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Volume One - Getting Started ( Your First Investigation )

    So You Want to investigate claims of paranormal activity. Why? And what do you expect it to be? Let's clear the air on that before we even start. If you watched a couple ghost hunters on TV and expect to do what they do, Forget It! TV Shows are not investigations; they are scripted shows for entertainment of their audience to sell ads and make money for the producers. That's all it is. The "fear" is faked to add to the suspense. It draws in viewers and viewers equate to ratings. So if that's your goal, you might as well move on to something more productive.

    On the other hand, if you want to actually do a serious investigation you came to the right place. This Volume will take you through the preparations and inform you how investigations are really done. Like anything there are right and wrong ways to go about it. This essay will outline the right way. It will use a couple of my investigations to lay bare what worked and what didn't. It will spell out what you can expect and outline what equipment you need as well as what to avoid. This volume gets you started, later volumes will delve into the details and theories behind various aspects of paranormal research.

Volume One Chapter Index

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1 - What Constitutes Paranormal? Types of Investigations

    Let's start at the beginning. What is the paranormal and what does investigating it require? Two considerations are apparent. The first involves what we do; the second involves how we do it. To begin we need to define what Paranormal is. The word consists of two phrases, "Para" meaning apart from or outside, the second "Normal" meaning that which is explained or natural in nature. Thus "Paranormal" means apart from the natural. That would encompass anything that is outside of the expected or not what happens every day. Today many use it to refer to those things related to ghosts, spirits, or haunting. It actually includes those as well as UFOs, aliens, cryptids and creatures not normally seen where they were sighted, as well as other unexplained events. In short, just about anything out of the ordinary.

    When I first started investigating claims of paranormal activity, I was mostly interested in UFO and claims of alien activity. People were claiming abductions and missing time. Some said they were victims of alien implants which were a result of medical experiments on them. Others claimed contact with extraterrestrial beings of various races. But substantial evidence was hard to come by. It was almost like a sci-fi story, only these were real people claiming a real experience. The reports came in and case files were building up but conclusions were in short supply. Then in the mid 1970s a flurry of activity of all types was suddenly reported from across the country.

    These reports expanded the investigations into other areas besides just UFOs. It was becoming clear that to investigate UFO activity one also needs to include creature sightings, ghosts and the spiritual side as well as those claims which didn't fit the mold as we understood it. So the field grew in scope as these new areas were included. Today most paranormal investigators include these areas of study to some degree. But others still specialize to some extent based on their interests. It's not required you cover everything, but it certainly does help when the time comes that one case merges with another type of case. That is where your interest comes in, you need to decide the extent you want to expand into each and conduct field work.

    Methods of investigations vary between various types of case as well. For example, if you are doing creature or Bigfoot research you may find yourself being proactive. You may go out into the field actually searching for the creature. This may be in response to a sighting or it may be just your own sense of adventure leading you on. Either way is fine, but it is more of a hunt with the outcome uncertain. Ghosts and haunting cases differ from those to some degree. With these you may find yourself drawn to a particular location rather than just a random search. Sometimes history and legend play a more important role in these cases than in some other types. Today this seems to be the type of cases many get involved with due to the popularity of many TV shows. In any event, you often go out and explore locations based on their history rather than just pick a location and start searching. UFO cases are more random. While certain locations do seem to favor sightings, these are more scattered about. They can crop up anywhere, and when they do there is little probability they will recur at the same location. As an investigator you generally interview the witness and get their story after the fact. Witness testimony is your strongest form of evidence. Of course there are exceptions, sometimes investigators go out and do sky watches hoping to witness something for themselves, but success in this manner is somewhat limited. What you do actually see is often just a distant light in the sky or maybe an occasional meteor streaking across a dark night. That's not really unexplained though. Meteors are quite normal, and that light in the sky is often just a plane.

    Another factor related to the type of investigation is the equipment you require. Some items such as a camera and ability to keep notes are general across the board for all investigators. But equipment needs vary as you specialize. Even the camera requirements have certain limitations that differ between types of cases. For example, if you are using your camera in an investigation related to an alleged haunting you will likely be taking pictures in a more confined area than you would if you were looking up at a distant target in the sky. You may have a greater need to zoom in on the object from a distance than you would in a building looking across a room. In the latter case, a wide angle lens would be better to take in the entire room in one or two shots. If you are involved in doing EVP research a good quality audio recorder is essential, and it may also be helpful in the woods to record sounds should a creature call out, but in the case of UFOs, probably not so important. With this in mind you can decide which type of investigations you are going to concentrate on. Or if you do like I have, get equipment suitable for all, then pick and choose what you need based on the case you are working at the time.

    2 - Why Do Investigations Always Happen At Night?

    The short answer to that is they don't. This is simply a holdover from the "Spook Factor" I mentioned on the Main Title Page. You can thank Hollywood for that one. Movies, and later TV, always portrayed the monster lurking in the dark. Evil happens at night. Suspense builds up with all the uncertainty of what to expect. Toss in a few graves and headstones for good measure. And don't forget, the aliens always invade at night so doesn't it stand to reason we would be more fearful in the dark? Along comes the popularity of Para-TV shows and naturally they are going to run with that since fear has always been a driving factor to keep viewer's attention. And of course, since the viewers are the main source of income for the public locations raising money by allowing investigations, it stands to reason they have to go along with what the people paying to investigate expect. People expect to experience what they see on TV.

    But let's look at what investigators who are serious about their work really do. As one trying to find out what is going on, you gather evidence. You want as much evidence as you can obtain; you can never have too much. Then you analyze and attempt to debunk that evidence. Some you can dismiss, some you may determine is legitimate. Knowing what to keep and what is junk takes a keen mind. For that you need all of your wits about you. Finally, after a thorough study you draw your conclusions and hopefully resolve the case. Attention must be paid to all the details otherwise you risk coming to a false conclusion.

    So why would you intentionally blind yourself by going at night, in the dark, and try to gather reliable evidence? If your thought processes are hampered by the preconceptions of fear, just how rational can you be when sifting through evidence? Why would you expect to be at your peak at three o'clock in the morning? You need all of your senses working at maximum efficiency to accomplish those things, not half asleep stumbling around in the dark. Just ask yourself, why you are here? Are you seeking answers or just trying to scare yourself and get a thrill? Are you an investigator or a ghost hunter?

    If you are doing a case involving what you think might be related to a haunting, the only reason to do it at night is if some compelling reason exists that it only happens at night. It could very well be that something is causing the event to happen at a certain time. One case in particular I worked involved noises occurring at 2:30 AM on a regular basis. It was a thumping sound. I even had an audio recording of it and it was definitely nobody's imagination. After a bit of detective work the cause was isolated. The client lived near a pumping station used by the water company and at 2:30 they alternated between two pumps to keep water pressure maintained and equal wear on the pumps. Switching between them caused a slight surge on the line which created a bit of a "water hammer" effect on the line. That one did only happen at night. But it was an exception. And even with that though it was 2:30 in the morning I wasn't in the dark. I turned on a light while investigating.

    Some will make the argument that it's quieter at night; there is less noise to interfere with your investigation. That may be true, but ask yourself, Is it better to have a few things you can't identify or more things that you can? I would opt for being able to rule out what you can rather than a few you can't. If you are working at your best, it is an easy matter to recognize what you encounter and just ignore what you can explain instead of having a few loose ends just hanging. That is why I investigate whenever possible in the daytime, and if I have to go at night, the lights are On.

    Of course other cases have different requirements. UFOs for example almost always are seen at night as lights in the sky. You don't see lights in the sky in the daytime very often. But sometimes your better cases involve more detailed observation, and often those happen in daytime. Bigfoot and creature sightings sometimes occur at night so if you are on one of those cases you may have to investigate at night. Remember what I stated about "compelling reasons"? That is one of them. Creature cases by their nature involve animal behavior. Animals have a pattern of waking / sleeping to deal with. At least that is what we assume. As a result, it would be expected, if Bigfoot is nocturnal, that he would be awake at night and sleeping in daytime. Those reasons would be why one might have better results investigating creature sightings at night.

