How to Investigate a Haunting – Part Three

Hints for Ghosthunters!

It often sounds rather glamorous to work in psychical research. Imagine the scene: a rainy day in downtown Bury St Edmunds. An office, neon light flashing behind the Venetian blinds, the whirr of an overhead fan. The author looks up, dressed in a whiskey soaked black raincoat and trilby, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.

He speaks in a slow Suffolk drawl which is really nothing like Sam Spade…

“Hi there blue-eyes… I was working on a case. I’ve had to work on a case since the poltergeist threw the desk out of the window. A tall broad walked in, I wouldn’t have minded but she walked in through the wall. “Wass the name huuneybun?”, I snort. “Oulton” replies the broad, rolling her eyes at me. I picked them up and rolled them back… {Note for Non-East Anglian folks – Oulton Broad is a lake in Norfolk…]

Well luckily it’s absolutely nothing like that. To be honest there is actually very little point in ghost hunting. Whatever you are looking for won’t turn up, for as the old German proverb says “When the ghosthunter arrives the ghost flies out of the window.” Yes it really does; funny people those old Germans! And even if you do see something no-one will ever believe you but your dotty Aunt Mabel who’s been talking to the ghost of Uncle Sidney since the 1940’s. Still Uncle Sidney doesn’t mind, it gives him more time to potter around in the garden as she thinks he’s dead.

“Aha!”, I do not hear you cry, “What if I get a photo?” Then the “Sunday Sleaze” will print it with a ludicrously wrong account of how you took it, a wide variety of occult-orientated nutcases will arrive on your doorstep to worship you and your mates will never speak to you again. And the biggest mystery of all is while every expert in the land denounces it as a fake no-one will see fit to pay you a penny for your destroyed reputation or hard work.

Have I suceeded in putting you off? I feared not…

Oh well, here are ten commandments of Ghost Hunting.

1. Never trespass on private property, it’s a serious offense these days. Avoid cemeteries as they are frequently vandalized and you don’t want to take the blame. If you join one of the reputable parapsychological organizations you can get to witness cases as they develop. Join one, and save a lot of effort standing around Walberswick Common in the early hours freezing to death.

Remember that most of the houses mentioned in ghost books are someone’s home and they will not appreciate being asked to answer enquiries about ghosts, so leave them alone!

2. Never go alone. Not only would I hate to see you murdered, as you won’t then be able to buy my next book, but if you do see something you have another witness. Remain perfectly still, and observe. Do not talk about what you have seen until you have both written, signed and had witnessed your independent testimony. I had two friends who did this. One had written a page description of the white figure who floated across a field at him making a low groaning sound. His sharper eyed girlfriend wrote “Didn’t see any ghost. Did see Frisian cow which trotted over and mooed at us!”

3. Keep quiet, and maintain vigilance. Do not take drugs, alcohol or your really hot date as all will dramatically interfere with your perception. The latter is a really bad idea as haunted abbeys are never as romantic or cosy as they sound when you are safely inside, and if it rains they’ll never forgive you. Wear what you think is appropriate clothing and then dress warmer just in case. You can always take it off… (Note: CJ may have ignored part of this on some of his cases, and really hot ladies may apply at the usual address!)

4. Photographs can, as the illustrations in my book show, lie. Nonetheless a camera, camcorder or best of all a cine camera are invaluable. Why cine film of all things? Because it is hard to fake and can be examined frame by frame. Everyone should have a watch, a torch, notepad, pen and if possible a thermometer. Measure the temperature every 15 minutes. I was once on a case where the temperature dropped from 12C to -6C in less than a minute, and this was never satifactorily explained. Mind you, I didn’t catch cold…

5. While it is often a good idea to tell one responsible person such as a spouse or parent where you are off to just in case of accidents, do not spread the word too much, unless you enjoy being hoaxed all night by your mates dressed up in sheets.

6. If you join a group you will eventually get to investigate someone’s ghost. Be careful to abide by all the rules of that group, and try to fill in all paperwork however tedious that may be.

7. More profitable than just running around at night failing to see anything, delve into your local archive and research in detail the cases therein or new ones you uncover. Then share your knowledge with others who will be very happy to hear from you.

8. Theoretical and experimental work is fascinating and very easy to set up. For ideas subscribe to a reputable journal such as that published by the SPR. This is particularly useful on long winter evenings when the rain is lashing your windows, the wind rattles your chimney and your local library is closed. It is also an invaluable aid to insomniacs. Card guessing to calculate your psychic talent is a harmless family pastime.

9. Ouija boards are not a harmless family pastime, unless you are a very adept Spiritualist in which case you won’t dabble with anything so basic. Whether you believe they open paths to demonic entities or merely allow for exteriorisation of, or merely the surfacing of, unconscious material straight from the Id they are a generally bad idea! They are linked to a large number of tragedies. You’d probably be better off joining a Charismatic Christian Church or Witch Coven if you wish to see spiritual powers at work. Sermon over.

10. Whatever else you do try not to dwell too much on all this. It’s really not that important unless you really intend to spend your life seriously studying parapsychology. If so a good degree in Psychology, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Literature, Medicine, Biochemistry, Religion, Electrical Engineering or almost any other discipline will provide you with the basics. Once you’ve got that, contact and join the SPR. I wish you the best of luck!

cj x

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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