Ghost Help

Are All Groups the Same?

We stated in Step 3 that Ghost Help does not endorse nor recommend handling your own ghost situation. A real next step for most people is to contact a local ghost group for help. Just like any business or organization no two are the same. Each group may have a specific focus based on those who make up their membership. Some groups may only do this for a hobby on the weekends and other groups take things very seriously. When the Ohio Paranormal Investigation Network began in late 1996 it started out as a "ghost hunting" group. The group went to cemeteries, abandoned buildings, and other locations and were many times invited by the owners of these locations. It was months before the group went to assist a client and even then admitted a lack of qualification. Now, groups do not seem to see a difference between investigating a haunted prison or a family's home. While there may be a genuine cause for wanting to help, their methodology toward investigating these separate types of cases is usually the same. Many groups investigate client homes due to the increase in costs associated with visiting abandoned prisons, hospitals, or other locations as the prices have skyrocketed due to the popularity of the field and the avenue for profiting from the influx of groups is apparent. There are obviously other reasons for groups taking on client-based cases, but you should be aware that not all of them involve merely helping you through your situation.

While amateur groups have been around for decades the latest incarnation of groups stems from the popularity of television shows, namely Ghost Hunters which made its debut on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel in 2004. Since then there have been dozens of ghost-themed television shows on major networks, public television, and YouTube that have laid the foundation for the beliefs and approach for many ghost teams. Television shows are created for their entertainment value. A successful show glues a viewer to the television week in and week out, this of course brings advertising in the form of commercials which continues to pay for new episodes. Many teams want to translate this excitement of the television show into their own lives and take what they see portrayed on the show as fact. Granted, Ghost Hunters was based on an actual investigation group, however, their methods were more than likely altered for their portrayal on television to enhance the entertainment value. For many teams the knowledge from television shows as well as scouring other group's websites for information is as far as their knowledge goes. For some teams they do expand individually by reading books or taking courses designed by other groups or organizations. These courses are an entirely separate subject matter, but again none of these courses are the same and if they are used on their website or used as a reference be sure to follow up on just what exactly their certification or knowledge actually means.

Most groups are only around for a year or so and generally less than two years. That being said, a group that has been around for ten years may not be any better at helping you than a group that has only existed for six months. Groups tend to form around basic beliefs generated by either family or friend relationships. With these shared beliefs many groups fall prey to group polarization. As individuals they have their own unique belief systems that evolve over time when new information is submitted and generally become more skeptical as time goes on. This is one reason why groups ultimately hang up their acronyms; the people involved realize that there isn't as much evidence as they think and the work, time, money, etc. begin to outweigh the fun they once had. As a group these individual beliefs become magnified and many times stay stagnant and fail to evolve. Groups tend to have stronger beliefs in more outrageous things than individuals do. For example, individuals within a group may share a basic belief that Ouija Boards are potentially dangerous, however as a group the danger portrayed is much greater than what the individuals have expressed. That being said, a group dynamic does offer groups more varying opinions on material as it is made up of the individual opinions of its members. Some groups state they are religious-based, some science-based, others psychic-based, but if you desire to acquire their services make sure they are client-based.

See more on group polarization.

What's in it for me?

When looking for a group be sure to be selective. The group you eventually bring in will have a great bearing on the direction you take as well as the potential welfare for you and your family. Be sure to ask the group as many questions about their background as possible and what they plan to do to help you through your situation. Be sure that their intent is to actually help you and not merely gather evidence or set up equipment. Paranormal claims are all about the client interaction and no piece of equipment can substitute this.

The group will be coming into your home by your request. You should feel safe and secure and the team should treat you as a paying client although they should not charge you for the investigation. They should respect your wishes and be respectful of you, your family, and your home at all times. If they are not respectful or professional do not hesitate to ask them to leave. Some teams seem to think that they can do or say whatever they like since they were asked to come to your home; do not allow this attitude! Some teams have no respect for your situation and this will show when they taunt or display negative behavior when their questions and requests are not instantly met by the "ghost".

Other teams will come into the home and merely walk around for a while with an EMF detector and digital recorders. After a while they may progress to merely sitting around and listening. This method is typically used in haunted locations other than a person's home. This is strictly observation time and typically any noise will be considered paranormal. A group sitting around being quiet accomplishes very little in the same regard as a team that merely walks around staring at their equipment all night.

Some teams will ask that you leave the house either completely or go into a separate room where they can have privacy. While teams state this is for "control" over sound and other information it is not advisable to allow these strangers to have run of your home dealing with your situation while you are not present. This goes two ways; first, you should know what they are doing in your home especially in dealing with your situation. They will eventually pack up and leave and you will be left to deal with whatever they started. Second, you should be a part of the investigation at least to a small degree. Part of the investigation should revolve around giving you a sense of control over the situation and empowerment over what is happening, otherwise their trip is not worth your time.

