- by Lina Gardiner
Welcome Beth Oliver and thank you for sharing your experiences as a Maine Ghost Hunter Member.
Lina, thank you for asking me to do this interview. I love sharing my experiences with ghost hunting and the paranormal.
Beth, how did you originally become interested in this field?
I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal. I cut my teeth reading books on ghosts, mythology and legends and my grandmother would often tell us stories of hauntings. She was a very adventurous woman and very open minded. She actually went to a Spiritual camp with her sisters to have a reading in the 1940’s. Anyway, she passed that love of a good story on to me and I parlayed that into being a writer, and eventually as an investigator.
What prompted you to begin investigating?
I have an avid interest in Maine legend and lore. This led me to a chat room discussion on the false information on sites that is posted all over the internet. One of the members in the chat was putting together an investigative team and asked me along on an outing. It just seemed like a perfect fit. They asked me to join the team and the rest just sort of fell into place.
What methods do you use?
When I started out with Maine Ghost Hunters I was part of the “scientific” team, operating based on the readings and findings of our equipment and environmental factors. Many teams have a separate “sensitive” team that usually investigated on their own (depending on circumstances and location) and base their findings on their own empathic or mediumistic abilities. Some will use items such as divining rods or pendulums. Some just go and look for physical and mental clues. Many times, they go into a location prior to a full-scale operation and work on any information that they could pick up. This is easier to do before a full-scale team of people show up on location.
Most of my time with MGH was spent on the “scientific” team. I also have certain empathic abilities and I find now that I operate as an individual investigator I utilize those just as much as the equipment. Sort of using one to confirm or deny the other. Neither method is able to get all of the findings needed.
How do you choose a site to investigate?
Sometimes, it’s a client request and sometimes it a place that interests us. Most of the time we evaluate the level of urgency and the amount of activity as deciding factors.
Do you have a specific criteria required before you agree to investigate?
Different teams have different requirements. Sometimes a location has activity that is well documented. In that case, you aren’t dealing with client but with the history and activity of a specific location. If it’s based on a client request we usually will do an initial interview to determine both the stableness of the prospective client, as well as any possible circumstances that may be affecting their location or activity. Heightened emotions and fear can make anything seem larger than it really is. Sometimes, when there is no consistent activity I will suggest that they keep a log of what is happening and when. And always, if the client is scared we take it seriously. There is nothing worse than feeling scared in your own home. Many times, just talking to someone is enough of a comfort to settle them down and help them realize there is someone who will listen.
Do you have specific protocols for dealing with clients?
Definitely. First contact is usually handled by email or phone. I figure out what the activity is that they are experiencing and also get a feel for how scared they are. This gives me the opportunity to determine if it warrants immediate action, or if it can wait until I can get a bigger team together. If it requires immediate attention and there is the threat of personal harm I will often refer them to a larger group or one that is more local to their area. Teams like Maine Ghost Hunters have a constant dedicated team that I trust. If it can wait, then I have a fellow investigator that will do it with me, or my daughter will back me up. She is currently studying Forensics and Criminology, and is very analytical with a strong interest in the paranormal from a skeptical approach. It comes in handy.
Would you say you spend more time debunking claims or verifying them?
The process is always to find a logical answer for any finding, and anything lacking a logical, rational explanation may be paranormal. That said, my empathic abilities don’t always get an immediate verification. It can take time to research and sometimes you never get the answer.
Ultimately, I never promise results and I never claim more than what I find. If I go to a location and find nothing… then that’s what I tell them. That doesn’t mean there isn’t activity. It just might not be happening at that time we are there. Many teams will do multiple visits just to see if they can get a bigger picture.
Would you describe a “typical” case?
I’m not sure there is a typical investigation. That’s probably the best part of investigating. Most have a trigger of some sort, loss or emotional change, change of environment, or even just curiosity. Paranormal shows have become a huge draw for people who want the experience of dealing with spirits, but most people who are looking to have an investigation done, really just want validation.
