QUESTION: What are some haunting investigation basics?

ANSWER: Before you do ANYTHING else, be sure you have permission to do the investigation. This should be done in advance, BEFORE you set foot on the property. If you're investigating a private home, you may want to get that permission in writing in advance. Never investigate without permission! You may also want to read Loyd Auerbach's do's and don'ts of ghost investigations as a PDF file here. For a suggested equipment list, click here.

What you do on an actual investigation varies tremendously based on the information that you initially obtain. However, in all cases, you want to take a careful history. If you have people living in a haunted house, ask them to start keeping a journal of experiences. Be aware that a lot of activity reported may be wrongly attributed to ghosts even if a ghost is present.

In a typical haunting case, you need to differentiate between fraud, trickery, misperception, and malobservation, and true paranormal activity. The latter can include three types:
  • Apparitions: An apparition is the paranormal visual appearance of something that looks like a being (whether physical or nonphysical) that can be the result of one of two things. Most often, it appears to be a result of our personality (or spirit, soul, consciousness, mind or whatever you want to call it) surviving the death of the body, capable of interacting with the living (and presumably other apparitions) -- what we classically think of as a ghost. However, there are a few reported cases where apparitions can be seen that are not true, discrete, entities, but creations that have been made manifest by human PK (in essence, a form of poltergeist activity).
  • Place Memory: A location (or object) holds/records information about its history. Our own psychic abilities allow us to pick up certain play-backs of this history, including sightings of people. However, these are recordings, not conscious beings. Referred to as "place memory" and "residual hauntings." For more on place memory, download the journal article on it in the PDF gallery.
  • Poltergeist Activity (Human PK): Physical effects, such as moving objects, in a situation caused by the subconscious mind of a living agent, generally someone in the household undergoing emotional and/or psychological stress. Effects are caused by mind-matter interaction (MMI).

Ghosts are people too. They have personalities and aren't any smarter than they were when alive. Likewise, they have feelings. As Loyd Auerbach likes to say, "If you really want to get rid of a ghost, embarrass it out of your house." He's also been known to use marathon knock-knock joke sessions and playing "It's a Small World After All" repetitively to drive ghosts away - they can't stand it any more than a normal adult can.

Most spirits aren't evil. This is because most human beings aren't evil. Ghosts can be sad, depressed, pissed off, confused, embarrassed, mischievous, or happy, but they aren't generally evil.
A key thing to remember is that dying doesn't make you smarter. All it means is you're dead. This is similar to the fact that dying doesn't make you suddenly become evil. You don't suddenly become enlightened. Of course, spirits may change in the afterlife as they go through the debriefing process of reviewing their lives, walking in the shoes of those they helped and harmed, and considering how they could have done things things differently. This can lead to their coming back to ask for forgiveness.

Key Points to Remember - Most investigations involve a minimum of two people, partly for safety issues (we sometimes encounter rather odd people or situations) and partly to have extra eyes, ears, and 6th senses paying attention.
  • NEVER do an investigation alone. The dead can be the least of your worries.
  • Most hauntings that do not involve conscious spirits (ghosts) are patterns that repeat themselves. They may vary a bit in how long they go on, but they don't interact with you. This is typical of place memory.
  • You don't have to be dead to haunt a place. Because place memory is recorded by the living, haunting cases can involve seeing or hearing people who are still alive -- including yourself! This is the so-called Doppelganger effect.Emotional experiences tend to be better recorded and/or better received. It doesn't matter whether the emotion is a positive one or not, as long as that emotion is strongly felt.
  • On a poltergeist investigation, you need to think of yourself as being like a newspaper reporter. You want to know the who, what, where, why and when. And once you've learned all that, you'll know exactly what's going on. Because the phenomena are always symbolic, like a dream. Pay attention to the metaphors and everything becomes clear.

Afterward - When you finish the investigation, it's time to talk to the people being haunted. Of course, if there's nothing paranormal, it may simply be a matter of explaining this to the family, or reporting the problem to the Enviromental Protection Agency (Swamp gas and sewage seepage have been responsible for more than one "haunting"). With poltergeist cases, it's best to refer the family to a licensed, professional therapist to help them examine, and work out, their issues. If there's place memory, there are three basic courses of action that people can take:
  • Enjoy it, the same as you would a favorite old movie.
  • Ignore it. This is easier to do when you recognize that it can't harm you. It's just an old program on reruns.
  • Erase it. The old pattern can be destroyed by the use of a videotape bulk eraser or strong magnets. Often, redecorating (especially repainting a room) seems to break up an old recording.
  • Recording over it. I've already mentioned that the dead aren't the only ones who can record impressions. You can do it, too. Have a great party with friends or do something really fun in that spot. Put your impressions there, replacing the old ones.

If there's a ghost, then it's a question of whether this is a problem or not. Some ghosts are friendly and helpful (I know of one that is a terrific babysitter). If so, acknowledge their presence and let things be. However, if they are problematic, I'd suggest moving them on to the light. There's a FAQ page you can read on how to do this here, which has suggestions that can work whether or not you're psychic.

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