4c) New Members and Looking Professional

In this part of Lesson Four, I’m assuming that you’ve started your own ghost hunting group.

If you found a good, local group to join, most of this won’t apply to you.  However, if you get involved in the group’s management, you might glean a few ideas from this page.

Few teams remain the same month after month, and year after year.  Most change as their members change.

People join. Some stay forever. Others go to university, get married, have kids, change jobs, or move… and they leave.

That’s true of any group in any community. Ghost hunting groups can have frequent turnover.

Sometimes it’s about politics within the group, or a disapproving girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, or spouse.

Usually, it’s simpler than that: Members lose interest.

Frankly, most ghost hunts are boring. It’s not as exciting as it seems on TV.

Team members stand around for hours, usually in dark locations — and they can cold and bone-chilling, or unbearably hot & humid.

If you’re lucky, something finally happens, just when you were about to pack up and leave.

Or maybe nothing happens.

Usually, someone got an orb in a photo, or thought they saw a figure in the woods or behind a door. Often, that’s as good as it gets.

It’s light years away from Ghost Adventures, or “Dude, run!” moments on Ghost Hunters. 

People expect chills, thrills, and adrenaline rushes. Most of the time, all they get are bug bites and boredom.

So, about 3/4 of your members will leave the group.

Expect that to happen; it’s nothing personal.

Make it easy for people to talk about this. Explain that you know ghost hunting isn’t much fun for most people. You can still be friends, even after the person quits the team.

Then, look for new members, or decide it’s okay to have a small, dedicated group.

As long as you’re not ghost hunting by yourself, the “group” can be just you and a friend or two.

However, if you’re in an area with some great haunted locations, your may have the opposite problem. Your experiences may be so fantastic, people are rushing to join your team, just to be part of your adventures. You may have to limit membership, and be strict about who’s part of the team and who isn’t.

Either way, decide now how new members are invited and approved. Is it something formal, with a majority vote, or what?

Also, gauge the size of the group that’s most comfortable for your core, reliable members. Generally, I’m with the same two to five people. Now and then, I include as many as 15 or 20 people, but that’s rare.

For me, supervising more than about 10 people at a single investigation — even in teams of two — is unmanageable and distracts me from my research.

So, my default is a group of three to six, total.

You may be more comfortable with larger or smaller groups. Get a sense of this as you go on investigations, and discuss it with others you meet with regularly. You may want to cap membership at a certain number, per investigation, or even in terms of the total group.

Look professional.

You and your team members should always represent yourselves as professionals.

At one time, that meant business cards, a logo on your car, and matching T-shirts.  Then, some groups took that to an extreme and it looks kind of silly.

There is a happy medium (no pun intended). Look like organized, responsible adults, but make sure you won’t be confused with a softball team or a group of realtors.

I’ve seen ghost hunting teams that dress entirely in black, so they don’t stand out (and distract team members) in low-light conditions.

Other groups ask their members all wear a certain color shirt (any style) with jeans, so they’re easy to spot across the room (or battlefield) if a haunted site is popular that night.

But, many teams aren’t that formal. They may dress alike for paid events or high-profile investigations (including investigations of private homes). For regular investigations, they dress comfortably.

When I’m ghost hunting with friends, I usually keep a dressy jacket in the car — in case someone from the media happens to be at the location , or something like that — but otherwise, I dress for comfort.  So do my friends.  We wear the same things we’d wear to our kids’ soccer games, or on a hike along a popular trail.

Always be prepared for the police to check on you, to be sure you’re not vandals or drug dealers. Avoid extreme styling. Look clean, not scruffy. Carry ID with you, and some cash in your pocket so — if someone wants you arrested — you can’t be described as a vagrant.

In some communities, “vagrancy” is the default charge if the police are looking for a reason to arrest you or at least bring you to the station.

Keep in mind that the police may be reluctant to arrest you, but they also have to answer to a higher-up who dislikes ghost hunters, or the influential person who called-in the complaint. Smile, be agreeable, speak professionally, and don’t give them any reason to press charges.

Most police officers are good and caring people. Several have been part of my research team, at one time or another.

However, if you’re investigating a cemetery that has no posted hours, it’s best not to look like someone who’d planned to sleep there under the guise of “ghost hunting.”

