If you visit the Youtube website and complete a search for paranormal investigation or ghost hunting (which for the purpose of this blog will be referred to as two different activities, one is a scientific investigation and the other a purely recreational event) you will find that there are countless videos available. The video production methodology spectrum varies greatly as it pertains to scientific versus spooky. Some videos focus on the science such as investigative techniques and exhausting all scientific explanations for perceived activity, while others focus more on producing a video with spooky content. I will give you an example using current television programming. If you watch Ghost Nation you will see a show that focuses more on the science and investigative methodology and less on the spooky special effects. The show A Haunting is nothing but special effects and doesn’t contain any actual science.
I recently spent some time watching paranormal investigation and ghost hunting videos online and found a great number of them had heavy editing to give them a more spooky vibe to it. Such things that I have found being inserted into videos include spooky music in the background, narrators speaking in spooky voices, visual special effects that you would never see during an investigation, over-exaggerating of evidence, and usage of equipment that is not generally accepted by the most experienced investigators, but is portrayed as undeniable evidence of paranormal activity.
I absolutely love paranormal investigations, but did very little ghost hunting over the years. I am not knocking ghost hunting, as I am sure it is extremely enjoyable for many people. In general it is not an activity that I engage in. I have to have that scientific component for my activity to be enjoyable for me. I have to have the deep research. I know that the two terms are used interchangeably by many people, but I feel they are two different activities. To me an activity that includes client interviews, property history research, a deeply scientific and neutral investigation including followups with scientists in fields necessary to understand certain phenomenon and occurrences is a paranormal investigation. I feel that an activity where you go in just for the enjoyment of trying to experience paranormal activity or engage in a pseudo-investigation with bias or not exhausting scientific possibilities is a ghost hunt. It is not my place to say one is better than the other, I just prefer to partake in a paranormal investigation over a ghost hunt any day. I am not saying a ghost hunt isn’t fun because I have been on a few and had a good time, I just enjoy the experience more thoroughly if there is an investigation and research aspect to it.
The question is which is more enjoyable to watch? It is going to depend on the person watching it, and the video content often reflects what the producer enjoys. I believe that a television show like Ghost Nation has found a nice balance between portraying a scientific investigation, however including just enough special effects that aren’t over the top in order to make the program more enjoyable. The special effects used on that show serve a purpose. They are used to illustrate reported paranormal activity, however they are done without an over-exaggerated spookiness to them. For instance you will see them portray a ghostly character, however they will not make the character appear to be some unworldly being that resembles something out of a horror movie. The ghostly character appears as a nebulous version of a human being. They don’t make everything seem evil or malevolent. They portray paranormal entities as you will find them during paranormal investigations and not as you would find them on the big screen in a movie theater. They will add in mild spooky type music, however you will find they will not add it in during spirit communication sessions so the watcher can hear everything going on in the background. Their narrator is one of the Lead Investigators Steve Gonsalves. He is speaking in a professional and easy to understand tone of voice and isn’t attempting to make himself sound like the host of a haunted attraction at Disney World.
The following tips are geared towards people whose intent is to complete paranormal investigation and not a ghost hunt. If the video is of a ghost hunt by all means add in all of the special effects that you want. If you are a paranormal investigator that wishes to be taken seriously with a high level of respect, a great reputation, and be seen as knowledgable these tips are for you.
- Minimize the visual special effects. If you choose to use them I would suggest that you keep the images as close to real world as possible. Portray the entities as humans in spirit form and not as evil unearthly characters. If you are a serious investigator you know that virtually every paranormal entity you come across is benign in nature and not some evil character hell bent on destruction as many of the television shows and movies portray. Be sure to not over-exaggerate just for the sake of making the video look more entertaining. The videos that you produce reflect you as an investigator and people will have difficulty taking you seriously if you post videos that look like the tv show A Haunting.
- Minimize the audio special effects. You don’t need to have spooky music throughout the entire video. The audience watching a paranormal investigation video want to feel like they are on an investigation with you. During an investigation do you walk around playing spooky music? No you do not. It would cover up any sounds that maybe occurring. Your viewers may hear something that you missed and they want to hear those sounds that you are hearing. They would rather feel as a part of the investigation instead of listening to spooky music. Adding in spooky music during an investigation is an attempt to entertain people who aren’t so serious about investigations while annoying those who are. It isn’t worth the trade off. During the actual investigation do not add in spooky music to the video.
