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HAUNTED HOUSES: FINDING PROOF YOUR HOME IS HAUNTED

by Dawn Colclasure - dawn@theshadowlands.net
Article courtesy of South Jersey Ghost Rsearch

Lights flicker on and off, strange rappings can be heard at a window at night and the family pet gets nervous when entering a certain room. But does all of this mean your home is haunted? Does this fit the profile of a haunted house? Not exactly, but before you try to look for proof your home is inhabited by ghosts or spirits, the first thing to do is make sure that it isn’t.

“One of the things is to rule out logical things like is there a problem with the electrical wiring? The plumbing? Do we have a possibility of animals up in the attic or the basement? Are there tree branches hitting the home and does the home have a history?” explained John Zaffis, a paranormal investigator of 32 years and Director of the Paranormal Research Society of New England (PRSNE, http://www.prsne.com/) in Stratford, Connecticut. “What I mean by that is, (have) there been any murders, suicides or natural deaths that might have occurred in the home? These are the most important things that I look for and before I would even consider a home being haunted. A lot of these things have to be ruled out.”

Once this has been done and there’s still a good chance there’s a haunting taking place, Zaffis added that evidence can be obtained to verify this. “It is possible to obtain evidence. This is why we go in and we do our investigations. We set up cameras, we do audio recordings and we do several other sorts of things to be able to find out our evidence and we look at our evidence to see if we have anything that is legit that we might possibly base our investigation on.” Zaffis noted that certain indicators would point to the possibility of a home being haunted, such as “if we picked up something (on) the video cameras or if we were there and witnessed something happening in the home – lights going on and off, appliances going on and off – or that we were able to detect that there might be hot spots or cold spots in the home that were not logically proven out or we couldn’t find a source why they were happening.”

“I basically have the opinion that anything is possible,” said Lisa Cox of MAJDA (http://majda.net/). “I always try to keep an open mind. All of us in the paranormal investigative arena are trying to obtain scientific proof of a haunting or that an area is inhabited by spirit. We are in search of that one fantastic photograph or video of an apparition that cannot be discounted. However, I find that EVP (electronic voice phenomena) (is) very convincing, especially when one gets a direct answer to a question that the investigator is asking.”

Anne Palavino, a paranormal investigator of 7 years and former Co-Director of the South Jersey Ghost Research in South Jersey, as well as the former Director of the South Jersey Ghost Research Kids and the Philadelphia Institute for Paranormal Research in Philadelphia, is cautious about calling her evidence “proof.” “It is possible to obtain information such as abnormal EMF readings or temperature changes that cannot be traced to a natural source, however that does not mean proof of a haunting,” she said. “We can say that the scientific data obtained is consistent with data obtained in places reported to be haunted.”

Entering the world of paranormal investigation can be daunting. To a layperson with no prior experience with the paranormal or who is skeptical of the existence of spiritual entities, the prospect of taking it upon themselves to look for proof that their home is being haunted can raise questions about whether doing so would be wise. One of these questions is whether one should possess an extensive knowledge on paranormal investigating or if any special equipment will be needed for the job. As to whether a person looking for proof their home is haunted should be an expert on this subject, Cox is skeptical. “Personally, I do not feel that there is such a thing as an expert in this field of study. After all, how can one be an expert on the unknown?” she said. “There can only be the experienced investigator.” As for what equipment will be needed, Cox advised one very important tool: “One MUST possess common sense first and foremost. An open mind is also essential.” Zaffis added, “You really don’t need to be an expert but it does help if you have the availability and the resources at hand to be able to work with people that have been experienced in the field. One of the best ways to learn how to do investigations and document things is to work with people that have been in the field for a while.”

Palavino is sure to point out that, while no one can really be an authority on the unknown, there is some kind of knowledge that a layperson should possess before they embark on their own investigating. “In order to use the data found as evidence of a haunting you must be knowledgeable of all equipment being used and the proper way to use it. You must understand the science behind the findings such as understanding what an electromagnetic field is, what is normal and what is not, and how conditions in the environment (besides ghosts) may affect readings and/or instruments used.”

