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So You Want to Start a Paranormal Group?

Many people who have an interest in the paranormal would love to be in a paranormal group. However, sometimes there may not be one in the local area to join. If that's the case then why not contemplate starting a group up yourself?

The most important advice that can be given to potential groups is to NOT use the TV program 'Most Haunted' as a standard to how investigations should be conduted. There are a multitude of groups out there that emulate the format of the 'Most Haunted' show, right down to the resident medium and 'scientific sceptic'. However, 'Most Haunted' is currently in wave after wave of controversy as evidence of the group allegedly manipulating situations and downright faking phenomena has been documented by a number of websites, most notably BadPsychics.co.uk. Most importantly - none of their procedures can produce evidence that can be scientifically scrutinised. The whole point of investigating somewhere is to provide solid evidence of what you're looking for - the paranormal. Vague first-name only characters and descriptions, the odd stone being thrown and inaudible sounds being heard hold no value whatsoever. Not only that, but when anything does happen with Most Haunted they immediately start accusing the others of 'playing a joke' or producing the phenomena themselves. Not exactly trustworthy, is it? The worst thing about the show is that if something happens, like a knock is heard or a shuffling sound absolutely nothing is done to see if it has any rational explaination. Golden rule No. 1 of paranormal investigation - phenomena is NOT going to happen on your face. Stop pointing the camera at it when you're asking out for something to happen.

If you want to follow the standard of a TV 'paranormal investigation' show, then we would highly recommend 'Ghost Hunters' which follows the methods of 'TAPS'. They use all of the latest digital equipment and technology to positively capture paranormal on video which can then be scrutinised at a later date. If something is caught on camera / audio at the time they then thoroughly investigate that area, examining every single potential possibility of how it could have occured naturally. It is because of these methods that any interesting footage or sounds they collect is much more respectible because you know that they wouldn't have presented it without exhausting all other possibilities first. It is able to be discussed, and because their methods are so detailed possibilities that arise at a later date can be fully addressed thanks to the data that they recorded at the time.

When you're planning a group don't make it too big or too small. Too many people will undoubtedly get in the way of equipment and could end up giving you a false positive in your research. However, too little people would make setting up and packing away a big task, and if you're on your own and something major happens then there are no other witnesses to back up what happened. The best size for a paranormal group is around the 3-6 mark. Not too crowded, and not alone.

Equipment can be a daunting prospect to any new group because there's so much out there that can be utilised productively during an investigation. One of the biggest dilemmas that face a group is budget, but if you know where to look then you can pick up a decent kit quite cheaply. The 'ready made' kits that are out there on the market are very small for what you're paying for. Our entire kit (not including the camcorders or digital cameras since they are non-exclusive items) as shown on the Equipment page cost no more than £200 for everything. But if you're just starting out then the most important pieces of kit to have are night-vision camcorders, an audio recorder such as a minidisc or DAT recorder and, most important of all, a torch. Just writing things down during the night is not going to hold water "11.52pm - Jamie and I hear a knock" is nothing. Capturing a knocking sound on both camcorder and audio recorder is better because then the sound can be heard over and over again to determine what it could have been. Also, because there's a visual log it can hopefully prove that nobody was knocking anything at the time. Another piece of advice is that when you're talking to each other do it clearly so that when you replay the tapes back you know that it's you who's talking. If you try and whisper to prevent being recorded you're still going to be captured, and indistinguishable whispers may be mistaken for actual phenomena.

Don't be afraid to speak out if you think there could be a rational explaination to something that's just happened. That's the whole point of paranormal investigation. If you hear a noise from somewhere then go with the camera straight to where you heard it. It's unprofessional to hear or see something, go "oh, that sounded odd" and then ignore it because any potential evidence has been wasted. As I explained previously, it's a pet hate of mine. If something happens then get to where it occured and check it out. Look for pipes to see if it could have been an airlock or the boiler firing up. Check the window to see if it could have been something brushing against it like a branch, check the doors to see if they automatically close by themselves or if they're freestanding.... basically discount every available possible cause for that sound. If you do that and cannot even remotely replicate it then you have some tangible.

After the investigation and you've had a good nights sleep then go back through the footage as early as possible, whilst the events are still fresh in your mind. Now that your mind will be more alert you can srutinise things that may have happened with a sharper mind and may even consider a new possibilty that wasn't thought of at the time. Hopefully you'll have enough data on you to still be able to either discount or further prove what you have caught.

Evidence is there to be debated. Once you've gone through what you have caught, maybe cleaning and enhancing video and audio to highlight potential phenomena then the best thing to do is to get it out there for others to discuss and debate about what might have been caught. Websites are relatively simple to create these days and equipment to upload video and audio onto your PC is getting cheaper and cheaper. I use a TV Tuner card to record my camcorder video from and my audio recorder plugs straight in via USB. The programs you can use to edit video and audio are free - for video you can use Windows Movie Maker to clip out certain sections (and then enhance contrast and brightness to bring out dark shots), and audio can be scrutinied using the Audacity audio editing program (which can let you lose the background hiss and leave just the interesting sounds which can then be made louder if need be).

If enough research was done beforehand then any further questions that're asked can still be dutifully and honestly be answered thus either ruling out yet more possibilities or finding a possible rational explaination as to what has been caught.

The most important thing to remember is to be patient. You're not going to capture something on every investigation you go on. You may even go several nights without getting a single thing. Tangible paranormal phenomena is so incredibly difficult to capture and I've spent many a night just sat there in the pitch black waiting for what seemed to be forever for something to happen. And it didn't. When you're investigating don't let your mind become biased - keep level headed and rational throughout so that if something happens your first instinct is to go straight over and see what it is, not turn tail and run for your life. I'm sure you're all irritated by these people who go to a haunted place, ask for something to happen, and when it does they turn around screaming, running off in the other direction. That's an opportunity lost!

© Copyright 2008 Michael Harbidge. See Copyright page for full disclaimer.