You may know her best as the case manager for The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) in the Ghost Hunters show on the SciFi network, but Donna LaCroix is now one of the stars of SciFi’s new series, Ghost Hunters International that debuted on January 9th, 2008. She brings to the show a diverse background and wide expertise in the field of paranormal investigation. As a case manager for TAPS, Donna fielded and organized the hundreds of case requests that poured into the office via e-mail, regular mail, and phone, and she assisted in finding and scouting new and exciting cases for the show.
The Rhode Island native has spent much of her life devoted to paranormal research. From the time she was a small child, she experienced numerous unexplained phenomena in her home and spent years garnering knowledge in the field through local investigations. Donna applies an open-minded approach to all of her cases, and she is always willing to stretch the limits of investigative protocol and bring a fresh perspective to conventional paranormal research.
Donna is also a contributing member and organizer of the Worldwide Paranormal Reporting Center (www.wwprc.com). WWPRC is an online database dedicated to archiving reports of paranormal activity around the world. The organization also allows paranormal research and investigation groups to enter their contact information and areas of expertise.
Ghostvillage.com caught up with the globe-trotting ghost hunter to ask her about the role of women in the paranormal.
How did you first get interested in the paranormal?
Actually, the question isn’t how did I first get into the paranormal, it is, how the paranormal first got into me… lol. I experienced very strange, unexplainable events as a little girl and into my early teens. At the time of being a young girl, I didn’t know a word, such as “paranormal” to assign it to. I was too young to know this was something different from most people’s reality. However, as I got older, and started sharing my experiences coupled with the desire to find solace from my fear, I found others that could relate to me. It was such a source of relief and comfort to know I wasn’t the only person out there going through these things. From there, my interest grew into a passion to explore the paranormal from all angels, from the scientific to the metaphysical and spiritual. Having experiences is one thing. Proving that it is part of another dimension or that the human consciousness lives on after death is quite another. My desire to do so stems deep from having these questions all of my life.
Do you feel that because you’re a woman you have had to overcome some hurdles in your pursuit of the paranormal? If so, what were they?
Yes, on camera, and no off camera. On camera, unfortunately, my image comes across as “sensitive” and “emotional,” etc. I’m not saying that’s not true. However, it’s a hard pill to swallow knowing millions of people watch Ghost Hunters International and don’t get to see other parts of what I really do and who I am. They don’t get to see the rational, logical, and scientific perspectives and measures I take. I am involved in much research and making sure we get down to the facts of a location. I also head up the documentation associated with a location and its investigation.
I’ve tried really hard to project a more balanced view of what I do, but ultimately it’s not up to me what the viewers are shown. That can be extremely frustrating, although I accept it. I just hope that there will be other shows out there depicting female investigators in more of a lead and serious role. We are all not “damsels in distress” in need of being rescued by our male investigators.
Off camera, people are very accepting of women in the field for the most part. However, it’s like any field that is trying to gain scientific status: men are generally perceived as logical and rational and women are generally perceived as emotional and compassionate. Both genders, in this typecast, are extremely helpful to the field. However, some females can be just as scientific minded as their male counterparts, some males can be just as sensitive as their female counterparts. People are people, and shouldn’t be typecast because of their gender.
Personally, I haven’t found any discrimination toward myself when I conduct private investigations or when I publicly talk about the subject.
What unique challenges do women face in the field of paranormal research today?
Some women, like myself, have to face the challenge of remaining compassionate yet detached during an investigation, especially if it has to do with children. Listening to an EVP of a child asking for help can be heart wrenching, and from that point, you want to go on your emotions alone. But, you have to remain detached enough to maintain a neutral ground.
Another challenge is being taken seriously. The only way to do so is to educate yourself as much as you can about the paranormal. This includes everything from learning the technical equipment perspective, to keeping up on working theories and scientific studies, to getting field time under your belt. I liken this to not only knowing how to drive a car, but how each part works individually, and how the system as a whole. Read, study, and learn as much as you can.
Have you encountered certain instances during your work where you feel that being a woman has helped you in your research?
Yes, I feel that being a woman has tremendous weight in conducting one-on-one client interviews. Again, women are generally perceived as being compassionate and understanding. Clients immediately take to confiding in the presence of a female investigator who possesses these characteristics. I’ve had male investigators come up to me and say that I’ve gotten more information in five minutes from a client than they did in several weeks of working with them. It really comes down to establishing a trusting rapport with the client to the point where they feel safe enough to divulge their fears and help you understand their experience. I think females naturally have the tendency toward providing that compassion needed to aid the client towards that end.
What is the biggest misconception about women who are interested in paranormal research?
The biggest misconception about women in the paranormal is that they are best left to answering the phone and doing research because they are too illogical and emotional to handle anything else. That’s bull. Women can learn and run the equipment just as well as men can answer the phones and do research. I found this confidence in myself from my training and education in the male dominated field of engineering back over 12 years ago. People — back then — were shocked women could go out on a construction site and take charge. But the tides have turned in that field in terms of acceptance of women engineers, and I believe it is happening now within the paranormal field.
In your television show, Ghost Hunters International, you have the opportunity to investigate some of the many overseas haunts. Have you seen a difference in how female investigators are perceived in other countries?
I really have not seen a difference in how female investigators are perceived in other countries. It really hasn’t been an issue at all. If anything, the idea of investigating the paranormal as a whole gets judged differently from one culture to the next, but it’s not gender-based in terms of investigators.
Then again, when we are on the road filming, our schedules are so tight, that we don’t have a chance to really get a local feel to the perception of this issue.
Do you think women are becoming more prominent in the paranormal compared to five years ago? How much is still left to be done until you think there’s truly an equal footing?
Yes, women are making an impact in the paranormal field now more than ever. A lot of it is has to do with visibility, and a lot of it is that women want to be involved in this exciting field. In terms of visibility, you have women like Rosemary Guilley who has been in the field and has been a published author on the matter for over twenty years. However, people know her better today since the interest in the paranormal, or the “paranormal boom” happened over the last few years.
I also believe that women feel more comfortable now in coming forward to participate in the field. First of all, the subject is not as taboo as it was a decade ago. I think this is due to the TV shows out today on the paranormal that have brought the field into the houses of millions of people worldwide. Seeing other female investigators on television conducting investigations has given them the inspiration to come forth and participate too.
On a mass scale perception, until you have a TV show with the lead investigators as women, or a woman in a lead position, I think it’s going to take a little time. Seriously, you put females as lead investigators on a TV show coming from a scientific perspective, and you are going to see a shift in the gender preconceptions in this field.
On the grassroots level, women who are interested in the paranormal have to keep involved. They have to keep themselves educated on the subject. They have to learn the technical end, the de-bunking perspective, and all the nuts and bolts about the developing science of it. Women need to be able to show they are on par with the boys. That’s the bottom line. And they will. I’m starting to see more and more women take lead roles in their groups, I’m seeing a lot of women organize events on the subject, and head up radio shows and the like.
My hope is that the field of paranormal research and investigation eventually will know no gender boundaries. People — whether they are male or female — all can be amazing contributors to this growing and fascinating field. Acceptance and respect of each other based on the individual’s contributions, is how that will happen.
This May, Donna will be co-hosting the first ever Women’s International Study of the Paranormal (www.wispexpo.com) along with Kristy Hinkle, Maria Cipriano, Jacqui Carpenter, and Elizabeth Cory. This event will celebrate women’s contributions to the field of paranormal research on May 23rd through the 25th in Bentonsport, Iowa.
For further information about Donna, check out her MySpace at: www.myspace.com/vestafire.