Well I think we can all agree that 2020 has completely thrown us all for a six. Best laid plans are nothing but a memory and as we look towards a new normal in the world whatever it may be, it has many of us thinking about the things we once took granted. It has us planning how we will do things differently or perhaps new things we would like to try. It has us reflecting on the past and maybe thinking about the lessons we have learnt along the way. I know for myself this has rung true, particularly when it comes to the paranormal. As a person who spent most weekends out investigating or embracing the paranormal in different ways, like many of us, it was a shock to the system suddenly having to stay indoors. It made a lot of us think about our place in the paranormal field and coming out the other end of it, I can honestly say I do believe that not everyone will jump back readily into the paranormal. Don't worry, this is not a goodbye letter as I never left, but I wanted to reflect on some of the different lessons that many have learnt over the last few months that may change the way we approach our research or investigating in the future.
To many this is a given, but for a lot of people, they are just out for an experience when it comes to the paranormal. Not everyone wants to join a team. Not everyone wants to film videos for YouTube or write blogs. Not everyone wants to read books or research paranormal topics. A lot of people just like going out on an investigation for the experience itself. New paranormal groups are popping up every day. Many run tours or experiences, and many create content for others to enjoy. Some people have even made a business out of doing so. All of sudden, no one was able to attend investigations. People were refunded and we all sat in limbo wondering when and if we would ever be able to get back to our favourite location again. While some have opened up already and some groups are already running investigations, others are waiting. Some locations here in Australia, have already said they won't be opening up at all this year. Could this be the end for some of our favourite locations? I really hope not but financially, we know not everyone can recover and there is a possibility some of our favourite locations may close down. This would be a big shame.
I am from Australia where we have been quite lucky with our rate of infection. While we closed down for a while, we are very slowly lifting restrictions and we are in stage 2 of our 'new normal'. Kids are back at school, shopping centers are reopening and people are very slowly returning to work. Cafe's and restaurants have reopened with restrictions and even the movie cinema is opening up in a few weeks. Some places have started running investigations again, while some have not. I myself run investigations out of Black Rock House with my brother. It is a very small location where on in a pre covid world, the council only allowed 15 people in total in the house at one time. Some rooms cannot even squish all 15 people in. In a post covid world with social distancing and a 4sqm radius required between each person, you can understand why these smaller locations have decided to wait before reopening. Quite frankly for Black Rock House at the moment, it is not worth the risk and it is easier to wait to ensure everyone's safety. Very honestly one of my biggest concerns is that someone will attend an investigation somewhere and infect the group. All of a sudden, people may not be so keen to go on a public paranormal investigation and it could shut down the entire paranormal industry if severe enough. There are some locations that are quite large and the location size means it is quite easy for people to be kept apart and the risk factor for transmission is a lot lower. There are professional tour companies that are running tours in compliance with councils and government and following all protocols. Some have even done special OHS covid training to ensure they are properly versed in infection control. I have no doubt that these places are doing as much as possible to avoid any sort of spread of infection. There are also some groups that will do an investigation or even run an event just because they can and don't have the resources or maybe even experience or knowledge to be able to run an event in a post covid world properly. Some can also become complacent and it could end up ruining it for everyone. Even just sharing a piece of equipment could turn out to be a costly decision.
Before running an event or an investigation, it is worth asking the question, just because we can, should we?
We are all having paranormal withdrawals. I know as someone that used the paranormal for an escape on the weekends, while ive enjoyed time at home with my children, I have missed the 'me' time where I just get to be Sarah. You see Sarah loves spending an hour getting ready and maybe wearing a new outfit that will just sit in the cupboard for months. She likes to leave a bit earlier and listen to her favourite band nice and loud on the 45 minute drive to Black Rock House. When she arrives she likes to walk in and take in the atmosphere and the smell ......... and the quiet. Hear that? No kids! She grabs her recorder and sits in a room and hits record and listens. She talks and hopes the house will talk back. Soon guests arrive and she gets to have some real adult interaction and talk about all sorts of paranormal things. She gets to watch how people investigate and react to situations. If she is really lucky, she may get to witness or experience something really cool. She goes home thinking about the amazing night which then in turn usually sparks an idea for research or a new article or even an experiment. It is a big part of my week and suddenly that was gone. So yes I do understand how much you are missing investigating, because I miss it too!
While I have been a person that always is reading and researching and working on things in the background, many people who had their paranormal escape on the weekend taken away. Suddenly they needed to get their paranormal fix. While they craved being in a physical location, many have turned to the illustrious book. Not just any book, paranormal books. They have been reading about things from different minds in the field. They have been thinking about new things they will try when they finally get back. In some ways, it has encouraged people to find another way to investigate the paranormal, and they are doing so through research. I can't wait to see all the amazing new ideas and perhaps new theories people will be coming up with. There will be more questions asked and we could really see a new way forward. People have embraced knowledge. Knowledge is power and what helps make us great investigators.
We started networking online and the online paranormal conference was born. Suddenly an event of speakers that had an audience that was originally limited to a room of people suddenly had the whole world listening. I know here in Australia, we don't get those events here or the high profile speakers so for us it was a big win. Suddenly we discovered fantastic researchers we hadn't heard of over here. We started watching webinars, interviews and lectures and learning from people we otherwise would not have. I do see this continuing. While many watched for entertainment, they were being educated at the same time, even if they didn't know it!
Many people within the paranormal field, myself included, will encourage people to pick up that book and empower themselves with as much knowledge as possible. I really do think it is an essential part of investigating. We shouldn't however underestimate the importance of being onsite and doing an actual paranormal investigation. It is how we learn. We can have all the ideas in the world, but until we are out in the field, we don't know how we react to certain situations. A lot of the time, we as people don't tend to believe something entirely unless we were there to witness it ourselves. We can easily write something off and say it is interference it is this it is that, but unless we are in a situation ourselves, maybe we are writing something off too quickly. At the other end, being on location teaches us and educates us on the different things that we know are not paranormal. We tend to only learn these by having to go through the process ourselves. I know myself know the different sounds of Black Rock House by being there. I know on a windy night, the wind flows through holes in the roof or walls and go behind the wallpaper and it makes a crackling noise. When you are standing in a room and hear this noise, it makes you feel like someone is standing behind you. It can cause cold spots. The wind and this wallpaper issue was the source of many reported experiences, until we worked out what it was. We would not have worked it out without that experience of being onsite.
So while we have found out how valuable and important research is, we also know that onsite investigating is important too. When you do eventually get to go on an investigation again, use it as a 'restart'. Try all the things you want to do. Try those new experiments. Ask those questions. Go back home and then read about a certain subject and how that can help you going forward. Most importantly, don't rush. As tempting as it to get back out there, do it when the time is right for you and the location. For some that is now, for others that time is later down the road. The paranormal has been around for centuries, it is not going anywhere. We have learnt to improvise and I think it has made us better investigators and better researchers. While I know there is a shortage of places you can indeed investigate, I beg you to be patient. Please do not trespass. Please do not do anything illegal or silly for the sake of an investigation. Stay safe and if you ever have to ask yourself should I be doing this?, then you already know your answer.
What have you learnt in 2020 as an investigator and will you change how you do things?
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