I get this question either in person or via social media at least half a dozen times a day:
How do I become a paranormal investigator?
It’s one of those questions I wish was easier to answer. Often, when I’m asked it, I want to take the person aside and begin questioning THEM to ascertain their motives. Typically, they’re all over the place. They can genuinely want to help people or have had an experience they are still grappling with. They can be the type who wants a thrill and thinks paranormal investigation is an adrenaline rush. Or, they can even be brutally honest with me and say they want a reality television show.
It’s very hard for me not to get defensive on this subject because so many approach what we do nonchalantly – as though it takes no forethought and that you can just march right in and start saying, “WHAT WAS THAT?!”
If only it were so easy. Of course, you could just walk into any location and start investigating using methods you’ve seen weekly on our hour long television show, (and others.) But the fact of the matter is, there is so much more to what we do and where we came from that you’d be doing a great disservice to yourself by not learning these things and to our field in general by propagating the myth that anyone can be a paranormal investigator.
First of all, let me clear one thing up – you’re not going to make a living doing this.
I repeat: You’re not going to make a living doing this.
This is not a career and as much as we want to say it’s research, it really is just a hobby at this point. A very expensive hobby. As a matter of fact, you’re most likely going to spend copious amounts of money and time to sit in the dark and reap very few results. Paranormal investigation is absolutely a labor of love and I would say 90% of the folks who dabble in it, throw in the towel within a year or so.
It’s not like television. You have to remember, TAPS is VERY well known and we have a team of investigators and producers going through our cases before they make it to television. We are absolutely cherry picking, (aside from residential cases.) These locations we visit have all had very recent, strong accounts of activity. Before I was with TAPS, most of the places I went with my team and others were just not haunted. Even in the first few seasons of Ghost Hunters, (before people knew of TAPS), you can see the difference in cases.
Ok, so now that we’ve covered your motive, the fact that it’s not easy and that you’re going to be broke – let’s talk about how to actually get started.
You’ve seen Ghost Hunters, you’ve probably read some stuff on the net, you may have even listened to a few podcasts – but have you opened a book? We’re very fortunate in that there are SO many books written on the paranormal. I lecture on the history of Spiritualism and Paranormal Investigation and I urge anyone with an interest to become familiar with how we all got our start. There are a few books on this, but my favorite is one by Troy Taylor called Ghosts by Gaslight.
Beyond that, to learn about case studies, methodology, theories, etc – pick up any book by Loyd Auerbach.
Jeff Belanger is another of my preferred paranormal authors. Communicating with the Dead is still my favorite by him.
Now you’ve read some books. Well done! Still want to get out and look for ghosts? Start contacting local groups. Go to one of the many conferences or events put on with TAPS members, (www.beyondrealityevents.com and www.idealeventmanage.com <—shameless plugs.)
Having trouble getting in touch with a team? No, do not start your own. But, do get a few like minded friends together and investigate for fun. No need to buy thousands of dollars in equipment yet, use your phone to record EVP sessions. Invest in a decent flashlight and a good digital camera. Investigate each others houses. Investigate locations during the day, (that’s right, we don’t always investigate at night.) Turn one of your houses into a case study and investigate it over and over – that’s really the ideal investigation anyway. Did you know Harry Price investigated Borley Rectory for over 18 years?
The idea here is to, over time, form your own methods of investigation. After studying and experiencing it for yourself – what theories resound with you? What investigation style works and makes the most sense to you?
All of this is how you get started in paranormal investigation. It’s a lot of looking within yourself and being realistic about the WHY and from there taking good, honest steps toward a field that is so much more fascinating than television will ever let on. It is a field for the patient, the curious, and the slightly odd. Those that live and breathe it will always be here, sitting in old abandoned buildings, talking to thin air and hoping for the faint whisper of an answer – even when the television shows have all been long gone.
Good luck to you. xoxo