The most valuable, obvious and, in my opinion, understated piece of equipment in any investigator's toolbox is unquestionably the investigator. Yet the recognition of the value the investigator brings into the fold isn't in question, I have really seen very little by way of discussion along these lines. What you feel, who you are and what you believe will ultimately play a major role as you progress; and it is my firm belief that to listen to yourself, first and foremost, will keep you planted firmly on the path to becoming a credible investigator.
When I was starting the process of becoming a paranormal investigator, I found a fair amount of useful information when it came to equipment; however, I really found little concerning what was in store for me as a paranormal investigator. Of course there is always the copious supply of materials, which can be purchased on-line, offering experience by way of a book or a program. But I was far too skeptical and didn't really feel that a set method or a course was right for me. Besides, there are numerous beliefs concerning the paranormal and I don't really believe that any one book can privy anyone to the wider range of knowledge that is out there. To gather such a wide knowledge really requires a drive beyond a $100.00 paranormal investigator's course anyway. I am certainly not bashing these courses, or their value to this field in creating a "standard" for the industry. I am more recognizing the fact that these courses aren't for everyone.
That being said, I have sat down and came up with some highlights of issues that I felt I could have paid more attention to before I chose to become a paranormal investigator. If I had only known what the real investigator's face at an investigation, rather than the Hollywood notion I had in my mind, I certainly would have been a bit more prepared to slip into my niche much more readily. So I thought I would pay a bit of attention by way of this topic.
Know your physical and mental limits
1) We all know that we have limits, limits in our physical abilities and in our mental capacity. In so much as every person is different, this obviously extends to our respective limitations as well. To know your limits and to communicate them effectively with your peers will most assuredly make you a great investigator who is part of a great investigation team.
For many of us our limitations can be a bit embarrassing. When pressed up against a limitation, we may feel compelled to keep quiet and shelter our egos from a bruising. I personally believe it is a primal human instinct to always present yourself among the strongest, the smartest or the best to win favor and acceptance with others. It may be one of the instincts that helped us survive and thrive as a species. So to open up and admit your weaknesses is far from natural in my opinion.
However, I am a firm believer that the reaction that we have to baring our limitations will determine how successful you, the individual, and the organizations you are affiliated with will be. A group that understands its strengths and weaknesses will invariably go far. But the realization of these limitations must start from the individual members.
An organization that has identified these things can then focus their strengths in the right key areas while shoring up the weaknesses in those areas that are lacking. Identifying a problem is 80% of the battle and it certainly won't be met if each and every individual isn't aware of and able to share their limitations.
If you have a question, ask
2) For me, one limitation that I was always afraid to reveal was how much, or better yet how little, I knew. My reaction to this limitation was to fain understanding, especially if I perceived that I was "supposed" to know something. When questioned if I understood, I would nod my head in agreement. I missed out on a lot of learning with this ego sparing technique and spent countless hours, in total frustration, pouring over that which I was "supposed" to know; after all it was explained to me once. What I needed to realize was that my weakness wasn't my capacity to understand, but my inability to admit that I didn't understand.
This reaction didn't benefit me and simply made my enjoyment of what I was doing much more difficult. In addition to this, what I didn't realize was how damaging this could have been when I was expected to perform a task that required me to invoke this knowledge and apply it to a team effort. My actions had the potential of steering the group to finding something abnormal in the completely normal or missing something utterly fantastic. This leads me to one simple credo that we all should live by, "If you have a question, ask."
There have been many times, early on, in my dealing with those more experienced, that my background knowledge of the subject was assumed. Therefore an answer was given that wasn't understood, simply because I didn't have the background information to bind with the answer to make sense in my mind. In a situation like this, the novice should have this idea in mind and keep asking until the answer makes sense. I have found that if it is effectively communicated that you still do not understand, the background information is then supplied to fill in the gaps that were missing from the first answer.
I am certainly not seeking to simply accuse those more experienced of not caring, but rather to trumpet the fact that many things become second nature; and in that intimate knowledge, one tends to assume that everyone knows.
Along these same lines lies a pitfall that most novice investigators usually fall into. As a novice, there is a tendency to absorb explanations, while the learning curve is being traversed, as being factual and taking these explanations without question. There are a multitude of reasons as to why this is so, but I contend that this is a bad position to place you in. My heartfelt belief is to use the mind that you were given. Continually study, learn and talk about the concepts, ideas and equipment that you come in contact with. Don't fall into the trap of believing something simply because someone said it was that way. Believe in something be YOU know it is that way.
