For many years now, I have been involved in running public investigations at different locations, including what has now become my second home Black Rock House. What this experience has highlighted to me is how much a lot of people don’t understand paranormal investigating and a lot of the misconceptions and expectations of what really happens during an investigation. So let’s ‘debunk’ some of the common misconceptions about paranormal investigating.
Movies and TV shows have a lot to answer for. On one hand, they have brought a whole new generation and genre of people into the paranormal field. On the other hand, it has given them a very false and dare say it ‘entertainment based’ perception of paranormal investigation. At the beginning of an investigation, we ask people if they have done an investigation before. Some have but we find the majority are investigation virgins. They can however tell us all of the paranormal tv shows they watch such as Ghost Adventures, Ghost Asylum, Ghost Hunters …. The list goes on. We then try to explain to them that these guys film for days in a location and cram together a small amount of footage to make it look like it has been the most ‘intense’ investigation ever. You add some creepy music in the background and some haunting reenactments and you have an episode. What happens during an actual investigation is a lot further from the truth.
It is the sad disclaimer that should be at the start of every investigation. You are not guaranteed to have a paranormal experience. In fact some buildings even though they look old and creepy may not have anything going on at all. If it does have some invisible residents, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to communicate with you let alone throw you across the room (I am yet to see this at all). Paranormal investigation is hit and miss. There are several locations I have visited on numerous locations. A perfect example is of course Black Rock House. We can go in there and have what we believe to be activity right from the moment we unlock the door. On other nights we can spend hours and hours trying to communicate and not even receive a single piece of evidence or response on the equipment. Have you ever had a day where you just want to shut yourself away and not talk to anyone? Maybe they aren’t in the mood or maybe they have used up all of their energy and are in hibernation trying to gather it back up to be able to communicate next time. I guess you could argue that we don't even know what a 'ghost' is or what causes paranormal activity so there is that too. We really don’t know why things happen, we can theorise but the fact is when you go into an investigation, you don’t know if you are going to have a really active or quiet night.
Sure people have reported being touched or produced photos of a scratch and I have seen them happen (apart from the being thrown across the room part). I have been touched and pushed on several occasions and on a couple of occasions where I felt I have had pain inflicted on me. If I worked in percentages based on the number of paranormal investigations I have done, 98% of the time, nothing happens to me. I may feel a bit uneasy or feel the energy buzzing around me and collect the data we need, but in terms of something physically happening, it is rare. A lot of people come in and they want to be pushed and they want an experience. Unfortunately, it is probably not going to happen that way. If it does happen, please make sure we catch it on camera!!!
First of all to believe you are communicating with a demon you have to believe in demons and I personally don’t. I don’t have an opinion on someone that does believe in demons but what I can tell you is just because there is a negative energy you are communicating or dealing with, it doesn’t automatically make it demonic. There are a few ways I like to think of this. If you are dealing with an individual who was pretty nasty in life, they are probably going to be the same in the afterlife and it is probably why they haven’t been able to move on. They were also once people and they had feelings so if you are treating a spirit with disrespect, you can’t expect to get it back. It could even be a simple case of frustration that has built over a number of years. It is a weird association but I think of an episode of supernatural where Bobby had died and was basically sticking around. The longer he ‘stuck around’ the angrier and more frustrated he became and came across as aggressive when he didn’t want to at all. Just something to think about. Anyway, on a lot of occasions, we have the word demon come through on different devices, and just the other day during a portal session we had the words ‘He’s coming’ come through. We asked ‘Who is coming?’. The answer was ‘The Devil”. Did I think the Devil was coming to get us? No I think he probably has better things to do on a Saturday night than to scare a couple of people in a dark room talking to themselves.
This is a hard one but important to understand. A lot of equipment that is used in paranormal investigations is a regular item which has been ‘modified’ to communicate with the other side. From a broken radio to a device to help an electrician find power, some are even labelled with ‘for entertainment purposes only’. How do you decipher it all? First, you need to gain a solid understanding of how it works. Understand what natural influences can set this off so that you can try to use it under controlled circumstances. Mobile phones for example will set the majority of equipment off (yes even if you switch it on silent and yes we know when you haven’t switched it off!). When you get a response and you have eliminated every possible natural explanation, it still is not definitive proof that you have communicated with a spirit and for the record good luck trying to prove that (especially with keyboard happy trolls on Facebook). At the end of the day, it is your interpretation if you believe that after all the debunking that you have communicated with something, and good on you. If someone tries to to explain to you why maybe it isn’t paranormal have an open mind to it. A lot of people are not doing it to bring you down more just give you another perspective. (There are some people who are really rude about it and just want to start an argument I suggest you don’t engage with these people but quietly take on board what they are saying because behind it they may actually have a good point.) The results are only as good as your interpretation of them so make sure you have the knowledge behind these devices to interpret these results properly.
