Assessing the Threat Level
The threat level can be assessed after the client interview. Sometimes, investigators may suspect that there isn't a threat at all. In most cases, the activity being investigated does not turn out to be paranormal but can be debunked as a normal occurrence that has been mistakenly perceived as supernatural.
The team will assess what is happening and will confer about the information gained from the interview and during the preliminary research. They design a plan for conducting the investigation and attempt to make an initial classification of the entities that might be involved.
No two cases are the same and they can range from merely annoying and puzzling to genuinely frightening.
A Haunting in Philadelphia
The General Wayne Inn in Merion, Pennsylvania, has a long history of bizarre events. Built in 1704 in a Quaker village called Merioneth, just outside Philadelphia, it is rumored to be haunted by such legendary figures as Ben Franklin, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who helped the Americans fight for their independence. It is believed that Edgar Allan Poe revised “The Raven” there.
During the Revolution, the inn was captured and recaptured alternately by British and American troops. Because of this, many deaths occurred in its vicinity. Soon, the rumor spread that a young Hessian soldier was buried in an escape tunnel that had been dug under the foundation.
At the inn, a hostess claimed to have seen a man in a Revolutionary War uniform on the stairs. She also heard someone calling her name, but when she whirled around to see him behind her, he vanished.
The owner reported an occasion when he opened up the cash register to find its drawer full of water, as were thirty wine decanters across the room and glasses on a shelf behind the bar. An insurance inspector could find no leak in the roof and fought the owner's insurance claim.
At other times, when there were young women seated at the bar, someone or something would playfully blow on the back of the neck of each one in turn, making them think their husbands or boyfriends had done it.
According to paranormal researcher Paul F. Eno, ghosts use electromagnetic fields, including those around the human body, to gain access to the ability to create a brief tactile sensation. This is how ghosts are able to touch people even though they have no bodies.
The Bell Witch haunting began in 1817 when a Tennessee family heard scratching and rapping noises in the walls of their home. Over a period of months, the activity accelerated and became increasingly violent. Bell family members were kicked and had their hair pulled. The Bell's daughter Betsy was singled out for special attention. She was kicked, pinched, punched, and tormented. Some of the ghosts appeared in human form and were seen not just by family members, but also by neighbors and visitors as word spread of the haunting. Before long, the Bell Witch was notorious, making trouble throughout the county.
The witch had a deep and abiding hatred for John Bell, the family patriarch. When John became sick, the witch could be heard lingering near his bed, badgering and insulting him, even as he lay dying. After his passing, a bottle of poison was found on a shelf in his room, and the witch told John's son she had tricked her victim into drinking it. After his death, the witch even made an appearance at Bell's funeral, alternately cursing and jeering as he was laid to his final rest.
A Spectrum of Spectral Events
Paranormal activity can range from harmless residual hauntings to more interactive types like poltergeist activity and malevolent entities. In very rare instances, there are reports of elementals or fairies.
In 1878, Esther Cox of Amherst, Nova Scotia, was the target of violent ghostly attacks. Throughout her teenage and young adult years, she was choked, slapped, and bitten, her hair was pulled, and sewing pins were jabbed into her face. The incidents only stopped when she was released from jail after being arrested for arson.
Protection procedures are discussed in Chapter 15, but the best way to prepare the team for their first encounter with malevolent or inhuman spirits is to thoroughly research the topic and use whatever spiritual protection they deem appropriate.