4c) New Members and Looking Professional

In this part of Lesson Four, I’m assuming that you’ve started your own ghost hunting group.

If you found a good, local group to join, most of this won’t apply to you.  However, if you get involved in the group’s management, you might glean a few ideas from this page.

York Harbor, Maine, cemetery

Few teams remain the same month after month, and year after year.  Most change as their members change.

People join. Some stay forever. Others go to university, get married, have kids, change jobs, or move… and they leave.

That’s true of any group in any community. Ghost hunting groups can have frequent turnover.

Sometimes it’s about politics within the group, or a disapproving girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, or spouse.

Usually, it’s simpler than that: Members lose interest.

Frankly, most ghost hunts are boring. It’s not as exciting as it seems on TV.

Team members stand around for hours, usually in dark locations — and they can cold and bone-chilling, or unbearably hot & humid.

If you’re lucky, something finally happens, just when you were about to pack up and leave.

Or maybe nothing happens.

Usually, someone got an orb in a photo, or thought they saw a figure in the woods or behind a door. Often, that’s as good as it gets.

It’s light years away from Ghost Adventures, or “Dude, run!” moments on Ghost Hunters. 

People expect chills, thrills, and adrenaline rushes. Most of the time, all they get are bug bites and boredom.

So, about 3/4 of your members will leave the group.

Expect that to happen; it’s nothing personal.

Make it easy for people to talk about this. Explain that you know ghost hunting isn’t much fun for most people. You can still be friends, even after the person quits the team.

Then, look for new members, or decide it’s okay to have a small, dedicated group.

As long as you’re not ghost hunting by yourself, the “group” can be just you and a friend or two.

However, if you’re in an area with some great haunted locations, your may have the opposite problem. Your experiences may be so fantastic, people are rushing to join your team, just to be part of your adventures. You may have to limit membership, and be strict about who’s part of the team and who isn’t.

Either way, decide now how new members are invited and approved. Is it something formal, with a majority vote, or what?

Also, gauge the size of the group that’s most comfortable for your core, reliable members. Generally, I’m with the same two to five people. Now and then, I include as many as 15 or 20 people, but that’s rare.

For me, supervising more than about 10 people at a single investigation — even in teams of two — is unmanageable and distracts me from my research.

So, my default is a group of three to six, total.

You may be more comfortable with larger or smaller groups. Get a sense of this as you go on investigations, and discuss it with others you meet with regularly. You may want to cap membership at a certain number, per investigation, or even in terms of the total group.

Look professional.

HandshakeYou and your team members should always represent yourselves as professionals.

At one time, that meant business cards, a logo on your car, and matching T-shirts.  Then, some groups took that to an extreme. Today, that can look kind of silly, if it’s overdone.

There is a happy medium (no pun intended). Look like organized, responsible adults, but make sure you won’t be confused with a softball team or a group of realtors.

I’ve seen ghost hunting teams that dress entirely in black, so they don’t stand out (and distract team members) in low-light conditions.

Other groups ask their members all wear a certain color shirt (but in any style) with jeans, so they’re easy to spot across the room (or battlefield) if a haunted site is popular that night.

Many teams aren’t that formal. They may dress alike for paid events or high-profile investigations (including investigations of private homes). For regular investigations, they dress comfortably.

When I’m ghost hunting with friends, I usually keep a dressy jacket in the car — in case someone from the media happens to be at the location , or the police show up — but otherwise, I dress for comfort.  So do my friends.  We wear the same things we’d wear to our kids’ soccer games, or on a hike along a popular trail.

Always be prepared for the police to check on you, to be sure you’re not vandals or drug dealers. Avoid extreme styling. Look clean, not scruffy. Carry ID with you, and some cash in your pocket so — if someone wants you arrested — you can’t be described as a vagrant.

In some communities, “vagrancy” is the default charge if the police are looking for a reason to arrest you or at least bring you to the station.

Keep in mind that the police may be reluctant to arrest you, but they also have to answer to a higher-up who dislikes ghost hunters, or the influential person who called-in the complaint.

Smile, be agreeable, speak professionally, and don’t give them any reason to press charges.

Most police officers are good and caring people. Several have been part of my research team, at one time or another.

However, if you’re investigating a cemetery that has no posted hours, it’s best not to look like someone who’d planned to sleep there or deal in drugs, under the guise of “ghost hunting.”

At public events, I dress more formally (mostly black) for my presentations or panels.  I carry business cards and usually a few handouts — how-to summaries, ley line maps, etc. — that people can learn more from, when they get home.

There’s a fine line between looking the way the public expect you to, and seeming like a stereotype or parody of paranormal investigators.  If you’re in “dress to impress” mode, you’re probably taking things too far.  People should remember and respect your expertise and friendliness, not your expensive or eccentric wardrobe.