    But generally, you are better off investigating when your senses are working at full potential, not fumbling around in the dark like the TV ghost busters.

    3 - Public or Private Cases - Are You A Ghost Hunter or Investigator?

    Now it comes down to where you want to go to conduct your investigations. It also becomes a matter of how in depth you wish to go to pursue answers. Let's look at two possibilities that at times seem to contradict each other. The Public Location, or as we like to call them "Pay-To-Play" locations are the more popular sites scattered around the country. Often they have some historical significance and open their doors up to allow ghost investigations as a means to raise funds to maintain the location. There is nothing wrong with that as far as it goes. These are locations I recommend to someone just starting out as an investigator. You can hone your skills without actually putting yourself or a client at risk. In the case of UFO investigation, there are similar opportunities in the form of public sky watches often conducted by astronomy groups where planets, comets, and other celestial bodies can be observed. This too is a good thing because along the way you will begin to recognize these objects for what they are, natural sightings. Being aware of what is seen makes it much easier to separate the natural from something paranormal if it should occur. For those interested in creature sightings, some groups also run events throughout the year that are open to the public to help you become acquainted with the outdoors and what is in the woods. Learning how animals behave in the woods helps you spot something not so normal if it should occur. All of this is very helpful if you are just starting out without putting too much into it if you decide to not follow through at investigating.

    But there is a downside to this form of public investigating. It comes down to answering the question that often comes up in discussion forums. Are you a "Ghost Hunter" or an "Investigator"? First, let's look at Public Investigating. Generally you pay a fee to investigate for a certain period of time, usually at night. Often they give you a general tour of the facility to familiarize you with the building. Then they turn you, and whoever is scheduled for that night, loose to conduct your investigation. So far so good. But everybody is pretty much free to do whatever they want. People are roaming around with no control over access to the place. You are bound to get in each other's way at some point. Evidence, if you capture any, will be contaminated. Is that voice you recorded a spirit or another ghost hunter in the basement? No one can be quite sure.

    And of course everybody has their own equipment. Some of it is certainly some "Ghost Gadget" that is putting out EMF interference that may cause false activation of your EMF meter. Others are just running around waiting for the "Spook Factor" to kick in. They are there not to investigate but only trying to scare themselves on a Saturday Night. To them it's simply a form of entertainment. There are many opportunities for contamination of your evidence.

    With these considerations, how can you actually do an investigation of the location? The answer is you can't, not under those conditions. Some locations do allow you to schedule your own private investigation where you basically rent the place for a night. It is much more expensive, but at least you can control who is there and can set up your own itinerary of points you want to investigate in the location. The quality of your work will be better, but not ideal. The reason is that serious investigations take time. We will get into that when we discuss private cases. Essentially the public location has become a private case when you book it in this manner. But as we will see, doing it this way makes the process much more complex. We need to do pre-investigations, obtain baseline measurements, draw conclusions, and then conduct our work based on this methodology. In short it is no longer a simple one night investigation, rather a series of investigations over a period of time. Of course, this can get expensive!

    Regarding Bigfoot and UFO public events, these are generally more structured. The leader will guide you into the woods and explain what is happening as he goes. You may be using some of your gear, but usually these events are somewhat regulated and shared as though you are part of one large team of "Squatchers". The same is true of sky watches. These are often led by an astronomer who will use his telescope to point out various objects in the sky. Your role here is to go along, learn and observe. Of course when the unexpected object makes an appearance you have a chance to observe it using good astronomical equipment. And if that something isn't a satellite or planet, so much the better! Maybe you can even stump the expert!

    Now on to the private cases. The rest of this section will deal primarily with those. Private cases are those where you have been called in to resolve an issue a client has that may be paranormal in nature. This is also where the "Ghost Hunter" becomes an investigator. The methodology changes. Rather than just an event to attend, you are now setting the path for what you are doing. You develop a protocol and a plan to achieve it. You lay out your outline to keep the investigation on track, all the while being open to adjustment should something happen to warrant such a change. You will be keeping your client in the loop if anything develops he needs to be aware of. And more importantly, the client will keep you in the loop in the event something new happens with regard to the case. It's a two-way street. When I do private cases, I like to think I am just an advisor / consultant to the client. I direct him in what needs done and provide the equipment to do so. But since I can't be there 24/7, much of the legwork is going to fall on the client. Some equipment can help capture evidence, but in many cases it will be up to the client himself to actually gather the data needed. And it will be up to me to instruct the client how to do it correctly.

    4 - Protecting Yourself

    This subject has two concerns; the first is something all investigators interested in private cases must consider. How do you protect yourself from harm while conducting your research? That is addressed by simply carrying insurance. It is not fair to your client to expect his insurance to cover you, although in many cases he is actually liable if something happens to you while you are on his property. Many investigations take place under adverse conditions. You are wandering around, sometimes in the dark, in a location you are not familiar with. There could be animals or other dangers also present. Often the building itself is not in the best of conditions. There may be clutter or other stuff lying around you could trip over. Plus, you may be bringing your own stuff into the area to conduct your work. Who is responsible if you break something in the process?

    And suppose you encounter something dangerous you were unaware of. If power is on, there may be exposed electrical wiring that has been damaged by rodents or maybe a gas leak exposing you to danger. A basement may be unventilated and may have accumulated hydrogen sulfide gas and be putting you at risk. These are just a few possibilities that may be encountered while in the process of investigating. This list is not intended to be inclusive of all that could go wrong. The question here becomes who is ultimately responsible for any injuries incurred? The answer should be, You are. You are the one who is putting yourself at risk, even though you may be responding to a request for assistance. As an investigator, you should be aware of the risks and you have chosen to accept them.

    Which brings up another issue that should not be a problem but sometimes is. Suppose you have chosen to investigate the location yourself. You contact the owner and asked permission to do so.

    You did ask, right? If not you have no business even being there and could be arrested and charged with trespass. Too many do exactly that and are injured or killed by their own stupidity. Hopefully you're not one of them!

    But we will assume you have obtained the required permission and are there conducting your investigation. Why would it be fair to expect the owner's insurance to cover you?? The bottom line is clear; obtain your own liability insurance to cover you and anyone on your team. Besides the peace of mind for you it will also be easier to obtain permission to investigate if you can assure the property owner you have your own insurance in place to protect him from a claim you might have if something does happen.

    The second concern is something that many claim is a risk even though no proof of it actually happening has been shown. It is protecting yourself from something attaching itself to you or following you home. Many make these claims yet such things have never been proven. It is a case of your belief system. If you are convinced you run that risk, go ahead and do whatever you think will protect you. Just be aware that from a scientific point of view, such ritual is not needed and is not effective against a problem that has not been proven to exist. Such threats or their remedy is all in the mind. It is a matter of your belief system .

    Related to that is the risk to the UFO investigator. Tin foil hats notwithstanding, there is no proof aliens or ET represent a threat to you. There are claims of abduction but again, there is no real evidence aside from the claims made. In fact most UFO researchers have never even directly encountered an alien. So the risk factor is very low. You do still encounter some risk when visiting a witness to obtain a report so again so form of insurance is probably a good idea to protect you in case of injury. That would hold true, especially if you and the client decide to trek to the top of a hill some night to check out the location of an alleged sighting. Or if you fell down the steps going out the door.

    When it comes to risks outdoors, those who journey into the woods at night seeking Bigfoot or some other creature take the same chances as the sky watchers who venture into the night. The fact they enter more remote areas may raise their risk of encountering wildlife over that of other researchers. But having a basic awareness of the dangers will help you take steps to minimize the risk. It would about the same risk as anyone who camps out except that the risk of stumbling over something in the dark might be a bit greater. Still it's nothing that should discourage you.

