Dos and Do Nots For New Investigators

Each experienced investigator has their own method of completing investigations. You may see similarities between seasoned investigators while others may have very different methodology. I would suggest learning as much as you can from various investigators and researching the science behind what they do. Some investigators really know their stuff while others may not. This post will not cover investigative methodology. I will cover that subject in another post. This post will pertain to general advice for newbies. For the purpose of this blog and associated podcast we will refer to a “paranormal investigator” as someone who has a strong knowledge of science and takes on cases for clients using historical research, interview process, deeply science focused investigation, and related follow up. We will refer to the term “ghost hunter” as someone who engages in going to locations strictly for entertainment purposes with no structured investigation being completed.

First are 25 Dos.

  1. In most cases television is not the best teacher when it comes to paranormal investigation. What you see on most tv shows is designed to gather the best ratings and any investigation usually doesn’t reflect actual investigative procedures. Television shows like Ghost Nation and Ghosthunters do a pretty good job of representing what an investigation is really like (although it 45 minutes of highlights of an investigation that took a few dozen to several dozen hours.) Working with an experienced paranormal investigator (not a ghost hunter who does it strictly for entertainment purposes) is the best way to learn.
  2. Be willing to put aside any preconceptions that you have learned from televisions, movies, religious, or personal beliefs. Keep an open mind.
  3. Research anything and everything you can. The more knowledge that you have the better. There are countless things that you can research that you will never hear on tv shows that will help you in your paranormal investigations. I have covered all of this in another post entitled “Subjects for Investigators to Research” which can be found by clicking here.
  4. Investigations are fun and exciting, however they may require a lot of pre and post work. What you see on tv shows is 45 minutes of highlights from investigations that may have taken several days or a week or more.
  5. Investigations don’t have to be after dark, especially if you are in a rural area. If you are near a busy town or city it does help to do investigations at night as everything going on around the location can be a distraction and affect evidence procurement. Investigations can be done during the day if the location is suitable, unless the client states the activity seems to be limited to after dark.
  6. Unlike what you see on television the majority of investigations will not result in finding clear cut paranormal activity. Being a very well trained and educated investigator will often allow you to explain perceived paranormal phenomenon with every day science. Out ultimate goal is to help the client, so easily explaining things isn’t a bad thing.
  7. Before going lights out always walk the property with the lights on so you know the lay outs and exits. Safety first!
  8. Always have a flashlight and extra batteries for that flashlight.
  9. Leave the location in the same condition that you found it.
  10. Research location history before investigating. You may learn some things that will help guide the direction of your investigation.
  11. Go in with an open mind, but remain skeptical. It is easy for every thing to become definitive paranormal evidence if you want it to be. Focus on the science and explaining of activity with real world explanations if you can before learning towards the paranormal.
  12. Don’t hesitate to consult with other investigators or scientists with specialties as it related to investigative findings to get second or third opinions, especially when dealing with a client. You want to be able to give them the most accurate information possible.
  13. Unlike what you see on many tv shows like The Haunted and similar dramatized tv shows, paranormal activity usually isn’t negative and everything isn’t out to get you.
  14. Demons are a construct of Christianity and don’t exist in paranormal science. You will hear about them often in movies and some paranormal tv shows because it helps increase ratings. While you may find a not so nice spirit from time to time, it isn’t often. The proper term to use is “malevolent.”
  15. Document everything. I will get more into this on a future post about investigation methodology.
  16. Respect other groups. Sometimes groups will call themselves paranormal investigators when they are ghost hunters just looking for the thrill of a ghost hunt (a strictly recreational activity without the scientific aspect of an investigation) or the desire for continuing education and research that a serious investigator partakes in. The terms paranormal investigator and ghost hunter are often used interchangeably even though there is a distinct difference between the two. You will often see ghost hunters do things that make you want to correct them, or even cringe. Let them have their fun, but if they are open to advice from a paranormal investigator don’t hesitate to educate them in a respectful manner.
  17. Do be patient. An investigation may include long hours of not a lot going on in terms of paranormal activity.
  18. Bring layers! It can get cold. Even if you don’t usually get cold be prepared. Things can be different when you are sitting around for a bunch of hours.
  19. Most groups aren’t territorial. Don’t hesitate to call around and ask various groups if you can shadow on investigations. The more people you work with can greatly increase what you learn due to different levels of experience.
  20. The team should have an umbrella liability insurance policy. It will cover you if anything happens on investigations.
  21. Remember that we live in a social media heavy world. If you are involved with a team please remember that your personal social media pages can reflect on the team. Keep it respectful and be sure to keep your post quality respectful so what you post won’t come back as a black eye for your team.
  22. Be willing to accept constructive feedback from the team leader. Don’t get defensive and start making excuses such as “well i thought” and “on tv i saw.” When they give feedback take it and thank them for educating you. Trying to defend yourself when it isn’t necessary out of pride, ego, or fearing what others will think of you won’t do you any favors. People will respect you more if you are willing to listen without giving them back any flak.
  23. Volunteer to help with everything including pre-investigation research, setting up, cleaning up, post investigation work and research, group promotion, and working with colleagues between cases for training purposes. The more you are exposed to the better.
  24. If you are unsure of something ask for help. Leaders love it when team members want to soak up the training.
  25. Enjoy every aspect of the investigation and research process. Some parts will be more enjoyable than others, but keeping a positive attitude will allow you to have a long and enjoyable career as a paranormal investigator.

