Intent – Part III

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Quite possibly the biggest obstacle for those serious about paranormal research is distancing yourself from the television emulating ghost hunters. For me, researching is about quality over quantity. I’d rather find one active location with spirits willing to work with me and focus all my time and energy there than to spend one night only at 30 different places a year. If that location just so happens to be my own home then all the better. Many teams however are more interested in the volume of locations they can get into rather than the quality of what actually takes place once they get there.

The place I learned the most at (and spent the majority of my time) almost never happened. I tried for quite some time to get into Kenton Station and kept running into major resistance. At first I didn’t completely understand this as the owner was not shy about claiming the place was haunted. I was eventually able to get the green light by playing the greed card. I enlisted the help of an associate who was a freelance writer for the Oregonian newspaper who agreed to do a story and come to the investigation (if there was one). Suddenly the door opened and I was welcomed in to conduct my research in the basement. Surprise.

Once I met the owner I discovered the true nature of his reluctance to meet with me. A group had ‘investigated’ the place prior to me. As I found out over time from various other individuals at multiple locations, this previous encounter with ‘ghost hunters’ had left a very sour taste in his mouth. Apparently these individuals had shown up with quite a posse as well as…wait for it…..a Ouija board. Word was they had opened some sort of doorway using this thing and then simply left with no further communication with the owner. Go figure. Now I have my own take on the whole Ouija board thing and won’t get into at this time but suffice it to say it all boils down to intent. It always does.

537000_238162479662417_1084794290_n The Stereotype

As I’ve already mentioned, more than likely the biggest obstacle you will encounter is the residue left at a location by a previous group. More often than not, if you dig into this and ask questions you’re going to sense a pattern. Large team. Identical clothing. Cute name. Loud. Obnoxious. Disrespectful. Sloppy. You get the idea.

When dealing with the toxic waste left behind by this type of mentality you have an uphill battle ahead of you. The best bet is to distance yourself from these types of groups and show by example that you operate at a completely different level. In my case I start off by investigating alone. This by itself will set you apart as most people expect a large group of at least 3 or more.

This expectation is based on the reality that most investigators work in packs. The only 2 plausible explanations I’ve come up for this are fear and television. If you’re scared to investigate alone you should find something else to do. If you’re emulating what you see on television then you’re just a drone putting no thought into what you’re actually doing (or why you’re doing it) and again should find another hobby. Since the vast majority of groups have an online presence, let’s take a look at a few random examples and see if we notice any patterns. I know these look like class photos but I can assure you they are actual paranormal teams.

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Meet Quabbin Valley Paranormal. I assume they are from some place called Quabbin Valley but one thing is for certain, there sure are a lot of them. By my count they appear to be at least 11 strong. Why would it take eleven people to do the work of one? I have no idea but at least they all have matching shirts. I can’t imagine contamination coming into play as I’m sure they’re all absolutely silent.

According to their web site, they use 5 different digital cameras but only one is infrared, the rest are of the standard (and never to be used) flash variety. Nine video cameras but none shoot full-spectrum or anything other than infrared. Also, according to their web site, they are up to 14 investigators now (including 9 of the ever elusive investigator trainees) so that’s a relief. I was starting to worry they might be dangerously close to being understaffed.

As a home or business owner my personal choice would be not to allow 14 people into my space for the night but that’s just me.

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I’m very pleased to be introducing Mississippi Valley Paranormal. A lot of valley’s have paranormal groups apparently. They number 9 members and their motto is “We own the night,” so you know you’re in good hands. Actually nine pairs of hands. That’s 18 hands. Again with the matching shirts but this time with a twist. Their job title is on the front so I assume that means if they get promoted (or God forbid demoted), they need a new shirt.

Again, according to their web site, they’re now up to 10 members (20 hands) so everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. The two things I picked up on by looking at their site is that they use flash photography exclusively and their EVP’s all contain what sounds like all of them speaking at once at a family BBQ. So you can tell they are very serious about what they do and are highly committed to their craft. If I thought my place was haunted I personally would look elsewhere but again, maybe that’s just me.

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Allow me to introduce PITU (Paranormal Investigations Team of Utah). According to their web site, they’re a proud member of the TAPS (Ghost Hunters) family so you know you’re getting a quality product here. Again with the flash photography but hey, they’re a TAPS member so who am I to question their methods. I give them credit for sporting two varieties of their team shirt (which apparently comes in both white or black) and they sure do seem happy so they must be doing something right.

By my count they are 9 members strong. That’s only 8 more than is necessary so I’ll cut them some slack. Overall, aside from the enormous size of the team and the matching t-shirts, I’ll give them a solid C- based mostly on what appears to be an overall sunny disposition.

Oh wait, I forgot about the TAPS affiliation. Sorry PITU. That’s going to cost you. But wait, this is about to go to a whole new level.

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Just when you thought it was safe to let the wife and kids wander outside again I present to you L.I.P.I. (Long Island Paranormal Investigators). Let me just warn you ahead of time that what you are about to read is brutal. L.I.P.I., aside from being 15 members strong, also holds the distinction of not only having 3 auxiliary members (because let’s be honest, who can function seriously with only 15 people on the team) but they also have taken the job title gimmick to new heights. Not only are you given a job title, but according to their web site, you are also given a rank. Following is a list of the ranks their investigators hold:

Colonel, Lt. Colonel, Sergeant Major, 1st Sergeant, Sergeant, Corporal, Private 1st Class, Private 2nd Class as well as a probationary title.

