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June 6, 2012
All I Have is My Word
By Angela Ward from Arizona's Haunted Ghosts and Hauntings
Editor's Note: This article is a rebuttal to Nick Ferra's feature, Presenting Paranormal Evidence.
As of today, there are thousands of groups who now call themselves paranormal investigators. To me there is a big difference between a "ghost hunter" and a "paranormal investigator." The distinction I personally like to make is between groups who suddenly pop up and usually don't last very long (i.e. ghost hunters) and those who are more serious (paranormal investigator).
I understand their excitement and enthusiasm because that is what got me started and why I am still captivated today some twelve years later. Let me hear a scary EVP and I will still crap my pants with the creepiness factor no matter how many times I've heard one before!
Just in the last year, nine new paranormal groups with team websites emerged in the Tucson, Arizona area. There may be many but only the true and sincere will still be around through the test of time. Yet, despite the popularity, we all know (or should know) that there are no experts in this field. There are no official guidelines in place on how to conduct a thorough and professional (professional meaning how you act not that you are paid) investigation. So I must rely on the expertise of those who were there before me.
I totally appreciate people like Nick Ferra trying to make the paranormal community a better place for us all. On that note, however, I must most respectfully disagree on one point. As far as presenting evidence and saying "if you were not there then you don't know what happened," I must absolutely disagree with this. I will explain why.
Investigative Culture in a Reality TV World
First, however, I hear many people saying these "novice" groups are giving serious paranormal investigators a bad name. This may be true for the time being, but remember that we all started out this way. The difference is today investigators watch the shows and learn from the so-called experts whom I see as mainly hype and formulated for mass appeal. Those of us who were doing this before the T.V. shows know how it really is. We had to learn from our mistakesin the school of paranormal hard knocks. Let's face it -- I am not getting paid in any way to do this so why else would I be doing it? It is simply my passion for the paranormal world and always searching for the truth.
The reality is that investigation it is not fun. It is hard work. It can be costly as well as emotionally and physically exhaustive. In fact, it can sometimes be downright dangerous. On that note, many people who call for help are also caught up in the paranormal activity bug. So many of the clients I get have watched a movie then got scared to death and are now calling us. It is up to us to debunk claims and calm people down. We've always operated this way. But now, investigation has become just a numbers game. So in that sense, we now have our work really cut out for us as far as legitimate claims of hauntings.
Over the years, I have not been on many "true" haunting cases. One good thing, however, is that people who are truly being haunted are not so afraid to come forward and ask for help these days. Ninety-nine percent of the time we will find a logical explanation for their experiences. In my opinion, that is the best thing to happen out of this public paranormal fascination. These clients are allowing us to come into their homes for "us" to find evidence -- for serious investigators, this is why we are doing this in the first place. As Mr. Ferra noted, it is absolutely imperative for us to provide the most unbiased, thorough and well-documented investigation we can possibly conduct. This also includes doing extensive research on that case. So amen to Nick on his similar suggestion. For the true paranormal investigator, it is all about the evidence and helping people.
What Clients Need to Know
I am not going to come to your home and try to rid your home of the nasties that are there. I will do everything in my power to get you the help you need but doing cleansings and the like is not my job. There are some things I will not post on my site and that is so called demonic possessions. I will leave that to the clergy. I am not equipped to handle those types of cases nor do I want to be and I will not try to traipse around someone's psyche or mess around with things I am not qualified to assist with. I can suggest a physic to you but I will not use one on investigation. That is just me personally. Not because I don't believe in physics. I am not about provoking either. Why would I want to intentially make a ghost angry?
So what's the point of my argument to all of this?
All We Have Is Our 'Word'
When all said and done, all I really have is my word. I can document the hell out of something and get nothing. Maybe there is a moment when I turned my head, then the camera moved and I captured something. Does that mean I can't use that as evidence? You never know when you are going to get something and I have to be able to make a judgment call on whether or not to present that to my client. When capturing what I consider to be legitimate evidence, I have to be able to say that the evidence I am presenting to you is something I believe to have paranormal meaning. Maybe I cannot explain why this happened, but I can say, "This is what I have captured." Can I ever say 100 percent that I have proof? Or course not! The only things I have are my experiences from doing investigations and then my personal knowledge based on those experiences.
We should never say that we have proof. We only have evidence of something anomalous. My experiences are going to be different from yours, therefore, we may not come to the same conclusion that something is paranormal. At the end of the day, all I can say to you is I was there and I know what happened.
