I was recently interviewed on the “American Ghost Hunter” show, and I was faced with a question that I often hear these days.
Why residential cases?
For the past seven years of APS’ existence, our bread and butter have been residential cases. My experience in paranormal investigation goes far beyond the seven years, and I had worked on cases solo for quite some time. Why did I bother going into it in the first place? With all of the legal liabilities out there, was it worth it?
My Backstory (Feel Free to Skip)
The reason why I wanted to get into residential casework is that when I was dealing with my terrifying experience at the age of 17, there wasn’t anyone to help us. This was 2003. Believe it or not, it was a year before “Ghost Hunters” premiered (2004). At the time, when it comes to paranormal TV, all I had was “Most Haunted” and “Scariest Places on Earth.” But I didn’t watch those shows because they weren’t allowed in the house. I wasn’t even allowed to read the “Goosebumps” series or watch “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” I did anyway when my mom was asleep (sorry, Mom).
When I was in high school, I was dealing with a lot of stuff. My grandmother died the summer before my freshman year of high school and I had my first “serious” boyfriend. As with all high school romances, it ended…ironically on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death (he was a gem). Needless to say, I was heartbroken for a multitude of reasons. Also, with my grandmother gone, there was no longer someone there to diffuse the tension between my mother and me. So, my home life was rather turbulent. I started thinking some really dark thoughts and really rebelling. To be honest, my rebellion started in middle school but it got REAL bad my sophomore year of high school. I was really diving into reading paranormal books and case files by the Warrens. I would read AT the library so that I didn’t have to take the books home.
Anyway, my grades were slipping. At the same time, I was becoming obnoxiously religious and conservative. I listened to Christian metal, started wearing all black, and really becoming that “deep” teen while serving as president of the Faith Club. Finally, my senior year, I decided to homeschool so I could join a Christian mime ministry. Yep, I was the coolest kid. Anyway, it was the fall of my senior year. I was neck deep in Jesus and my grades were improving since I was learning at my own pace.
However, one night, I had a terrifying experience one night in my bedroom. It was scary enough that I was sleeping in my mom’s room for months before we did anything about it. Mainly, it was because my mom didn’t believe me. It wasn’t until my cat started hissing and going nuts every time she went into my room that my mom decided to find help. At the time, in 2003 in San Diego, CA, there wasn’t a team around that could help us. If there was a team, we couldn’t find them. Eventually, we had to call in a prayer team, which led to an intervention from the Greek Orthodox church.
Keep in mind, this was still very much a time where you didn’t speak about ghosts or anything paranormal…especially if you were a part of a conservative Christian community.
Residential Cases Today
I would say that paranormal culture has changed dramatically since my encounter. People are more open about their paranormal experiences. If someone needs help, they’re more willing to reach out for assistance. There are also so many teams these days that you can’t throw a rock without hitting a local team. There are at least 3-4 teams in almost every major city. They are everywhere. Some of these teams do residential cases. What is interesting is that a lot of these teams stepped back from residential cases.
This can happen for a few reasons:
- Many clients end up needed psychological or medical help instead of a ghost hunter
- Liability risks
Burnout is very real, especially if you’re doing other things because of residentials. That’s all I’ll say about that.
#2 is a very real problem. In fact, APS has cut back on a lot of residential cases if we even get a whiff that someone is in need of a medical professional. We don’t want to give validation to a person who may use our involvement as a reason to stop taking medication. Many people would rather there be a ghost instead of admitting that they may have a very real problem. Because we are screening so intensely now, our case numbers have dropped, which I’m okay with.
#3 has always been a risk, even if teams from the early days didn’t realize it. There is always that risk you’re going to be sued. Even if you have your client sign all the release forms, that won’t stop them from at least taking you to court. You’ll still have to pay those attorney and court fees. William Wilkens of Paranormal Societies wrote a great article about Liability and Legal Concerns for Paranormal Investigators. I highly recommend you read it!
Also, there is a chance that some of these clients are looking for their gig on TV and need validation from a team. Or, they see it as a sideshow and invite half of their Mommy group to watch as you work.
Again, Why Bother?
The risks I mentioned are very real and possible. With this in mind, why do I still continue to work residential cases? Because as we weed through the absurd requests, there is always that one that is legit and is desperate for help. Had there been a team for my mom and me back in the day, would I still be wary of sleeping alone in the dark? Would I have had to deal with the issue for almost a year? I don’t know. But as long as there are families scared to sleep at night, children scared to function in their daily lives, and people seeking a sense of normalcy, fighting for their homes, APS will be there. Even if APS dissipates in the next ten years, at least I will still be there. Even if I’m debunking a haunting, the clients in it for the right reasons breathe a sigh of relief and find some peace in their lives.
To me, that is what makes it all worth it.