DAVID SAUNDERSON seeks Paranormal researcher Jayne Harris’ tips and advice for those interested in launching a career in Ghost Hunting
Jayne Harris is a paranormal researcher, writer, and producer with almost 20 years of experience. I interviewed Jayne to get her views on common problems faced by Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Researchers, the differences in running a private and public ghost hunt, the skills required to be successful in this field, and how to plan and orchestrate the most effective ghost hunt.
What are some of the problems faced by Ghost Hunters and how do you handle them?
1. Be prepared to be bored.
“I believe that one of the biggest problems actually for investigators is managing the expectations of clients,” Jayne says.”Ghost Hunting TV shows portray our work as exciting, full of jumps, loud bangs and things being thrown and, in actual fact, it’s pretty boring. I don’t mind sitting in silence for hours, I’m used to it, but I’ve found that homeowners struggle with it, which in turn makes it more difficult for us to conduct effective ‘sit and watch’ sessions.”
Sometimes nothing happens during a ghost hunt, after all ghosts don’t appear simply to entertain us. It doesn’t matter to ghosts and spirits that you set time aside and got together a group of friends, and you’re all eagerly awaiting a bump in the night.
2. Don’t be too focused on the tech.
“I personally prefer to rely on my own senses, and keep things as low tech as possible, as I’m sure that too much of that stuff actually blocks experiences, but again clients see to expect it after watching the TV shows.”
Technology overload can sometimes be a deterrent to ghost and spirit activity. At times, equipment is needed, but other times it just isn’t. It’s counterproductive to insist on the use of high-tech gear, unless they are truly needed.
3. Learn to ignore the outspoken skeptics.
Some people just don’t believe in ghosts, or even of those who do, many don’t take the job of Paranormal Investigator seriously. That’s okay. You don’t need anyone’s permission to engage in activities that you find meaningful. If you’re thinking of making a career out of ghost hunting, there are plenty of reasons not to do it, but don’t let the judgment of others be one of them.
Jayne Harris says, “I think we, as PIs, have a problem when it comes to being taken seriously, by society generally. I’ve had people start singing the Ghostbusters theme tune to me many times when I tell them what I do… I laugh it off, but it can get frustrating.”
What can you tell us about the differences between public and private investigations?
4. In a private investigation, you need To have a very clear purpose.
A private paranormal investigation is set up when a property owner is having a problem. They will call you (the ghost hunter) in to help them solve that problem. So understand what you are trying to do. You also need to be sensitive to what the individual is going th2ough. If they’ve reached out to a professional, chances are high that they are already very overwhelmed.
“Private investigations tend to have a specific agenda, and desired outcome,” Jayne explains. “We want to establish whether or not a person’s home is experiencing potentially paranormal phenomena, so as to either put a homeowner’s mind at rest, [and let them know] that they’re not going mad. Or [you need] to initiate further investigation. Homeowners are usually distressed or troubled when we agree upon a private investigation.”
5. In a Public Ghost Hunt, you can be a bit more open-ended and free-form.
“With a public event, [guests are] not strictly speaking about an investigation. For one thing, you don’t have anywhere near enough time to properly conduct experiments and trials, and more people equals more external influence, so you can’t really get solid measurable results. These evenings are designed to give people a taste of what it is like to explore a haunted location, and go in search of evidence of the afterlife.
“People tend to have fun on public ‘ghost hunts’. People tend to come along in pairs, or small groups of friends, and they’re just dying (pardon the pun!) to see who will freak out first. For people who are not used to environments like dark cellars, that alone is scary, so they get their thrills simply by being part of it. We keep the vigils short; no more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Any longer than that and… it can get boring for people. I don’t think many people come along expecting to see anything, but often we do have unexplainable things going on, and people love to meet new people with the same interest. The breaks are always fun; people chatting about ghosts over coffee and cake!
“For me, I enjoy the historical element much more. I always do a one hour history tour of the buildings first, stopping at points of interest to retell its past, and of course, its ghost stories! That’s what I enjoy about public events, I suppose. Sharing what I know about some wonderful locations.”
Is it necessary to bring a medium on a Ghost Hunt?
6. Mediums aren’t crucial, but they can add to the experience of public ghost hunts.
“I’m not [a medium]. Apparently both of my Great-Grandmothers were though, and one was especially good, I believe, but I’m not convinced that I have inherited any gift. I’m in the process of tracing my family tree so it will be interesting to learn more about them both! We do have a medium who joins our public events, but, no, not on private investigations. I’d be open to the idea of bringing in a medium to [a] private investigation once we reached a point at which we were confident that there was some kind of paranormal activity. Many home owners are a bit frightened about having a psychic medium for some reason. During public events we like to attempt a large group seance at the end of the evening, and this is always ran by the medium.”
Do you have some specific tips for private investigations?
7. Have an open mind, because you have no way of knowing what you’re dealing with.
With a publicly haunted site, such as a school, church, asylum, or graveyard, it’s likely that you can easily conduct some research and glean a sense of the level of haunting and the type of haunting. Other paranormal researchers have probably already visited this site, making it easy for you to figure out if you are dealing with a ghost, spirit, or something demonic and sinister.
“When you enter a person’s private home, you’re entering the unknown,” Jayne says. “With historic properties, especially ones that have been visited many times in the past, you kind of have a fair idea about its potential hauntings/level of activity, and so on. Some would say that private investigations are more risky.”