- Keep your reactions to paranormal activity realistic. In paranormal investigations we generally stay level headed. I am not saying don’t react to perceived activity, I am saying don’t act like every piece of activity is the first time that you have ever experienced activity. Over acting diminishes your image of being a well educated professional investigator. Save the over acting for ghost hunting videos. The audience of those videos expects that sort of thing.
- Remain unbiased during your investigation. Keep an open mind and treat everything neutrally. Every perceived noise, visual artifact, smell, and feeling isn’t paranormal activity. I see videos where anything and everything has to be evidence of paranormal activity. Don’t be that person. Also don’t be the person that writes everything off with science. Yes science should be exhausted during paranormal investigations before something is perceived as paranormal, however if you can’t reasonably write something off scientifically keep an open mind that it could be paranormal. It is important to find a healthy balance.
- Be sure to explain that all of the equipment that we use is experimental. While some of the technology has enough evidence over the years to be somewhat legitimized I would suggest that the more experimental equipment be explained using theory instead of portraying the device as scientific fact. An example would be a Franks Box. If you choose to use one I would explain that it is an experimental device and some people theorize that paranormal entities have somehow gained the the ability manipulate an electronic receiver for the FM radio spectrum in close proximity and that the device scans the FM band for this. I wouldn’t portray the device as an iron clad spirit communicator. Keep in mind people often watch videos not just for entertainment purposes, but for educational purposes. It is important to be real with your viewers as to not portray theories and personal wishes and beliefs as scientific fact. Other devices that would fall into this category is an ovilus and an STS camera. You don’t want to spread misinformation. That is what Facebook memes are for.
- Do not use cell phone apps in your videos. Those apps are for entertainment purposes only. Put yourself in the viewers shoes. What would they think if they saw someone investigate using a readily available app from the app store? These apps clearly state on them that they are for entertainment purpose only. Your cell phone does not have the ability to create a verbal link between you and a spirit or to find spirits or ghosts.
- The narrator should speak in a professional and clear voice. I often see narrators tell the viewers what they should believe they are seeing instead of letting them make their own decision. Don’t use a narrator as a method of suggestion. Narrators should not be used as if they were introducing a haunted house where people pay to get startled. A narrator should be professional and neutral. If a narrator says “Listen to this EVP and you will hear and entity say (enter verbiage here)” then the viewer will hear what the narrator says. Let the viewer hear it once or twice and perhaps mention what you think it “may say” and not what “it definitely says” if it isn’t 100% clear.
- Use proper terminology. For instance a demon is a religious construct of the Christian religion and is not an entity recognized by serious paranormal investigators. You may hear the term malevolent entity being used, but demon and demonic should not be used as it isn’t scientific, it is religious. Heaven and hell are also religious constructs and shouldn’t be used during a scientific paranormal investigation. I am not saying religion can’t be a separate component of an investigation, but they shouldn’t be intermixed. A ghost hunt and a paranormal investigation are two different things. A spirt, ghost, wraith, thought form, poltergeist, etc are all recognized as different entities, but you will see some people in videos use them interchangeably as they may not understand the difference. On our official website at MWVSpirit.com you will find a paranormal terminology page that you may find helpful to help you understand the various terminology that we use.
- Explain to your viewers that what they are seeing is the highlights of the investigation and that the actual investigation took x amount of hours and that you gathered x amount of hours of video due to all of the cameras being used. Explain that x amount of hours of audio was recorded. You don’t want to portray that every investigation is 30-60 minutes long and is filled with paranormal activity. Don’t be afraid to state that you sat there for several hours and didn’t have a shred of evidence present itself. It won’t hurt to explain the reality of an investigation during your 30 minute highlight reel.
- Keep in mind that you should ask for written permission from clients to use evidence from their investigation in a public video. Not everyone is as open minded as we are and posting evidence without permission can have serious ramifications for people.
If the video is a highlights of a paranormal investigation then label it as such. If it is simply a ghost hunt label it as such. I understand that some of you want your video to go viral and get as many likes as possible. Many of you investigators want to be the next Jason Hawes or the next Amy Bruni and believe that your videos are a way to help you do that. Make the videos about the investigations and not about you. Let your investigations speak for you. Keep them real and forgo the spooky. Remember your videos reflect the entire paranormal investigation field. If half of you are putting out spooky over exaggerated videos then people will lose respect for the field of study and your group will lose its credibility. Don’t forget about the big picture, and remember once a video is posted it is on the internet forever even if you delete it. People can download anything and repost it later, so be sure that if something is posted online it is something that you want on the internet forever.