Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Paranormal Investigation Techniques

Article from W-FILES.COM

This is an antiquated list at best. We will be updating this section to better focus on procedures, such as the scientific method when resources allow. Until then, enjoy what someone wrote for us a decade ago!

There are many things to take into consideration when doing an investigation. I will do a basic walk-thru of what works for me. This is the ideal. As we are all aware, the ideal is usually not the norm. We must remain flexible as each case is different. Each group of investigators find what works best for them, and you will need to do this for yourself as well. With so many theories about ghosts and hauntings out there now, you will find some of us at opposite ends of the spectrum. However, I feel that this can be a good thing. It is documenting different aspects in different ways. I would really like to stress that you should read over the other articles here relating to tips, equipment, spirit photography, etc. I will not go into depth here about any of those individual areas, but they are certainly extremely important to know before going on an investigation.

Once contacted about doing a ghost investigation, you need to determine the necessity. Is an investigation warranted? The easiest way to do this is with a phone interview. That way you can get a better idea of the activity going on, and the person requesting the investigation. I try to get some basic details to see what activity is occurring. This can help to rule out natural occurrences, or possible classify the type of activity by any patterns that their may be. If the activity was a one-time occurrence, you would not need to go on an investigation. I like to find out why they contacted me and what they expect to happen. Are they looking to end the activity? I also find out about other witnesses to the activity. I then ask that a journal is started to write date, time, weather, activity, etc. If an investigation is warranted, we than move on the first step of the actual investigation.

The first and most important thing to remember is to arrive (with prior written permission) with open-minded skepticism. Start by proving the "not." Search for and rule out any natural causes. We need to be aware of natural occurring events that can mock paranormal activity. Misinterpreting normal sounds can happen quite easily. The foundation of a building should be checked for shifting and cracking. Plumbing needs to be ruled out. Leaking, rattling pipes, or even air pressure in pipes, can cause odd noises, wet spots, faucets that seem to turn on by themselves, etc. Electrical problems can often appear ghostly in nature also. Weather conditions should be checked. Also the soil content can make a difference. If there is a large content of clay and/or chalk, settling can occur after wet weather causing odd noises and shifting. Underground water sources, tunnels, mine shafts, etc., have been known to echo odd ghostly noises. Banging water pipes, shutters, and design faults in structures can also mimic scary noises.

Nearby railroad tracks can cause rattling that can make objects appear to move. Squirrels nesting between walls or in the attic, or even other rodents and/or insects can make odd noises. If natural causes are ruled out, then we move on to beginning an actual investigation.

Before going to the location of an investigation, it is important that each member present knows what their position will be for the evening.

Equipment is delegated to different members. If it will be a long investigation, positions can be traded off so that everyone gets a chance to do each position and use the equipment. This is also a way to get corroborating evidence. I like to have one group who knows the history vs. one who doesn't. In the group that I am currently working with most often, Wisconsin Ghost Investigations, members mostly have their own equipment. However, if there is a member who has two of something, or more than they can handle, they often hand off something to someone who does not. It is extremely important that each member really knows the equipment that they are using. People are divided into groups with team leaders. We then decide who will be driving and riding with who. That way we don't all show up in our own vehicles at a location looking conspicuous.

Upon arriving at the location, the group as a whole meets with the property owner. They then divide up into the groups. One group is in charge of an initial walk-thru of the premises. I like to have a "sensitive" type person in the group walking around. One member makes maps of the location, the "sensitive" person marks locations of interest to them, and another takes initial readings of time, temperature, humidity levels, emf readings, etc. All natural sources of energy are clearly mapped. Stationary equipment can be set up at this time. Another group is with the persons requesting the investigation. They are signing papers to give permission to do the investigation and to post evidence collected. An interview is then conducted of those people involved with the suspected haunt. All information possible is obtained. The interview needs to be recorded and detailed notes taken. Try to get full and complete details. Events that have occurred should be recreated if at all possible to rule out any natural causes. One example of this may be a door that mysteriously opens when you walk towards it could easily be a loose floor board. If there is a pattern to activity, measures should be made to document the area at that time. Try to do as many field experiments as possible.

The interview is very important. It is important to ask pointed, direct, in depth questions. Some sample forms and interview questions can be seen at Troy Taylor's site. It is on the links page here. Look for patterns in activity. Repeat important questions to look for consistency. Rule out any doubts that you may have. You need to make the people involved as comfortable as possible. Keep your personal intuitions to yourself and keep the media uninvolved as it can tamper with evidence. Witnesses can be often be unintentionally influenced. Take detailed notes, it will help when writing the report later. If you believe that it could be a hoax, they are lying, unstable, or whatever, try to rule that out also. After the interview, this group does a walk thru, noting areas on the map where the people involved have had experiences, and any variances in readings of equipment. It is interesting to see how this can correlate with intuitive feelings of the other group, as well as equipment readings. The entire thing should be documented on film. EMF readings need to be taken, temperature and humidity readings documented, photos taken, camcorder walk-thru, other equipment used and documented, etc. Stationary equipment is watched and checked on often. Details should later be checked. A historical research of the building can also be done later if necessary either by you or the family involved. Public libraries and local historical societies can be a huge help with this tedious activity.

The last thing that is important with the investigation is to follow up. Follow up calls, repeat visits, further investigations, and a timely report need to be given consideration. The journal that the owners had started can be checked for any further activity. We also like to give the family ideas to peacefully coexist if a haunt is suspected. Further assistance is offered only thru support and names of people we know in the field who may be able to help. Then comes the fun part. Sorting thru all the evidence and photos for any type of anomalies to study. It is important to have others look at everyone's stuff too to make sure nothing was missed. Then reports are given to the people and posted on the webpage.

I know that this seems like a lot of information. I did not cover how to use the equipment here, or tips on how to use them or how to be on an investigation. Please see the other areas on the web site for that information. I do not claim to know everything, or do it the way that others do. I am merely sharing with you the way that I have found to work the best for me. And by all means, if this is your hobby, don't forget to have fun!

Happy Hunting and Hauntings!

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