I am not a ghost hunter.

I finally watched the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. I recorded this episode because it was set in Winchester House – a location which has fascinated me for decades. I hated the program. It was loud, jangly, irreverent, disjointed and confusing. In short, it was silly.

In this episode, this crew is granted permission to do an overnight investigation of Sarah Winchester’s home. Sarah – an heir to the Winchester rifle fortune – was a quiet, semi-reclusive woman who paid her workers generously, donated large amounts of money to local charities, and held nightly seances in the bowels of a house that was – by her order – under construction, night and day, for more than 30 years. Logically, then, the Ghost Adventures crew chooses to use this opportunity to jury-rig a man-made “portal”, so that demons from two remote locations can come visit them on site.

If I were Sarah, I’d be hiding in some still undiscovered secret passage, waiting for these guys – with their beeping, flashing machines – to get the hell out of the haunted house I built. And I might be ticked off that they are inviting into my home exactly the sort of entity that I spent considerable time, energy and money avoiding while I was alive.

Sarah Lockwood Winchester in her only extant i...

Image via Wikipedia

It seems to me that the best way to experience the paranormal is to be quietly attentive to it.

Many hauntings can be classified as apparitions – in which witnesses repeatedly glimpse or hear a presence going about a specific task. I believe that some apparitions are residual energetic impressions of a person who once lived. (Other instances of apparitional phenomena can be attributed to natural or man-made environmental conditions that affect human perceptions.) In either case, attempting to interact with an apparition is futile. In this situation, the task of a paranormal researcher is to locate and record the phenomena as best she can. Her equipment should be unobtrusive. Her thoughts and behavior should be calm, so that her observations can be dispassionate. Her notes should be meticulous, accurate and, above all, honest.

Rarely, an investigator may have the chance to explore a more interactive haunting. A ghost is a spirit which has consciousness – or at least some seeming awareness of the living world. If such ghosts exist, they were once people. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that a researcher should approach such a spirit as if it were a person with interests, feelings and curiosities?

I believe the researcher should arrive prepared to engage the resident spirit. If the reputed ghost is a child, it might be appropriate to bring a toy or a storybook. An adult ghost might appreciate receiving information about family members or associates who survived him or her, or about the outcome of an anticipated event that occurred after his or her death. The investigator should introduce herself, clarify the purpose of any equipment that is present, and explain the reason for her visit. Boundaries should be set: “I’m not here to hurt you and I don’t want you to hurt me. If you don’t want to interact with me, that’s your choice. If you want me to leave, I will leave. I am here because I am curious about you and your state of being.”

If, in response, a voice rasps, “Get. Out!” I will go. (As my husband and I agreed to do long ago … back when we had no idea we were going to actively investigate the paranormal one day.) Absent such forthright communication, I will stay and observe and record. When I’ve gathered all the information I can, I will return home to analyze the photos, recording and readings I’ve obtained. Then I will write about the experience and share the results of the investigation in this blog. That’s it. No agenda, no hype, no “enhanced” anything.

I am not a ghost hunter. I am a curious woman with an open mind and an interest in the paranormal – otherwise known as The Paranormalist.