    The final risk is one of our own making, human encounter. Some investigators choose to arm themselves as a means of protection against those who may wish them harm. This raises questions that each individual has to answer for themselves. To what extent are you willing to go if you're threatened? And what are you legally allowed to do? The answer to the latter will depend on your location. Right to Carry laws vary between jurisdictions. What might be legal at your home could land you in deep trouble in another. And even if you are legal in both places, you could be in trouble simply passing through another location on your way to the place you plan to investigate. In short, you need to know the laws and how they relate to your particular case. Another consideration in the case of a private investigation is the will of your client. While it may be legal for you to be armed, your client may object for personal reasons to having an armed individual in his home. That is his right, and something that would need to be discussed before you even consider taking the case. You will need to weigh the risks against whether you choose to do the investigation or simply pass on it. Finally, there is the risk you cause to yourself and others by carrying a weapon under the conditions found on an investigation. Are you able to maintain your composure under adverse conditions? When an element of fear takes over, are you able to safely carry a weapon? Only you can answer that for yourself. Each of us are different in that regard.

      5 - Correcting Any Issues You Encounter

      Once you begin your investigation you may find something obvious the client had overlooked is what is really responsible for what was experienced. This is actually the most common resolution to most claims of paranormal activity, especially those alleged to be a haunting. In the case of creature sightings or UFO reports this is not usually the case. Because of the nature of these cases they are generally somewhat removed from the home of the client. They do not generally stay near the residence so as a rule there is little besides offering an explanation you can do to actually fix the problem. One area may present a question though, What about interpreting the sighting? This is somewhat of a gray area.

      Often the client will make claims that require you to form an opinion based on what is claimed. It may call into question the state of mind of your client. This could open a problem area. Unless you are trained in dealing with medical or mental issues you run a risk of harming your client's health based on what you might advise. You need to be careful what you say and how you say it. The general response if things go that direction is for the client to seek professional help. By making that decision the client makes the final call on what he does. The responsibility shifts from you to the client and whoever he contacts. That takes you off the hook if something negative does happen. Besides, you were brought in to resolve the case, and if it turns out to be a mental or medical issue, that has been accomplished. Your role in the case has been fulfilled.

      In a similar manner you may find something like a pipe banging due to a loose hanger, or an electrical problem with the wiring. Maybe its vermin in the wall or something else of a mundane nature that is responsible for what appears paranormal. Just like the above scenario, unless you are a trained professional in that particular area of expertise, refer the client to a professional. Those in their chosen field know all the tricks and have insurance in place since they are in business doing their line of work. For example, if the plumber tries to fix the pipe and breaks something or floods the basement, he has liability insurance to cover his work. You probably don't. Even if you have a liability policy, as you should, it likely would not cover you if you were trying to actually do work for a client. The same would apply to any specialized field of expertise needed.

      But suppose you actually encounter something that rises to the level of paranormal. Suppose the client asks if you can remove it from his house. Should you try and what if the client offers to pay you to do it? This enters into the discussion points often made by investigators versus ghost hunters. The solution is a matter of proving what you are asked to accomplish. How can you prove you actually removed the spirit from the premises? Can the client watch and see the spirit as you carry it from the house? The obvious answer is "No". So how do you prove you succeeded? You can't.

      That is why respectable investigators do not charge a fee or even expenses. You are there seeking answers or evidence to explore the unknown, not to fix things. It is not a for-profit business. Some have tried to turn a profit, but these are generally considered charlatans and scammers preying on unsuspecting, innocent victims. That is why most investigators look down on them. You do not want that reputation so it's best to avoid trying to charge for something you can't validate.

      Another way some claim to be able to fix a problem is spiritual in nature. They burn sage or incense and attempt to drive away evil using similar methods. And some clients actually claim it worked for them. They even pay for it. But does it really do any good? It seems to, at least at first. But almost invariably a few months later the spirit has returned. Often the client says it's worse than before. So what happened? Is this only a temporary measure that needs treated on a regular basis? Of course it is and there is a good reason why.

      The reason is suggestion. The fact the ghost hunter showed up and did something the client believed in reinforces his claim. First, by burning the sage the client's belief system is strengthened by the fact someone actually believes him. He feels this person must know what he is doing by burning the sage or whatever measures are taken. And of course he supports that by saying the spirit has departed. The scammer collects his fee and leaves. But the support structure is now gone, and doubt will begin to creep back into the client's mind. A few months later something will happen, a sound, a feeling, an impression that the client experiences. Doubt returns along with the client's fear. So the ghost hunter gets a call-back. And the cycle repeats itself. Out comes more sage, some other ritual, something else to try. And each time the client pays a bit more to keep his place free of spirits. And the scammer heads off to the bank until next time.

      This is why serious investigators don't charge. They admit if a spirit is present they cannot actually do anything to remove it. But even more important the probability of a spirit actually being the cause is very remote. As an investigator I can count on one hand the number of cases that I could not explain by natural means. And the number of cases that have been confirmed as paranormal is exactly zero. That isn't to say there may not be something to the others, only that I could not explain them using the evidence available. It's usually a lack of supporting data that rules out conclusively attributing them to the paranormal. Investigators deal with evidence, and sometimes it's just not there, so conclusions are also open to interpretation. If you have a problem dealing with that perhaps the field of paranormal investigation is not for you. Stick to Saturday Night Ghost Hunting to satisfy your quest for adventure.

      6 - Client Confidentiality

      If you are confining your investigations to public locations confidentiality is usually not an issue. Most public locations are more than happy to get their location exposed to people who may be interested in also coming to their site. The advertising is welcome! More people means more revenue and this helps them keep the site open. But it is a different story for most private cases. The clients usually expect some degree of anonymity regarding their location or any evidence. One of the first things you do when taking on a new client is determine their level of confidentiality. Investigators have different ways of doing this, but I will outline the method I use and what each means to how the case is shared.

      First of all, if you share information of any kind about a case, it won't be long until someone will ask for contact information so they can verify your claims or find out more on their own about the case. I use a Three Level classification for confidentiality which determines how detailed anything I share becomes. But regardless of which the client chooses, I NEVER reveal contact information. My policy is that anyone who wants to contact my client will instead give me their contact information which I will pass along to the client. At that point it is up to the client to reach out to them if they choose to do so. If they choose not to get back to the party desiring contact that is fine as well. Full names, phone numbers, e-mail or messaging addresses, and definitive street addresses are never given out. Nor are any photos that can be used to identify a location released unless anything that might identify a location is blurred out. The client can do so if he chooses, but anything he shares is on him and not my problem.

      Now that it's clear about contact information, the three level method allows the client to establish the details of his case he chooses to allow me to share with others. The cover page of the case files is where I keep contact information on the client for my own use. Directly after that is a section where the client determines which of three level he chooses share. The Confidentiality Section from my form is shown below:

      Confidentiality Level Choice for your Case File:

      Your case will be assigned a Confidentiality Level 1, 2, or 3 as you choose. A description of what is shared or withheld in each is outlined below. Check the level you desire:

        Level 1 is the least restrictive. With this some personal information is shared where it may be applicable to the case. Ages and sex of individuals may be shared along with some details of how the case relates to those people. ( No names of minor children are shared.) The case may be released to the public in a newsletter format as an update on related activity in the area. Your location will be given down to street level. (No house numbers though.) But such releases are limited to only the details directly related to the case itself. No opinions are offered regarding the case, however any definitive conclusions may be released. Your case may be reviewed by other researchers where an outside consultant is required provided this person also uses a similar confidentiality program where the level you choose here also applies to them. If this is your choice, Check Level 1 here.___________

        Level 2 places more limits on what may be released. Limited personal information is released, ages and sex of individuals are not released. The case may be released to the public in a newsletter however it will be of a more general nature. Your location will be defined at a city level rather than a street level. Your city may be released but no street names or numbers. General conclusions may be released in conjunction with the case, but only to the extent needed to verify any data being released. Data may be shared with other researcher as consultants, but only to the extent needed and with the stipulation any consultant maintains your desired level of confidentiality or greater. If this is your choice, Check Level 2 here.___________

        Level 3 is extremely limited regarding data released. Your personal data is withheld; any reference to you will be to "the witness", or something similar. Data will be restricted to general terms and locations such as "A glowing object was seen over Western Pennsylvania." No towns or cities are released at this level. General conclusions may be released if something becomes apparent, but no details directly related to your case are available. Releases are limited to statistical data only. This would be useful in those cases where something is seen by multiple witnesses to help provide validation to a sighting, but no details regarding precisely what you saw will be available. This data may be passed along in this limited form where it may be used to validate another sighting if one was made. In this limited form the data may only help confirm another sighting of the same thing if one was made. Due to the limitations it will not likely be passed along and expert consultants may not be used even if they might otherwise be helpful at deriving a conclusion. This is the most restrictive choice and may be too limited for any serious research to be conducted, but If this is your choice, Check Level 3 here.___________

        When choosing a Confidentiality Level keep in mind one thing. You may later revise it and it can be altered. It may be made less restrictive with no consequences. However if you choose to make it more restrictive, data already released cannot be recalled. Once released it is out to the public to the extent you previously placed it.

