason, just ask that they give at least 24 hrs notice unless it is an emergency so that you have time to pull everyone off of the case. (Don’t be nasty if they do cancel, they may want to do it later and they have every right to change their mind, besides you don’t want to get a rep for being a discourteous jerk.)
  • If you were clever enough to put together some client literature this would be the time to give it to them. Things like frequently asked questions, how an investigation is run and fun ghost facts is a great tool to leave with them and may cut down on phone calls.

Always call and confirm the day before the investigation. You’d be surprised how many people forget.

Some important tips for the investigation:

Never leave for an investigation of private property without the signed written permission of the owner.

Get to a site early enough to familiarize yourselves with the surroundings and get your bearings as to the best place to stage the equipment and where to start.

Do not disrespect the property in any way no gum wrappers or soda cans etc. Bring a garbage bag to tote any refuse you may end up.

Bring a first-aid kit. You never know what may happen on an investigation.

No alcoholic beverages or other mind-altering stuff, (except chocolate) this is not a party. If you want to drink with spirits go home and make a screwdriver.

No smoking, get the patch or chew gum. Pictures people… as it is, if you do capture a ghostly mist, smoke will be one of the first things a skeptic will likely say they think it looks like.
Which brings up weather conditions, cold, misty, foggy, rainy conditions are not good for outdoor pictures.

Wait at least 15 minutes before snapping pictures and running experiments for two reasons: let the equipment acclimatize to the conditions & gives the owners and spirits a chance to acclimatize to you. (First impressions, ya’ know)

When shooting a video or taking pictures an EMF meter comes in handy as a test control.

If you feel a presence looking at you from a particular direction, point and shoot.

Use your intuition and those gut instincts that nature gave you.

Refrain from taking pictures of reflective surfaces for obvious reasons.

Always carry extra batteries and make sure you start with a fresh batch.

Keep an open mind and don’t investigate with negative or closed-minded people. Remember the *"sheep and goats" experiment of 1947? You don't...well, bring the flock of sheep,I'll tell you later…

Don’t ever go alone, this is not the time to prove how brave you are tuff stuff, at the very least there should be two, but the more the merrier. Besides the more equipment you have the more hands you’ll need to operate them.

And just for the record be aware that not all ghosts are benign. It may be rare but it is not unheard of for a ghost to get violent. People have been hurt and harassed by ghosts!

Research the site’s history before you go, you don’t want to go in blind. Use public records and the library for old news articles and obits etc. Also find out what you can about the right time of the year, month, week or day to experience the haunting in any given location.

Expect your equipment or personal property to be messed with by the unseen hands of a ghostly practical joker.
Always carry extra batteries and make sure you start with a fresh batch as paranormal phenomena, has been known to drain spanking new batteries in a very short amount of time.
Listen with an inner ear as well as your outer ear, spooks have been known to communicate psychically.

Listen to your gut, it’s your first line of defense against danger as well as your first indication that something spooky is up.

Whether you are religious or not it is a good practice to bless your group with a prayer of protection, people have left a haunting and have found that a spirit has attached to them, and I’m not talking about Casper here…

Take notes on everything and record the time of each incident. It is of absolute importance to keep a tight record of events so that you and your team will be able to coincide all of your data.

Home at last:
Now comes the fun part, your investigation is over and you’ve made it back to the relative safety of your own ghost free zone.
You now get to sift through the all meticulously gathered evidence that your amazing crew has brought back. I wont lie this it is tedious work. Sleep on it and go through it when you have a few hours to spare. Trying to do this work directly after an investigation is not a very good idea. You may be tired and wired at the same time and this can negatively influence your ability to remain objective.
Give it at least a day before you go over everything you have and try to do it with a partner. Two sets of eyes and ears are better than one.

After you have determined whether or not you have evidence of a haunting and also have an idea of what kind of a haunting you can call your witness(s) and arrange for your next meeting to discuss the findings of the investigation.

At this time you will have formed an opinion as to whether further action is required ergo a house cleansing/ blessing, an exorcism or therapy for you or your witness.
Remember to adhere to all of the rules set forth in the interviewing your witness section.

* Professor Gertrude Schemeidler “Sheep and Goat (ESP) experiment” 1947
Professor of Psychology, City University of New York


Professor Schemeider was an experimental psychologist who’s research was primarily in perception and memory. She had recently begun a part-time job at Harvard (where she had graduated from 7 years earlier) when she attended a seminar on psychical research given by Gardner Murphy. His lectures, and his suggested reading, piqued her curiosity. So when Murphy offered her a stipend from Harvard’s Richard Hodgson Fund to experiment on ESP, she accepted, hoping that an experiment would clarify what seemed to be a bizarre topic to her.

What she found was that the test subjects who even before testing rejected the possibility of ESP success (whom she termed goats), consistently scored lower than average on the ESP testing than did all the other subjects (whom she termed sheep). This made no sense by any of the known physical laws of the universe, and was enough to make her change her primary research interest towards the field of parapsychology.

Professor Svhemeidler has her doctorate from Harvard University and was the past President of the Parapsychological Association (1959, 1971) and also held a Presidency in the American Society for Psychical Research.

spiritual reunions

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