Usually, a base reading is done on location as a baseline for the investigation. The team goes in and does a sweep of the spaces and marks any large spikes in temperature or energy levels. Also, noting any unusual information of a location so that it can be referenced during analysis. EMF detector’s readings note any energy spikes. Temperature readings are set for a baseline and lots and lots of pictures are taken. Depending on the side of the location it can produce a large amount of photographic evidence to sift through.
Once this is complete, and depending on the location, we go lights out and proceed with the actual investigation. Usually a command center or group area is designated for equipment. A plan is set for how to proceed, and depending on the size of the group and the location, we will usually break off to investigate.
What do you think of the various ghost hunting television programs?
There are a lot of investigators who hate the paranormal shows, but I love to watch them. That’s not to say that I take everything as gospel. So much of it is made to hype it up for the audience. What they don’t tell you is that ghost hunting involves sitting in the dark for long periods of time, waiting to hear anything that will make the hunt worth it.
What do you think about other ghost hunting groups?
Depends on the team. I’ve seen good and very bad. I was very lucky to work with a great team with good ethics. I’ve also seen people who are only in it for their 15 minutes of fame or money. By the way, a good investigator will never promise results or ask for money. Donations are sometimes made by grateful clients that cover the costs of gas or other expenditures, but you never want to give the implication that results were bought and paid for. Investigators should also offer references upon request. Check them out and if they don’t make you feel comfortable, look for another investigator. As with any field that has gained the popularity that this one has, there are people out there perpetuating fraud. If you contact an investigator and they make promises or offer you fantastic results, I would find someone else. Do your homework and check them out for your own safety. Also, some of the best people I know have been duped by people who claimed to be something they are not. Do your own research whenever possible.
Are they all affiliated?
Paranormal Unity is a long way off. There have been attempts to bring groups, investigation techniques and ethics under one association, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon. There are far too many differences of opinion for this to work at this time.
Is there a way to determine their credentials?
The same as writing… research, research, research. Most of the teams have extensive websites and offer up plenty of information, but be sure to go with your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Is it common for more than one group to investigate the same site?
Depends on the location. If it’s a place like Pennhurst Asylum or Eastern State Penitentiary you will find that the place has been investigated by tons of groups. That can be good and bad. The good part is that there can be a sharing of information that can benefit research. The bad part is paranormal activity can increase, even become adverse, depending on the approach of the investigators.
Also, individual clients will often grant access to an additional team if they are looking for more information, or didn’t receive the results they wanted. Most teams will investigate a location more than once.
Do you know of any current educational programs for paranormal studies, such as the PhD program at the University of Edinburgh?
There are tons of places that tell you they will train you. There is even one here in Maine that promises to give you a nice certificate as a Professional Ghost Hunter. Alas, there is no basis for a “professional” ghost hunter. I’d love to take the Parapsychology PhD program from University of Edinburgh. Their course of studies is amazing and the doctoral program encompasses a wide range of topics. But frankly, if someone tells you that they are certified or accredited as a ghost hunter or investigator it’s not the same as a hiring an accountant or going to a doctor.
What is your main goal/hope for your work?
I started out with one goal in mind, to help people. Whether they are spirits that have something to tell us, or people who are simply wanting answers for the activity they are experiencing, I want to be able to help them.
Would you be willing to serve as a contact to authors?
I would gladly help anyone who has questions. I may not know all the answers, but I can usually find enough to get them moving forward or find someone who can help. I can be reached on facebook @BethanyGottOliver or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Oliver writes Romantic Paranormal Mysteries under the name Teagan Oliver. Her latest work, Stealing Darkness, is Book 1 of the Darkness Paranormal Series. Stealing Thunder, Book 2, will be available in June 2014. Beth and her daughter make up the Paranormal Investigating team of Great Island P
Paranormal. http://gotghost.blogspot.ca/ Her paranormal blog, GhostGirl., details her adventures in ghost hunting as they continue their investigative adventures from their home along the coast of Maine. For more information on her books or the paranormal at TeaganOliver.com or at email@example.com.