It’s two in the morning. I’m falling asleep in a pile of dirt and leaves in the ward of an old mental hospital. My recorder is running, piling up hours of audio I will either listen to later or never listen to. If I never listen to those audio files waiting patiently on my computer, I will feel a certain amount of guilt every time I walk into the office. I am also dizzy, due to dust and mold allergies that swell up my sinuses and inner ears. Maybe, I wonder, I’m dizzy because the spirits are sucking the life out of me. I ponder that. We are all so tired that our EVP session has dwindled down to a few questions every ten minutes or so, and there is absolutely no activity at the moment. The hope that something will stir up in response to our boring queries keeps us there, trapped, waiting for a little knock or a tentative bang, but nothing happens. When we finally give up, it’s around 2:40. I don’t get to sleep until 4 AM. The next day—or, should I say, the remainder of THAT day—is a total loss. I feel like crap, my eyes are swollen, I have a headache, I can’t manage to take a nap or do anything practical or purposeful, I drag myself through that Sunday attempting to be a good mother and wife, but I know I’m neither after a ghost hunt.
So, here are the reasons I think about quitting the entire enterprise. Maybe after writing this list, I’ll purge my system of the complaints and be ready again for the next adventure:
I never really considered myself to be any older, really, than my ghost hunting peers. Yes, I was born 10 to 20 years before most of them, but that didn’t seem relevant until I realized that I was a disaster at 2 or 3 in the morning, and they were relatively perky. The next day, most of them recovered quickly, and I was useless for a solid 24 hours or more. My face at 2 AM is a sad reminder of lost youth—I add 10 years to my actual age by the early hours of the morning, whereas my younger counterparts still look all fresh and dewy, maybe just a tad bleary-eyed. Mostly, though, the issue is my inability to take care of family needs the day after. All I want to do is take a nap, but that seems selfish of me. I can’t manage to cook, clean, pay bills or review audio, video or photos. If I go out investigating until the wee hours, I can count on a long recovery period where I really am no good to anyone. That makes me feel guilty and depressed.
I have a “ghost hunters” syndrome, which starts with a vague headache around 1 AM and gradually worsens throughout the night and the next day. The headache might become a migraine, in which case all bets are off—I will be in bed all day. If not, the pain migrates around my head and shoulders and is usually accompanied by wooziness and a light-headed feeling. My nose is usually stuffy and my head feel heavy. I can’t sleep in this state, either. I usually wake up every hour and stare at the clock. My body hurts, and occasionally I have nightmares or am plain scared by what we’ve experienced.
3) Spirits suck . . .
Energy, that is. If a location is active, I will end up utterly drained by the end of the investigation. I used to discount this theory, but I know it to be true by experience. If there are raps, bangs, voices, sensations, odors, and the whole gamut of spirit activity, I will feel as if my life source has been tapped and emptied. It’s a very disconcerting feeling, far beyond the normal tiredness of staying up too late. It makes sense that these souls need energy, but I wish I weren’t such an easy supply. I don’t know what to say about this phenomenon, except that it is further proof to me of the reality of the spirit world. However, I’m still not sure what is “using” me in this fashion. That disturbs me on every investigation.
4) FEAR . . .
Instead of my fear of haunted places lessening over time, I find that it’s actually worsening. I jump at noises and feel my heart explode in my chest when something touches me or alters the vibration of my immediate environment. Case in point: I saw, quite clearly, a low shadow move deliberately and slowly across a wall. This happened in a jail, and at the same time the temperature dropped, the K-2 went wild, and someone was touched. I was terrified. This was not a pleasant little ghost; this was something watching us, maybe making fun of us, heaping its nastiness and derision on our little team like a warm oil slick. That is how the episode felt. This happens on a regular basis, and I always have the impression that nothing good is happening. Yes, yes, I GET IT: if we go to jails, mental hospitals, and murder sites what the hell do we expect? Flowers and happy Caspers? It used to be so fun, though, playing with evil entities and running around in the cloying darkness. Now, not so much. After a while, it’s no longer a game and becomes terrifyingly real. Criminals and madmen are not my friends in life; why would I want a relationship with them after they died? They’re not any better than they were—maybe they are actually worse. Nothing saved them or made them good people. Why do I really want to contact them, anyway? I can’t save their victims or show them the light; I can just record their nastiness and play it back for everyone to hear later. Why give them this power? Why subject myself to fear and panic just because we want to explore a cool, abandoned building? The adrenaline rush has been like a drug to me, but that’s not why I started this whole project in the first place. I wanted to establish contact with the spirit world. That’s fine, but the spirits don’t need to by psychotic or violent, right?
