4. Join or Start a Ghost Hunting Team

This is the fourth and final lesson in your free Introduction to Ghost Hunting course.

Haunted house with birdsWe’ve discussed the basics of ghost hunting. You’ve learned how to find a haunted site near you. By now, you’re finding other people interested in ghost hunting. In addition, I hope you’ve visited at least one haunted location, or will do so, soon.

That’s a great start.

In this lesson, we’ll talk about what’s next.

At this point, some people will focus on organized ghost tours and ghost hunting events. At those, you’re almost guaranteed an interesting – and perhaps spooky – experience.

Tours

Tours can be a fine way to find local haunts. Some tours let you borrow their ghost hunting equipment, too. It’s a great way to test-drive difference devices.

If you enjoy the tour enough, ask about becoming one of their tour guides. It’s another way to explore ghost hunting, meet interesting people, and get paid at the same time.

I’ve been on many ghost tours and enjoyed all of them, for various reasons. But, some tours are better than others.

One way to choose a good, local ghost tour: Plan to be near a haunted site you’ll know the tour is likely to visit, at the time they’re likely to pause there.

When the tour shows up, stand back and listen, discreetly. Observe the guide and the reactions of the tour guests.

If it’s a good match for your interests, wait for a break in the tour, and ask the guide for a business card, or how to sign up for a tour.

Here’s a worksheet you can use to decide if a ghost tour seems worth your time (and money): Ghost Tours Evaluation Form.

Ghost Hunting Events

Events are superb ways to gain access to sites usually closed to investigators.

Some events include workshops and presentations by professional ghost hunters.

Others feature “dealer rooms” where inventors and small businesses sell ghost hunting equipment. That’s where I see the most exciting ghost hunting tools… things the public won’t know about for months.

three friendsMostly, I enjoy ghost hunting events because I can meet other ghost hunters – new and experienced – and swap insights. At every event, there’s always one moment (and usually more) when I say, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”

Events are where long-lasting friendships are formed, as well. They may be the best part of ghost hunting vigils and events.

For the best results, see my free handout, Getting the Most from Ghost Hunting Events.

(You may also enjoy my Evaluating Famous Haunts guide, and the related Evaluating Famous Haunts worksheet. Both are free, of course.)

Or, you may prefer to be part of regular investigations. If so, a ghost hunting group may be the best choice.

Pros & Cons of Ghost Hunting Groups

Before joining – or starting – a ghost hunting team, consider your options.

Misty alley in Venice, ItalyFirst, think about your likes and dislikes.

What are your priorities?

Is your schedule limited?

Do you need a team that’s local?  Or, are you willing to drive for an hour or more?

Do you want a group that’s mostly fun and social, or a team of skilled, steely-eyed professionals?

And so on.

In other words, have a clear idea of what you’re looking for.

Next, find ghost hunting groups in your area. Friends may have heard about local ghost hunters.

YouTube is another good resources; search for the words “ghost hunting” and your town or county name.

Still no luck? Look for groups mentioned in news reports from around Halloween.

Maybe you know someone in a ghost hunting group. Perhaps you’ve gone with them on a few investigations.

Don’t assume that you know all of the group’s policies, beliefs, and practices. You might be in for surprises.

When you contact a group that’s accepting new members, ask questions. Be clear about things like:

  • Research locations
  • Spiritual issues
  • Investigation schedules
  • Membership requirements
  • Social compatibility

Locations

What kinds of haunted sites interest you? For example, do you like (or hate) cemeteries?

Nashua's historic schoolhouse and old burial yardAre you eager to investigate famous, local haunted houses? Or, do you prefer to explore new haunts?

Do you want to help frightened people living in haunted houses? Or, are you uneasy in private residences?

Ask which sites the group prefers to investigate. Also ask about sites the group definitely won’t visit, and why.

What about travel? If you need to stay within, say, 10 miles of your home or office, make that clear.

Do you have a car? If not, be sure most investigations can be reached using public transportation. Otherwise, ask if team members routinely offer lifts to sites.

Spiritual Context

Most ghost hunting teams don’t discuss religion or make it part of their research.

Others are open about their spirituality. For example, most members might proudly belong to one particular church.

Ask about this.

Old clock and candlesI regularly hear from people thought their new group was inclusive.

Then, every investigation started with the team holding hands and saying a very church-specific prayer, or following a faith-based ritual.

Go on several ghost hunts with any group you’re thinking of joining.

If your beliefs, practices and attitudes are  compatible with theirs, that’s great.

If not, keep looking.

Schedules

When are the team’s investigations and meetings? Do they fit your schedule?

For example, do they usually research at night or during the day? Do they meet on weeknights or weekends? How long are most investigations?

Does the group keep a strict schedule? If you value punctuality but the team tends to run late – or vice versa – that can present problems.

Also, is it okay if you arrive early and stay late, or vice versa? Does anyone else do that, so you’re never on your own?