      One more item related to confidentiality involves cases released as a part of a document. It is my policy that if anything is to be used as a part of any book, part of a seminar talk, or other larger document that would be approached separately with any special considerations added at that time. In other words if I wanted to include your case in a workshop situation, I would provide you with an explanation of what I was doing and you would have the option to approve or disallow such use of your information. This would hold true regardless of which Confidentiality Level you chose.

      7 - Investigate Alone or Form A Team?

      That's a tough one! Some say you should never investigate alone, others have no problem doing so. It comes down to what feels comfortable for you. Another consideration is the case itself. Does it put you at risk? Do you feel comfortable doing a face to face interview alone? Is there yet another option? Let's examine the pros and cons of each.

      First of all, if you are doing a public location, sky watch, or spending the night "Squatching, you probably can do that alone simply because these locations are open to the public anyway. Even if you arrive alone you will have others around doing the same thing you are. It is almost like a team only without the headaches running a team can cause.

      The problems arise if you are doing a private investigation. You may have received a request to investigate a location from someone you have never met. They want to meet up and fill you in on the details. How safe do you feel under those conditions? If you are part of a team, there are several of you supporting each other. Hopefully their expertise covers multiple areas and each has a chance ask questions and conduct the interview. Later, as you set up your protocol for the investigation, each of you can provide input based on what each experienced while doing the interview.

      Then there is the Chain Of Custody of any evidence you gather. With multiple people on site it is easier to validate what each says. Suppose you actually got great evidence of something. Who actually saw it besides yourself? If you need someone to validate what you saw and you are alone, who provides the validation? And if someone asks if anyone else had access to the data, who substantiates it when you say, "It never left my sight". It's a common problem with any form of investigation. Clearly the concept of a team has merit.

      But it also has downfalls. Any time you get a group of people the group politics start. Who is in charge? Who decides where we go this week? And trying to get a group of people together always has problems arranging schedules. Does the group have a "Case Manager" whose job it is to arrange the activities? If you are investigating alone, most of this is not an issue. But some groups have a hard time making it work when friction builds between members. Is there another option?

      I would say yes, there is. Starting in the mid 1980s I was a member of an association. It's like a group only not as structured. It also addressed the problem of having experts available as consultants when they were needed. The association resolved the "Who is in charge?" question by having a rotating chairman rather than a designated leader. Each of us had our turn based on simply taking our turn when it came up. The case manager issue was also solved by giving that position to whoever took the case. If you came up to me with something and I decided I would look into it, I just became primary investigator on that case. Each associate had some specialized skill set that made him an expert in a particular area of study. Most had degrees in their chosen field. Thus we had a readymade group of consultants available we could call on when needed. (By the way, I was Electronics and instrumentation.) But we had a biologist, a chemist, a physicist, medical doctor, a licensed psychologist, a lawyer, and over the years a few other professionals available as needed without going outside the association. I could bring in any of these other associates as secondary investigator(s) on my case. Likewise I would be brought in as needed by any of them if the need arose. The problem of "Who's in charge?" was resolved. Whoever took the case was in charge, all consultants were secondary to that case. So each of us was both primary and secondary at any given time. We were investigating cases both nationwide and a few foreign locations. It worked well for 38 years till our ages began catching up with us. We dissolved the association in 2023 but some of us still investigate when we can.

      To conclude there are advantages and disadvantages to groups and individual investigators. Personally I prefer going it alone. That frees me up to join or work with any team without feeling disloyal to anybody. I act as a consultant to several groups without causing conflict. And I still have contacts I can call on as needed, plus a few new ones I connect with along the way.

    A look at a public location investigation

      8 - Your First Investigation - Get Your Gear to Get Started!

      So let's go on your first investigation. The first thing you need is to go out and get some gear to conduct it, right? Actually, no. TV ghost hunters might run around using a lot of flashy lights and beeping things that capture spirits on audio and video. But as we will see later in this report, the concept they use is flawed in many ways. Much of the ghost hunting equipment does not do what is claimed for it. And people have been conditioned to expect a certain outcome even if it has no basis in fact. But we'll get into that later as we explore each device on its own merit. This is your first investigation so here we are only concerned with the basics. This covers the minimum you need to get started. Rather pointless to buy a bunch of stuff if it turns out investigating is not for you. But the basics are something you can use no matter if this is your first or 400th investigation. Let's look at what you need to get going.

      It is likely your first location is going to be a public one. These usually have many people around so the concerns about evidence contamination are very real. That means anything you actually do encounter will probably not be able to be verified. Your first exploration will be more about doing it right than actually obtaining valid data. For that it's not about the equipment so much as how you use it. Let's gather up our gear and get ready to go!

        A notepad and pencil are probably your most useful items to carry with you. An alternative to that is a voice recorder. The recorder is not for capturing spirits, rather it is used the same as the notepad, to record interviews and your log of the investigation. If you take a tour of the location as a form of pre-investigation, you might also record that as a description of the location for historical reference.

        A camera is also good to make visual record of the location. Again this would be prior to your actual investigation and would be valuable pointing out items that might later influence your data on the actual investigation. If this is a pre-investigation you can also use a phone camera, just keep in mind you will need a better camera when it comes time to do the actual investigation.

        A good Flashlight will help you get around after dark, Being able to see where you are going helps prevent falling down the steps if you stumble!

        An open mind is the most important thing to bring along. That means not jumping to conclusions. Just because something seems unusual does not mean its paranormal. You may experience a sense of fear as your mind wanders. But that is probably just fear feeding on itself. The rational mind will recognize this for what it is and you can take steps to calm yourself. You have been preconditioned before you even arrived at the location by the simple fact you are going to a location that is allegedly haunted. Obviously this sets you up for a level of fear to kick in. Remember one fact about investigating the paranormal, The Paranormal by nature is rare, most things can be explained if we just take the time to look at all the facts. This brings us to the final thing to bring along,

        An Analyzing mind. It goes along with an open mind. This where we take what has been obtained on the investigation and debunk that which can be discounted. The open mind includes all data regardless of how it fits our preconceptions, the analyzing mind discounts things which do not go together. If it defies the laws of physics, some means must be provided to explain not just what happens but why. And might there be another explanation if we break from our preconceptions? All this must be taken into account when determining a conclusion. Now that we have our gear rounded up, let's move on with the actual investigation.

    A look at a public location investigation

      9 - Volume 1 - A Public Location and Your First Investigation

      It is usually recommended that if you have never gone on an investigation before you begin with a public, or Pay-To-Play site. These are less critical if you do something wrong. It is also less likely to create a problem since no clients are depending on you as you learn how to do an investigation. If you are doing a private case, you should be going with a more seasoned investigator who can guide you along the way. If you have no experience you have no business doing a private case yourself. Everyone needs to learn at some point before going on. But if you are with another investigator on such a case, you can skip this part as this deals with Public Locations. Part Three covers private cases.

      This section will provide a synopsis of an investigation I did at Waverly Hills and covers the methods I used as well as the results obtained. It is not intended as a how-to for all investigations, rather it simply shows an example of being flexible and able to adjust things as you go. It will point out a couple errors I made as well as how one cannot always get everything right every time. It also demonstrates the inherent flaw with most public locations; a lack of sufficient time to do a thorough investigation.

