Eyebrows raise and questions start to fly when people find out that I am a member of the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association (PAPA). I don't normally walk around with my PAPA shirt on, or talk about the paranormal or ghostly adventures, but if the subject comes up, I don't shy away from talking about my 'other life.'
I thought I would take the opportunity to talk a little bit on the reality of 'paranormal' investigation, since that's where most of the questions come in. If you've seen any of the numerous shows that are currently the rage on tv, you know the highlights of what goes on. Someone contacts the investigation team, the team goes in and sets up cameras and recorders and then the results get reported back to the owners or tenants of a property. This fast paced action is unlike the reality of an investigation.
We've had people ask to 'tag along' while we do our thing, and generally after a half hour or an hour, they are done. The investigation itself is a long, mostly boring process, often revealing nothing at all. In fact, we generally will do a one to two hour preliminary investigation prior to a full blown 'hunt.' Occasionally we will find something during the preliminary investigation that will indicate that a full investigation is warranted. Other times not.
If we don't find anything on the preliminary, we will tell people to use digital recorders or personal video cameras and get back to us with anything interesting they find. Those pieces of information will bring us back for the whole enchilada. Paranormal activity is not clockwork or on-demand. Things can happen when we are around, or not. Just because something has happened in the past, doesn't mean we will catch it when we come in and do our thing.
How should you prepare for us? In order for our hunt to have the most chance of success, we ask that you keep a diary of anything unusual. This may give us a target time to visit. Do things happen mostly between 2 and 4 in the morning? Are they mostly in one area of the property? Hot times and hot spots give us something to work with. We like to do the preliminary 'blind' but if you have a special time, we want to know about it.
If we come in blind (not knowing the history or your opinion) we can be more objective and then if we find something, and it matches your experience, that is an indication that there really is something going on.
We also want all electricity shut down at the breaker boxes if that is possible. If the panels are shut down, then any energy we find is not man-made. Although you see the television shows will lights out in the middle of the night, that's not necessary. Ghosts don't wear watches and can appear in daylight just as easily as at night. We've had some interesting things happen to us mid-afternoon, and early mornings, so whatever time works best for you, we can accommodate.
We prefer having the building to ourselves, so no external noises can be mistaken for paranormal activity. This also includes your pets. We love pets, many of us have cats, dogs, etc, but they don't generally do well with a group of strangers wandering the property. Speaking of groups, we also are sensitive to your needs, so smaller properties will have smaller investigation teams, but we have plenty of members (and sister-organizations) that if you have a huge estate or mansion, we can cover it thoroughly.
The question that always comes up is money. We are not 'in it' for the money. To be honest with all the equipment and the large group of team members and support staff, we'd have to charge a small fortune, if we were all about the Benjamins. We investigate for free; we are in the business to help people, that's all. If you'd care to contribute to our equipment fund, we'd be happy to put that money to good use, but it's not a requirement, in fact, it never even gets brought up from our end.
Once an investigation has been completed we return within a week with a reveal of what we have found. Two team members will meet with you and talk about and show what we have found. We will also give you a dvd of the evidence. Now, not all reveals are created equal. Most times we don't find anything earth shattering. That's just a part of the game. In that case, we'll visit and let you know our thoughts and opinions and perhaps talk about another visit. We try to put fears and questions to rest.
Our team is comprised of a diverse group of people with different backgrounds. We are a mix of white and blue collar workers, believers, skeptics, college grads and techies, ranging in age from early twenties to late...um, well, I won't go there, but there is a pretty good age range. We also have connections in various religious communities, so if you need a smudging or a blessing we can also bring in someone to accommodate your wishes. We aren't into the occult, Ouija boards or séances; we are a scientifically based group looking for hard evidence of the paranormal.