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P2: Occupational Hazards in Paranormal Research

Posted by Atticus on Sunday, November 29, 2009 Under: Group Advice

Following on from Occupational Hazards part 1
I now continue with the pit-falls but this time I will be concentrating mainly on the group ethics.

No doubt I may get in trouble for lifting the lid on what goes on but through my 10 years or so of doing this ive noticed a pattern. and this im going to share with you. So lets kick things off with Organizational Hazards.

Here I take you deeper into the world of Paranormal teams and what it takes to lead such a group of researchers. 

Now, Im not referring to 
RiPA or any group out there in particular but im sure that, if not all, you will recognised one or two of the points made here.



1) Intragroup Conflict:
This is number one on my list to watch
out for. Yes, I and many others recommend that if you are new to this field, that you hook up with an organization in your area. But beware as not all are created alike, and many "open" groups do not screen their members carefully. See also Fruitcake Factor (#3). 
RiPAnow requires  checks on all prospective members along with a probation period. The problems you typically may run into include cliques, gossip, snide remarks, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, etc. Basically, the same stuff you can find in any organization. But it could easily get a lot worse if you allow a sexual predator or molester into your midst.

I guess what gets me is that I have met individuals who claim to be mediums/psychics and so forth that have all this sensitivity towards the dead and can usher them into the light blah blah blah, but ironically sometimes they can have an astonishing lack of maturity and over inflated ego's.

There are cases too when there are no direct conflicts between members, but there's that special someone in the group that drives you nuts because of certain personality quirks. Some of it may be due to your own sensitivities, so learn to recognize where their insanity ends and yours begins. Use it as a springboard for personal growth to figure out why you want to strangle them and hide the body in a deep ditch. You can work with these people once you understand and know how to handle them or at least put up!

See also MUTINY! #8 BELOW

2) Intergroup Conflict:

Many of the ghost groups out there have friendly people that are willing to talk to you and help you along.
But sad to say, other groups have individuals with insecurities and ego problems and they hate to see anyone potentially outdo them. A few join these groups because they are sad and pathetic beings that desperately want attention. "Gee Att, Thats a bit harsh" I hear you say. maybe so, but oh how true it is. 

Remember the movie Twister with the rival storm chasers? I thought it was silly at the time, but think about it.. Anytime you are dealing with people in a field that has scant opportunities for fame and money, they tend to get more petty and crude by direct proportion, as there is a perception of scarcity. 

One thing you may see is groups declaring themselves as the "exclusive" or "official" investigating group for a particular site. While in rare cases it may be that they are unusually well trusted by the property owner and the owner wants them to put this disclaimer up so as to discourage every other group from trying to tromp around in there, in general I find this to be egotistical snobbery and it is probably not going to keep YOUR group out if you ask nicely and act professional. However, RiPA are working on agreements with many locations out there under the forth-coming 'RPM' project, but this isnt to block groups from coming in, in fact its too help them gain access. Keep an eye out for that.

So don't be too surprised by seeing flames on message boards, groups getting badmouthed to potential clients and ideas/research getting stolen. While I am disappointed by such immaturity and dishonesty, I believe in not returning evil for evil as it is a waste of energy and spreads negativity. I have an article highlighting the world of rivalry between paranormal teams on my blog which can be read by clicking this link.

3) The Fruitcake Factor:

You meet a lot of really good, interesting people in this field. But there is the occasional loon that always seems to come out of the woodwork if you make yourself too accessible. and as enjoyable and entertaing as they maybe, social leeches that do nothing but talk and suck the life right out of you, fill your head full of crap or just amaze you with their bizarre behavior. Learn to make the sign of the cross with your hands and back away without making eye contact. 

4) Poor Leadership and / or Ineffective  Members:

There are few things more annoying
than having bad leadership or
members that won't act as a team. Poorly managed groups can waste time and resources, ultimately frustrating the members and causing unnecessary conflict. But no one is perfect and giving people a chance is the kind thing to do. Have a space where constructive feedback is welcome (not generally in front of the public) and be open to changes in policy if it helps the group as a whole. 

There are many hats to wear in running a group, and not any one person can do it all. Make a habit to delegate to those most qualified to do the job. But the biggest problem I have seen in the past with members is a lack of initiative and consistency. This can also waste time and resources because you invest in a new person and then they may leave or have to be dismissed.
I like to think that
RiPA'sgears are well oiled, ok, im not saying RiPAis perfect, but its not far off it!.
But i've got ten years of experiences to call on and recognise when things work and when they look like they're gonna blow.

5) Looking Stupid:

Usually, the public and media are
pretty forgiving in this area,
as they generally have the least amount of knowledge about the paranormal and want to be thrilled and excited by a live ghost hunter talking to them. But it can be easy to look dumb in front of other researchers with your latest "orb" photo (which may happen to be a dust particle) or by declaring a place haunted before you have done any thorough investigating or research. Naturally, there's always the select few that find it highly amusing to hum or sing the 'Ghostbusters' theme tune when they hear what we do.

But sometimes, the media may be out to make you look like a fool. There was an incident recounted in the Complexity of Crop Circles book on pp 47-48 wherein Dr. Haselhoff was interviewed by a news crew and asked about a crop circle. He gave a good honest reply, but they totally rearranged the questions OUT OF SEQUENCE and made it look like he said something that he didn't. He found out months later when the program he was on totally made a fool out of him. Be careful of the statements you make in public.

For me, the one area in which I am really a stickler is in the area of Internet correspondence. Nothing sours my perception of someone faster than seeing an email, message board posting or website which has blatant misspellings and bad grammar. Ok, I see how anal that may sound and there are many people who are very intelligent but cannot spell worth a damn.  Hey, and everyone makes a typo here and thure. 

