When first approached or approaching someone about conducting an investigation, suggest that the person get themselves a spiral notebook and write down everything they remember in detail. Then make sure they know to write down everything of an odd nature (even if they don't think it is necessarily paranormal) that happens in detail from then on and to continue even after the investigation is over. This information will prove to be invaluable in the future. I have said this before and will again.
Since the is a team made up of present, former and retired police officers we at GhostBreakers tend to conduct our investigations as you would a criminal investigation. This may be a little too involved for the average Paranormal Investigator but it helps us by following a proven method of investigation. In this way we leave no stone unturned. The only thing different (and to our advantage) is that in Paranormal Investigation, there are no mistakes.
Some have said that it can't be done because we are not dealing with the living. In a death investigation you aren't dealing with the living either. You may be looking for a living person who is responsible but the investigations are the same in the fact that you are trying to find out what happened. In paranormal investigation you are doing the same thing. You are trying to see if a living person or other reasons have caused what is or has happened and eliminating the suspects until you find out the truth. Basically the same principles exist.
We begin by looking at what investigators call the 5 W's. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. These will be discussed later. We start by asking for a brief description. We don't want extensive background on a site at this time. Just the basics. What happened or is happening. Why the people think they need an investigation. Too much information at the beginning can work against you in a Paranormal Investigation. Too much information can lead you in a certain direction which you may not want to go. We ask the questions we need to and extract the information we need from the answers we get. We can always go back and ask more questions but it's hard to get something out of your mind once it is there. However, we need to record everything. No matter how irrelevant it seems at first. We may need it later. Now this may seem silly, but eye witnesses are often not the most reliable witnesses. Get your information from as many people as you can and put the pieces together later. You are not going to solve this in one day no matter what they do on TV.
First always ask what they expect or want from the investigation. Remember, unlike a criminal investigation, they asked for it or agreed to the investigation. Never suggest what to do unless asked for suggestions. Let them explain what happened, where they want you to investigate, etc. Here is why... No matter what they say, people are skeptical of those who say they are Paranormal Investigators and may test you until they feel comfortable you are a serious investigator. So too is the fact that you shouldn't be too comfortable that these people aren't just wasting your time as a joke with fake / insincere reports for their own amusement, or trying to get their 15 minutes of fame at your expense. Once you are comfortable with each other you can ask and tell what is necessary.
Start by questioning everyone associated with the incident(s). Write everything down no matter how insignificant it seems at the time. It may prove important later. Remember to also question those who are aware of the incident but didn't actually have direct involvement. Third party information. Take that information and put it aside in a separate but attached file. This information will probably never be used. However, during the investigation, information may come to light that will make sense because of this third party information. Believe it or not if there is something important in the information something will automatically trigger your mind to it's relevance. Lastly, if there is more than one witness, make one your main witness. Don't tell them that. Just keep it to your self.
Now it's time to begin to investigate...
Try to obtain permission to investigate as many days as you think necessary for a real investigation. Always start your investigations during the day! A night investigation is a separate type of investigation. If possible always have 2 people on an investigation no more than three. There are good reasons for this. The daytime investigation is for the living and for the integrity of the investigation. You may get some paranormal activity during the day but there is a better chance at night. The very simple and logical explanation for this is because there is less activity and interference from the living during the night. At night things are more quiet. Many things that interfere with the sightings of ghosts are gone, making it more likely for a sighting. Never forget... Ghosts were people too. They can be frightened away and they will avoid what they don't like or what makes them uncomfortable. Sounds ridiculous, but I can explain better later. As far as the number of people investigating 2 is ideal no more than three. Too many people can make things confusing & distracting for all involved. Especially in a noraml or small sized dwelling.
First obtain a journal. Some type of book that pages cannot be removed from. This will be YOUR permanent record of the investigation. You can give the people a copy of the folder. Never give away originals of anything! Next make a folder with all pertinent information. Name, date(s) of investigation, location, etc. Whatever you think is necessary. Next get yourself a small spiral note book to use during the initial investigation. The reason for this is that you need a book that you will be able to tell if a page was removed. (a loose leaf won't work) If a page is removed for any reason, make sure you write down why in the margin of the next page. Be very meticulous. Nothing in this type of investigation is irrelevant. Remember you are not only investigating an incident but you are a researcher of something, that for now, is unproven and by many thought to be impossible. So, if you like, you become the person because of your thorough research and investigation, get unmistakable proof of the other side... You will be the most famous person on this planet since the beginning of man!
