November 28, 2012
Embracing the Joy of Ghost HuntingBy Deonna Kelli Sayed
I am, on occasion, a paranormal investigator. I have written two books on bookshelves across America about related issues. I know people on "the shows," and I am fortunate enough to have access to the few actually doing academic, scientific research on related phenomena . I'm a newly divorced, single mom of an awesome 10 year old son. I don't have family around, so that makes it hard for me to dedicate as much time to investigation as I'd like. I do miss it, for there is something deeply satisfying about this work.
Oh, but I'm a lucky girl. This ghost hunting stuff changed my life. In 2008, I returned to the US from abroad as a frumpy housewife in North Carolina to raise six kids on my own (five step-kids) while their father remained overseas. My only TV time: Wednesday nights at 9 pm. You know what show I'm talking about -- the Mother Ship: Ghost Hunters.
Maybe I needed to be around adults, or maybe I needed some magic in my life, but I joined a local group and eventually ended up with a TAPS family. Then, by sheer force of will and perhaps some of that magic, I called into my life the very people I watched every Wednesday night on TV. (I joke with Jason Hawes that he is my "maker.")
I ended up writing a book about the impact of paranormal reality TV on American society. Ghost hunting changed my life and helped me face a litany of personal fears and insecurities. I know that I am not the only person to find paranormal investigation to be personally meaningful in magical ways.
Why We Investigate
I write about such personal issues because I am not alone in my motivations regarding the ghost frontier. Most of us became investigators because we felt overwhelming, unexplainably compelled to just do this. Some of us say we want to help people. Others want to intellectually and scientifically explore these phenomena, while some are spiritually motivated. Of course, there are those who acknowledge this endeavor is an easy way to get attention and enjoy a small, limited limelight. I don't judge why you are here because we are all using this to figure out our place in the world and to feel good about ourselves, regardless of the motivation. That is OK.
Jeff Belanger, the Editor-in -Chief of Ghostvillage.com, has written far more books than I have on this ghost stuff. He even writes and researches for a popular TV show, Ghost Adventurers. He has said something to me more than once: "Everybody is part of the story." It doesn't matter if you are in this because you feel a religious call, a science mission, a booty call (hey, there are some...), or for reasons you can't explain. You may be one of the few research scientists doing this stuff, or you may be a loud-n-proud legend tripper. Everyone has a role.
Most of us have a ghost face for the community that is very different than the mask we wear in our daily lives. Some of us assume specific personas for our parapersonality. I do this, as well. My nonparanormal writing appeals to a different part of my identity and to a very different audience. There is no shame in this. Many of us appreciate a needed respite from the daily monotony of our lives.
Taking the Skeletons Out of the Closet
There is bigger issue here about that no one wants to talk about. The point is that people actually act as if something is at stake. Let me ask a series of hard question: How many of us are really unraveling the greatest complexities of the universe? How many of us are positioned well enough to make science pay attention (and fund) real research? In reality, most of us are not able to do the level of work required by academic and scientific communities.
There are groups who do a wonderful job empowering homeowners and clients. But these groups are often what I call the "soft and quiet ones." They aren't overly interested in the public face of the paranormal. For them, that just isn't where it is at.
Here is another important question: How many of us are economically benefiting from this? A few make money doing public events, but most of us - save some TV personalities and popular authors - rarely make anything at all. We pay to be part of the cool crowd. That is the truth. We pay for our investigative equipment, our gas money to go on investigations and to attend (and sometimes, to even speak at) events. We pay in our time it takes managing groups, cases, and in reviewing evidence.
Most of us will never be on TV, and if we are, we may get a few minutes airtime on a cable network TV show that may have, at the most, a million viewers. That one TV appearance may be cool and awesome, but it isn't going to change a life. Half the people I know in the paranormal community have been on TV. Amazingly, life goes on like before.
What is at stake? Is society going to crumble if we all find other nocturnal hobbies or, God forbid, stop watching the TV shows?
We Are All Part of The Story
What is at stake, in truth, is our own personal stories. In this beautiful, wonderful, honorable thing called paranormal investigation, we empower ourselves to embrace history, metaphysics, God/Universe, altruism, science, efforts to do one, simple thing - to contemplate our singular, profound existence.
I cannot tell anyone how to behave or engage the world through the paranormal, but I am going to close this article with the paragraphs that close my book, So You Want To Hunt Ghosts .
"Behaving ethically is a key component of a dedicated investigator, regardless if one investigates homes or legend trips. You and I are now part of the story in different yet wonderful ways. There is room for all of us as long as we remain respectful our clients, what we do, and each other.
I end here with a call for investigators of all persuasion to do no harm. Investigate ethically and joyfully, and let this journey take you where it may."
Deonna Kelli Sayed is an American-Muslim writer who also happens to be a paranormal investigator. She is the author of Paranormal Obsession: America's Fascination with Ghosts & Haunting, Spooks & Spirits and So You Want to Hunt Ghosts?: A Down-To-Earth Guide. Deonna also writes on nonparanormal issues, as well. Visit her website to learn more, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.