These reasons are precisely why I started my own group -- certianly not because I felt that I was right or wrong. Any evidence and experience is just based on my take of the situation per my personal experiences.
Like most serious investigators, I never take these things lightly. For example, I have taken thousands and thousands of pictures and yet, I have very few that I will post on my site. However, there are people who may look at my evidence and say, "Nah, that cannot be real." One the other hand, I must insist that the pictures have some merit based on how we take and document our photos. We ask questions like: was it taken under perfect conditions? Probably not. Sometimes, however, there are pictures that are just so weird I have no idea what they could be so I post them anyway and ask others what they make of it. There are times I capture questionable anomalies so I will post that on my site and indicate that I am not sure about it. I ask others what they think.
Presenting Evidence Online and to the Client
Even if I was an expert photographer, I couldn't claim that photograph, video or EVP as proof of ghosts or the paranormal. But it is only because this not a science. Furthermore, "evidence" is not based on how good my equipment or documentation is; it is based on what I truly believe to be paranormal. However, if I do want someone to take me seriously, then I have to provide the best conditions in which to present my evidence. I would never present something "iffy" to a client. Again remember the very definition of paranormal means that we encounter something that we cannot explain.
What does this mean? Ultimately all that I am left with is I was there and I know what I did. I can say that I am an honest person and therefore I believe this to be a paranormal photo.
Now there are some things I will say without a doubt I believe that this was an entity interaction. For instance, my meter is spiking and I feel a cold spot. My thermometer shows a ten-degree drop. I am feeling funny all of a sudden and I don't know why. Then I go through the evidence and I discover an EVP captured at that moment. I am going to say this is evidence to me as it is a combination of many factors.
But here is the thing -- you were not there so you may not believe me. The important thing is that the client and I were there (which is why I encourage full participation with the client). I want the client to trust me and I would not do anything to mess that up. I am going to be so careful as to what I post on my website and be responsible as to the information I put out there.
Again I have hundreds of hours of audio and video yet I have very few on my website because I am stating that I believe to the best of my ability I am convinced these are paranormal events. These few examples are all I have out of many, many investigations. What if I didn't have these personal experiences and I am just randomly snapping and I get something on accident (which truth be told is how I have gotten most of my pictures and EVP)? Does that mean I cannot use that picture to say that this could be paranormal?
Well, all I can is you decide.
Evidence and Personal Responsibility
Paranormal evidence is subjective. It is different for everyone based on their own experiences. I can tell the difference between a dust orb and a bug based on many year's experience, but there are still times I have to wonder. I hate that people now argue that orbs of any kind are all dust bugs, rain, and such. I also dislike the immediate criticism if you post orb pictures on your site then others say that you are not a real investigator.
I agree wholeheartedly that you must have the best uncontaminated investigation as possible but we all know mistakes are made and sometimes I have to throw out evidence because I am not completely sure -- based on my own guidelines -- that this is legit evidence. Even with all of my experience I can't say for sure that anything I have captured is proof positive.
However, based on what I know I do and how I conduct an investigation all I have is my word that I was there and I know what happened. If you stay with investigation long enough, you are going to realize that, when dealing with clients, you have to be the best you can be and educate yourself on the equipment. You have to relfect on how you personally conduct an investigation. It is like a job. I cannot walk into your house and be joking and getting scared right along with the clients. I have to treat an investigation like I am going to my job and I am very serious about how I do that.
You can always disagree with me but if I posted something online that I feel is interesting in a paranormal sense, then I am sticking by it! The bottom line is I have to be responsible as to what I decide to put out there on my website but more importantly, I have to be responsible how I handle the investigation. So I agree with everything Mr. Ferra had to say except this -- the end of the day, all I have is my word.
Paranormal from the Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) Impossible to explain scientifically - Unable to be explained or understood in terms of scientific knowledge.
Angela describes her team, Arizona's Haunted Ghosts and Hauntings, as one with an extra special caring touch. They want to offer support no matter what. They definitely want to leave an investigation with the client having a clear understanding of what is happening to them. To also provide, to the best of their ability, the tools needed to cope and to offer a strong support system to be able to come to terms with their particular situation and haunting. Angela and her partner have 16 years combined experience in ghost investigations and have a true passion for the paranormal world. They will travel anywhere in the state of Arizona for an investigation.