Keep Your Emotions In Check
3) There is a fine line between having your emotions and your emotions controlling you. Regardless of reasons that drive you to be an investigator, there will inevitably be times where your emotions will reach out and grab you. If you aren't careful, a certain few of these emotions may leap out quite unexpectedly. Though mostly harmless, you could find yourself in a position that could compromise the safety, credibility or enjoyment of you and your fellow investigators.
It isn't really much fun, nor completely safe, to be bumbling around in dark, unfamiliar places in a blind panic. Being a skeptic, fear of the paranormal isn't really something I have had much of a problem with. I really have little fear of walking into a dark room that "supposedly" has a lot of paranormal activity. However, there are times when I am sitting quietly, in the center of a dark room by myself, in some abandoned house, when the Hollywood images start creeping into the forefront of my thoughts. "What if?" I start to think as my mind starts focus on the fact that I am frightened. I then start the vicious circle of events that leads me to imagine cold, dead hands grabbing me, pulling me down into the pits of hell, never to be heard from again. It is a ridiculous notion, but very real at the time nonetheless.
Perhaps being skeptical affords me the time to settle down and calmly remove myself from the situation for a while. However, I have seen some hapless investigator's first reaction to bolt from the area, running off in terror. Keeping your emotions in check in situations where your emotions are bound to get the better of you takes a bit of practice and inward reflection. So whether you are skeptical or not, an expectation of the unexpected should be in your consciousness before beginning the investigation.
To compliment this, knowing what you are supposedly walking into may help to prepare you. But there is a major caveat here. Knowing too much may taint your objectiveness. There is a definite line that should not be crossed, but that line can only be defined by you and is certainly different for each and every investigator. Seek to know enough to enable you to feel comfortable, but not enough to destroy your objectivity and usefulness in the investigation.
One other thing to keep in mind is that your emotions are your natural defense mechanism. If you feel something, react to it. This is your mind's way of telling you to react. To ignore it and/or rationalize it will ultimately lead you into troubled waters. If you feel afraid, remove yourself. There is no "fear factor" competition going on, so don't be afraid to admit you are afraid and react to it.
Excitement is difficult to control, especially in circumstances when things are happening and you want to be in the middle of it all, right NOW! As with fear, failure to control your excitement can lead to some big problems.
For example, if the experience is happening in a location that you don't happen to be in, the first reaction is to get from point A, where you are, to point B, where "the something" is occurring (i.e. where you are not), at light speed. This posses a huge safety issue for you and your peers. First, you are probably not going to be really familiar with your surroundings; mixed with a little to no light situation, you have a disaster on your hands. Second, you are probably going to be working with other like minded individuals that are no doubt thinking the same thing you are, "Get there NOW!" Having several excited people, unfamiliar with their surrounds, darting through darkened hallway is a definite recipe for disaster and an overall bad idea.
Boredom can be an investigation killer. These are the times when the investigation seems to lull, time seems to stand completely still and the situation just seems to fall far short of your expectations. For any experienced investigator, these times come far more often than the moments of excitement and elation when something is going down. For any enthusiastic investigator, this emotion will be one of the most challenging issues to work through, particularly in those down times when several investigations have yielded nothing.
So how do you work through these times? The best defense against this emotion is to know that these times will be coming. It happens and it will happen a lot. My only advice is to know it is going to happen and simply press through it when it does.
But beware! It is usually in these times when I find my mind trying to conjure up things to satisfy my boredom. It takes a fair amount of rational thinking and a good understanding of how my mind reacts to this overwhelming boredom to not talk myself into something I would otherwise discount. Nothing is more frustrating than going to several investigations where there is nothing to investigate. I personally start thinking this is a big waste of time and allow my mind to wonder. I am certain that we all deal with these situations differently, so knowing yourself is key to battling boredom.
Know Your Equipment
4) First hand knowledge of your equipment is vital and key to the success of any investigation. Some of these devices can be intimidating to most novice investigators, but it cannot be understated that a solid understanding of all the equipment in your investigation arsenal is paramount. Taking this one step further, knowing when to use what device is equally as important as just knowing how to operate the equipment. One final extension of my point, operation in little to no lighting conditions, when you are excited or frightened, or bumbling around in unfamiliar territory requires a bit of intimacy with the location of the various buttons, switches and dials on your tools.
