An open letter to everyone in the ghost hunting or research field
I have always wanted to address this topic but have held off because of the toes I may step on in the process but after recent events in my own area I have to say what's been on my mind. The people in this field of ghost hunting, ghost research, etc all have different motives for being in this field and want different things out the time they spend doing related activities.
Many people are what I consider hobbyists. They are the ghost hunter who is looking for proof that ghosts exist and enjoy they the thrill of the hunt. The excitement of the actual ghost hunt and the possibility of experiencing something supernatural first hand is what drives this type of person. Many are dedicated and spend many hours enjoying their hobby and they do contribute much to the collective data pool in this filed of ghost research. They do their ghost hunts in cemeteries and other locations that are open to them. There is one place that the hobbyist does not belong, a private home. Unless they make it perfectly clear to the home owner that they are just hobbyists and have some experience in doing home investigation they should not be there. There are many things that can go wrong naturally and supernaturally by inexperienced people messing around in homes where the residents will be staying in long after the ghost hunters leave. You can wind up scaring the residents, stirring up activity, etc. The scenarios are endless and it is not fair to the residents. There are plenty of other locations for the hobbyist to go to do their work without putting people at risk.
The next group is the serious researcher. Whether they use scientific equipment or methods and/or psychics to go about their research in the ghost realm, they both are seeking the same thing, proof that ghosts exist. They go about this in very exact manner and many established groups fall into this category. The overall focus and goal is to provide evidence that there are ghosts at a location or that ghosts exist overall. They use meters and other equipment, follow strict protocols and provide documentation of their research. They will be the ones who will find the "proof" if it is ever gong to be found. The serious researcher also should steer clear of private homes unless they explain exactly what they are going to do and why. If you go into someone's home who is experiencing a lot of spirit activity and you find nothing on your equipment, do you now conclude the house has no activity ? Even if you don't tell the witnesses that, how do they feel after you leave? Do they feel like they were imagining it all? How do they react if the activity still occurs? If the people in the home are concerned or frightened in some degree then the researcher can often make things worse. Going into someone's home to collect data and telling them what your meters read does little to console a frightened child who cannot sleep in their room at night or the adult who wants to sell their house because of the activity in it. If you are a strictly research oriented group or investigator, please consider the situation in the home before you decide to do your research there. Remember you get to go home after your research is done but the homeowners have to stay. If the residents are not completely comfortable with what is going on in the home, then please show sensitivity and go somewhere else to do research. I am speaking from experience as a resident who once called a scientific research group from a university for assistance in my childhood home.
The final category are extremely similar the researchers. These are the investigators that are in this field to provide comfort and assistance. They follow most of the same procedures and use much of the same equipment in their work. The proof that ghost exist is secondary the these investigators, the living come first. They go into a home with the goal of making people who are frightened or uncomfortable feel better about the events in their home. They use many techniques to educate the residents. Sometimes just sitting down with the residents and listening to the experiences can help them over come their fear, especially when they see that they are talking to people that understand what they are going through. If it takes more than that, this kind of investigator will do whatever they can to make the residents comfortable in their home. If the end result comes without the investigator getting any good photos or EVPs, that is ok with them because the reward is in seeing the people relax in their own home. I have personally been on cases where after we were finished the resident took down their "house for sale" sign or the parents of a young child called to say that their son slept through the night in his own bedroom. This is the reward for this type of investigator. Along the way there is data collected for the research field but people come first. This is the type of person that goes into private homes to do investigations for people who are more than just curious about what is going on in the home.
I implore all persons and groups that fall into the first two categories only to please refer cases in homes to other groups/persons who are put the residents first. There are groups and individuals that are in this 3rd category all over the country and world. If you are not going to refer the cases to others then please stay away. I have gone into homes where the people reached out to the first group they found only to have someone come in, take some photos and video, and tell them "yep, you have 12 ghosts" and then leave. One case I had recently was this exact situation and the residents wound up calling my group on our emergency phone number at 1am hysterical because they were more scared now that they had "professionals" tell them that there were 12 ghost in their home earlier in the evening. Please, think about the consequences of what you do in this field and remember, when dealing with private homes, you get to leave but the residents have to stay and spend the rest of the night there with your words and actions ringing in their ears.
You have more to fear from the living
than from the dead.
Dave Juliano (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Founder of The Shadowlands:Ghosts and Hauntings
Director of South Jersey Ghost Research