So You've Got Ghosts.....
What do you want to do about it?
Most people wouldn't invite strangers into their homes. Yet, when someone requests an investigation of their home or business they are doing just that. How can you be sure that the people entering your home are trustworthy and professional?
The first step in finding a paranormal investigation group for most people is to conduct an internet search. Unfortunately, Google, Yahoo and other search engines do not qualify groups. Instead, they simply list pages based on the words and data they contain. Just because someone's page ranks highly on Google does not mean that group is the best in the field.
When you go to the website for a group you should look for several things. The most important is a list of investigations they have done in the past. Are reports available online for review? If they are not then it may mean the group does not follow through after the investigation with quantifying and qualifying results. In other words, groups that do not file official post-investigation reports often are more interested in thrills than science and seeking the truth. While many groups claim they do not file official reports because of "privacy" issues this simply is untrue. It is possible to prepare an official report for public education and use without divulging private information. I do this all the time for our group, Sonoran Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
If they do have reports available, take a look at the quality of the reports. Do they simply list what happened on the site or do they delve into the history of the structure? Do they discuss how they investigated the claims and either attempted to prove them or how they were able to disprove them? Are the reports footnoted or sourced? Do they use personal experiences as evidence or do they stick to hard scientific data? Are those reports presented to the client in a professional manner in written form as well as having the group representative discuss those results with the client?
Reports can tell you a lot about a group. You should see what types of equipment were used, how many hours of footage were shot on location and the results of that process.
Since you are having people into your home or business you certainly want to know their backgrounds. Again, websites can give you loads of information. Are the members of the group listed along with photos? Does the website list the backgrounds of those members with a biography or other data?
If you find groups who are hesitant to attach their own photos to their website you may want to inquire why. Likewise, you should ask whether investigators who will arrive at your home have been checked out by the group. Do they perform background checks on new investigators? Do they require personal references and confidentiality agreements from their investigators?
Does the group employ "psychics", "sensitives," "demonologists," or "psychic cleansers?" If they do then you should be aware that more than likely your home will be haunted, regardless of any evidence to the contrary and that you will likely be told you have need of these services.
There is a great difference between conducting a true paranormal investigation and simply "ghost hunting". An actual paranormal investigation requires preparation before the team arrives. Research into the site must be conducted and the group must be sure that the site will be safe for their members to enter.
There are thousands of "ghost hunters" out there who do not perform actual investigations but still consider themselves "paranormal investigators". These are usually teams that do not require any information from you upfront about your situation. True paranormal investigators will require information from you upfront about what is happening, who it is happening to, and what you wish to gain from the investigation. Then your needs and desires can be assessed and given the best response possible to achieve the shared goals.
Of course, there are times in emergency situations where even the best groups will forego this process. Usually, this happens when someone feels they are in danger. However, those situations are exceedingly rare.
When you review a website for a group be aware of the "evidence" listed without a full report. Many of the transitory groups will list dozens of "paranormal" photos and EVPs. Both of those things are exceedingly rare when they are reviewed professionally by experts. Even the most active groups have only a handful of truly anomalous evidence once it has been reviewed thoroughly. A small group with only a few members who finds "evidence" at almost every site should be suspect. A group with dozens of pieces of evidence should also be viewed with a skeptical eye. This is especially true when this evidence has not been vetted by other groups in the field working cooperatively or by outside experts. If a group does list photos, take a moment to check what is known as EXIF data for the paranormal photo. You can even get add-ons for Firefox that will allow this using a simple right click on the photo. The EXIF data will tell you if the photo has been manipulated. Groups who state they use digital photography but whose evidentiary photos lack EXIF data should be considered suspect.
Check the website to see if the group belongs to a community of cooperation. There are many very respected cooperative groups out there. Perhaps the most famous being the "TAPS Family". The groups in this organization work cooperatively to review anomalous evidence and render opinions. This allows a single photo or EVP to be reviewed hundreds of times and subjected to many different analyses before a final decision is rendered on its authenticity. This process ensures that each piece of evidence is carefully considered.
Many young groups try to dazzle with claims they have "certified" or "licensed" investigators on their staff. There is no such thing. Online classes, community college classes, and other money making schemes cannot teach you how to investigate. It is necessary to have a wide variety of professionals within a group who are capable of using and adapting technology. A true investigative group will have members from a variety of professions from law enforcement to the arts (especially photography) to medicine to construction trades and more. Each of these people bring a lifetime of knowledge and training to bear on the subject. Many of the ghost hunting "certification" classes teach theories and without a sound grounding in other disciplines the "certified" then are unable to separate fact from fiction. For instance, while certification classes teach that an EMF spike signals a ghost there is absolutely no evidence this is the case. An EMF spike is considered an anomalous occurrence and must be combined with other factors. Likewise, you must rule out natural fields by conducting a full EMF scan and noting all sources prior to the investigation even beginning! Even during the investigation spikes must be documented fully as to strength, time, location, and duration.
Finally, ask what their philosophy is concerning investigation. Do they look first for natural causes for events or do they assume paranormal activity first and try to prove their assumption? This is a key point. When a group is seeking paranormal activity first they are more likely to find it. That is not to say it is real, but they will classify non-paranormal activity as paranormal in order to shore up their profile. There are many groups out there hoping for the next TV show. These are media hungry groups who will use anything to show that they can produce "spectacular" results. This means that even if they investigate for you, you will be no closer to the truth when they are done than when you started. Be very wary of groups who are eager to please by "producing" evidence for you, for the media, or for their websites.
Remember, if you think you have something paranormal going on it is in your best interest to make sure you get the truth and that at the same time protect yourself and your property.
Note that at no point do I make a recommendation for any particular group including my own. This is intended to be an unbiased informational page to aid the client.
©2008 Buck Bannister - Used With Permission
Buck's Ghosts & Hauntings