Do yourself a favor and take the time to really get to know how your equipment works. Know what each and every mode, dial, button and switch does. Take the time to understand what the equipment is telling you by having a basic understanding of what the device is measuring. Know the things that can force your device to give a false reading and how to troubleshoot the anomaly when it does. On top of all this, keep your equipment in good shape. Do the regular calibrations if required. Think about the safe storage and transportation of your equipment from site to site.
As far as the selection of your equipment, get recommendations from seasoned investigators. The chances are they have either tried the device or done some research into the device and can offer some advice or caveats as to the make and model or even the relevance to an investigation. Take the time to do some research before you buy a new device so that you have some reasonable assurance that you are buying the right tool for the right task and that the device is right for you. This will not only save you a good amount of time, but money as well.
When I first started investigating, my biggest problem was that I didn't really have much equipment and felt that I was just along for the ride. I felt quite inadequate and crippled when it came to the events that were unfolding in the early investigations. Be comfortable here. It will take some time to gather together the required equipment. Don't use this time to just quickly buy stuff so you have something in your hands during an investigation.
The next obvious question then is, "What do I do then?" This is a good question and one that I battled with as well. First, use the best tool in your investigative arsenal - you. Walk around the site with a note pad and pen in hand and write down all your feelings, experiences and thoughts. Be sure to note the time of every entry. Believe it or not, your investigation journal may validate something that would otherwise have been discarded. Take note of your fear, excitement or boredom. Get a general sense of how you feel at different times of the investigation. Being conscious of this will only assist you in the future when faced with similar scenarios.
Second, watch what the other investigators are doing. Jot down notes and/or questions that you wish to ask after the investigation is complete. Get to know the various pieces of equipment, how they are used as well as when and where to use them. You are learning here and you should use this time wisely instead of being self-conscious that you are not contributing anything to the whole. What you may discover is that you will find a particular piece of equipment or a physical property that you are most interested in by this exercise. You can then focus your attention on purchasing this device first since it is inline with what you know your interests to be.
Organization Is Key
5) This is probably the most difficult area to keep under control during an investigation. However, it is vital to the success of the individual investigator as well as the organization as a whole. Though the organization you are affiliated with plays a large role in providing you the ability to remain organized, there is a lot you can do to keep yourself organized.
The main thing is to have the right equipment in the right places at the right times. This requires a tremendous amount of organization and team work. However, the more thought that goes into this, the more successful the investigation will be, and you need to play your part in this respect.
I personally think that checklists are a bore, but I do recognize their function. Just as a pilot has checklists that are used at various stages of a flight, an investigator could benefit from the same mentality. Have a checklist for each investigative stage. Depending on the various pieces of equipment that you will be handling during the investigation, you will be required to do different things. Make a list of these things that should be done before, during and after and investigation and do them. For example, say you are in charge of the picture evidence. You will need to check your lens for dust, have full batteries as well as extra batteries on you as you walk around the investigation, have the right film or correct digital media, etc... These are all things that can be placed onto a list and brought along with you to check off and throw into an investigation file for safe keeping after an investigation is completed. Your checklists will demonstrate your commitment to the details and possibly present an obvious elevation in credibility.
An investigation journal is vital. After the investigation, take some time to write out the events of the time you spent on the investigation. Be detailed and verbose. Most investigation organizations that I know of will require that you write an individual report anyway, so I personally use this as my opportunity to communicate with my peers my experience. Obviously, these reports go into my personal files as well. It is a great way to maintain the history of your investigation career as well as a means to refer back to before future investigations at a certain location. Any amount of effort you put forth here is good, but obviously the more detailed the better.
Another caveat here is to ensure that you maintain the same privacy level that your organization imposes. These restrictions are mandatory and without debate. Your organization is allowing you to be a part of their team with the expectation that the data you collect with them is held in the same esteem. This is obviously regardless of whether or not you stay with your current organization or you move on to another.
6) I know that most of these things seem like common sense and, for the most part, I admit that they probably are. However, I certainly overlooked a few of these and didn't put quite the thought that I probably should have in ensuing that my integration into this culture went as smoothly as possible. Let's face it, being the new guy in the organization is a bit stressful for some. In the thick of it all, these things seem a bit less clear when tasked with trying to assimilate. So here is but a small reference to help keep you stay grounded and on the right path for success.
The views expressed in the above article DO NOT necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Ghost Hunters Incorporated.
Disclaimer: Ghost Hunters Incorporated guarantees that all evidence collected is not altered or modified. All audio recordings, photos, etc. are presented to the client as we obtained them. We use Wavepad only to remove the "hissing" sound & to amplify the audio. Clients can review evidence pertaining to their case at anytime upon request.