A paranormal investigation tour has been put together to give paranormal enthusiasts the experience of being a real ‘ghost hunter’ for the night. You are cramming what would normally take place over a whole night into the span of a couple of hours. You will be in a room for around 10 minutes and move on. In a ‘real’ investigation, we might be in that room for several hours before we move onto the next one. We are reviewing evidence in real-time afterward so there might be a lot of sitting around and waiting to see if we got something. If we do, it is then back to the room to essentially try and 'debunk' what we have found. On a tour, we are going to give you the full arsenal of equipment regardless of whether we like it or not to give you the full experience. We know that you want to use a spirit box like Zak does on Ghost Adventures. We know you want to see the ‘bleeps’ on the K2 meter like on Ghost Asylum. We probably wouldn’t normally use most of these items on our own investigations for various and personal reasons but we will give you the experience and do our best to teach you how to understand it properly (in the short span of time we have available).
Again a lot of people come in they want to be pushed or scratched or have some sort of experience. What you will find out is that is not the aim of a paranormal investigation. The aim is to communicate. The aim is to observe. In a lot of places, it is to learn about spirits. Why is a spirit still there? Who were they? What is their story? When you start getting information and you can match it back to actual records you feel like you are uncovering a story and building a relationship with this person. Money cannot buy this kind of feeling and to me this so much better than being attacked. TRUST ME! It can then lead you down a path where you may even start questioning - what is a spirit anyway? It is then you will start really delving into things.
There is a bit of a misconception that in order to do things, you have to be apart of a paranormal team. Then everyone is assigned roles. You have the lead investigator, the tech person, the medium, the researcher, the trainee, and all the in-between. They start a Facebook page, get t-shirts and you are on your way. It is a fun experience and I've been in 2 teams before, but you don't have to be in a team to research the paranormal. Some people are content just attending tours or grabbing a group of friends together to go and do something. Not everyone wants to be ordered around like a military exercise (it is supposed to be fun as well remember). When it works, being in a team is amazing and can be a wonderful experience and something you can't wait for each week, but it doesn't always work. Sometimes things have a shelf like and as you evolve you may realize you are on different paths. You can still investigate without being in a team. Being an independent investigator doesn't mean you are alone. I went independent and I still have relationships with other groups that I can do things with. I have the freedom to go and do what I want when I want. If you do want to have a team, you don't have to get the t-shirts, you don't have to assign the roles, you do it on your terms and what works well for you.
There are a lucky few people that may have a paid gig as a paranormal investigator on tours and of course the small number of celebrities with their own tv shows and make their money on the convention circuit but generally speaking, you aren’t going to make any money. A lot of people that have managed to turn their paranormal adventures into a business are no millionaires. In fact, be prepared to spend money and lots of it. As a perfect example for you, we do not get paid to host the investigations at Black Rock House. All of the equipment we let you use, we have paid for. All of the batteries (boy doesn’t the cost of batteries add up over time?) that are used in the equipment, we have paid for. The petrol we have used in our own cars to drive an hour to the location to give you this experience, we have paid for. In the case of Black Rock House 100% of the ticket price goes to them to preserve history. I guess I am saying this to a select few people who like to come on tours and sometimes I wonder why they even come and make our life difficult. We are doing all of this to give people like yourself the paranormal investigation experience. We do it in our own time away from our families and it hits our wallet so please be nice to us, we are doing it for you. The people attending are coming because they have a curiosity and maybe want to see it or experience it for themselves. If you don't believe in it, that is fine, but you don't need to come along and ruin it and judge everyone else for just 'seeing what is out there'.
I think I could sit here and type all night but they are probably the major things I wish I could tell people before they do their first paranormal investigation. Think of it as my public service announcement! What I can tell you though is that it is really fun, you will meet some amazing people. You will be joining a community where you will feel a sense of belonging. Most people become hooked after their first one. If you have always wanted to do a paranormal investigation, get out there, and find a place or group, or event that offers this experience. You will find after a while you will be going off on your own investigations or even joining or creating a team. It really is a fantastic community and there is a reason they call it a love job. It is A LOT of work …… but we LOVE IT!
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