Recently, I was participating in a chat room where we were discussing protocols on investigations and I said I would post the protocols and procedures I wrote for my former group. Please note: I am not declaring that this is the ONLY way, or even the BEST way to investigate. But I hope you will find what might useful for you and disregard what isn't.
We are not “ghost hunters”. We are paranormal investigators/researchers. We investigate paranormal claims, and strive to find valid explanations for our clients. We use logic and common sense to find natural causes first. If there is an anomaly, and we have ruled out natural explanations, only then can we consider it paranormal.
We set ourselves apart from other groups by:
- Being more restrictive on what we consider evidence
- Valuing the historical integrity of locations
- Researching common natural causes of misperception and misidentification
- Practicing strict protocols to prevent false positives
- Researching all equipment and techniques we use in order to prevent false positives
- Recognizing this field is all theory and speculation at this point. We avoid making statements we cannot substantiate with facts.
- Emphasizing education to counteract misinformation perpetuated by popular TV shows and other groups
First Things First:
Never investigate alone. This is for two main reasons: safety and verification of an experience.
Use flashlights. For safety and to avoid misperception and misidentification. Also, to avoid losing/misusing equipment.
Wear appropriate attire. Always wear team shirts on an investigation. Wear soft-soled shoes with good tread. Avoid wearing noisy materials. Be aware you may be sitting on floors or other dirty surfaces, so wear comfy jeans or khakis.
Carry your ID and a cell phone. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE IT OFF DURING THE INVESTIGATION TO AVOID AFFECTING EQUIPMENT.
Make others aware of any “red flags”. Mundane things like broken floor boards, as well as with clients: stash of meds, occult items, weapons, etc.
Bring a snack & water. Low blood sugar and dehydration can causes headaches, dizziness, nausea and other conditions that can be misinterpreted as paranormal. Also, it helps prevent tummy rumbles during EVP sessions.
Use common sense and don’t jump to conclusions. Always look for a rational explanation first. If something happens that frightens you, notify a lead investigator and sit out, if you have to. NEVER react in front of a client! We are there to alleviate their fear, not contribute to it.
Maintain confidentiality. Don’t disclose names of clients or locations unless given written permission. If in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Again, our top priority is our clients.
NEVER use drugs or alcohol before or during an investigation. Limit caffeine intake (ie. 5 cups or more), as studies show it can cause both auditory and even visual hallucinations.
Keep your religious/spiritual beliefs to yourself. We all have our own various personal beliefs, but as a group, we put logic first to best serve the client.
Be aware of your surroundings. Take note of weather conditions like wind and rain, outside noises, traffic, ambient noises, etc. Recognize common causes of false paranormal experiences: hypnogagnic hallucinations, high EMFs (environmental and man-made), infrasound, matrixing, changes in temperature and or humidity, static electricity, convection currents, formant noise, etc.
Know your equipment!!! Experiment and become familiar with it outside of investigations. Know common photo artifacts such as light streaks from slower shutter speeds, airborne particles reflecting in flash or IR illumination (AKA orbs), etc. Video artifacts: “shadowing” in autofocus, and pixilation, IR reflection, etc. Audio artifacts: the sound of the device’s motor, ambient noise, digital artifacts, etc. Bring extra batteries.
Communication: If you are going to change locations, use the radios to inform the other team/s. This way we can avoid false positives.
Again, turn off your cell phone during the investigation. OFF means OFF, not silent or vibrate. Cell phones can affect EMF detectors, digital recorders, and the radios.
Watch your language around clients. ‘Nuf said.
Any officer can be a case manager. If a potential client is interested in an investigation, have them fill out our case request on our website so we all are aware of the claims/history etc. Notify an officer to schedule a date and do the initial interview with the client. Unless it is an emergency, give at least a couple weeks notice so we can do preliminary research. Lead investigators will determine how many members will be necessary based on size or nature of the location.
Walk through: During the walk through, one or two members (at least one being a lead investigator) will arrive at least an hour or so before the investigation. At this time, control shots will be taken, initial EMF sweeps will be done and notes taken. That way the lead investigator will have a good idea where to focus the investigation and set up equipment by the time the rest of the team arrives.
Lead investigators will determine teams and designate areas of interest. They will conduct onsite client interviews. Generally, get to the area, 1. assess and take notes of the environment, i.e.: outside: holes in the soffits or siding, loose metal, wells etc. inside: uneven floors, unlevel doors, leaky windows, plugged registers etc. 2. take comparative photos, and set up video and EMF detectors, 3. then do controlled silence and then 4. conduct the EVP session. EVP sessions should be around 30 -45 minutes. This makes it easier for review as well as cuts down on fatigue (and shifting around, etc.).
