Chapter 2: Getting Started
What do you need to get started in your career in ghost hunting? Well, the first thing you need is yourself. In truth, that is all you really need. Let me show you what I mean. Let us say that I decide to investigate a house. Well, I walk in to the house and interview the people living there. I get a general idea about what is happening. While sitting on the couch, the couch with me on it slides five feel across the floor. Guess what, it is probably haunted. That is really all it takes. However, let us say that we want to take it a little farther. In that case, it is probably a good idea to have a pad and pen with me. That makes remembering the information I am giving easier to remember. Of course, it might be a good idea to have a camera or two with me as well in case something materializes.
Now that I think about it, it might be a good idea to have a tape recorder as well. Hey, a camcorder is good two. You never know when something might fly across the room. And on it goes. There are many “toys” that are useful for the ghost hunter, some more so than others. You can spend a lot or a little and get good results either way. Personally, I prefer to use a lot of equipment. Since there is always the possibility that a case may turn into something big, I like to gather as much evidence as possible. Being an investigator is much like being a detective. You have to gather as much evidence as possible and begin to paint a picture. While any given bit of evidence may be noteworthy, one or two things by themselves do not always give you a clear picture. Thus, the need for as much evidence as possible.
I sometimes consider myself the jury in an investigation. In other words, I have a somewhat skeptical attitude. However, the key is to have an open mind. What I try to do when I am constructing a case is see if there is enough evidence to convince myself that something paranormal is taking place. I want to prove this to myself “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That takes evidence. So how do we begin gathering it? That starts with the interview process. From the first contact, I am gathering evidence. When an inquiry first comes in, I look for two things:
- Does the person sound credible?
- Is what they are describing investigable?
Bear in mind that at this point I am not attempting to make a diagnosis. At this juncture, I just need to determine whether what is being described to me consistent with what would be considered paranormal. If the answer is yes to questions # 1 and 2, then I will set up an investigation. The goal in any investigation is to determine 3 things:
- Is something there?
- What is it?
- Why is it there?
When I mention this to the client, they usually get a little annoyed at me, especially because of the first question. “What do you mean: is something there? Didn’t I tell you that my couch went flying through the window?” That is a bit extreme but the truth of the matter is that there are often natural explanations for what seems like unnatural phenomena. Always keep something in mind: it only takes one mistake to ruin a reputation. Therefore, I want to be sure before making any definitive statements one way or the other. People who believe they are being haunted tend to exaggerate. They do not necessarily do this intentionally; usually they are not. However, when anyone is frightened, it is natural for things to seem larger than life. Police officers know this better than any other group. People who are victims of violent crime will often describe their attacker as being very large when it turns out that the attacker is really 5’2″. This is a natural process.
Therefore, there is what I call the “exaggeration factor.” What this means is what I usually do is discount 25% of what they tell me, pending my own observations. Thus, when someone tells me that the knocking on the wall lasted close to twenty minutes, the likelihood it that it was really less. In most cases, question number one is the easiest to answer. If you are talking to the client and your coffee cup decides to fly across the room, it is a pretty safe bet to say that something is there. Beyond that, it begins to get tricky.
Determining what is there can be difficult. First of all, there are different types of spirits. If you determine what type of spirit is present, you also have to try to determine its intentions. For example, you may figure out that the problem is a human spirit. However, is the spirit evil or just confused? What makes this even more challenging is the fact that in many instances, a ghost is not a ghost at all. It could be something known as a “psychic imprint.” We will take a closer look at that in the coming chapters. You may see objects move and be sure that you are dealing with a poltergeist. However, it may well be something more natural than that. While discussing the poltergeist theory, a spirit may manifest and float across the room. There goes the poltergeist theory. Then there is the possibility that there is a demon there directly attacking the victim. Then again, it may be a demon puppeteering a human spirit. You see there are many variables. Before you can say anything to the client, you have to know exactly what is going on. This can take some work.
The last question may be the hardest to answer. Determining why a spirit is present can help you determine what it is but more importantly, it may tell you how to proceed with the case. For example, if someone conjured a spirit up using some form of divination, the possibility exists that something demonic may be involved. Even if it is not, you have to insure that once you get rid of it, no one invites it back. If you can determine that the spirit is indigenous to the location, a little research may tell you who it is and that may hold the key to solving the problem. The great difficulty here is that in so many cases, there does not appear to be a clear- cut reason why a spirit is inhabiting a location. It may require a lot of digging on your part to answer that question fully. Unfortunately, in many cases, you never find the answer.
The key to answering these questions may lie in the interview process. If someone is doing something like casting spells, they may be honest about it and tell you. Then again, they may be afraid to tell you about that. This is where you may have to dig. In the next chapter, we will look at the best way to conduct the interview. Once you are able to answer these questions, you can begin to formulate a strategy to a positive outcome. Keep something in mind: the best solution is not always to make the spirit leave the premises. After a lengthy investigation, you may determine that the spirit was someone who once lived in the house and means no harm to anyone. This spirit may simply love the house and is not ready to leave it yet. In many cases, once the client realizes that there is no danger involved, they stop worrying about the spirit and in many cases that alone reduces the activity that was taking place. Some people even learn to like “their” ghost. Besides that, there is no sure fire way to force a benign human spirit from a location if it chooses to stay there. An exorcism will not help because that ritual was designed to rid evil, inhuman spirits; thus, it is ineffective in removing human spirits, especially if they are benign to begin with. In so many cases, human spirits will leave on their own once they decide that the place they love is safe.