One of the most popular questions an investigator is asked is "What is your favourite piece of equipment?". One of the most common answers given is "Myself". We are pretty in-tune with ourselves, our environment and with other people. It is that 'gut' instinct that tells us if something is a good or a bad idea. Sometimes we don't even want to walk into a room because it doesn't feel right. The same can be said about dealing with certain people within the paranormal field. Do you ever have someone contact you either wanting help, advice or maybe even a fellow investigator wanting your help and suddenly you see lots of red flags and something does not feel right? Your gut is telling you that something is up and you need to walk away. What are the common scenarios that you will most likely face that may make you feel like running for the hills?
The most commonplace that an investigator will likely be put in a situation where they feel like something is not quite right is in a private case. Before anyone investigator entertains the idea of taking on a private case, they should have some sort of pre-interview protocol. A series of questions that they ask to get a gauge on the situation. It helps them to evaluate what is going on, if their help is really needed and how urgent it is. Quite often, it is during this process that some red flags might start appearing. You will find that your initial gut instinct is usually correct. It is up to you to decide whether or not you want to invest your personal free time in this scenario. Remember, you don't have to take every case that comes your way. Other times it isn't until you are out there at their house investigating that suddenly things are what they seemed. What are some of the situations that you may find yourself in?
First of all, anyone that you suspect is abusing drugs or alcohol or may have some sort of underlying mental condition, these need to be addressed first and foremost. Make sure you are well armed with contacts and referrals that you can give so that these people can seek help. They are most likely not just going to head off the doctor. If it was that easy they would have done that already. They might need some help in doing that and that is where having the people that you can refer them to can help. Sometimes just listening and acknowledging them can be the first step that can help them get the help that they need. In most cases, the investigators handling the case are not trained medical professionals and should not be trying to give mental health advice or counselling without the proper qualifications. It will also likely get to a point where you realise that there is only so much you can do and at some point, you will most likely have to walk away knowing that you cannot do anymore. A lot of the time, people will continue going through and contacting people until they get the answer they want. If they have seen or spoken to countless people with the same problem and not received help, you need to question why. Don't automatically assume the other person or group has not tried to help. Maybe the person didn't get the answer they wanted to hear?
One of the most common things from a request for help or some advice I receive from people is on the back end of when they have conducted their own investigations in their house. They watch tv shows like ghost adventures and suddenly every little noise in the house is demonic. So they break out their phone and start snapping away. Lack of paranormal investigating experience will usually come into play. They feel they have lots of spirits around the house in the form of 'orbs'. There are faces in the smudges in the mirror. They are very much attached to the idea that their home is haunted and they are not going to listen to anything else. I encountered this years ago. Armed with hundreds of photos in a mobile (I am not exaggerating on the number), it was clear that the stories of the haunting had been grossly exaggerated. Walking around the house, I noticed a mirror with smudge marks. Of course, I was then shown photos of the 3 ghosts whose faces always supposedly appear in the mirror. It was an old house with extremely high EMF readings due to old exposed wiring. There was a lot of dust with renovations all over the place. You can see where this is going. The client was not interested in hearing anything besides wanting validation. People can actually become angry and abusive. It is really no different to when someone puts up a photo in a Facebook group. While some are very much open to a rational explanation and this will be enough for a lot of people, the majority only hear what they want to hear and will only listen to those who 'agree' that their photo is 100% paranormal. All you can do is offer your opinion and again at some point, you will just have to walk away. You can give your advice on what you think it is and some advice on how you can 'take ownership of your home back' and feel more comfortable, but beyond that in a case like this, there is not much more you can do. One of your questions should be "why do you feel your house is haunted?" If the response is one of these photos, it is probably a pretty big indicator of what is to come.
On top of photos, people also like to do their own ouija board and EVP sessions at home. Now I personally do not think Ouija boards are the demonic force that Hollywood makes out. This wherein lies the problem. A lot of private cases seem to start AFTER a drunken night around an Ouija board. Crazy stuff usually happens and the power of suggestion can become a very big factor here and they come out and say it is all because of the Ouija board. Perhaps they have built up this fear from the stigma of the Ouija board and the simple sounds of the house are now paranormal to them because in the back of their mind they feel the Ouija board is responsible. The 'haunting' has become their own fears getting the better of them. Sometimes people want to hide the fact that they were using a board and you either stumble across it or they give you the information halfway through your investigation. There are also other pieces of information they could be hiding from you as well. If you suspect that your client is not being fully truthful with you from the very beginning, think about if they are worthy of your time.