I woke up with nightmares one night after an investigation at a former mental hospital. Actually, it was more like a vision . . . a fetid, ancient lady leaned over me and bared her teeth, and as she did, she transformed into the most hideous demon I could ever imagine. It didn’t feel like I invented her, though; it felt like she was real. Not only that, but voices on tape have threatened to kill us; they have insulted us; and some activity in certain places has made us ill.
We keep going to these places not because we are masochists, but because our memory is so short. We forget how we felt the last time we were there, and what the next day was like. We also lose our belief in what we experienced. Ghost hunters have the least faith in the spirit world of anyone I know—we have to keep proving the existence of the disembodied soul over and over again, because we really don’t believe in the value of our evidence or the certainty of our experiences. How much evidence is enough? I doubt that there is ever enough to stop us from our nocturnal quests. A ghost could materialize in front of our faces, declare that he exists, disappear, and we would be amazed and convinced . . . for a week; the next weekend, back to the hunt. We always find ways to discount what we should know, by now, is absolutely real.
If ghost hunting gives us a drug-like high, though, then we’ll never give it up until we decide to give up the addiction. Imagine what negative spirits can do to us if we are addicted to their presence—knowing that we need them for all the wrong reasons empowers them to control us and use us to their ends. This is not what I had in mind when I became a paranormal investigator.
SO, what can I do about this? If I am primarily attracted by the mystery and the desire to know, then I need to remind myself every on every investigation what my motives are, and what I hope to gain from the experience. “More contact” with unknown entities is not enough. I need to remember the following:
1) Pursue the mystery itself, not just its effects.
Keep reading and researching the legitimate efforts to understand the afterlife. Don’t become an EVP junkie, or an Orb Queen. EVPs, orbs, weird photos and video and the readings of a thousand interesting gadgets can become a substitute for the quest of real knowledge about what happens after we die. Pursuing “evidence” can become an exercise in collecting bits and pieces of anomalous information for no other purpose than itself.
2) Take long breaks from places with a violent or unhappy past.
It’s not necessary to spend every weekend in places with a known history of cruelty, violence, trauma, misery and torture. It is only logical that this will take a toll on you emotionally and physically, and to those who declare that these are the only places with “activity”, I say: how would any of us know? Paranormal investigators, as a whole, do not make much of an effort to seek out positive environments or energies.
3) Give back to the communities that allow you to investigate their properties.
Consider fund raising events (everyone loves to investigate these days!) for historic sites, conventions at hotels that really need the business, or special events at sites struggling with the bad economy. True, some places don’t want anything to do with ghosts, but most places welcome the publicity.
4) Remember that there is no rule that says ghosts only come out at 3AM.
In fact, many of the books I have read about spirit activity claim that the most active times are in the morning hours or right at dusk. Why don’t we consider getting up at a reasonable hour and investigating in the morning? We could gather different, perhaps more compelling, evidence of how those lives were lived. If people are more active in the morning and at sunset, why wouldn’t ghosts follow the same schedule?
5) Don’t forget the living.
If ghost hunting is really about LIFE after death, then let’s concentrate more on LIFE. Let’s not forget those who need us to be awake, alert and involved with the everyday. It also occurs to me that spirits are alive, after all, not dead. They are not manifesting death, but life energy. Let’s share in a celebration of everyone’s life instead of morbidly associating our favorite pastime with death, decay, corruption and general rot.
6) Don’t forget God.
A Higher Power watches us and knows the content of our hearts and the purity of our intentions.