As I prepare for our team’s upcoming expedition to Gettysburg, I find myself reflecting on the ghost hunting community. I want to be very specific when I say “ghost hunting” because I don’t want it to be confused with paranormal research. While the trend of ghost hunting is fading a bit thanks to the dwindling of paranormal reality shows, there are some situations where ghost hunting still has an air novelty. A sense of, “Oh let’s find some ghosts so we can get scared!” Some groups make the practice of ghost hunting and paranormal investigating very kitschy.

There are some pages and groups I’ve worked with where the deceased is presented as a circus freak show. Sure, we hear the stories, but it is up to us to find the truth hidden in the scary story that was meant to raise our tensions. Even the word “hunting” bothers me because I get an image of Elmer Fudd searching for “wabbits” through the woods. Yes, we are searching for ghosts, but we’re not hunting them for the purpose of trapping them. We’re entering THEIR territory and hope that they like us enough to want to talk to us. I sometimes joke that if you don’t get any results at a location, it is either not haunted, or the ghosts thought you were a jerk and didn’t want to talk to you. But all joking aside, we need to approach investigating in such a way where we’re being respectful. Treating the paranormal field as a novelty brand, something that is meant to amuse and entertain the public just furthers the idea that we can’t be taken seriously as paranormal investigators. It’s making the paranormal into this “Come look at the freaks” genre that is making the rest of us look like a cheap and tacky novelty we see on paranormal reality shows. There are times to let your hair down and be silly, but when the very basis of your practice is to be a gimmick, it’s a slap in the face to every paranormal investigator who really is trying to make progress in the field.

Paranormal reality shows are meant to entertain. To embellish that tawdry trend into your own group only makes you look…well, I’ll be nice and just say inexperienced. I guess you can say I’m spending my time complaining about how other teams conduct business. I care about the paranormal community, and I love the people I’ve gotten to meet and work with. I see the countless hours you put into data review and presentation. I see you writing down your ideas and trying them out in the field. I just don’t want to see your hard work trivialized by a novelty concept that is waning into obscurity as time progresses. 

Gettysburg is one of those locations that is near and dear to my heart. I can’t help but get emotional when I go there. So many perished, and those emotional scars still permeate. If ghosts are real, I want to engage in a conversation with these soldiers and talk to them like they’re humans, not some animals behind cages. Sure, the data collections and presentations are fine and interesting. But that’s only a part of the puzzle. Could it be possible to get the same reaction from a conversation about family as you would from trying to provoke the person? Maybe.

If we take away the cheap novelty from the practice of ghost hunting and add in some empathy, who knows what progress we could make. With how large and vast the community has grown, nothing is original these days unless you’ve trained dogs to hunt for ghosts. But that’s a whole other topic for another day.