Avoid sharing your impressions of the areas with other teams until the end of the investigation (or if asked by lead investigators). This prevents influencing each other and cognitive bias. Obviously, if there is something of concern or a MAJOR event, notify a lead investigator right away.
At the conclusion of the investigation, avoid sharing your impressions with the client. Until all the audio and video is reviewed, we cannot have a proper opinion of the case and we don’t want to mislead the clients one way or another.
After the investigation, we will have a “powwow session” off location to compare notes. Yes, it might be late and you might be tired, but this is an essential part of the investigation so we can properly review all the data.
When reviewing audio/video and you find something anomalous, inform lead investigators so we can cross-reference other video/audio and identify or rule out false positives.
Two investigators (one being a lead investigator) will return to the location to give the report to the client.
They don’t detect ghosts. They detect fluctuations in the EMF field, and high EMFs which may cause paranormal-like experiences. Be aware of what can cause “spikes”: wires, pipes, running water, decaying metal, motors cycling before they turn on or off, other equipment etc. Always do an initial sweep to establish the baseline and to look for causes. Make notes of EMF spike, but remember a spike alone is not evidence of anything paranormal.
Protocols are essential in avoiding false positives and misidentification. Failure to practice these protocols result in a waste of time and having to throw out potential evidence.
State location, time and who is present.
Before starting an EVP session, do at least 5 minutes of controlled silence. This gives you an idea of ambient sounds of the location.
Do not hold the recorder during the session. Place it a couple of feet away from you.
Sit and stay as still as possible throughout the session. Do not get up and walk around or use other equipment unless it is absolutely called for.
Avoid whispering. This is highly annoying on review. Just talk at a normal conversational level.
Tag e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! You would be amazed at what can sound like a human voice. Tag if you shift, burp, tummy noises, if you drop something, yawn, cough, etc. A lot of these details are forgotten hours or days after the fact and can be misidentified upon review.
If you hear something anomalous during a session, make note of the time so you can cross-reference it later.
Do not engage in any negative provoking. Ghosts, if they exist, do not carry ID badges, so you don’t know if you are cussing out a murderer or someone’s Nana. Also, IF negative entities exist, this might be dangerous.
Do not invite anything to touch you or anyone else. First, you will set yourself up to be hypersensitive to any sensation, which could lead to misidentification. And again, IF negative entities exist, this might be dangerous.
Avoid the “make a sound for us” request. This leads to suggestibility and misidentification. Remember: coincidence is NOT evidence.
Use a tripod. This will help avoid blurs, double exposures, light streaks and other common artifacts, especially since we often investigate in low light conditions. Also, comparative shots will be from the same angle/position.
Control shots: these are taken during the walk through or initial sweep of a location, preferable in good light conditions. These are for reference.
Comparative shots: when taking pictures during the investigation, take at least 3-5 consecutive shots from the same angle. If an anomaly shows up in one but not the others, it might be something of interest. But one shot alone doesn’t give us enough information and can’t be considered evidence.
Be considerate: when others are taking photos, freeze. Don’t keep walking or waving a flashlight or other lit equipment around, it can cause false positives.
Remove camera straps to avoid “vortices” showing up in photos.
If it is cold, hold your breath when taking pictures, otherwise you will capture breath mist which can be mistaken as something paranormal. Breath can show up 30 or so seconds later, even if you can’t see it, the camera can.
When outdoors, if you have long hair, tie it back to avoid it getting in the shot and being misidentified.
Practice same basic protocols as photography.
The primary use for video is documentation and cross reference. We can rule out false positives on both photos and audio by referring to the video. Like audio, tag. For example, if someone is using a flashlight or there are car lights, be sure to make a notation.
Always clear new gear with lead investigators before using on an investigation. A lot of gadgets seen on TV are useless or too subjective and may not be appropriate.
You must get permission from lead investigators to bring a guest on an investigation. For liability purposes, anyone under 18 – family or not – must have written permission from their parent or legal guardian first.
You are entitled to your own personal opinions on the paranormal. However, if you are speaking as a representative of [the group], we expect you to present views that are consistent with our philosophy.
You MUST get permission from a lead investigator before posting any photos, videos or audio from an investigation online. This is mainly to protect the privacy of our clients.
No drama. Period. If you are having a bad day, leave it at the door. If you have issues with another member, (i.e., more than a trivial personality clash or difference of opinion) notify a lead investigator.
Keep the ego in check. We tear apart every piece of evidence before we will consider presenting it. This is in the client’s best interest as well as furthering valid research. This is about finding answers, not a contest to “catch” and post evidence.
We continually update our research, so we are constantly reassessing theories, causes of experiences, and gear.