You’ve accomplished a lot in the past three lessons.
- We’ve discussed the basics of ghost hunting.
- You’ve learned how to find a haunted site near you.
- You’ve found a couple of people who will go ghost hunting with you.
- You’ve learned what tools to take with you, and the basic steps to take for every ghost hunt.
- In addition, you’ve visited at least one haunted location.
You might feel ready to join a ghost hunting group or start your own.
If you’d like to join a ghost hunting team, ask questions.
Question the group’s policies, beliefs and practices. Don’t feel as if you’re being “too pushy” and they might not like you. Your questions — and their answers — are important.
Don’t assume the group is a good match for you, just because a friend is a member, or you’ve been to a few of their investigations and they seemed nice.
Focus on these topics:
- The kinds of locations they investigate, and any sites they prefer to avoid. (Example: On several episodes of Ghost Hunters, a couple of people said they absolutely, positively won’t investigate cemeteries. By contrast, I think haunted cemeteries are — at the very least — an ideal place to learn and practice investigation techniques. But, those TAPS members and I agree to disagree.)
- The spiritual context of the group. Many ghost hunting teams are members share the same spiritual beliefs. If religion (or rejection of it) might be important part in how they deal with ghosts, find out before you join.
- The team’s usual investigation and meeting schedules. If your Saturday nights are reserved for dates, but the ghost hunting group usually schedules investigations then… that’s not a match. Or, if you like to start research just before dusk and go home by 10 PM, but the team usually arrive at sites around 9 or 10 PM, that’s not a match, either.
- Membership requirements. Some teams have rigid rules. Members must attend certain organizational meetings, plus a certain number of investigations per month. They may have dues, official group titles and responsibilities, and so on. Find out early.
Let’s talk about a few of those.
What kinds of haunted sites interest you the most? Do you like (or hate) cemeteries? Private residences? Well-known haunted places? Places that no one else has investigated… that may not be haunted at all?
Ask what kinds of sites the group prefer to investigate. Ask about sites the group will never visit, and why.
Beliefs, politics, and spiritual context
In recent years, some teams have experienced rifts over personal attitudes and beliefs. (It might be anything from politics to which ghost hunting show is the best.)
Generally, it’s smart to limit on-site discussions to the investigation. If a comment or conversation might reveal off-topic biases, avoid those subjects from the start.
However, people do meet fellow ghost enthusiasts at church, clubs, political rallies, and so on. Sometimes your career, or the company you work for, might lead to awkward conversations… if someone on the team raises the topic.
Try to spot conflicts before you commit to joining the group.
Almost every team includes at least one member with strong political views, who can’t seem to avoid the topic. That’s normal. The question is how annoying the person (or people) might become, and if that will distract you from your research, or spoil your ghost hunting experience.
A few groups are openly faith-based. All of the members might belong to one church, or one general religion. Often, that’s a regional issue. I know (and respect) a group of Bible-carrying Christians in South Carolina. I also know and like a team of Wiccans in NY, a group of ghost-hunting Mormons in Idaho, a team of Spiritualists in the UK, and a loosely organized team of skeptical Humanists in Australia. (This list could be a lot longer, but I think you get the idea.)
All of them are open and forthright about their spiritual beliefs and practices, and how they apply them to paranormal research.
In general, faith-based ghost hunting teams are few and far between. (That can vary, regionally.)
However, I often hear from people who thought a ghost hunting group was inclusive when they joined. Then, every investigation started with the team holding hands and saying a very church-specific prayer, or following a particular ritual. New members felt uncomfortable, and left after harsh words on both sides.
That’s unfortunate, but it happens.
If all (or most) of the team are passionate about one set of beliefs, discover that early, so — if it’s not the right group for you — you’re able to part as friends.
Ask when the team usually schedule their investigations and meetings. Make sure that’s a match for your normal weekly schedule.
Ask if they meet at night or during the day. Do they meet on weeknights or weekends? Will most everyone leave for home by 10 PM? Midnight? 3 AM?
Do they analyze the evidence as a team or individually, and is there a post-investigation get-together to review the evidence as a group? Is there always a follow-up visit to each haunted site, to debunk questionable evidence? If so, when is it?
How often do the team hold organizational meetings, and are they mandatory?
How long are most investigations? Does the group keep a strict schedule? Is punctuality important to them?
If you prefer to keep your own schedule, is it okay if you arrive early and stay late, or vice versa?
Ask what’s expected of group or team members.
For example, are you required to attend all non-investigation meetings? How many investigations must you participate in, and how often?
Is there a training requirement? Who is teaching and what are their qualifications? Must all team members follow the training advice exactly, or are you free to use what works best for you?
Ask about money, and what it’s used for.
In the old days, website hosting could be expensive and members contributed to pay that monthly bill. Today, hosting is available for under $5/month, so that shouldn’t be an excuse for membership dues. (If the site is fancier and requires more expensive hosting, the costs should be covered by sponsors, advertising, or the group’s fund-raising events.)
If your team carries liability insurance — a good idea if you’re hosting paid events or doing private investigations — the team may need to share that expense until the group’s income covers it.
Is it a loosely organized team, or a structured group?
Especially if it’s the latter, get everything in writing before you join.
And, if you have any uneasiness about dues and the group’s income, ask to see a recent financial statement. (Don’t feel weird about your request. Some groups show everyone their bookkeeping records during monthly or quarterly meetings.)
An assertive ghost hunter may seem impressive first. After a few ghost hunts, his or her constant comments can become annoying. This is one of many reasons to go on several ghost hunts with a group before agreeing to join.
Some people become chatty when they’re nervous. Others want to be left alone, in silence. In between, some investigators like to exchange notes, but avoid unnecessary distractions.
A few groups cheerfully mix ghost hunting and “musical-chairs” dating within the group. If that’s not your style, it can become irritating.
For some reason, many ghost hunters seem to be smokers, or maybe it just seems that way. If you’re car pooling to sites, make sure everyone in the car agrees about smoking (or not smoking) in the vehicle. During a three-hour commute, tempers can flare if that’s not established ahead of time.
Those are the most common issues, but there can be others.
- Some ghost hunters think it’s okay to have a beer or two before an investigation.
- Some bring their small, fussy children when they can’t find a babysitter.
- Some ghost hunters don’t hesitate to bring along a skeptical or giggling date.
So, before committing to regular membership in a ghost hunting group, spend time with them. See what their interests and standards are.
[Also, be watchful for scams, con artists, and criminals. They’re a tiny minority, but you should know what to look for. In the past 10 years, I’ve encountered three con artists and two convicted child molesters. See my article: Scams and Con Artists.]
I hope you find a group (or two) that are great fun to learn and investigate with. I’ve met some wonderful people in this field, and established long-term friendships with many ghost hunters.
What happens if you don’t find a team you want to join? In that case, consider starting your own ghost hunting group.