Investigating the Paranormal - Communication is Key!
By Nate Roberts on September 15th, 2008
In every relationship, communication is important. This can pertain to friends, family, coworkers, and for the purposes of this article – the client for a paranormal investigation.
Ghost Hunting is a unique industry. People who work in this field include interesting people from all walks of life. Some are hardcore skeptics, psychics, mediums, die-hard believers and maybe a few people just looking to find some answers (even if they aren’t sure what the questions may be!). Unfortunately, not everyone in this field is the best communicator. Not everyone knows how they should act during an investigation, or when conversing with a client/homeowner/proprietor.Hopefully, this article can provide a few tips on how to smooth things over between the paranormal team and the client. This will help the client reinforce the trust that they need to have in the team they are inviting into their home or business. Remember, we’re usually a bunch of strangers to them, so our first impression – as well as our finished product – is essential for a successful case, regardless of the amount of evidence captured.
Before meeting or talking with a client, it’s important that your team’s contact person (or people) has the right game plan on how to behave when dealing with clients. What type of team are you? How would you advertise your team to the world? Do you want to advertise your team as a scientific and professional team, or do you want to appear as though your team sits around all night in cemeteries with Ouija boards conducting séances?From time to time, you may run into clients who are very interested in the psychic and spiritual “realms,” and they don’t really want your team to verify what they already firmly believe is going on at their establishment. More or less, they are simply looking for someone to share their experiences with, rather than seek proof of the paranormal. These initial contacts are vital in establishing a good relationship and the all-important first impression. Nevertheless, you need to decide what type of team you are (scientific or spiritual?), and then resonate that dynamic to the client. You may find out that they aren’t looking for a scientific team, and perhaps you can recommend they try a different team.
So what can you do to get started?
First of all, a well-prepared team will conduct an initial pre-screening interview with the client, prior to an investigation taking place. Typically, this happens after the client has contacted you about paranormal activity at their home or business, and they want someone to come out and take a look. If you have contacted them first, it’s still a good idea to meet ahead of time and discuss your team’s expectations for investigations, as well as provide the client with a chance to meet some of the team up front.
These initial interviews can be done over the phone, but I find it’s best to do them in person. Some people are only looking for attention, and you would be wasting your team’s time if you took a case involving someone who was just lying to your face about what is going on. In-person interviews are a good opportunity to gauge if they are legitimate. Sometimes, it will be impossible to tell, but you’d be surprised at how much you can learn about someone by meeting them face to face. Just make sure you ask precise, exact questions about the activity, and remind them that they are standard questions when determining if an investigation is appropriate. After the first interview is out of the way, you can move forward and discuss options for organizing an official investigation.
It’s vital to set the client’s expectations right up front. This can be done in the initial interview process. You don’t want to appear “desperate” to investigate their home or business. Actually, I think you’ll find that the client will respect you much more if you lay out your team’s guidelines and protocols for investigations (hopefully, your team already has strict rules in place governing behavior and procedural issues for each investigation). It’s ok to state that you will be adhering to these rules without exception. If the client has problems with you’re team rules, then you may politely inform them that you cannot circumvent your team’s integrity for the sake of the case – and then decline the investigation request civilly.
Something on paper is a good approach. Liability waiver forms and policy guidelines are both highly recommended documents.Clients are often surprised when we hand them signed liability waiver forms and then go over (in detail) all of the safety and procedural regulations that our group follows on each investigation. They very much appreciate the effort that teams put forth in creating a safe, professional atmosphere.
Matching shirts or ID badges are a nice touch too. Remember, most homeowners and business proprietors are concerned about dealing with complete strangers! They have no idea how we may act while in their house or business. Everything goes so much better when you can do everything you can to eliminate those concerns.
As a standard protocol, you should never, ever, charge anyone for your investigation. Some groups accept donations, but I feel that even accepting money could potentially damage your team’s reputation. Our perceived service to the client is not something that a dollar value should be associated with, and we’re not in this for the money (those who are in it for the money, are the same ones who consistently damage the fragile credibility of this field). Should the client ask for additional things from your team (requests not included in standard case reports), such as extra DVD’s, Audio put on a CD, or blown-up photographs of potential evidence, then it’s commonly acceptable to recuperate those costs from the client – unless your team is comfortable floating the additional costs on their own.
Now that expectations have been set, how should you behave while on the case?
As a standard rule of thumb, act like you “should” be acting if you were at work (or church!). Perhaps pretend that you’re investigating with your boss, and everything you do is going to be evaluated later. Although this may be a healthy source of fun for many of us, we cannot allow ourselves to act unprofessionally while we’re on the job. It’s okay to have fun, but you really need to focus on the task at hand and refrain from unprofessional behavior.
Always assume the client is present.
Sometimes, the client will have to be with you while you are investigating. Some teams have created rules that state they will not conduct an investigation with people who are not on the team, asking clients to leave the premises during investigations. They would essentially refuse to investigate locations where clients insisted on being with them while they were there. While this sounds strict, it’s often the best case scenario for the team – because they can eliminate potential evidence contamination from a client who is likely untrained and unaware of your team’s regulations and protocols. More often than not, someone who owns the place will be with you in some regard. It’s just too hard to kick someone out of their own home! Often times, they are outside waiting for you to finish, but sometimes they may actually demand to be with you investigating. No matter what the situation is for your team, always assume the client can see and hear everything you are doing! You’ll find this keeps each teammate in line. Oh – and don’t forget that someone’s audio is always recording what you are saying!
Try not to be easily startled. Some places can be unsettling, to say the least. Imagine the client’s emotional response to witnessing an investigator running out of their house screaming! Of all documented accounts of alleged “ghost encounters,” there has never been any conclusive evidence to show that a spirit has ever attacked anyone - ever. You have nothing to fear, and what’s more – you’re a ghost hunter, and people expect someone doing what you are doing to be fearless. The consequences from running away scared are far greater than the consequences of staying in the home and keeping a cool head. Remember why you are there! If you begin to feel uncomfortable, simply remove yourself from the establishment quietly, trying not to show anyone that you are afraid.
“There goes a ghost!”
Don’t be too quick to label something paranormal. Most of the time, a client desperately wants your team to find evidence of the paranormal. They already believe something is going on, and they want you to experience it too. If you label something as paranormal during the investigation before reviewing all of the evidence, then you’re exposing yourself to the possibility of being proven wrong later. Many times, the situations you thought were caused by the paranormal, were actually caused by easily explained things. Don’t give the client false impressions of what is going on!
Do what you say, and say what you do.
Stick to the plan! Don’t alter from your team’s investigation techniques and protocols to suit particular clients. Consistency is king. Communicate clearly with the client on what your team’s intentions are, and find out if the client has any questions or concerns before you leave the case to review the evidence. If it’s going to take you 2-3 weeks to complete the evidence review process, then tell them that! It’s a common mistake to leave the case and never follow up with the client afterwards. If you review the evidence and provide the owner with a detailed case report, your team will shine. You’ll also get invited back, and perhaps (in commercial cases) you’ll be awarded access to typically restricted areas, or given additional time to investigate, etc. Hard work is rewarded, but only if you stay professional and communicate well with the client.