What I am talking about is rampant and reckless abuse of the English language. I have received emails that were near incomprehensible and seen websites which purported to be experts on the occult who had trouble spelling the word "phenomena". If you picked up a book on the paranormal and saw there was a language error in every other sentence, how much would you trust the author and what they had to say?

I don't diagram sentences, but what I am asking is please don't sound like you are uneducated. In ceremonial magic, names are everything, and mispronouncing one redirects the energy in an unintended direction. Don't make this mistake in your message. Computers come with spell check - use it.
Dnt uz txt spk ethr as dis mkes it so mch ardr 4 uz 2 reed.

6) Group Inactivity (or the perception of):

I saved this one for near last because this can result from many of the above reasons. It's a common enough problem. People start off being excited about joining a real live ghost group and have all sorts of hopes and visions of what it will be like. But then they start running into problems: Group conflict, equipment expense, difficulty in consistently finding places to hunt, time demands, boredom, etc.
Or even in the event of
RiPA, As we are not your typical 'ghost hunting group' people come to us expecting 'Most Haunted' but are dissapointed when we are so far away from that.

Before you know it, it's been months since you've been on an investigation, the website gets stale and everyone starts to drift off. Sad, but true in many cases, and I'm not going to tell you that it's entirely preventable. Not everyone is cut out to be a 'ghost hunter' or a paranormal researcher, and in many cases even if you are, you won't always have the time and money to do it.

7) Computer Issues & Security Breaches:

This is yet another topic that could span several volumes, and there are other resources that discuss this subject in more detail and expertise than I could, but I feel it is worth a brief mention. While paranormal sites are not typically the number one target for hackers, they can certainly draw the attention of rival groups seeking to discredit or just plain hassle you and your group. External attack is somewhat rare - you are more likely to have a problem with opening an email virus or having personnel problems from within.

But do not underrate the danger this presents. One pissed off member with passwords to your site can easily demolish or hijack a webpage that took years to build. (I've seen this happen TWICE to two different groups) Also, many free hosting sites like Tripod or Yahoo can delete all of your data without warning or recourse which is why I insist on either running my own server, or paying a professional hosting service. If you are lucky, you can go to the Internet Archive and pull up an old copy of your site, though often many links won't work.

Regardless of what you do, back up your data regularly and keep your domain name ownership firmly within your control. For those of you who have a Members Only section, I recommend that you hide the link and don't even mention the area so it won't encourage script kiddies to run up your bandwidth and compromise your security with a brute force password cracker.

8) MUTINY! Hijacking and other Revolutions

Speaking as a Dictator, er.. Director, I never like to see this one, but it happens pretty often.
It usually results from multiple issues as outlined above, but here is the most common scenario I see:

A group of friends get together and decide to form a ghost club.
In the beginning, things are great. Everyone is excited and
learning, the first few investigations go well, and so on.
But eventually they attract attention to where other people want to join. Eventually they meet someone with a strong personality who claims to have all kinds of magical powers, and a hidden agenda to run the group.
Within a few meetings or investigations they begun using their charisma to begin commandeering the club, telling people what to do, setting policy, and most importantly, getting access to the group website.

Eventually factions and cliques are formed, people get upset and then a showdown occurs. Depending on the makeup of the group one of two things happen. If it is isolated to a single individual, then they are usually forced to leave, but they typically try to do as much damage as possible on the way out.

As described above, if they happen to be the webmaster then you can probably kiss the site and domain name goodbye. This is known as hijacking and it is not good, as a website is one of the most important links that a group has to the public.

In other cases, if several individuals decide to leave, they will probably form their own group or hijack the original one and oust the resistance. I have had many people on board in the past that have either left or been asked to leave only to set-up their own team. I do not hold grudges with any of these and wish them all the best in their work. After all, we're all after the same ultimate goal....arent we?

More than one president of a club has been forced to leave the very group they started. The other problem besides emotional damage is the data and pictures gathered on investigations. If the other faction has it, then again you can probably say hasta la vista.

If you make sure that members/friends are added slowly over time, with membership status and access to important data carefully managed, then that will minimize the damage from ejecting members and they are less likely to have support from other like minded individuals. Remember, they often travel in packs. And be careful of your legal liability, though I doubt most illegitimate rejects from a ghost club are able to mount an effective lawsuit of any kind. Be more cautious about this if the officers or the club is doing well financially. Keep careful written documentation, known as a paper trail.

But the very best form of cure is prevention and restricting membership. This is where nice people get hurt because in theory more members is a good thing, but I can tell you it has it problems. I would much rather have two very high quality members than 20 goobers tromping around in a cemetery. You owe it to yourself and the rest of your group to screen these folks and not give them the keys to the kingdom. What do you look for? Someone who has issues with insecurity, personality disorders or poor coping / life management skills.

Now this next part is going to be a bit charged and controversial, but I feel compelled to say it. In my experience, it seems that psuedo psychics and false sensitives have more than the normal share of power issues as compared to the rest of the population. I'm not saying that all of them have serious problems - there are healthy and effective psychics out there. But I am advising those that are planning to utilize psychics that they need to use more than the average caution in membership policy.

I have heard of this type of hijacking several times and in each instance it was one or more "psychics" behind the coup.
RiPAhave had several applicants come forward for the 'Test the Mediums' project but none have followed through. Surely this doesnt bode well for the Psychic/medium community?

Part 3 of this paper can be read by clicking here

In : Group Advice 

Tags: paranormal investigation  how to  what you need  equipment  dangers  funny 
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