      The Pre-Investigation

      Often public locations are places formerly used as hospitals, prisons, hotels, schools or other such facilities. As such they have a history behind them. Knowing this history is important if you are to do a serious investigation. They also often offer a public tour in the daylight to visitors. I recommend if such a tour is offered that you arrive in time to take it before you actually do the ghost tour or spend the night investigating. I should also point out one more thing regarding when you investigate. Most places provide their ghost tours at night because that's what the public expects. In reality there is no reason to investigate at night unless something about the case indicates it only happens after dark. The fact is the paranormal can occur anytime, and investigating at night is discouraged for the simple reason your vision is impaired. If the purpose of an investigation is to find answers why would you expect find them if you can't see what is causing it? But since the location controls when they offer the ghost hunt, you are stuck following the schedule they set. Take the daytime tour and learn the history, then apply that to your investigation later.

      This is where your voice recorder comes in. As you tour the facility, make note of anything said that may be useful later. Sometimes it is even allowed to record the guide as he or she relates the history, (Some locations do not allow recording so you'll need to just make your own notations.) If you are using the notepad method you are limited to what you write down. The audio method does allow the actual inflections in the voice of the guide to be recorded along with the data.

      After the tour there is usually a period of time where the location closes to the public and before your scheduled ghost hunt begins. Use this time to review your notes and make note of any particular concerns you have. You might also decide to concentrate on a particular area of the facility. This is a common mistake many make when they are turned loose in a large location; they try to see it all. The lack of time limits the degree you can cover a large building or grounds. As a result you do a poor quality investigation of the entire place instead of a good investigation of the key points of interest.

      Another advantage to limiting your activities is it can be used to limit the amount of interference from others who may be with the group but not a part of your team. We'll see shortly how I was able to use this to my advantage on a recent investigation of one of the allegedly most haunted places in the country, Waverly Hills Sanatorium. This will also demonstrate how doing a bit of advance work regarding history can aid in doing a thorough investigation even under less than ideal conditions.

      10 - A Public Location Investigation - Waverly Hills Sanatorium

      Waverly Hills Sanatorium is a location often featured on TV shows. Many shows have conducted investigations there and I decided I wanted to see it for myself. So I paid the admission fee, and joined a public ghost hunt they offered. The first thing I did was a bit of research online to read up on what others had said about it. Where were the hot spots? What part of the building had a lot of activity reported? How long would I have to investigate? Knowing these details allowed me to make best use of the time I had there.

      Waverly Hills Sanatorium - A Bit of History

      Waverly Hills Sanatorium was founded in 1910 as a result of the outbreak of tuberculosis. It is southwest of Louisville, Kentucky. Death and mistreatment was common in those places back in the early 20th century. This has led to its reputation of being haunted that continues to this day. Many stories have been told about life in the hospital, some true and other certainly exaggerated. Legends state that a total of 63,000 died there over the years. The more realistic number can confirm 8212 deaths before the place shut down for good in 1982. A couple points where activity has been reported are Room 502 where Nurse Mary Hillenberg hung herself from a light fixture in 1928. Supposedly she was pregnant with the child of a doctor and she also feared the tuberculosis she had been exposed to. In 1932 another nurse also leaped to her death from the window of this room. Beneath Waverly Hills is a 500 ft (150 meter) long tunnel that the staff used for entering and exiting the building and to help bring up materials. When the illness, and thus the number of deaths, was at its peak, the staff used this tunnel to carry the bodies outside. They didn't want to upset the other patients. The tunnel was then transformed as a body chute. On the third floor, the children's wing, a girl without eyes is often seen and there is a boy there who's playing with his ball. (Some stories put the boy, Timmy, on the fourth floor.)

      Before I went I obtained and read the history of the place. From that I determined I would concentrate most of my efforts on the Body Chute, The hallway where the boy rolled a ball, and Room 502. After taking the tour earlier in the day, I decided I would do the Body Chute first, Room 502 second, and the hallway where the ball was located in whatever time I had left before I had to end my work. I, and another associate headed off to Louisville.

      After taking the visitor tour, I decided due to Room 502 being somewhat exposed to the elements and subject to noise contamination, I would instead do the hallway before it. That is why the pre-investigation is important, it saved a lot of time moving equipment and setting up only to find less than ideal conditions. So what did I find out? Let's look at the Body Chute first.

      We began by walking down to the gate at the bottom of the tunnel. The tunnel itself was damp and cooler but other than that we noticed nothing out of the ordinary. The gate itself was locked so we could not go out from here, although the warmer outside air coming in was apparent. No one else was in the tunnel while we were here; most of the others had decided to explore elsewhere in the building. This worked to our advantage by minimizing the possibility of evidence contamination.

      We allowed for some time to observe the environment for anything that might be present but only darkness and the dampness of the tunnel was encountered. We turned around and looked back up the tunnel to see a distant vague form in the distance. It almost appeared human-like in shape, but no real detail could be seen. I attempted a picture and got only the tunnel fading into darkness in the distance. Nothing was evident in the image but it should be noted that the form did appear to be more than 75 feet away. This is well beyond the range of my flash so the lack of anything does not rule out that it was present. Though the picture did not show it, we could see it enough to make a good guess how far away it was from our location. We decided to head back toward it for a better look, however as we did the form appeared to just fade away. Along the way we did obtain some readings related to the environment inside the tunnel. At the time we were there it was 69 degrees F with a relative humidity of 80 to 85 %. This was very close the dew point, so water vapor was definitely a possibility for an explanation. But why did it form then disperse under relatively stable conditions?

      After going back up the Death Chute for about 75 feet we arrived at the area we saw the vaporous form. We looked around as well as up and down the tunnel and saw nothing unusual. What we did notice here was that we were only a couple feet from one of the several vent openings to the outside in the roof of the tunnel. This was no coincidence as we soon found out.

      What soon became apparent was the opening went directly outside through just a few feet of earth. The obvious question was what effect this might have on the conditions inside the tunnel. We decided to test for air flow but did not have an anemometer with us. So after a bit of thought we decided to work with what we did have. We found a few strips of mylar ribbon in our toolkit that was left over from a previous investigation. A support was rigged so we could see any air movement by how the hanging strips of ribbon responded. Using a piece of cord we stretched this makeshift "anemometer" across the tunnel near the ceiling.

      It took a few minutes but eventually the ribbon indicated air movement. Looking around us the air was taking on a vague cloudiness. Water vapor was starting to condense in the tunnel below the vent. The airflow was found to be coming in the vent and moving toward the gate and lower end of the chute. We were standing inside the "ghost" as it formed in the tunnel.

      It only lasted a couple minutes before the airflow turned and began to reverse direction. It was exiting the tunnel through the vent. Almost immediately with the change of conditions the vapor began to vanish. Our ghost was gone, out the vent. Since we were in the tunnel we can only speculate at what someone outside might have thought if they saw the sudden appearance of a ghostly form in the woods above the vent opening below Waverly Hills Sanatorium! From the inside, this image shows our view of the trees through the vent, looking up from the darkness below.

      This went on for a couple hours while we observed this cycle repeat itself and confirmed air currents and temperature / humidity readings as this transition took place. It was obvious the "haunted Death Tunnel" was a natural occurence caused by environmental influences. One interesting factor was we tried to monitor another vent opening but that one never produced the effect. The only difference with the second vent was that the humidity reading was about 5% lower than that found at the first vent. It shows just how critical having accurate readings can be on an investigation. That 5% determined whether or not we had a "ghost".

      We spent more time in the Death Tunnel than we planned, besides some of the other people on the ghost hunt were starting to make their way to this point so we decided to move on to the third floor and play ball with Timmy! Some of the other people on the ghost hunt were still wandering around in this part of the structure and distant voices were heard as they talked among themselves. Fortunately we didn't have any EVP work planned for tonight!