While not the last word on discovering whether a home can be haunted or not, instruments used by paranormal investigators to determine if a home is haunted can definitely be helpful. A woman may notice furniture moving around and voices in another room then say that her home is haunted. “An open mind can be used in place of all equipment in order to prove a haunting to yourself. Sensitive people can see, feel or communicate with spirits and no EMF reading or photograph is needed to prove it if you truly believe,” Palavino said. Cox added, “I rely on my personal all-over feeling about the area/place. My own intuition can normally tell me a lot.” Still, the readings and visual recordings provided by equipment can serve as scientific data that a haunting may be taking place. “The equipment is necessary to document any findings if possible,” Cox said. “MAJDA uses a night shot video recorder, various cameras, (both 35mm and digital,) as well as digital recorders attached to a very sensitive external microphones. We also have various instruments that can measure electromagnetic fields and temperatures.” Besides such equipment, Zaffis noted that the most basic of tools are a good idea to use in investigating whether or not a house can be haunted. “If it was a pers that lives in the home and they’re suspicious that there might be something there, a lot of times I recommend to people to document the different things that are occurring in the home. Keep a journal on the things that are happening. Also, I recommend that they let a tape recorder run in different areas of the home if they are hearing voices coming from certain areas and not to ask questions or to provoke anything in there. Just let it run.”

While keeping in mind what they should do in searching for proof that a house can be haunted, the investigators pointed out important things a person should NOT do. “One thing to be very cautious of when you go in to do an investigation, in the beginning stages of this, a lot of times we might not know what we are exactly dealing with so I always suggest that you never go in and start provoking, asking a lot of questions of the spirit that’s in the house or any type of communication until you’re pretty sure on what you’re dealing with,” Zaffis said. “A lot of times, when people get involved with this type of work and they go in and they try to communicate, clear a home, the entities within the home can attach to them and they start to have major paranormal problems. I’ve dealt with a lot of people over the years that have done this and it ended up scaring them so bad that they never did any further investigations.”

Cox offered the following tips: “Always ask for protection from your spirit guide to guard you against harm, just in case you may be dealing with a not-so-pleasant entity. Watch who you trust for advice, especially if they are charging you in some way.(There are many scammers in this field.) Find a good reputable group to give you some pointers, and never ever do your investigation alone.”

Anyone watching a movie where a character decides to be the hero in facing an entity haunting their home by pulling out an Ouija board or demanding that the spirit do something to prove they are there would see the next thing certain to happen: A negative, even harmful, result taking place. This is, unfortunately, one of the most common things an inexperienced person would try to do in establishing proof their home is haunted and definitely something that should be avoided. “People should know that using Ouija boards or séances to try to prove there is a spirit present can lead to some big problems,” Palavino said. “Using these tools can call some undesirable entities into the area and they can be pretty hard to get rid of sometimes.” As for using material gleaned from books or the Internet, the investigators offer words of caution. “You must be extremely cautious when reading different things in books or on the Internet,” Zaffis said. “There is a tremendous amount of information out there today that has gotten people into a lot of serious situations. The one thing I always try to recommend is to try to associate yourself with people who have been in this field and they can teach you things to understand how to protect yourself and what to do if you get yourself into a situation that is a very, very serious haunting.” This doesn’t mean what you read in books or on sites such as the Shadowlands should be ignored. Zaffis noted that “there is good information out there” people can learn from, yet the best option is to learn and work with an perienced paranormal investigator before taking on the task of searching for proof that a house is haunted. Cox validated this reasoning when she noted: “As with anything else, if you do not know what you are doing, you would be wise to ask someone with experience.”

This can only leave one option open to a person who is experiencing paranormal activity in their home: Seek help from qualified paranormal investigators. Too many dangers, some fatal, can occur to a layperson trying to discover this proof themselves and investigators have the further advantage of knowing exactly what to look for in their investigations. “I’ve experienced a lot of things over 32 years in homes,” Zaffis said. “I’ve seen a lot of things occur within these types (of) homes. By the time I get involved with doing an investigation, I pretty much already have it where I realize that more than most likely they do have a haunting occurring. What I mean by this: I usually can weed through the cases that come in and usually know if something is legitimate or not.” “People without experience can sometimes do things that may cause undesirable activity to increase without knowing that they are doing it,” Palavino said. “If a person doesn't mind having spirits around but wants confirmation, it is still better to call a professional to help identify the spirit and confirm it's presence with scientific data rather than try to contact the spirit themselves.”

Cox added, “(O)ne should most definitely contact a reputable group to assist in an investigation. Usually, when a person suspects that their home is haunted, it probably is.”