8. Be ready to share some tough truths with the homeowner.
It’s not always a ghost or spirit that is the cause of the homeowner’s vexation. If through the course of the investigation, you find that a more earthly cause may be the culprit, you can’t shy away from this. You have to be ready to tell your client the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that conversation might be. You also want to be thorough both before, and during, the investigation. You want to investigate all possible explanations, including those that have nothing to do with ghosts.
“At all times, we should be open and honest,” Jayne explains. “If that means telling someone, ‘look you don’t have a ghost, but your alcohol problem might be a contributing factor…’ then we have to do that. We carry out a very thorough questionnaire with anyone who asks us to investigate their home before we do anything else. We reassure them that it’s in strict confidence, and will only be used in the context of the investigation. We ask about drug [and] alcohol abuse, who lives in the home, relationship issues, recent trauma etc. It can be pretty intense, but crucial I think. At the end of the day, it’s in the client’s best interests to be open and honest too, as it could provide them with answers. It’s about building a relationship of trust. We don’t just go storming in like the ghostbusters ready to zap any ghosts we find! That’s why the role of a Paranormal Investigator can be multi-layered… well if you want to do a good job anyway, in my opinion!”
Do you have some specific tips for public investigations?
9.) Remember the power of group think.
Sometimes being in a group can cause people to perceive paranormal activity where there isn’t any. Once one person starts to sense a presence or sees something moving in the corner of their eyes, the power of suggestion can take rule, and make for a very exciting ghost hunt indeed! Often, the imagination makes the hunt far more exciting than it would be otherwise.
“Public ghost hunts; they are a good way to examine the psychological elements of the paranormal, and for evidencing the group hysteria theory,” Jayne tells us.
10. Remember the power of group energy.
It’s not always group imagination when evidence of a haunting begins to present itself during a public ghost hunt. Sometimes the combined energy of all of these different individuals can add to the experience in a positive way, and cause a greater amount of paranormal activity.
“Being in a group of strangers can bring about interesting results, when it comes to collective experiences, and some people believe that having many people; up to thirty, all focusing on the same objective (for example, asking a spirit to make themselves known) can increase the energy, and I’ve seen that happen. We’ve had interesting results around psychokinesis, in which a group standing in a circle seemed to manage to make a glass ball, which was suspended from the ceiling, rock backwards and forwards without touching it.”
What Are Some of the Essential Skills That a Paranormal Investigator Needs To Have?
11. A Paranormal Investigator needs to be a great listener.
The words that people say to you, and the information that they choose to divulge (as well as how they divulge it), could prove to be your greatest clues in solving paranormal mysteries. Don’t allow snap judgments about a person or a place keep you from hearing what people are telling you. If you put blinders on, you might miss a piece of truly vital information that could inform the outcome of your investigation.
“Listening!” Jayne emphasizes. “And I don’t [just] mean listening out for paranormal activity. I mean listening to the individual’s experience, without bias or judgment, and without putting your own slant on it. I may go into a home thinking ‘we’re not going to find anything here’, but that doesn’t mean I’m right, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t pay close attention to everything I’m told. It all matters. If someone has felt strongly enough about what’s going on to call on us for help, then it means a lot to them.”
12. A Paranormal Investigator should try to keep in good physical shape.
A ghost hunt can be physically taxing. There is equipment to carry, dark spaces to crouch in, and long nights of just sitting and watching. It’s not for those of weak constitution. Exercising on a regular basis can do a lot to keep you at the peak of your ghost hunting game.
Jayne says, “Well you have to be pretty resilient, in good health, and fairly strong to carry all the kits! If you’re afraid of small spaces, or the dark also…it’s a problem.”
How Do You Plan and Organize a Ghost Hunt?
13. Do your research.
“Before embarking upon an investigation, it’s a good idea to conduct some background research. Failure to do this is like going into the situation blind. Your first task will likely be meeting with the client and speaking to them about what they believe they are experiencing. This should be done using a structured questionnaire to ensure you don’t forget to ask something which could later prove important. Make detailed notes and if you’re unclear on anything, ask again.”
14. Visit and inspect the site, before the actual investigation begins.
“The next stage should be a ‘walk through’,” Jayne says. “This is where the client can show you areas of the property where they believe things to have happened. Baseline tests should also be carried out, checking the areas you will investigate, for anything which allows you to rule out perceived paranormal experiences later on. The walk through will also give you the opportunity to make your ‘health and safety’ notes! Trip hazards; that kind of thing… all very boring, of course, and nothing like what we see on TV, but there you go!”
15. After researching, make sure you share all of your information with your team.
“Before starting an investigation, you should also brief your team; if you have one, so that everyone knows as much as you do… ensure each team member has been briefed prior to the investigation itself.”
Jayne Harris is a Paranormal Researcher, Writer, and Producer with almost 20 years of experience. She is the Founder of HD Paranormal, an organisation specialising in object related hauntings. Jayne’s debut documentary “Who put Bella in the Wych-Elm?”, explores a mysterious WW2 unsolved murder. It premiered on 4 August 2017, after more than two years in the making.
Find out more at www.hdparanormal.com and www.jayne-harris.com
You can folllow Jayne on Twitter: @HDghost_girl