Investigating a Haunting
Investigating a ghost ultimately comes down to common sense. Firstly, it is necessary to visit the site of the haunting and take detailed notes on the environment. Are there any obvious factors that could be causing strange noises or smells, or even hallucinations? Could the ghost have been nothing more than a reflection or trick of the light? Is there a secret door or panel through which the ‘ghost’ could have passed? Thoroughly scrutinize your surroundings, taking photos so you can later think it through and demonstrate to others what you have established. Is a phosphorescent fungus emanating light after dark? Could rats or mice in the walls be causing the odd scratching noises? Check out the structural integrity and electrics of the house. Examine all possibilities very, very carefully.
If you haven’t already interview every witness, taking careful notes. Follow police procedure here, and interview witnesses separately, keeping them apart so they can not contaminate each others testimony. Try to assess how honest they are being about their experiences, and try to avoid asking leading questions. Feel free to use quick trick questions to try and see if their story changes. Any good website on interview technique for journalists can teach you a lot here!
Ideally, check the witnesses medical history, and check their current physical health (but bear in mind questions of ethics and confidentiality, as always). Some apparitional experiences, especially those of hallucinatory smells, can be rooted in temporal lobe epilepsy, though the experience is also fairly common among the perfectly healthy. Was the percipient very tired, or under the influence of drink, drugs or medication? Do they seem reliable? Many a case come in to doubt when you meet the witness face to face!
There is a mass of theoretical material which could be considered, such as the Persinger field fluctuation theory (that ghosts are associated with falls and poltergeists with increases in the Earth’s Magnetic Field readings which in turn is related to sun spot activity). Or what about Serena Roney-Dougal’s fault hypothesis? (that quartz crystals in fault lines generate a piezoelectric field under seismic stress which causes neurochemical reactions which render you more psychically aware, or just prone to hallucinate). Or maybe you’d like to examine Albert Budden’s electrical allergy hypothesis? (that some people have an allergy to electrical fields and therefore hallucinate aliens, ghosts, etc.) Try to think of how you can create simple tests to falsify various hypotheses. This is where ghosthunters tend ot be weakest – in their understanding of the theoretical frameworks and testing thereof. Many are just “collecting evidence”, trying to secure a conviction if you like, to prove the existence of the “paranormal”. Taht might catually be holding us back from making progress on understanding the actual causes of many “paranormal” events…
Information on current parapsychological theories can be discovered easily from the web. Keeping up with the current research is sadly a full time commitment, but a LEXSCIEN sub can get you access to a lot of reading material.
Generally when investigating ghosts the vital thing is to establish what type of experience you are dealing with. Did the “haunt” try to communicate, act intelligently, or show awareness of its environment? The next question is the ghost of who? You need as much information as possible on that person, their likes and dislikes, what happened to them, etc. Is it really a disincarnate person? How does that work? A demoin pretending to be one? A trickl of the light? Overactive imagination? 🙂
Sadly, ghosts will not materialize in front of your cameras. No matter how good the evidence someone will say it is a fake, and you may as well resign yourself now to the fact that definite irrevocable proof will be forever beyond you. You can’t change the world, but you can impress the parapsychological community. Therefore gathering evidence and publishing reports is a vital part of being a parapsychologist. Try to make your case as watertight as possible, write it up properly, and make your findings available!
Investigating an apparition can be even more frustrating. At least a ghost interacts with you, and maybe even talks back (even if it is only hollow moans). Imagine investigating the Royalston Ballroom that is haunted by the apparitional smell of violets! How would you proceed? The thing about apparitions is that they are supposed to replay when the conditions are right. They have no motive, though they have an identity or origin that must be researched. But ultimately, what really matters is ensuring you can work out what is needed to trigger a replay. Once you have identified this, you may wish to gather all the equipment you can and attempt to make recordings, or possibly purchase the property and try to make money by taking tourists on ghost tours! The only problem is that such manifestations may have a short life span, and that it may very well ‘run out’ halfway through the investigation, never to recur… or may just be totally fictitious. 😉
Crisis Apparitions and Phantasms are equally hard to investigate. Firstly you must identify who the agent who ‘created’ the haunting is. Then you must attempt to locate them, and in the case of crisis apparitions save them from whatever danger they are in if they are still alive, or deal with the problem if you are too late! Another even worse possibility develops from the idea of the Phantasm – if the person who is inadvertently appearing as a ghost is alive and well how do you convince them of the situation and attempt to stop the haunting?
Despite all the difficulties ghosts are a fascinating field of study, and Investigators may expect many interesting possibilities and unique situations to arise out of any haunting case.
A few research questions to help you get started —
Who owned the property in the past?
What are the inhabitants personalities like?
What is the geology of the area?
Are there underground streams, sewers, subsidence etc?
What is the state of physical repair of the property?
What does local legend and folklore say about the area?
What is the local history of the area?
What records, floor plans, deed, wills etc, etc can be gained from City Hall?
What other paranormal events have occurred in the area in the past?
Is there any important material in the newspapers archives?
Can professionals – Doctors, Ministers, Social Services – help the family? Ask the family to contact them if you will, but never try to take on a job better suited to a highly trained professional. Keep your distance, act professionally, don’t take sides in family poiltics or try to play therapist…
What is the natural fauna and flora of the area?
Is the weather significant?
Are the graves of previous inhabitants local?
House Adverts in old newspapers may reveal significantly lower prices for a reputedly ‘haunted property’?
Is any major construction work occurring in the vicinity?
When and how has the structure been rebuilt or renovated?
Do animals react strangely in the property?
Have you prepared floor plans?