Be sure you always have companions at haunted sites. Never investigate by yourself. (Bad people, living and dead, can prey on loners. Don’t be a victim!)

Requirements

What’s expected of team members? Are some investigations and meetings mandatory? How frequent are they?

Is there a training requirement? Who is teaching and what are their qualifications?

Must all team members closely follow the training advice? Or, are you free to use what works best for you?

Finances

Annual, quarterly, or monthly dues may be reasonable if they cover things like the group’s website or liability insurance.

Get everything in writing before you join. If anything seems odd, ask to see the group’s recent financial report. All members should have access to that, on request.

Social Issues

Ghost hunting teams must get along. In fact, compatibility can be the make-or-break point for any group of ghost hunters.

An assertive or even boisterous ghost hunter may seem impressive at first. After a few ghost hunts, their constant comments can become annoying. That’s another reason to go on several ghost hunts before agreeing to join.

Cat pouting.Are team members too chatty, or always silent, and are you okay with that?

Are you comfortable with how much time they’re in “lights out” mode? Does anyone seem too clingy – or even “flirty” – in the dark?

Some ghost hunters think it’s okay to have a beer or two before an investigation. Others smoke at the site. Some bring their small, fussy children when they can’t find a babysitter.

If something makes you uneasy now, it may annoy you more, later. Address these issues before joining the group.

The Decision Is Yours

Spend time with the group before committing to membership. See what their interests and standards are, under pressure at investigations.

Here’s a worksheet that may be helpful: Joining a Ghost Hunting Group – Evaluation Worksheet.

If you find a good team, join. Ask how you can be helpful, especially during investigations. Above all, be active! We ghost hunters need more enthusiastic, dedicated researchers.

But, if you can’t find a team to join, you may want to start your own.

Or not.

If you do start one, all of the issues we’ve talked about… they’ll become your responsibility.

Think about that carefully.

Be realistic about your resources, especially how much time you have. Being a team leader can require many hours of extra work, in addition to the time spent on investigations.

Starting a Ghost Hunting Group

To build a good ghost hunting group, go on several ghost hunts with a few interested friends.

Do they work well together? Does anyone try to take charge?

It’s natural for people to want to help out. And, in this field, it’s normal for people to want to be in control. (After all, a lot of paranormal research involves creepy things we can’t control.)

But, be cautious if the chemistry between team members leads to conflicts, or one person dominates almost every conversation.

Likewise, pay attention if someone seems like a spectator, rather than an active part of the investigation.

Someone looking tired.Maybe they’re psychic and need a lot of quiet, personal space to observe the energy (and any ghosts) around them.

Or, maybe they’re uneasy about a fellow team member… or about haunted places, in general.

Watch for personal interactions, especially romantic ones. A couple that’s dating now may split up, later. That’s fine if they remain friends. If not, it can fracture any team.

In addition, check the list of local sex offenders.

I know how preposterous that sounds, but in 2009, we learned that a major ghost hunting personality had been arrested (and convicted) on sex-related charges… twice.

Most of us were shocked. The man had seemed like the most charming, honest “country boy,” ever.

I’m not sure if he’s still active in ghost hunting; many of us won’t go near him, or attend any event where he’s a speaker or a guest. I haven’t seen his name mentioned in recent years, so he may have moved on to fields with more gullible members.

Of course, watch for anyone who has to be right, always.

In ghost hunting, it’s easy to decide something was definitely a ghost, when it wasn’t. It’s equally easy to brush off a genuine anomaly, and later realize it may have been a ghost.

Either way, can your potential team members accept when they’re wrong? Arguments and hard feelings can result.

If someone remains sullen or adamant about a mistake, the issue is likely to explode, sooner or later. They probably don’t belong on your team.

But, allow people to get used to ghost hunting. At first, everything can seem overwhelming, confusing, and awkward.

In time, they may respond more gracefully to mistakes.

Frankly, even seasoned investigators are wrong about some phenomena, regularly. Sometimes, that’s awkward. Most of the time, we laugh at our blunders and try to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

After several ghost hunts with a variety of people, consider balance.

Getting the Right Balance

What if you have four people with EMF meters, but no one who records EVP?

You could form a group that specializes in EMF. Or, you may add a team member who’s good with EVP.

What about gender or other factors? If your team is predominantly male, or one nationality, or most of them grew up together, will others feel uneasy?

Today, it’s easy to draw tribal lines after a misunderstanding. Keep all kinds of balance in mind.

When you’ve found a group of people with shared interests and a long-term interest in ghost hunting, discuss forming a formal team. If enough people are interested, schedule an organizational meeting.

It’s best to do this in person. If that’s not possible, try an online collaboration – a private forum, a hangout, a Facebook group, a Google Drive document, or something like Slack.

(Keep in mind that if you can’t find a common time for an in-person meeting, scheduling investigations may be even more challenging.)

First Meeting

Cover the basics at this meeting. For example, discuss the types of locations you’ll investigate, and issues related to spirituality.

Decide the best investigation schedule. Discuss distance or expense limits. Talk about what you expect from members, and so on.