      Once there we first looked around the area for anything such as air vents or anything else that might cause a ball to roll across the floor. The ball placed there by the staff was lying motionless on the floor. A couple people walked by, paused, and then went on. The ball remained stationary. We were in an adjoining room when my associate noticed the ball roll across the hallway by itself. Immediately we went out to see what was happening. The ball just slowly rolled down the hall then stopped on its own. We took a couple pictures around the area but none showed anything unusual. So what rolled the ball?

      The first thing we thought of was air movement. And the makeshift anemometer worked well before down in the Death Tunnel, why not here? So we took the old school approach and stretched out our mylar stringers across the hall above the ball. It took a while but finally the ball moved again, this time in the opposite direction we saw it move earlier. And the mylar ribbons also moved the same direction. Shortly later the ball rolled back where it had just came from, and the stringers showed air went the same way. Air was responsible for the ball moving, but why? It was the middle of the night and there was no apparent breeze outside. What caused the air to move?

      The building itself may hold the clue to that. Built back in 1910 Waverly Hills predated air conditioning. The design is a "bat wing" and was made that way to concentrate any air toward the center to provide a cooling effect. To make matters worse, The windows on the upper floors are missing. This allowed any slight air movement to be drawn directly inside. Convection currents outside easily found their way into the building through the missing window openings. The riddle of the rolling ball was solved. Air moved it not a child rolling it.

      By now we had only an hour or so to go before our investigation would be over as our time was about up and we would have to leave. We had hoped to do an EVP session in Room 502, but there was not enough time. Besides the amount of extraneous noise was growing as morning approached. This would have to wait till another time. So we spent the remainder of our time exploring and observing the architecture of the building. That in itself, while not paranormal was one of the highlights of the trip.

      11 - Evaluation of the Investigation at Waverly Hills Sanatorium

      One of the common things investigators do after an investigation has concluded is document their findings. That holds true for all investigations, public or private. Even TV shows do this in the final "Reveal" portion of the program where they sit down with the client and make them aware of what transpired. In the case here I will attempt to do likewise. What went well and what didn't, as well as any problems encountered will be outlined in an effort to make the next investigation go better.

      The importance of a pre-investigation is obvious here even though an extensive evaluation could not be done due to limited time. What we did have to our favor was the background information on several aspects of Waverly Hills. This allowed some preparation and being able to establish a few experiments and observations we planned to carry out. We were able to bring along equipment related to what we planned without being burdened down with a lot of extraneous gear. From that the two points of interest covered above were studied and the results determined with a great degree of accuracy. What we lacked was time. This is a problem often encountered in any large facility. Some of the building only got a brief time for a quick walk-through. Without actually doing a complete investigation we could neither confirm nor dismiss some claims made for the location. That would require a future trip and more time.

      Another issue we encountered was a general distrust on the part of the staff. Why would this be true? There is an easy answer for that. As serious investigators we looked for the common explanation rather than the paranormal one. But the facility requires visitors who will continue to come and pay for the opportunity to investigate. If too many start finding common explanations these visitors will stop coming. This has a direct influence on the funds they raise. The facility may have considered us a threat to their livelihood. We found no evidence the Waverly Hills staff had tried to hoax anything, but some such public locations have been found to do just that. Such attempts are something any investigator doing public locations must be aware of and alert to the possibility.

      Other people in the building was another concern. In our case the location is large enough that the groups were widely separated and not a major problem. But we still had to be aware of the potential they could contaminate our evidence. We were able to minimize this by being flexible and adjusting our protocol to keep us away from most of the others as we went about our work.

      Another consideration is the ability to improvise. No matter what you have it will not be what you need at the time. In our case it was an anemometer. We have one, but somehow it missed getting packed up. That sort of thing happens to everybody at one time or another. Fortunately we were able to improvise by going old school; the stringers of mylar ribbon hanging from the ceiling did the job.

      In conclusion the trip was productive. We managed to do a decent investigation as well as another highlight of the day. We took in the historical aspect and architecture of the building. Between our pre-investigation research and what we actually saw, the trip was worthwhile. It will probably warrant a return trip at some point to pick up where we left off.

      12 - A Private Case - What You Need to Know.

      As I said earlier, Private Cases are generally best handled after you gain some experience. No one should take on one of these just starting out. There are too many things that might go wrong, and the possibility of doing real harm exists if you do the wrong thing. But if you have done a few public locations, and are with a more experienced investigator, the time will come to join in on a private case. Part Three will cover what to expect. Like the Public Location, it begins with a pre-investigation.

      Much of the case described here is from my case files and covers one aspect of a larger event which actually extended over a period of time. The information provided here is not the complete case history; Witness Confidentiality must be respected so certain details will not be posted. But what is here has been cleared for publication. I was contacted by the witnesses who had concerns for their child. The child was showing scratches on two occasions after waking in the morning. These scratches consisted of three parallel marks on the lower arm on both occasions. Obviously this raised the parents' concerns about what was happening to their child and whether it posed a serious threat. I arranged a pre-investigation interview to obtain more details about what was going on.

      The Pre-Investigation

      Unlike the public location, a pre-investigation on a private case is more personal. I try to do that interview in person before actually beginning any serious work. From that session I determine what protocol is best to establish the course of action the investigation needs to take. In this particular case, I had interviewed the witnesses in conjunction with earlier unrelated events so I had a baseline established. Had this been a new client, I would be looking for indications if it was either a hoax or fabrication. I also would be looking for any motivation the client might have for wanting this to be paranormal or other such conditioning that could account for making these claims. This is also the point where I sometimes consult with a psychologist who is an associate I work with. But in this particular instance that has already been done and I was satisfied the claims were legitimate to the best of the witness's ability to relate them.

      The interview was mostly concerned with getting a detailed description of what was going on. The parents said they noticed the scratches on the arm on two occasions about two days apart. The child said the scratches were there in the morning and not in the evening. I pointed out that in most cases of this nature it turns out the individual receiving the marks is usually found to be doing it to their selves, but if the parents wanted to pursue this I had a procedure in place that would isolate this cause one way or the other. Sometimes simply relating that fact discourages the witness from going forward. In this case they were not deterred; they wanted me to do the investigation. So we went forward.

      I consulted my data from previous investigations which saved me some time. Ordinarily I do a scan of the area using EMF Monitors to isolate any spots which may have interference potential. I also check for air currents, heating registers, or vents that may cause problems or noise in the room while the investigation is in progress. In this case I had already obtained that data previously and could arrange my cameras and microphones accordingly. This allowed me to do the entire investigation in one night where it ordinarily would require two sessions.

      13 - The Night Of The Investigation

      At the designated time I and two other associates met at the witness's home to do the investigation. My procedure for this type of case consists of both audio and video observation of the witness as they sleep. We record the entire session using high gain audio amplification for the audio as well as using an infrared camera and illuminator trained on the subject as they sleep to provide visual evidence. The use of infrared prevents the illuminator from causing any disturbance to the witness since the room is otherwise dark. But the IR camera shows the scene as clear as if it were daylight. Later in the morning the video and audio are viewed in the presence of the witness and anyone they want present to validate what we captured. That is when the truth is revealed. Normally this is where the subject is seen injuring himself. Unbeknownst to us at this point, things were not going to go according to plans.

      There were five of us present that night, three investigators and both of the child's parents. We were setting up equipment in a downstairs observation room where we would monitor activity. The child's room was upstairs down a short hallway. It is my policy to monitor from a nearby area, not in the actual location itself. Prior to the child going to bed we had positioned the camera and illuminator so we could see the bed. I also placed two microphones as well as an inductive sensor to monitor any subtle sounds or EMF activity in the room. The cables were run out the door down the hall to the monitor location. I had finished setting up the audio recorder and the videographer was in the process of setting up his gear and getting the video recorder ready to go. I started the audio just as a test and was hearing the sound from a TV we had been watching down in the monitor room, I thought to myself, "This is a problem", but one we could easily solve once the investigation was underway. We would simply turn off the TV. It was about 10:45 PM and the parents said if we didn't need anything else they would soon turn in for the night.

