#2. Scammers Are Everywhere
As you can imagine, proprietors of the aforementioned businesses aren't happy when we search their place and don't find anything weird. There aren't enough comped fondues or free stays in the world that will make a place haunted if it isn't, but there are plenty of other paranormal investigators. So, you can guess what happens: These clients will contact group after group until they find one that will tell them what they want to hear.
"Hey, for what you're paying, we can recreate the pottery scene from Ghost if you want."
Businesses aren't alone in this; private residences do it, too, making it downright epidemic in the paranormal community. This is another reason why it's almost impossible to get any results taken seriously -- there is all sorts of motivation to "find" something, or to build a reputation as the group who always finds something, like those online IQ tests that come back "genius" every time. It's good business for everyone involved.
If you're wondering why a private homeowner would do this, well, one case turned out to be a classic example of gaslighting. A man convinced his wife that their apartment was haunted by several spirits and had been terrorizing her to the point where she was afraid to sleep, or even be alone in the home without him. He was "confident" we would get some evidence, and we did: We got a shot of him on an infrared camera whispering "I'm in here!" in falsetto to a digital recording device in the closet. On top of tormenting the poor woman, faking a haunting was likely to get her rich parents to bankroll a new house for them. So, yes, we found substantial proof that this guy was a douchebag.
"Also, the ghost was a fisherman. I really think them getting us a new schooner will help put his spirit to rest."
And don't forget that most people want to be famous. After the popularity of paranormal television shows exploded, it became clear that everyone wanted to be on TV. Oftentimes, the first question a client would ask was when the Ghost Hunters film crew would be arriving. The response was always the same: "They're not." At that point, claims of activity usually fizzled.
Sometimes a celebrity in the field would be at an event, and even fellow investigators would go all starfuckery, angling to score TV airtime. Afterward, they would be constantly name-dropping and making vague references to their own impending stardom. Fame that would be based on finding something. So say goodbye to any kind of objective approach.
#1. The Job Is Truly Horrifying (But Not for the Reasons You'd Think)
Antonis Liokouras/iStock/Getty Images
Part of being a paranormal investigator is taking calls at someone-better-be-dead-o'clock at night from terrified clients. These range from "tense" to "I have vibrating alien implants!" With practice, most investigators become adept at assessing a client within the first two minutes of any conversation ... such as the client who claimed to have bugs crawling from her vagina.
Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc.
You don't need an investigation. You need crabs shampoo.
The client's reports of activity included waking up to the "smell of goat" and demonic voices (sometimes speaking Latin) that discussed various sexual acts -- many of which seemed impossibly uncomfortable and likely illegal in a minimum of 10 states. Still, the woman's main complaint boiled down to what can only be described as the worst case of genital crabs ever diagnosed. Being trained to keep an open mind, we promised to call a prominent demonologist (yes, we do have the coolest Rolodex ever, thanks for asking!). Two days later, the demonologist strongly waved us away from the case because the client was not only crazy, but a known stalker (we wound up changing our phone number).
On another case, this one in the rural South, we arrived at the scene and quickly discovered that the place had served as the set for more than a few ill-advised DIY sex flicks. The location was a veritable porn dungeon, complete with chains hanging from the ceiling, mattresses surrounded by camera stands, and a bare bed frame with bungee cords. There was an archive of 100 DVDs with titles like On Waterbed, On Stairs, and our personal favorite: With Cats. Did I mention the cats? There were upward of 50 feral cats, because apparently when you are making fuck films, you want lots and lots of cats around. So yeah, if somebody was hearing weird sounds or smelling weird smells, there were probably multiple non-ghost explanations for it.
Nikolay Trubnikov/iStock/Getty Images
"After every taco night, we get these weird rumbling sounds and sulfur smells."
Another case led us to a no-shit dyed in the wool "Let's cook, bitch!" meth lab, complete with unexplainable floor stains, urine-esque fumes, and a passel of partially decomposing mice displayed on and around the furniture, as if they were accent pieces to the overall rodentia et mortus theme. In fairness, the dead mice were only slightly more disgusting than the pile after pile of dog shit found everywhere else. It would seem the dogs were very considerate of the mouse decor and unwilling to disturb the tableau. At some point the team became so uncomfortable (or high from the fumes) that we became slap-happy and had uncontrollable giggling fits while taking EMF readings off dead mice, joking about who was going to catch parvo first.
And once again you're probably asking why the hell we'd willingly go to a place like that ( unpaid!). Well, that meth lab remains one of the more active houses the team ever investigated. For example, we walked away with an EVP recording that sounds awfully like "I'm not fucking with you."
You can make of that what you will, but you have to admit: If you died and came back to haunt somebody, isn't that exactly the sort of thing you'd say to a bunch of ghost investigators?
For over 10 years, Jessica Harris was a paranormal investigator, spending the last six as founder of her own group, Colorado Paranormal Research and Investigations, researching cases throughout Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Clint is a writer and a history and folklore enthusiast, and he drives a desk at a university. During his years with CPR&I, he was a lead investigator and resident skeptic.
Robert Evans doesn't personally believe in ghosts, but he does believe in talking to people with interesting lives. You can reach him here.
Related Reading: Cracked's also talked to a Mormon missionary, about how straight-up crazy that experience can be. We spoke with a woman who starred in one of those weight-loss infomercials. We gave this doctor a chance to tell you the things he can't say to your face and we let this victim of a fundamentalist Christian cult tell it like it was.