Now we have a dozen big do nots.

  1. Do not get into arguments or disrespect anyone due to having a differing opinion. You may find other investigators, ghost hunters, clients, or the general public may have wildly different opinions on some paranormal topics than you do. While a friendly discussion is always welcome, keep an open mind and respect that others may think differently, even when you believe you are in the right. Put aside your need to be right.
  2. Never go to a location alone. It is important for legal and safety reasons to have a buddy system. When by yourself never be out of contact range with others. Use walkie talkies if necessary.
  3. Don’t run and scream on investigations. NO “DUDE RUN!!!!”
  4. Don’t trespass. It is illegal. Always ask permission to investigate sites, and preferably have a standard form for the property owner to sign. Even if the site is abandoned someone has ownership or control of it legally. Contact them ahead of time and if you are told no respect that. All credibility is lost for your team if you trespass.
  5. No provoking entities negatively on investigations hoping for a stronger response. Be polite and respectful to the entities.
  6. Don’t do anything that clients ask you to not do. Respect the wishes of the property owner and their belief system.
  7. Don’t get lost in your equipment. We have our own senses that can be invaluable in investigations.
  8. Don’t play with client’s personal belongings at investigation sites. Respect the belongings of the property owner. I know you may have seen the people on tv play with stuff in people’s houses or business. You don’t want to do that. You could break something. Would you want strangers in your house playing with your belongings?
  9. Don’t post everything over social media to get likes from friends if in a private residence or business. An investigation with a client is private privileged information. Some may let you post, but have them sign a release form.
  10. No grabbing your significant other’s butt or sneaking kisses on investigations. While team members may become good friends, or if you investigate with family or a significant other, it is important to be professional at investigations. You can have fun, but be sure to be professional, especially in front of clients. Watch your language and your please and thank yous. A client will be much more apt to respect a professional investigator compared to one who acts like a juvenile with friends on a ghost hunt. Mind your etiquette.
  11. Don’t drink or smoke on a client’s property. Don’t show up to an investigation with “one or two in you” because you believe that you can handle it. If you have to smoke take it off the property and throw the butt in an ash tray in your car.
  12. Don’t make the team about you. There is no I in team. Promote and advertise the team, not yourself. It will make your colleagues unhappy if you focus on yourself. It isn’t about you, it’s about the team. Your colleagues and the general public will notice if you are more focused on yourself than the team or the work. I understand someone would like to become a stand out investigator that is respected in the field, but don’t do it on the backs of others.