      It was 11:03 when it happened. We all heard a loud crash and the scream of the child. That sound was captured on the audio recorder. The videographer had not yet started his video machine so he didn't get anything. As soon as this crash occurred there were 5 people running as fast as we could to get up to the child's room to see what happened. We all met the child who was running through the hall to get to the parents. While the parents comforted their child, the three of us investigators entered the room where just seconds before the child was sleeping. What we found was a lamp that we had previously observed sitting on a dresser had been thrown about 8 feet and shattered against a wall over the child's bed. It was thrown with such force the plug was yanked from the wall and its prongs bent.

      All of us immediately began looking for a cause to explain this activity. Obviously the first thing we considered was the child. Was this a hoax? Considering the age (pre-school) of the child, this was not likely. We looked for any sign of some kind of line rigged up to yank the lamp. Nothing was found. And all of us who were in the house at the time were accounted for. We determined this was an actual event, not something being faked. But it wasn't over yet.

      We went back to the monitor area and reviewed the audio recording. Everything was quiet, then a snarling voice is heard on the tape saying ,"Leave me alone". The last phoneme on the word "alone" is partly covered by the crash of the lamp hitting the wall. Then the sound of the child screaming, the slamming of the door, and the sounds of the rest of us running through the hall as we rushed to see what had happened could be heard. All of this also validates the lack of anyone else in the room. The audio monitoring using a high gain amplifier was sufficient that the sound of the child's respiration could be heard on the tape prior to the event. The breathing was slow and regular, no sign of excitement. Also it was noted that any movement in the bed could be heard by the rustling sound of the sheets if that had taken place. There was no movement prior to the crash. Clearly from the sounds heard, the child was asleep at the time the lamp was thrown. There was no activity prior to the voice and the sound of the lamp hitting the wall heard on the tape.

      14 - A Summary and Conclusions Regarding The Thrown Lamp

      Once we calmed down a bit we started trying to figure out what we had just witnessed. The parents were naturally preoccupied trying to calm their child down. We gathered things up and about 2:00 AM we left the site to return to the lab to analyze what we got. I used various methods and specialized equipment to view the waveform of the audio and any other sounds that could be detected. The sounds definitely were of an object striking a solid surface and the sound of breaking glass.

      The next step was to analyze the audio recording of the voice. It matched human speech characteristics, not any unusual sounds or random noise pattern. Phonemes and inflection such as rise time, blending, and decay matched speech patterns. Vocalizations and fricatives were also correct for speech. This was an example of AVP, Acoustic Voice Phenomena. It was not detected by the inductive sensor which would tend to rule out EVP. (Electronic Voice Phenomena.) No other "cleaning up" of the audio was needed; the voice passed several Rule Of Three evaluations by different individuals. None failed.

      Another concern we had was about the child's safety. We had not yet addressed the actual reason we were there in the first place. The scratches sort of were relegated to the background since the events we witnessed took precedence over that. I followed up with the parents next day. They said they didn't get much sleep after we left, but the child did not have scratches anywhere. Subsequent questioning over the next few days also reported no scratches or other injury. It seems that whatever happened changed the situation somehow. Subsequently to this, no scratching has been reported since the night the lamp was thrown.

      The final step was to get back to the client with answers. This was hard to do since we had no explanation. This is probably the closest to a true paranormal event I had ever experienced. Every natural explanation could be refuted by the evidence of what was experienced or seen by multiple witnesses. I kept in touch with the family and could do little more than wait and see what was next. The child never experienced scratches again. It seems whatever was happening was brought to a head then, Poof, it was gone. In the last few years they have reported only minimal disturbances. Those we have addressed as they came up. But nothing nearly as significant as what we experienced that night while monitoring the child sleeping. It seems the best I could offer was this event was unexplained. But at least it seems things are relatively normal for the family now.

      Since the purpose of this article is not to present a case history, but rather a look at our methodology, let's consider a few things about it.

      The first thing done was a pre-investigation that allowed the investigators to determine a course of action. Here I implemented a protocol that was developed on similar cases to address scratches or other such events that people sometimes report while sleeping. It allows evidence to be collected and presented in a timely manner, often the next day. And with hard evidence to back up claims such as the witness causing his own injury, it is usually not too hard to prove the point. Of course it doesn't work in cases like this where things go sideways and something totally unexpected happens! But it does show a plan is needed before starting an investigation otherwise how would one know when the paranormal occurs?

      What about the equipment needed? Again, the pre-investigation comes into play. It was why we implemented the protocol we did and chose the equipment we did. It also demonstrated the need to be able to expand beyond what was expected. We actually gathered very good evidence of something even if we can't pin it down to a specific area. For instance, the high gain amplifier is usually used with EVP research. But in this case it fit in well with what happened that night. It even allowed us to confirm the witness was indeed asleep at the time this took place. It's just too bad the videographer had not yet brought his gear live or we might have had a video as well. This just shows no matter what efforts you take, there is always a wrinkle that can pop up when you least expect it.

      Finally regarding our methodology. It proved itself that night as it did capture valid data even though it was outside what we had originally intended. This is validation our methods are sufficiently broad to allow it to work beyond the original limits we placed on it. As an investigator, you need to do likewise; find something that works and go with that. And not allow yourself to be trapped behind some of the false methods being promoted in the field today.

      One more consideration regarding evidence is that the chain of custody must be maintained. In our case we physically had the evidence in our possession at all times with at least two investigators present. There was no way any individual had access to it and could lose or alter it in any way. This is crucial with any evidence you obtain regardless of where or how it was gathered. In this case the audio recordings were duplicated and the copies used for some of our actual analysis. If any questions arose about the data we could always compare the copies to the originals without putting the original recordings in jeopardy.

      15 - UFOs - What About Those Cases?

      I did not address UFOs under Public Cases for the reason that most UFO reports come from private individuals. With the possible exceptions of Star Parties or Sky Watches, very few actually go out searching for UFOs. And those public events are usually well structured and aimed not at finding UFOs. Rather they are run by astronomers who point their telescopes to see various astronomical objects. True, there are a few locations trying to get in on the trend toward the paranormal, but they are not much different than the typical haunted (or claim to be) locations. The same points that are applicable to "ghost haunted" locations would apply to them. But unlike public locations, most private UFO cases are confined to witness interviews after the fact. Seldom do those reports describe an on-going situation although their are exceptions where the same witness claims repeated contact. Sometimes a witness will have the presence of mind to try to capture the UFO on camera, but often these are of poor quality since the conditions at the time are not great for photography. There are a few things that can be done after the fact to enhance the image but usually these are of limited success.

      The most important part of the typical UFO case is the witness interview where he describes what was seen. I usually have the witness write it all down in the form of a narrative and I keep that for later review. This is the point where I go out and also look over the area where the object was seen. I take pictures of the scene as well, paying particular notice to any light sources that might be a factor in the original report. If there are any pictures I obtain them as evidence and take them back to the lab for evaluation. Depending on the amount of evidence or its credibility, I may choose to do this via a phone call or e-mail submission by internet. In any event often this is the extent of what can be done unless you have more than just a witness to file his report.

      Sometimes, if you are lucky, you get a report where a witness claims some sort of physical presence. If an object is seen near the ground or in close proximity, you may want to actually visit the area and scan for any residue. Your magnetic field monitor or even a compass may be helpful for this scan. You should also do a meticulous search for anything that doesn't belong in the area. If anything is found, retrieve it using sterile techniques and be careful not to expose yourself or the material to contamination. This is a case where your expert consultants come in. Professionals may be needed to conduct analysis in a lab to determine what has been found. Also take detailed pictures of the area in question, including a few from the exact location the witness observed from. You will use these in a later interview.

      The important point here is since all you have is testimony it is important to gather all the data you can. Dates, times, and weather conditions at the time of the sighting are vital. Later you can obtain weather records prior to and after the event to determine if any are a part of an ongoing trend. In the case of high objects seen flying overhead, you may want to contact local airports or air traffic control centers to check if any aircraft were in the area at the time of the sighting. You can also check online sources to determine if any satellites or space objects were overhead at the time of the sighting.

