Interviewing the Witnesses
People who contact ghost hunters and paranormal investigators are sometimes quite desperate. They have reached the end of their rope emotionally; in some cases, they really fear they are losing their minds. They may have had no experience with the supernatural before, so they have no context for what is happening. They are often referred by clergy and will be desperate to tell their stories to the investigators in hope of finding some relief from the chaos and fear that accompanies paranormal situations.
When interviewing, different protocols are required for different cases, depending on the urgency of the situation. Many groups will drop everything to come to the assistance of families with children, or if there seems to be a risk of imminent harm to the occupants of an allegedly haunted home.
The Process Begins
When a call comes in, the case manager will take down the information about what is happening. Other pertinent data, such as the address where the activity is occurring and the degree of urgency, is weighed before the case manager books a time for the investigators to interview the witnesses.
If there is sufficient time, a researcher might visit reference libraries and historical societies to look into the history of the house or site. Every little tidbit of information may be of importance in figuring out exactly what is happening at the allegedly haunted location.
Some groups have all of their prospective clients fill out questionnaires or conduct telephone interviews, asking for as much background information as they can get, such as the age of the site, what sort of sounds have been heard, and what abnormalities have been seen. Perhaps the most important question of all concerns how the client feels about what she is experiencing. Does she feel threatened? Based on the client's answers to these questions, the case manager will decide whether the respondent is sincere and credible. If she seems to be, then an investigation is planned.
Meeting the Client
The interviewers proceed to the site and meet with the clients. Occasionally, another in-depth interview takes place on-site, and team members are thoroughly briefed on the case. Pertinent follow-up questions are asked simply to verify the witnesses' first account of the phenomena. Before much time and energy are invested in a case, be sure that something real is occurring and that the ghost hunting team is not being set up or tricked.
Paranormal investigators went to a house in Colorado that was reportedly haunted by demon eyes — red glowing orbs. After witnessing a manifestation of the red orbs, the investigators realized that the demon eyes were a set of reflections of reflections. The brake lights of cars stopping at a nearby intersection were reflected through a window into a wall mirror.
Hoaxing the Hunters
Andrew Laird was urgently summoned to a location to do an investigation only to discover that the client had set him up by concealing devices around the premises to simulate a haunting in order to “test” the group. Apparently, this sort of thing has happened to many groups, and investigators should be aware that it might eventually happen to them. Laird's group discovered the chicanery through the use of listening devices, which detected the sound of the equipment in operation.
All people in the household should be present as the interviewers talk to the client. Everyone who is in any way a participant — either a victim of or a witness to the activity — should be interviewed. If young children are present, they may be very disturbed to hear what is being said, so investigators must exercise a great deal of discretion.
An investigator who is both skilled and gentle can interview children later. A great deal of information can come out during these sessions, and clients are relieved to be able to talk freely about their experiences to people who will believe them and may really open up.
Noted and Logged
Notes on the interview must be made to record all the pertinent facts. These are useful for reference later. Occasionally, some clients may at first deny, then reluctantly admit, that they have been involved in some sort of experimentation, such as using a Ouija board or holding a séance that opened the door for entities to walk through. Sometimes the clients are reluctant to make the admission in front of other family members or housemates and this is where follow-up conversations by team members are quite helpful.
There are some reports of ghosts that slap and bite. Christina Foyle of Essex, England, had a terrifying experience at Beeleigh Abbey. She slept in a room supposedly haunted by Sir John Gates, who was beheaded in 1553, and awoke the next morning with tooth marks on her shoulder and a serious bite mark on one finger.
Let the Investigation Begin
As the investigation begins, clients generally either go off-site or get out of the team's way. Each team member makes his own preparations, part of which is doing preliminary readings and keeping notes of his individual experiences during the investigation. In their diaries or work logs, the individuals involved in the investigation will record which pieces of equipment were used and make careful notes of any unexplained phenomena they may have personally experienced.