However, being a part of the investigation is at the discretion of the team that is helping you with the case. It is not polite to hang around them constantly or ask questions constantly (a majority of questions should be answered prior to them coming over or before starting the investigation). You should do your best to have the location as quiet as possible by not having the television, washer or dryer, kitchen or other appliances on, or have guests over (including children) that may interfere with the group's observations of the environment. Do not attempt to help out by investigating with the team; this should not be your role with their investigation.

Tools of the game

Nearly every team relies on their "tools" and gadgets to provide them with "data" which drives their investigation. Teams that have a complete reliance on the technology will probably be of less help to you as they are more than likely going to gather "evidence" one way or the other. Teams with an overabundance of technology obviously have a financial investment in that technology and will more than likely have a personal investment in having those tools work in finding anomalous readings which will in turn be interpreted as ghosts. There is no such thing as a ghost detector and no piece of technology has ever been created that can tell genuine ghost phenomena from anything else.

If the teams spends their time and energy with their face down in these tools then they may not really be there to help you. These tools should be used to find logical solutions first. They should also be used to document the scene of the investigation to keep look out for logical solutions to potential evidence gathered (called false positives).

If the team uses cell phone apps or devices known as "Radio Shack Hacks", "Shack Hacks", "Radio Sweepers", "Ovilus", or other random word generators the group will more than likely jump to conclusions. Radio sweepers (the "hacks") are basically radios that sweep up and down radio stations. This causes random words to jump out as the dial moves back and forth. Many investigators feel that the radios are being "guided" by ghosts. There is no evidence gathered that these types (or random word generators) of devices contact anything but the subconscious through pareidolia, even if they are a method of contact this will do little to help you.

Teams that rely heavily on tools will more than likely not have any answers for you right after an investigation. The method of using tools means they will have to go away and watch all the video, listen to all of the audio, and then make decisions as to if they feel your home is truly haunted. Confusing? I agree, these decisions should be made at the time of the investigation, the data recorded should be used to confirm or deny the experiences during the investigation rather than later on. However, it is good that a team does not jump to conclusions during or right after an investigation. They should present a general idea based on finding (or not finding) logical conclusions, your interview and experiences, as well as how they feel about their own. They should let you know where they currently stand as well as inform you it is not a solid decision until the information can be gone through.

What to ask

When you first decide to contact a team don't jump at the first website you see. Evaluate the site for its content. This will give you a better sense of the person behind the site and may give you a better feel for the approach of the group. If the site seems set up for entertainment or seems more geared toward impressing other groups then it may be in your best interest to look elsewhere. Click on the links of each site and look for evidence (are they just pictures and EVPs? Do they claim these are 100% ghosts?), an "about us" page (do they show their pictures? Are they the type of people you want in your house? Do they have any knowledge or experience other than being in this team?), and hopefully some references from past client-based investigations. If any of this information is missing do not hesitate to ask for it or how they intend on investigating.

(An empty evidence page on a website, like the example at left, can mean many things; is the group just starting out? Are they creating a new website? Maybe they are starting a new segment on their site. It still makes you wonder why this page is on the site when nothing has been added. Again, don't hesitate to ask what kind of evidence they will be looking for.)

Here are some helpful questions to ask a group once they respond to your request for help (don't berate them with questions right away):

  • How long have you been investigating and what type of experience do you have? (The length of time or number of cases/investigations is irrelevant, if they respond with additional knowledge they have gained from other sources or a degree in a science field this is definitely a plus.)
  • What are your investigation methods? (If all they can say is collect EVPs and take photos and videos they are probably not going to help you rather they are looking for their own personal experiences.)
  • How do you intend to help me? (The answer should include empowering you with your situation, explaining things clearly, and including you on what is happening every step of the way. This does not mean you should dictate everything they do, but have a chance to voice your opinion about things.)
  • Do you have any references? (Most teams will not be able to provide this and it's not necessarily a cause for alarm. Many of my past clients asked not to have any personal information given out or be contacted by other people. I do have emails with their reference, but without contact information or a name it is useless. Their reaction to this question will typically tell you all you need to know.)
  • Does your team provide background checks on its members? (Again, not a huge concern if not, but it is your right to know who is coming into your home. See Offender Search for the state of Ohio, or Free Public Record Search with a drop down box for all states, many counties, and some cities.)
  • Does your group provide liability waivers? (This generally states that the group will be responsible for damages in your home due to their investigation and that they will not hold you legally responsible if they are injured. Be sure they sign it, you sign it, and you get a copy. Do not hesitate to have it notarized or viewed by a lawyer as it is a legally binding document yet may not be worded correctly. Some groups may have insurance, especially if a 501(C)3 non-profit, or a limited liability corporation - LLC, but this may only protect themselves.)
  • Will my information be secure? (Nearly every team states that privacy in every detail will be made available for clients, but are they willing to put it in writing? Many times a verbal agreement or even an email is not enough is one or the other party breaks this promise. Imagine your home being viewed by hundreds or possibly thousands of people on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites. A statement of confidentiality should also be used by teams to keep clients from using the case to create publicity for themselves as well.

Ghost Help