EVP is probably the other most popular easy to do 'at home' type of communication. Anyone can set up their mobile phone and do an EVP session. One of the things that I will always tell someone that tells me that they are investigating at home is whether you are using an Ouija board or a digital recorder, spirit box whatever it is, you are opening that door of communication. You are saying I invite whatever is around to come and talk to me. The more you do it, the more you are letting in. A lot of investigators won't investigate at their own homes for this reason. I personally don't' have a problem doing this at home, but it comes down to the belief system of a person. Even if you are just unsure, that seed of doubt can again be enough for your fear to be the cause of the hauntings. We have all heard the story (which I have never found the true source of) where there was a guy who became obsessed with recording EVPs all day long and eventually heard voices without recording them and went insane. It is the cautionary tale I have heard from several investigators. While you may not believe these kinds of stories, other people do and this again can help 'fuel' what they believe is happening in their home.
Beyond all of that, if there is something truly paranormal happening in a person's home and they are capturing true evidence of it, the thing is, you don't get to decide what comes to say hi. Maybe they are nice, maybe not so nice. I once told someone stop doing EVP sessions in your lounge room and see if the activity decreases. They firmly told me no because they only talk to the nice ones. People become in some way 'addicted' to the activity in their homes.
If you get a call out and someone wants you to investigate their house and they want you to do a live stream and put up photos on social media, I would seriously question their motives. Why does it need to be streamed on Facebook? If they are so terrified living in their house that they need help, why do they need it broadcast to the world? You may also encounter this not just in private cases, but with fellow investigators as well. Some groups have large followings on Facebook because people like what they do and how they do things. If you are perhaps teaming up with another group and their first order of business is wanting you to do a live stream and share their page, again I would be questioning why they are wanting to investigate with you. Is it because they want to learn or is it because they want to try and ride your coattails? If someone is constantly name dropping to try and benefit themselves, this is usually a bit of a red flag. There was one investigator that used to ask me to post a photo with her on a page because she wanted some of the people that follow me to notice her. I personally found this a bit odd. Her intentions, later on, became quite clear. This being said, there is an amazing network of genuine hard working good investigators out there that are a pleasure to work next to.
Sometimes there is a case that comes your way that no one else wants to touch. They have already contacted a bunch of people and are still seeking help. Why is that? While they may tell you that no one else has been able to properly deal with their problem (which could also be true) there may also be a reason why so many people have tried to help them. It is most likely possible that either the person is not getting the answer they are looking for so they keep going through investigators until they find someone that will tell them what they want to hear, or the person is so difficult that the investigator walks away. This is where is it helpful for you to be friendly with other investigators. Give them a ring and ask them about the case. You may get a clearer picture and you can make a more informed decision as to if you want to proceed.
Sometimes situations present themselves that no one should be getting involved in. The word ethics is sometimes forgotten when it comes to paranormal investigating and I have seen some horrifying and questionable things that others have done. ALWAYS ask the question, "Just because I can, should I?" Many vulnerable people are exploited by people in the paranormal field. Sometimes it is from ignorance and not knowing any better and just not thinking from others thinking it is a ticket to fame. Private cases are honestly a whole different area. I don't do them anymore because I don't feel it is my place. If someone asks for advice I will give it to them, but honestly a lot of the time people want validation, not for you to debunk what they are experiencing.
This is really just scratching the surface. I could sit here all day and write a long essay of things that may make you double-take. At the end of the day, you need to trust your gut feeling. Talk to your colleagues and consult with other investigators in the field. What is their feeling about the situation? Sometimes you just need someone to reassure you that your instincts are on the right path. Remember you don't have to do anything that you do not want to do and there is no harm in telling someone, I'm sorry but I am unable to help you any further. As much as we all have the natural urge in us to help another human being in need, sometimes we are unable to help unless they are truly willing to be helped. So trust your gut instinct, you will find in most cases, you were right!
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