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Ghost hunting has become a popular activity in many locations throughout the United States and Europe. In response, it is not uncommon to find ghost-hunting organizations being formed, especially in and around towns of historical significance.
Finding an Existing Group
No two organizations are alike when it comes to investigating a haunting. One ghost-hunting or paranormal group may stay very close to the scientific method, only taking into consideration tangible, measurable evidence. Another group may be more metaphysical in nature, relying on intuition, psychic gifts, and forms of divination to learn about a house or haunting.
I have found it beneficial to be involved in a group that is a combination of the scientific and metaphysical. An investigative group that is entirely scientific in nature may miss many subtle but important clues, such as impressions and feelings. A sense of sorrow or dread, or other psychic impressions left in a particular room, cannot be measured on scientific instruments, but can be picked up by ESP. However, if the group solely relies on the metaphysical, it risks the possibility of transforming intuition into imagination. Natural phenomena such as creaks and drafts can be interpreted as information picked up "psychically" from a spirit or ghost. With a combination of the two types of investigation styles—scientific and metaphysical—readings and intuition tend to validate each other, and can make a difference in determining whether a real haunting is taking place.
Forming a Paranormal Group
To find quality members for your paranormal group, the first thing to do is determine exactly what your group meetings will encompass. Will you take a classic case from the pages of parapsychology (Borley Rectory, for example) to examine it? Will your group be more of a discussion group in which all people have the opportunity to offer their opinions, views, and personal accounts? Will you form an experiential group in which you conduct experiments and share tips or techniques on how to do an effective ghost hunt? You can even make your own group freeform, with a variety of different topics and styles for the meetings to follow. As you can see, the limits of the type of paranormal group to form are virtually endless.
Once you determine how you want your group to be formed, the next step is to determine a meeting time and place. Meeting times are usually best in the early evenings or weekend afternoons and should last between sixty to ninety minutes. If the meeting lasts longer, the members may get bored or tired. Shorter, more frequent meetings can be more productive.
Next, let the general public know about your group. Put out flyers where people congregate and where you can get attention. Laundromats, colleges, bars and pubs, libraries, and bookstores are very good places. Also, you can contact local newspapers and radio stations to see if they can make an announcement for your group.
Use your imagination. One friend of mine formed a group and printed business card-sized announcements. She then placed them in occult and paranormal books at the local mall's bookstore. The plan was very discreet but very effective. It was pleasantly surprising how many people joined the group by this method.
After you have begun your membership drive, it would be good to determine how each member can assist the group. Some people are great at graphic design and can develop brochures, flyers, etc. Others may be proficient at public speaking and would be wonderful at making public appearances with the media and other groups.
Ask each member what he or she likes to do or is good at; try to find an activity that they can perform that is somehow related to their interests. Be careful not to mismatch people with something they do not like or are not good at. If you are not careful and this happens, your group may be in jeopardy of falling apart in a very short time due to member dissatisfaction.
Try not to make the group too large; usually five to fifteen people is the perfect size for a paranormal investigation group. However, if you do find that more people are interested in your group, you can simply have group meetings and have discussions about various paranormal phenomena. There is a difference between a paranormal discussion group and a paranormal investigation group. I helped to create one group that had close to thirty members. Since it was a large area, we decided that everybody would be assigned to fiver smaller groups, based on their interest and expertise. One group worked better with haunted houses, another expressed an interest and aptitude with cemeteries, a third would concentrate on poltergeist activity, etc. It worked well for the length of time the group was together.
There should be a sense of order and professionalism in your group, no matter the size. Meetings should begin promptly at the appointed time. An agenda should be followed, even if it simply means having a free-form philosophical discussion. If there are any necessary projects or tasks that need completing, they should be discussed and distributed to participating members. Without a basic format for the meetings, your group will eventually stop functioning properly, people will lose interest, and the group will fold.
Membership requirements are entirely dependent on each specific group. Some groups allow anybody to join, while others have age limitations due to liability factors. (I prefer the open memberships, where anybody who wants to join is allowed to, providing they have an open mind and are not there to cause problems.) However, keep in mind that excluding any body simply because of gender, sexual orientation, race, religious affiliation, etc. is not the proper way to conduct a group (and also may be illegal).
Once you have enough members in your group, it might be valuable to elect officers. There are four necessary positions that should be filled: president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. The president calls the meetings to order and is the head chairperson of all meetings. The vice president will assist the president in his or her duties, and conduct meetings in the president's absence. The secretary will take minutes of the meeting and prepare any necessary paperwork for the meeting (handouts, photocopies, etc.). The treasurer is responsible for any finances that may come into the group (membership dues, contributions, etc.). Other committees or positions may be formed as the need arises and could include such things as a publicity committee, membership drive coordinator, or paranormal activity authentication committee.
A wonderful book that would help immensely with forming your group is Robert's Rules of Order. This book goes step-by-step through conducting meetings in the parliamentary procedure fashion. Granted, some of the material in the book will not apply to your group, but some will give you ideas about fine-tuning the workings of your group.
Keep in mind that forming an effective paranormal group can be a very detailed and time-consuming task. If you have little experience in running or forming a group, it might be an idea to attend group meetings from other organizations to observe how meetings are conducted. As in the case of ghost hunting, always stay open-minded, be observant, and be willing to communicate with people when conducting meetings. The extra effort that you put forth will be noticed and appreciated.
Excerpted from How to be a Ghost Hunter, by Richard Southall