We begin by taking photographs. Not photos/video of the people involved or the investigators. Many photos/videos you see are of the people investigating. We don't want them. We want photos/video of what we are investigating. However, there will be times that the people involved will want their photos taken. In these instances that is what you do. You never want to alienate yourself from the persons giving you permission to investigate. Just don't make a habit of doing it. I am sure you will also want photos of yourselves for your websites, articles etc. For these you should wait until your investigation is complete and then recreate a scene for those purposes.
Your first investigation photos should be integrity photos of everything. Always, always, back up your photos with hand written accounts of what photos are being taken and what is supposed to be in each photo. Each photo needs a hand written explanation of what you saw when you took the photo, to compare with the actual photo. One person should always take the photos and one person should write things down. You can switch off for each different investigation but the same person should remain on the same job during an investigation. Don't forget...NO camera straps, don't smoke/drink during an investigation. Always carry lens cleaners. Basically nothing that could compromise photos or an investigation.
As you arrive, and as soon as you exit your vehicle, you take your very first photo. Be it either of the business, house, or area of the incident. If a building, then continue clockwise around until all sides of the building are taken. After making contact with the individual(s) giving permission, take photos of the route taken to the area of interest. Rooms you go thru, hallways, etc. Then at the area of interest take integrity photos of the room from all angles possible. Start by a photo from the entrance to the area and then take overlapping photos in a clockwise direction. Back always to the wall until you are back at the entrance. Now if there is a window(s) in the area, then take one photo looking out from each.
Lastly, take your photos of specifics. Exact place of sightings, etc. While you are taking photos always rattle door knobs. Open and close doors etc. To see how they work and if easily blown open. his may help explain some things later.
The initial interview...
Begin by choosing a place everyone is comfortable with. In some instances it may not be the place being investigated. Like the food court of a mall. Try to let them choose. You want them to be relaxed. This interview is to try to eliminate any factors that would explain the experiences other than being paranormal without doing an investigation. They may not need a paranormal investigator, they may need a plumber. When you have done that and you are comfortable that their experiences aren't banging pipes, squirrels in the attic, etc. You can now pursue the paranormal side of the investigation with confidence.
Now it is time to sit down with the people and do your paranormal interviews. If you don't have any professional interview skills, don't worry. Just remember what investigators call the 5 W's. Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Using these will help you to think of relevant questions.
Who- You will need to establish WHO the primary witness to the experience is. If there are several witnesses, then make one YOUR primary witness based on the information you get. The primary witness would be the one with the most contacts, sightings, and the one who can describe it best, etc. This may tell you if the experiences are centered around this person rather than the place. Always ask all the witnesses the same questions. Don't be afraid of re-interviewing witnesses later. New questions will arise after talking to others. If people question this then you can tell them you are just being thorough and that you are giving them the opportunity to tell what they may have forgotten. Find out who they have told of their experiences and why. You may want to interview them also based on what was told but, it isn't necessary unless think there is reason to. Lastly, see who they are personally. You don't have to actually ask this question but you need to record what you think. Are they family, friend, a disinterested party? Are they the head of the house?
What- What did they experience? What did they see or hear? Ask what they were doing just prior to witnessing the incident and what was their reaction to the incident. What did they do right after? Did they ignore it, call someone, who did they tell, etc. If there were more than one sighting. What were the similarities or differences.
You will need to ask questions many times thru the investigation. Record their answers every time to look for changes in their answers. Different answers don't always mean they are being untruthful. It may indicate this but you will have to make the determination of whether or not you feel the person is being truthful or telling a story. Sometimes people just don't remember things until asked many times.
Many times asking the same questions over and over will tend to annoy the person being interviewed. Assure them that it is necessary because people sometimes forget small details and repetitive questioning may trigger their memories. You can also play dumb like "Colombo". Put the blame on yourself by saying you sometimes forget things and apologize. But keep asking and apologizing.
When - When did it happen? Day of the week. Night or day. If it is a reoccurring incident, when does it happen. Does it happen at the same time each time.
