I was recently asked to come up with a list of guidelines for groups wishing to investigate private residences. While this is not meant to be a definitive list, there should hopefully be a few points that anyone wishing to embark on such a task may wish to consider.
1. After initial contact has been made, a meeting should be set up with the ‘client’, preferably in a neutral area rather than the residence itself.
2. Two or three investigators should attend this meeting, preferably of both sexes, and any one with experience in psychology would be useful.
3. This meeting should be used to find out as much information about the case as possible to determine if the ‘client’ does seriously believe that they have problems of a paranormal nature. Also to find out what exactly they are hoping a paranormal investigation would achieve.
4. Hopefully it should become apparent if the case is worth progressing with or not at this stage. Even if it looks like the ‘problems’ may be more psychological than paranormal, it’s probably not going to be very productive to start telling them that at this stage. For one, you’re probably not qualified to do so, but also because the ‘client’ has almost certainly made up their own mind that their problem is of a paranormal nature and it will look as though you are being dismissive of their plight.
5. If the investigators are happy to continue, then arrangements should be made for a house visit/investigation and the ‘client’ should be asked to keep a diary of any strange events that occur in the meantime.
6. The investigators should obtain a written agreement from the client should they with to publish any material from the investigation. This would include a document detailing each and every photo to be used and details of any audio and video recorded. This to be signed by the group and client.
7. No money should change hands (except for perhaps expenses).
8. By this stage the investigators should be familiar with the reported phenomena and possible causes (banging noises could be plumbing for example), so people best suited for getting to the route cause of the problem should be selected from the team, or even brought in specially.
9. The investigation team should be kept to a minimum so the home isn’t invaded by hoards of people and investigators of both sexes should be present if possible. If the team uses mediums/sensitives they should not be present at this stage of the investigation.
10. Investigators should not turn up to a private investigation emblazoned with ‘Paranormal Team Logos’ as these could be seen by neighbours and the privacy of the client would be compromised.
11. Investigators should respect the property at all times.
12. If there are children at the property, they should not be present during the investigation if at all possible.
13. In order to protect the investigators from allegations of theft (or worse), investigators should always have another investigator with them at all times.
14. Investigators should be extra careful when setting up video cameras in a private residence, especially if there are children present, and cameras should not be placed without full permission/knowledge of the home owner.
15. All attempts should be made to ascertain any rational causes for the phenomena and explained to the ‘client’ and advice given.
16. If no ‘natural causes’ are found a ‘paranormal cause’ should not be leapt to.
17. In most private house cases the reported activity will be either ‘poltergeist activity’ or things such as dark shadows/feelings of dread as these are the things most likely to cause people distress. Whether the cause for this phenomena is paranormal or not the client will still want you do something about it.
18. Past research has shown that ‘eliminating stress’ and ‘accepting’ what is going on is a good way to bring these things to a swifter resolution. Explain this to the client and tactfully suggest that things such as counselling may help. It is important for them to feel that you’re not saying you don’t believe them and that it’s just in their head.
If they really do have psychological issues it’s a good way for them to start to get professional help, and if they really do have paranormal activity occurring then it’s one of the most effective methods that has worked in the past.
19. Employing ‘placebo’ techniques (such as burning incence) to help the ‘client’ calm down and feel protected may be useful in some cases. Anything to help the ‘client’ take command of the situation should be considered.
20. There will be times when the ‘client’ will be fixated with talk of exorcisms/house clearings and nothing is going to discourage them from this. If this is the case it is better that you bring in a trusted medium(s) than they go elsewhere. This way you can be sure that they are not going to be charged for this ‘service’ or ‘pressured’ along a certain religious path.
21. Any work of this nature should be carried out with as little fuss as possible.
22. The investigators should keep in regular contact with the ‘client’ as long as he/she wishes.