Paranormal Penny Pinchers is a ghost-hunting team from Wilmslow, Cheshire, that focuses on being budget-friendly. DAVID SAUNDERSON talks with lead investigator Jon McKenzie reveals how they make their own equipment and work together effectively, even on a tight budget.
SPOOKY ISLES: What was that first pivotal moment that led you to form your own paranormal investigation team?
JON McKENZIE: Some members had experiences and began going on numerous public investigations at a variety of locations which we loved. When COVID hit I got bored and decided to build some equipment from watching YouTube videos as something to help pass the time. And from there I decided to build the team with my best friends and wife.
Why did you decide to focus on “penny pinching”?
Money as a whole for the team isn’t as abundant as some investigators out there . So we choose our equipment on affordability and the same with the locations we attended. All the locations we visited at the beginning were part of team shares with another team that helped keep the cost down. And when we look into booking locations now we will invite other teams for a team share.
Can you tell us about the homemade devices you’ve crafted for your investigations? How do they compare in terms of performance to the more expensive counterparts?
We have found that the equipment I have built is close to more expensive versions. I have seen other people who are struggling to buy expensive pieces of equipment have a go at building their own which has inspired me for some projects or to even have discussions about potential ideas collaborating with others.
I have even made some videos on how investigators can repair cat-balls instead of constantly having to buy new ones hence saving a little bit of money.
We still use some of my homemade equipment, but it differs depending on the location as well as some of the more recent equipment we have acquired especially from affordable vendors such as Scire Tech getting such fantastic responses causing them to be the ‘Go to’ pieces of equipment.
But we do have events and projects coming up where our home-made devices will be selected for experiments and comparing them at various locations.
The EM pump is one homemade device that is used on every investigation as it has helped build the energy. We have tested this at our own location where we have done sessions one week with and next without and the energy has taken longer to build up when we have not.
Being budget-conscious, how do you go about selecting locations for your investigations? Do you prioritise places with a high frequency of reported paranormal activity?
For locations, we look for local places and try to keep within a two-hour drive to keep fuel costs down. And if the price seems reasonable, we will try to book it. As a team we also enjoy going to places with a lot of history despite being well known or not for having any activity.
As a team we always go into places with an open mind, being mindful that activity may have kicked off one night then we go and it is a quiet night, so we try not get caught in the hype of the location and find out for ourselves.
What role does each team member play during an investigation? For instance, how does a ‘Team Empath’ contribute differently from a ‘Lead Skeptic’?
In an investigation we all bounce off each other, and all take lead.
- Stacey (co-founder) will look after Any filming or photos that need to be taken.
- Sam (lead empath) will do similar roles to Stacey but lean into her abilities to see what she can feel and we help and encourage her by making sure we do not “feed the medium” and ask questions to help her pull on what she is feel for example if Sam says she feels that there is a female presence, we will is she old, young etc
- Dave is our researcher and will investigate the history of the location. Me, Sam, and Stacey like to go in blind and see what we get and if it collaborates with any information that Dave has collected. Dave started as a sceptic but has become a firm believer in the paranormal but like me will look for rational explanations first.
- Stew is our lead sceptic. He keeps us all level-headed by looking for any rational explanation, he has come across events that he has said that he has not got a plausible explanation for.
- Myself: as much as I say I am the lead investigator I do let the team lead the investigation and depending on the spirit we are communicating with depends on who takes the lead. I also have empathic abilities and will draw upon that and see if it matches up with what Sam is getting.
Our team dynamics mean there is no one person in charge, all decisions are made collectively and the same with all evidence we share we all look over it and see what we think and if it is worth posting.
How do you manage internal scepticism? Does having sceptics like Dave and Stew on the team impact the group dynamic in a positive or negative manner?
I believe it’s healthy to have scepticism. As much as I 100% believe in the Paranormal I also will look for rational explanations with Stew beforehand. We like to keep an open mind and question or challenge everything we see, hear and experience which helps back up or debunk things through carrying out experiments.
As a team I believe we have a balanced healthy level of scepticism but not so much that it stops us from being open to other possibilities, personal experiences and dismissing everything as we believe you must have the full picture before handing out a verdict. We never try to force anyone to believe the things we have experienced and offer teams and investigators to come to our venue as they are in charge and conduct their own investigation where we just observe and find their own findings.
What are your short-term and long-term objectives? Are you looking to eventually turn this into a full-time venture or maintain it as a hobby?
Our only objective at this moment in time is our exclusive location in Stockport at Hallam Mill which we have opened to a team to come and investigate, as stew is a business partner, we are trying to help keep the lights on especially with the cost-of-living crisis. The prices we advertise are the prices we would pay for ourselves which makes it affordable for everyone.
Long term objectives would again to help keep our location open and keep the affordable prices for all teams. We would like to keep meeting and working with teams new and old making new discoveries and learning from each other.
What’s the most compelling evidence or experience you’ve gathered so far in your paranormal investigations?
A few months ago we had Scotland’s Paranormal Investigation Group (S.P.I.G) in at Hallam Mill and there were doing a session which had been going on for at least 30 mins, as the session came to an end a cat ball rolled across the table it was sat upon. Here’s the clip on TikTok.
Can you share a bit about your network? Have you collaborated with other paranormal investigators or groups, and what have you learned from them?
Stacey and Sam are our networking people, they are constantly talking to people getting them to come down to our location and spreading our name. And if it’s not for our location they are setting us up for a Collab investigation with another team somewhere.
We have collaborated with many teams and have learnt new or different ways of working and we love that just as much as the investigation itself. Seeing the techniques in action and trying for ourselves and seeing the results. This has also helped with techniques that we weren’t too sure on so we never tried, to be able to try new ideas and see how we feel afterwards, something we will incorporate into our investigation technique.
How do you ensure the safety and well-being of your team during potentially risky investigations?
We start and end each investigation with a prayer and we also carry different gemstones which is a personal belief and differs person to person but helps for our own piece of mind. We treat the building and spirits very respectfully as we are the ‘uninvited guests’ when investigating where there may be a ‘negative’ or ‘unfriendly’ spirit and set boundaries for provocation if ever used.
If we think someone is getting too into something we tap them out. We always research and ask for advice before attempting anything new and get consent from all team members who would like to participate in experiments ensuring everyone feels comfortable and respecting all of our beliefs and boundaries.
Lastly, what advice would you offer to budding paranormal investigators who are interested in starting their own teams but are deterred by budget constraints?
Start with a basic EMF reader which you can pick up a K2 equivalent for under £20 if you know where to look.a few cat balls, torch. But also research how the equipment you buy works and what can cause false readings.
And don’t listen to what others are saying about any pieces of equipment, apps etc have a go yourselves see what works for you at the end of the day you are there not them and of you have a word come through on an app and it’s confirmed by another price of equipment then that’s your evidence. Everyone works differently and we can all learn from each other and help each to grow.
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