I swear to you I’m not making this up. No word on their saluting policy or what time revelry is. The good news is that if you happen to live in the area, they are accepting applications. With only 18 investigators in the pool this seems like a logical choice. They are also an official member of something called The Professional Association of Ghost Hunters so would be the right choice were you to have some ghosts that needed hunting (and required a professional).

11801571-large Another variety you may encounter is the angry team. These are the ones that really mean business and aren’t afraid to come to your home or place of business and really raise some hell. Generally these will be an all-male cast and obviously fans of Ghost Adventures (although they view them as a little soft and too mainstream).

I’m not even sure where these cats are from but come on, he’s rocking a Dolce & Gabbana lid. I’m going to assume the one in the middle is the alpha male or lead antagonist but that’s just a hunch.

These teams are usually smaller in numbers but make up for it in pure bravado and posturing. If you think your house is haunted by your dearly departed aunt Stella, don’t call these guys unless you’re OK with her being called a chicken-shit little bitch.

This variety of investigator has never met a ghost they’re scared of, unless they actually see one and then all bets are off. Once they stop running they tend to get brave again rather quickly and will start accusing the ghost of a pussy-ass sneak attack which isn’t how real men do it.

ECGT Team

Teams like East Coast Ghost Trackers are sort of a hybrid. Not your standard run-of-the-mill ghost hunters but not quite angry either. They are a new breed of investigators using cutting edge technology, like dogs.

Toss in some camo pants (so the ghosts only see you from the waist up), matching black shirts and tactical vests and you’re almost there. Although not a written rule, generally the ones in charge wear baseball caps as well. I can’t say for certain but I think one of them might be carrying pepper spray. East Coast Ghost Trackers are a large team of 6 but in all fairness one of them is in charge of picking up dog poo and the other takes him for walkies.

Is any of this starting to remind you of a circus yet? The most refreshing thing that could happen in the paranormal investigation field is for people to actually start thinking for themselves instead of letting horrible television shows do it for them. How difficult is it to look at things from the perspective of the spirit side? What would a spirit that lived in the 1800’s think of these combat black ops soldiers and their big dog? My guess is not much.

I’ve been doing this for awhile and my web site has been active the entire time. At no time have I ever taken a group photo (or even an individual photo of myself) and placed it on the site. Nowhere on portlandghosts.com will you see a picture of me, or anyone else for that matter. This isn’t about me and getting face time anywhere isn’t why I do this. I get approached at least twice a month by producers and others asking for my involvement in their latest television project and have a perfect track record in turning them down. You can’t accomplish your own goals playing by someone else’s rules. I believe that the fact that I want nothing to do with any of it is why I am able to experience the things I do. My hero’s are people like Tesla, Lincoln and Einstein, not Zak Bagans and Beyonce.

The Cycle of Greed

Not long ago one of the big things to brag about was that your group did not charge for your ‘investigative services.’ This was a big deal and showed potential clients that you meant business and that your heart was really in it. This was all fine and dandy until the ghost hunters figured out a way to make money out of their little hobby while still maintaining their not-for-profit integrity.

The solution they came up with was pure genius. Paranormal workshops. You’re not charging for your services, you’re charging for your vast amount of knowledge and experience in all things ghostly. Reserve a room at the local library and charge $20 a head to attend your paranormal lecture and workshop. You can still maintain your ‘we don’t charge for investigations’ creed while making money off people who apparently like to waste money.

They don’t see it as profiting from the dead as a normal person would. No, this is a chance to meet a real live ghost hunter and learn from the best. After all, those t-shirts don’t print themselves and nobody’s buying them so they need a revenue flow from somewhere.ghosthunter-02

I view anyone who burns money to attend a paranormal workshop the same way I do someone screwing around in the ocean who gets attacked by a shark. The entire thing was completely avoidable and you can’t blame the shark.

As far as the people making money off a paranormal workshop (as well as the cookie cutter groups mimicking what they see on television), take a step back and look at what you’re doing from an outside perspective. If you’re still OK with how you conduct yourselves, how you’re viewed by others (clients and other researchers) and the current format you’re using, then by all means, enjoy yourself. Just try not to leave a mess for the rest of us to clean up after you do your damage.

If you’re someone who wants to get involved in the field and is becoming frustrated with the results of trying to join an existing group, take a real good look at them and decide if that’s something you actually want to have your name attached to. You may be far better off doing this on your own, the way you feel it should be done and without the insult of being labeled a Private 2nd Class investigator in training.

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Spot the Mistakes for Yourself

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Not too long ago I was invited to observe an investigation done by a “TAPS Certified” team in Northern Colorado. It was at the home of one of the most high-profile people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, Stan Romanek. There I was witness to a team of 12 (yes twelve) ghost hunters running around an 1100 square foot home like it was circus, needless to say, I was appalled. When I saw how they were conducting the investigation, I just took a quiet corner by the hearth at the far end of the living room and filmed in disbelief. Needless to say, they were never invited back.Since that night, I have completed well over 8 investigations in Stan’s home and find it one of the most paranormally compelling locations I’ve ever had the pleasure of investigating. See if you can spot everything that they did that was certainly unprofessional by this huge team.

Jari Mikkola – Desert Highlands Paranormal Research