Mostly, looking professional means behaving in a professional manner.  Be polite. When people want to talk to you about ghosts, make eye contact and smile. Keep your language within PG boundaries, and explain words the public may not know. (That includes terms like EMF and EVP.)  Avoid saying negative things about other professionals in the field, or about haunted sites and their owners.

Conduct yourself in a professional manner when discussing paranormal subjects with anyone… including your friends.  Earn respect for your work in this field, and the rest may take care of itself.

Have an online presence.

Many groups and individuals set up websites to share their research results and discuss ghost hunting in general.

If you’re setting up a group website, you’ll need a name. Unless you form some kind of legal partnership, one individual will own the rights to that domain name. Make sure everyone understands that, and agrees to the choice.

In addition to a website, your ghost hunting team may want a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a Pinterest board, a Tumblr account, G+ community, etc.  New social media open up, almost daily. Old ones lose favor. Choose one or two that you like. Don’t over-extend yourself.

Make sure the work is divided among several people. (HootSuite.com is a free way to manage much of your social media at one time.)

Stay current about emerging social media, so you snag your team’s username early. That’s especially true if other teams have the same or similar names, in other parts of the country or the world.

Forums and Facebook groups are still popular… for now.

In 2013, when I expanded this course, forums were still popular among some ghost enthusiasts. But, even then many had been replaced by Facebook groups.

As of 2017, Facebook groups remain popular with certain age groups and interests. MySpace — which I’d thought was permanently “old news” — is making inroads in some niches. Reddit has good points and bad.

That list could go on & on, and — a year from now — the scene may have changed, radically.

No matter what online resources you use to communicate with interested people, make sure your members monitor the sites for critics, predators, trolls, spam, and old-school flame wars.

For more private communications and AMA conversations, I’m seeing more people use G+ hangouts. But, even six months ago, I’d heard that G+ was going away.

Slack is another option. I’ve tested them recently, and like their style… but there is a learning curve.

So, I haven’t a clue. Talk with friends. Get their opinions. Choose one or two (at the most) options.

Blogs, podcasts, YouTube, Vimeo, are other options.

Blogs aren’t as strong as they once were, but some teams find ways to keep them fresh and topical. Including podcasts and videos are among many mainstream options for your team’s website.

At some point, you’ll need to decide how visible you want your team to be. Be especially cautious about anything that takes time from your research efforts.

And, for anything involving the public, the Diffusion of Innovations curve still applies.

As of 2017, we’re between the “late majority” phase of the trend that peaked around 2004, and — now — a new surge in interest among “innovators” and “early adopters.”

Many of the “late majority” are wonderful people. Encountering an actual ghost at a haunted site… that’s been a lifelong dream. They’ve finally decided to pursue that dream. Welcoming them and helping them get involved in this field is important.

But, a vocal minority are very weird critics. Logic doesn’t seem to work with them. Protect your privacy, as they can be persistent and invasive.

Be sure to encourage “innovators” and “early adopters.” They can be fun (and sometimes creative) researchers. I’m tremendously excited about the fresh views and theories they’re bringing to this field.

At least once a week — and sometimes once a day — I hear or read something that makes me say, “Wow, I never even thought of ghost hunting from that angle. Cool!”

Choose your associates based on what you have in common, but don’t overlook extreme differences. If you can’t “agree to disagree,” it’s better to part ways on friendly terms.

Also, if you’re hoping to secure a TV show for fame & fortune, I won’t say that ship has sailed, but it’s not a good reason to get involved in ghost hunting.  Please read my article, If You Really Want to Be on a Paranormal TV Show.

Remember why you began this journey.

If you start your own group and decide to share your research results with the world, those related responsibilities will take time from your investigations, as well as your personal life.

Start small, with just a few friends or a good local group. Focus on becoming a good, confident paranormal researcher.

In six months to a year, pause. Decide if you want to build an online presence, talk with reporters at Halloween, and so on.

For now, focus on the basics.  Learn as much as you can about ghosts and haunted places. Develop your observational skills, and learn to use ghost hunting equipment with confidence. (Don’t try to learn it all. Focus on EVP or on photography or on EMF… not all of them, at once.)

As you gain more experience, read as many ghost-related books as you can get your hands on.  My personal library includes books about the Fox sisters, and stories by Edward Rowe Snow, Hans Holzer, and Colin Wilson. I pounce on books by Nick Redfern as they’re published, and I own a copy of Conjuring Up Philip. (If you can find a copy, read it. It will change how you look at ghostly phenomena.)

The key to being a professional in paranormal research is to think like a professional.  Treat it like any other career, even if it’s a spare-time activity for you.

About once a year, pause and see if you’re still enjoying ghost hunting. If you are, decide what you’d like to learn more about in the coming year.

We’re not even close to having reliable answers in this field.  Your research — even if you can only investigate sites once every couple of months — can make a difference.

This course is nearly over. It’s time for the Conclusion, and then… go out and find some ghosts!

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