So the investigators are called in, the tests are run and evidence is obtained. The home’s resident may even have some evidence of their own, such as journal entries, tape recordings of video tapings of paranormal activity is taking place. Then a person skeptical of the whole thing suddenly steps in and decides that all of the evidence is worthless and that there’s no such thing as a haunted house, or even that ghosts exist. While this very notion can dishearten, even frustrate or intimidate the home’s resident who must live with this strange activity every day, it’s important to remember that there will always be someone ready to dispute the data at hand. “Much so called "evidence" can and has been disputed,” Cox said. “Hard evidence is still in its infancy in the scientific community. Perhaps as the veil between the planes thin, we will be able to experience more phenomena that can be documented. There’s always those who simply cannot accept that there can be a life beyond the death of the physical body and that the soul lives on." Zaffis agreed. “No matter what you show them, they will do everything that they possibly can, and will, to discredit your evidence.” Still, Palavino offers hope in the face of these skeptics. “What we get on film, tape or instruments does not have to be proven. It is concrete. As long as the equipment is used properly and all contamination of evidence is eliminated (for example, by checking for high power lines when using EMF meters), the evidence is valid. We do not have to prove that the temp dropped at a given time. The thermometer proved that. However just as we study a great number of haunted places so we can compare data, there are skeptics going to great lengths to prove that hauntings do not exist. There have been udies done by psychologists that say the effect of magnetic fields on the brain causes hallucinations that can be mistaken for apparitions. That ghost sightings are really in a persons mind. However although it may be true that magnetic fields cause hallucinations, I think it does not prove hauntings do not exist. The only way that study would be used as proof would be if every person in the study had the same hallucination in the same exact place. Then it would explain how people who do not know each other can see the same thing in the same place over a period of a hundred years without knowing anything about the location beforehand.” As Zaffis pointed out, “To a skeptic, you never have enough evidence. To a believer, we have an overabundance.”

Paranormal investigators have learned, through experience, some of the better ways to go about investigating whether or not a home is haunted. “I think the best way to go is to have a good team of investigators who both are well trained in equipment usage and a cross section of personalities,” Palavino said. “To have nonsensitive people as well as sensitive people will give data that is both scientifically and spiritually obtained, and that is important since we are dealing with an area that actually IS both science and spirit.” “Gut feelings and a few good photos wouldn't hurt,” Cox said. “Backed up, of course, by video, recordings and such.” “The easiest way for me is to interview the people in the home, people that have experienced things (who) do not live in the home,” Zaffis said. “Look at any evidence that the family might have and the most important thing on my end is to be able to spend time in the home—but that does not necessarily mean that we will gain evidence by being there. Sometimes I can go back several times before I do get any evidence but it does not necessarily mean just because myself or researchers with me did not experience something that the family does no have a haunting. They (the spirits) will do everything they can to hide themselves when people come in from the outside.”

This capitalizes on one common situation a paranormal investigator can be faced with when attempting to establish that a home can be haunted: The game of cat and mouse. “Finding nothing is all the more reason to go back,” Palavino said. “The investigators are only there a few hours. It is easy to miss something if it is not occurring at the time if the investigation. For this reason it is easier to say that a house is haunted than to say that it is not. Sometimes it may take a few trips before we can say there are no spirits present.” Cox agreed with this. “(T)here were times when a house has had a reputation of activity, and after hours of investigation, produced none. But that still does not mean anything-spirits are not active at ‘our convenience.’” Zaffis is all too familiar with the cat and mouse game in finding proof of paranormal activity. “This is very common, that this will occur,” he said. “That’s why a lot of people that get involved with doing this type of research get very discouraged after going into several homes and nothing actually happens. You have to remember, spirit has no confinement. It can come and go. And when they feel the area they’re in is being threatened by someone on the outside, they can go dormant very fast.” To counter this in an attempt to establish that a haunting is taking place, Zaffis and his team usually follow up on their visits. “What we try to do at that point is to spend an overnight in these types of homes to see if we can witness something at that point. That’s why sometimes I will go back several times.”

When everything is said and done, though, and a house is judged to not be haunted, two possibilities to explain later paranormal activity exist. “If this happens, I would begin to suspect poltergeist activity, which is not a ghost at all but a form of psychokinesis,” Palavino said. “This is more commonly found in when an adolescent, teenager or middle-aged woman is at the center of the activity. Sometimes removing the suspected person for a period of time will cause the activity to stop, only to start again when the person comes back.” Zaffis noted that another possible explanation might be the reason for later activity in the home. “Sometimes the spirit can be dormant. We have what we refer to as seasonal hauntings,’ certain times of the year the haunting will kick back up and last for a few days and then stop again. We have a situation sometimes when people move in and out of homes, certain individuals can trigger the hauntings and things can start up again and certain people can move into a home and not experience anything at all.”

If such a situation arises, Cox offered some advice: “(I)t will always be helpful to contact someone with more experience.”

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