At public events, I dress more formally (mostly black) for my presentations or panels.  I carry business cards and usually a few handouts — how-to summaries, ley line maps, etc. — that people can learn more from, when they get home.

There’s a fine line between looking the way the public expect you to, and seeming like a stereotype or parody of paranormal investigators.  If you’re in “dress to impress” mode, you’re probably taking things too far.  People should remember and respect your expertise and friendliness, not your expensive or eccentric wardrobe.

Mostly, looking professional means behaving in a professional manner.  Be polite. When people want to talk to you about ghosts, make eye contact and smile. Keep your language within PG boundaries, and explain words the public may not know. (That includes terms like EMF and EVP.)  Avoid saying negative things about other professionals in the field, or about haunted sites and their owners.

Conduct yourself in a professional manner when discussing paranormal subjects with anyone… including your friends.  Earn respect for your work in this field, and the rest may take care of itself.

Have an online presence.

Many groups and individuals set up websites to share their research results and discuss ghost hunting in general.

If you’re setting up a group website, you’ll need a name. Unless you form some kind of legal partnership, one individual will own the rights to that domain name. Make sure everyone understands that, and agrees to the choice.

In addition to a website, your ghost hunting team may want a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a Pinterest board, a Tumblr account, G+ community, etc.  Make sure the work is divided among several people. (HootSuite.com is a free way to manage much of your social media at one time.)

Stay current about emerging social media, so you snag your team’s username early. That’s especially true if other teams have the same or similar names, in other parts of the country or the world.

Forums and Facebook groups are still popular… for now.

In 2013, as I’m writing this, forums are still popular among some ghost enthusiasts, but many have been replaced by Facebook groups. A year from now, the scene may have changed, radically.

No matter what online resources you use to communicate with interested people, make sure your members monitor the sites for critics, predators, trolls, and flame wars.

For slightly more private communications, I’m seeing more G+ hangouts emerge. Online meetings and webinars are additional ways to involve the public in your discussions, while still maintaining some control over the conversation.

Blogs, podcasts, YouTube, Vimeo, are other options.

Blogs aren’t as strong as they once were, but some teams find ways to keep them fresh and topical. Including podcasts and videos are among the mainstream options for your team’s website.  Other technologies are emerging for more interaction with your website visitors, people interested in joining your group, and potential clients.

At some point, you’ll need to decide how visible you want your team to be, and how much online activities take time from your research efforts.

The Diffusion of Innovations curve still applies.

At best, we’re at the “late majority” phase of popular interest in ghost hunting.  If you research what that means, you’ll understand the liabilities of being too open to public criticism, and expecting too much from people who follow your blog, etc.

If you’re hoping to secure a TV show for your team, I won’t say that ship has sailed, but it’s not a good reason to get involved in ghost hunting.  Please read my article, If You Really Want to Be on a Paranormal TV Show.

Remember why you began this journey.

It’s easy to lose sight of what attracted you to ghost hunting in the first place.  If you start your own group and decide to share your research results with the world, those related responsibilities will take time from your investigations, as well as your personal life.

Start small, with just a few friends or a good local group. Focus on learning to be a good paranormal researcher.

In six months to a year, pause. Decide if you want to build an online presence, talk with reporters at Halloween, and so on.

For now, focus on the basics.  Learn as much as you can about ghosts and haunted places. Develop your observational skills, and learn to use ghost hunting equipment with confidence. (Don’t try to learn it all. Focus on EVP or on photography or on EMF… not all of them, at once.)

As you gain more experience, read as many ghost-related books as you can get your hands on.  My personal library includes books about the Fox sisters, and stories by Edward Rowe Snow, Hans Holzer, and Colin Wilson. I pounce on books by Nick Redfern as they’re published, and I own a copy of Conjuring Up Philip. (If you can find a copy, read it. It will change how you look at ghostly phenomena.)

The key to being a professional in paranormal research is to think like a professional.  Treat it like any other career, even if it’s a spare-time activity for you.

About once a year, pause and see if you’re still enjoying ghost hunting, and what you’d like to learn more about in the coming year.

We’re not even close to having reliable answers in this field.  Your research — even if you can only investigate sites once every couple of months — can make a difference.

This course is nearly over. It’s time for the Conclusion, and then… go out and find some ghosts!

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