Why - Here is where you have to be careful not to offend the witness. You need to know WHY they have reported the incident. Some people will interpret this as you trying to say they are lying. Choose the wording of your questions wisely. Why do they think this is happening. Why do they think it is happening to them. Why do they want to know what is happening. (Are they frightened, etc.)
Now that the photos are taken, the questions asked and hopefully you have built a good rapport with each other. How do they wish to proceed. Do they want to continue. Do they want you to do a nighttime investigation. Cameras, recordings, etc. If all the incidents happened at night, it is probably a good idea. However, although most people can spare a Saturday or Sunday afternoon they might have a problem disrupting their night time routine. (Kids etc) So don't be disappointed if they don't want a nighttime investigation. You can assure them that you can do it with the minimum of disturbance and that it doesn't have to be done in conjunction with the daytime investigation. I can be done when they can make arrangements for you to be there. (kids at grandma's etc) But never push the issue. They may or may not change their minds later on but, they will change their minds if you are pushy.
Also, if it is a recurring incident on somewhat of a regular basis, you should have a successful investigation. On the other hand people don't tend to record the incidents. You should suggest they do. This way you can be sure if it has any regularity to it. Even if the regularity is once every couple months you may be able schedule a time to catch it. Now if this is a isolated incident a nighttime investigation may not even be necessary as the likelihood of you being there at the right time for a recurrence is remote at best.
Ghosts/Spirits - Not everything is what it appears to be and Ghosts aren't on a schedule. Especially your schedule. Although I believe they follow some rules, they are around all the time even if you don't experience their presence. One reason we believe people see them at night is due to the lack of day to day activity. Daytime tends to be very busy and disrupting. Even though incidents are happening the living are being distracted by every little thing of day to day activity that they don't even realize something has happened in most cases. Whereas in the still of the night, more is easily recognizable.
So do ghosts get scared off. Lets not forget that ghosts were people. The same energy is still there only in a different form and the consciousness should remain the same. So if a ghost is uncomfortable with what is going on that they are aware of they may just move on or remain dormant so as not to have to deal with things. In the case of an interactive ghost they may just not want to be bothered. The reasons are endless.
So never be disappointed in not finding something. Never give up on an investigation until it is over. Many investigations reveal nothing. If you quit you can never find out anything. IF YOU GIVE UP... YOU LOSE! Always remember this saying...
Absence of Evidence
Evidence of Absence
Now you have done all the hard necessary preliminary work. You have all your equipment, etc. Now it's time to do what you see on TV all the time. It's time to go and investigate at night. Be mentally prepared. Make sure that someone not involved with the investigation, knows where you will be and for how long. (Safety First) Bring what equipment you think necessary. And bring your sense of humor!!! As a detective for many years I have found (as most law enforcement do) that a healthy sense of humor, even if it is a little off kilter is the best defense mechanism. However, it is reserved for your partners and not the others around. It is very inappropriate to display any humor in any serious investigative situation and tends to undermine your credibility. However, among yourselves it will keep you clam, focused and help prevent you from scaring yourself. (Oh Yes! You can scare yourself!) My sense of humor has worked for me over the years in some very horrific death scene investigations to focus me on the subject at hand. It does work but, like I said, don't let your humor slip in front of the people who are having the problem. Now don't misunderstand. It may be more clear if put this way. I don't mean to make fun of the situation, just don't lose your sense of humor. Ok, I have said that enough and I am sure I was clear on that.
Make sure you have coordinated where to meet, your time of arrival, estimated time of stay and where and what you tend to look at with the owner before hand. You have done all the day work so you should know all this. Try to stick to your schedule.
You will want to conduct your night investigation like your day for the most part. At least as far as following the same routes you did during the day. Looking at the same rooms and areas as you did during the day. This will afford you the opportunity to pick up on the tiniest differences and things out of place as you already know what things are supposed to be like by your daytime investigation.
You see by doing the day investigation you have made yourself more alert to changes. Like the owner who is there all the time and knows immediately when something is different. You too, now have somewhat of an idea of how things are supposed to be.
Places to look for Ghosts...
Here are some popular places people look for ghosts. We don't believe there are ghosts everywhere or in the most popular places mentioned necessarily but, they may be fun for some. And there is always the exception to every rule.