      This is the point where I do a second interview session. Remember that narrative I mentioned earlier? I will go back to that and have the witness relate the event and compare what he wrote in the narrative with what he is now claiming. Are they substantially the same? Any wild variations may be indicative the story may be fabricated or called into question. And here is where your artistic skills come into play. Get those pictures you took of the area where the object was seen and have the witness sketch what he saw on the pictures as closely as he can with regards to color, size and any apparent movement noted. I often do this with a computer and a Paint program.

      A Case File - Unidentified Object In The Sky

      The witness was in her kitchen preparing breakfast. She decided to take out her trash to a garbage container near her back porch. She went out the door and saw what she described as a large dark hole in the sky. She immediately went back inside to grab a camera to get a picture of it. When she turned around to open her aluminum storm door she received a shock like static electricity from the metal handle She went on inside , got the camera and returned outside . She estimated this took no longer than 15 - 20 seconds.

      But when she returned the dark object was gone. She went on out into the yard and searched the sky but nothing was seen. After about 2 minutes she gave up and went back inside. Again, she received the shock on the aluminum door, only this time more severe.

      After going inside she called a nearby neighbor she knew had an interest in strange or paranormal events. The neighbor came over to see what was going on. About 8:00 AM the neighbor arrived, went to the kitchen door and knocked. As she reached for the aluminum door she also received an electric shock when she touched it. Neither of them could account for anything abnormal except for the repeated shocks. The neighbor had met me at a paranormal conference a while back. She had my card and she called me about 8:30 AM and explained what was happening. I made arrangements to take some equipment out to see if I could detect the cause of the electrical activity as well as conduct an investigation into the earlier sighting.

      The two women opened the door several times as they endured the shock to go outside and check for any activity. Nothing was found. They noticed the intensity of the shock was decreasing over time and by about 9:00 AM it was no longer felt.

      I arrived at 9:20 and began my investigation. An EMF sweep revealed nothing unusual. A slight 60 Hz EM Field was present near the refrigerator which was near the door, but the snsor showed this to be in the microvolt range and not abnormal. A couple other EMF hits were found but those were associated with power lines in the house. Both women were wearing rubber sole running shoes and the kitchen floor was tile which would preclude the possibility of a static electric charge being built up from their activity. The outside porch / patio was concrete which also would not create such a static build up. I measured the resistance between the aluminum door and Earth ground and found that while the door frame was not actually grounded, continuity was less than 100 Ohms. This would bleed off any static charge which might build up on the door. My conclusion related to the shock is that in order for such condition to be present the source would need to be continuously replenished. Static electricity could be discounted. No source for such electricity was found, no power lines in the house were in close proximity to the door or door frame. Since the electricity was no longer present no further measurements could be taken. At this time the cause of the electrical shock is unknown.

      The investigation turned to the sighting itself. At 7:00 AM the sky was relatively dark; only the first light of dawn was seen. The witness described what she saw as a hole in the sky. There was a light in the center but not as a light bulb. It was more like a glow coming from inside. She heard no sound. No movement was observed, the dark object was just there when she went out and gone by the time she returned. I asked her if she thought the object was solid. She said no; it was like looking into the object as you would look down a hall. it was darker near the opening and lighter further inside. I made a couple sketches and what she described seems to match what you would expect if you observed such an opening from an angle. This matches the conditions I observed of her vantage point and the location of the tree line. Since it disappeared she could make no attempt to actually get under it and look up into it.

      The above case history and the computer generated image created by the witness related to the case is an example of how I use this method on an investigation. Like most such claims of paranormal activity, no definitive conclusion was arrived at. But all the natural causes we could explore were methodically eliminated as various tests and procedures were conducted. To date this case remains an unknown.

      16 - What about Creature Sightings, or Other Cases of Strange Activities?

      I won't go too far into reports related to creature sightings or Bigfoot since a lot of the same limitations apply to those that also fit UFOs. Sightings are usually after the fact. You have only witness interviews to work with. There is one exception though. Sometimes you can enter an area where a creature has run through and find hair samples. This is especially true if thick undergrowth is present. For example, the thorns of the multi-floral rose are noted for pulling out the hair of anything that runs through it. (That includes you if you get wrapped up in the stuff!) So if the sighting includes such an environment, it is worth checking it out. Any samples retrieved are treated just as you would any evidence. Maintain the chain of custody and have the sample analyzed by a professional. It may turn out to be fur from a local wild animal, but at least you have identified it.

      The final category of investigation is "Other". By their nature these cases comprise a wide range of possibilities. No single method could be established to deal with all of these reports. The best thing to do is use what is applicable to cases that are in some ways similar. What works for them may help you in these unusual reports. The interview sessions, gathering evidence, and checking weather forecasts and history may apply. The interview methods used for UFOs may help isolate any exaggerated claims. And of course pictures or audio evidence can be studied for what they are. The important thing to consider when you get one of these cases is to remain flexible. You will need to adapt methods and equipment to areas which they may not have been designed. Keep in mind though most devices have limitations. You must be careful not to exceed these, or to expect devices to do something they were never capable of.

      One Of Those "OTHER" Cases

      John and Mary (Names Changed) were doing yard work. Mary was spreading some mulch around a couple trees in the yard, John was pushing a wheel barrow with some topsoil and filling holes in the ground in the back yard. Mary saw something reflective in the field behind their house, about 50 feet away. She called to John to look since he was much closer to it. He looked up and saw a balloon drifting about 10 feet above the fence line. He described it as one of those mylar balloons like they have at parties. It was silver and circular, about 2 feet in diameter. He watched as it drifted closer to his location.

      John walked a bit closer to the brush at the edge of the field while Mary continued to watch it drift closer. Both agree on what happened next, Suddenly it got very bright white. Prior to this it simply looked like it was reflecting natural light, now it appeared to shine on its own. About two seconds later both witnesses saw it explode. At the same time what they described as a small lightning bolt shot from the explosion to the ground. The explosion sounded like a small firecracker followed by a snap like a spark. This spark started a small fire where it struck the ground. John immediately grabbed his shovel and ran to put the fire out before it spread to rest of the field. He had the fire out after a couple hits with the shovel. It was then he noticed another wisp of smoke coming from the fence line about 100 feet away in the same direction where the object had just come. He ran down there and extinguished that fire as well. Both watched the field a few minutes for any other signs of smoke, nothing more was seen.

      That was when he decided to call me. I was on scene about 3:45 PM and checked both areas where the fires burned. Aside from the normal ash from the dried grass that had burned nothing was found. I checked carefully for any shredded mylar or other material where the object exploded, nothing was found. Nor was any residue that might be attributed to a firecracker. The only other material present were some very rusted sections of barbed wire which was a remnant of an old fence that used to fence in that field. John said a neighbor used to keep cows in that field years ago. Neither witness had any idea of what they had just experienced. As far as any history of paranormal activity, neither witness has any personal experience. John is not interested in it at all, Mary' s experience is she sometimes watches a few paranormal TV shows about ghosts. No personal experiences.

      You may even need to consult with other investigators who specialize in a particular area of investigation. For example, in the last few years reports have come in of loud booms being heard. You might want to attempt to record them for analysis. But to do so will require specialized recorders because most of these sounds are below the range of human hearing. Even a good quality audio recorder will not properly capture them because standard recorders do not have a low enough frequency response. Unless you happen to have a data logger or seismic monitoring equipment you likely won't get any good evidence. However there are a few who have invested in this expensive gear and one of them may be willing to help you out.

      To Summarize....

      The above examples and evaluations demonstrate the need for the investigator to take his time and be thorough. He needs to keep aware of things around him while he does his work. Some things are more evident than others, and something missed may be crucial to finding the correct conclusion. At the same time the situation can throw you a curve. Something unexpected can come your way without warning. Be ready for it. Have a plan worked out and be ready to implement it. Don't be like the TV Ghost Chasers who scream and run out of the building if something happens. If you're an investigator you run into the building, not out! It's how you get answers.