You might have something like a mission statement. In other words, why you’re involved in ghost hunting. Start with something general. The group can modify it later.

It’s okay to model your team after an existing group, or people you’ve seen on TV or YouTube.

Discuss the group’s structure.

Will there be one leader, or do you prefer co-leaders? Is that a permanent, rotating, or elected position?

Also, who speaks for the group when dealing with the media? (You’re likely to have more contact with the media than you expect. Plan ahead.)

Who Does What?

Everyone should have specific responsibilities. You could choose titles, so each person understands who focuses on what. Everyone should feel important, but not overwhelmed by responsibilities.

Possible titles could include:

  • Lead ________ Investigator (EMF, EVP, cold spots, triggers, etc.)
  • Team Historian
  • Lead Photographer or Videographer
  • Safety & First Aid Specialist
  • Media or PR Contact Person
  • New Member Contact Person
  • Investigation Coordinator
  • ____________ Analyst (photos, EVP, etc.)
  • Webmaster

Also, identify anyone who prefers to be the base team. Sometimes, base team members are interested in ghosts, but uneasy in dark locations. Or, they have allergies or asthma that prevents them from investigating dusty or moldy sites, especially during hay fever season.

Of course, it helps if they’re tech-minded.

The base team – two or three people – may be in a separate, lit room or outside in a van. They’ll stay in contact with team members via walkie-talkies, and perhaps monitors if those are in your budget.

They may supervise evidence analysis, too.

Of course, this is a lot to decide. Don’t feel rushed. It’s okay to start with a limited structure (or nearly none at all). Then, modify your team as needed.

But, a few points should be addressed, early. One is your liabilities. The other is your new member policy.

Liabilities

Will you conduct private investigations? If so, ask an insurance expert about liability issues.

There are two sides to this.

Find out what to someone charges your team with damage after an investigation. For example, if a team member breaks something at a haunted hotel or museum.

Also, a private home with malicious or demonic activity, it’s far too easy to make things worse. So, what happens if they sue you?

This is especially important when a client or homeowner withholds important information from you. That happens more often than you might expect.

Some homeowners are quick to tell you their worst fears.

Others may be afraid that you will think it sounds crazy. Or – at the other extreme – you’ll be too frightened to help them.

Every investigation is unique. Be sure you’re covered if the site owner makes a claim against you.

Then there’s the safety of your team.

first aid kitWhat happens if a team member (or guest) has an accident, or even causes one?

People can stumble or run into objects in low light conditions, especially in old buildings.

Outdoor settings present different problems.  For example, at cemeteries, you may encounter snakes, irregular depressions in unmarked graves, and broken pavement. (I think everyone on my team has fallen or twisted an ankle, at some time.)

Ghost hunting is scary enough.

A good insurance agent can prevent financial nightmares.

New Members

In every group, team members come and go. A member might take a job in another area. Or, his school or work schedule changes. Now and then, personality conflicts emerge and one person leaves the team.

Your group may also expand its size and scope. If so, you’ll need new members to support growing demands and responsibilities.

Decide how and when to include new members and guests.

Also consider if founding members must approve new members, and if it should be unanimous.

Be Professional

Even informal groups should aspire to professional standards. This is especially important if you’ll interact with the public or media.

Most groups choose a name. It should be completely different from any other group, especially in your area.

Your group may want team T-shirts or business cards. You might launch a website and a YouTube channel, or schedule events, lectures, and media appearances.

Unless you form a legal partnership, one individual owns the rights to the domain name, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc.

Discuss this early, perhaps with an attorney who specializes in copyright law and intellectual property.

And then, put it in writing.

Summary

In this lesson, you’ve learned about joining or starting a group. By now, you have a lot to think about.

Don’t rush into anything. Take your paranormal explorations one step at a time.

After about a dozen or so informal ghost hunts, you’ll have a much better sense of what you want to do next.

You may decide that ghost hunting is more fun to watch on your TV or in videos. In real life, it’s not that exciting to stand in the dark for hours, with nothing happening.

At the other extreme, if you encounter something terrifying, you may wonder if ghost hunting is worth it.

If you stay in this field, you have many options.

Whichever path you choose now, it’s not a lifetime commitment. Interests and priorities change. Being part of a team may be fun now, but tedious later.

That’s normal.

Start by gaining expertise as a ghost hunter. Later, explore other areas related to ghost hunting.

After that, narrow your focus to what you most enjoy. It could become your specialty.

In future free courses, I’ll describe some professional options that I’ve explored, and share my best insights.

I’m also working on courses related to specific ghost hunting interests, research techniques, and kinds of haunts.

Fiona Broome

I hope this course has been helpful. You can download your free, printable certificate by clicking here.

If you have anything to ask me – or if you’d like to share insights about ghosts and ghost hunting – leave a comment below.

Also, I really enjoy talking with fellow ghost enthusiasts. So, I hope to meet you someday, at a ghost hunting event.