Cemeteries...Cemeteries are and have always been a very popular place for ghost hunters.
Since they are a public place they are easy to investigate. However, like anywhere you should check into a few things. If you are going at night, and there is no caretaker to get permission from, go to the local PD. Let them know who you are and when and why you will be there. Invite them to send a patrol by if they aren't busy to see. In most cases you should have no trouble but there are instances where you may not be allowed to enter a cemetery after dark. (due to vandalism in the past) This is why we always check. Even when it seems like it is ok because it is a public place.
Churches/Church yards... Many times associated with cemeteries.
You can obtain permission from the pastor etc. However, due to their beliefs or something else, they may not allow it. It never made sense to me how people who profess to be so religious and believing in a holy spirit, say that they don't believe in ghosts but, it does happen. Seems a little hypocritical to me?
Hotels/Resorts... These type places are also popular for hunters. However, places currently occupied may prove difficult to investigate.
These are tricky because their primary business goal is to have people around all the time. Which makes it difficult for a good investigation. However, some places may welcome you as it would be good publicity. It's a hit or miss type situation. But you can always just get a room and walk around late at night.
Historic Locations & Battlefields... Too many sightings to mention at these locations. Maybe even more popular than cemeteries.
A Private Residence... A private residence is the most likely place due to a person spending much of their mortal lives there. If they had a pleasant life they may want to stay and continue enjoying what they had in life.
Now you would think this would be the easiest place to get permission. However, even people who are experiencing the paranormal, balk at strangers roaming around their homes. Remember, you are treading on their personal space. So you have to tread lightly before, during and after the investigation if you want to build credibility. People will talk about your investigation for a long time to friends etc. You want to make sure you make a good impression whether you find something or not.
Where we look...
Cemeteries... Sorry! We never investigate cemeteries with only one exception. We will go and look if asked but no formal investigations. This falls back on our basic belief that ghosts were people. Why would a ghost even want to go to a cemetery? No people died in the cemetery. Therefore they are not stuck there. Too many reasons (but one) for a ghost to not be in a cemetery. But there is always an exception to the rule.
The one exception I have would depend on the age of the cemetery and it's location. A few of the cemeteries at the beginning were designed as Garden Cemeteries. The first cemetery in America and model for the garden cemetery, was Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1831. Before this they were in the church yard and over crowded stinking health hazards. The new cemetery with park like grounds, attracted the living with their beauty and people strolled thru and picnicked in them in the beginning and scrambled to get their plots for their final resting place. Therefore those being a very pleasant place might attract a ghost of that period. However, I would think that they would be few if any. The only other possibility for us would be cultures like ancient Egypt. Valley of the Kings. Where the culture embraced death. They didn't prepare for death, they prepared for an afterlife.
Churches/Church yards... Churches may hold a ghost or two. Some of which may have had a strong pleasant connection in life to the church. Church Yards are many times associated with cemeteries but they really are not the same thing. Many church yard burial places were far from a pleasant place then or now and unlikely to harbor a ghost in my opinion. Also, Churches may be very difficult to obtain permission due to religious beliefs.
Old Hotels/Resorts... These type places are also popular for hunters. However, places currently occupied may prove difficult to investigate. On the other hand depending on the place, they are mostly associated with merry making of the day and good times. Places like the Queen Mary, etc., which are supposed to be very active, probably are due to the pleasure it brought to the living.
Historic Locations & Battlefields... Too many sightings to mention at these locations. Maybe even more popular than cemeteries for the ghost hunter. However, the sightings at a battlefield may be something different. We touched on it earlier. (The rift in time) Although many of these are of those who probably aren't aware of what happened. (instant death)
Because they are designated as historic by the federal governmant, these places have very strict rules. Though they are open to the public, getting permission to do an investigation could prove difficult. I am not talking about running around with a camera and hoping you catch something. I am talking about a real investigation. Most are closed after dark too, etc. If you don't obtain permission and get caught you could be in a lot of trouble. Especially at a battlefield since they are under federal jurisdiction. I belong to a Battlefield Restoration Organization in NJ. You may want to join your local Historical Society or something associated with the battlefield in your area? There is a lot to learn and you meet the right people to get permission for certain places. Just a suggestion.
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