I have been sitting at my desk for several hours now reliving a two and a half hour investigation that we conducted this past weekend.
So far I have one very faint response to a question that could be nothing more than someone in the room moving or making a noise. To me it sounds like a deep male voice saying “No”, but we’ll see. My headphones press against my ears as I analyze every background noise, every bit of conversation and every ambient sound in hopes of capturing an elusive EVP.
My camera is attached to my computer and I am sorting through 37 photographs of a modest home in Cabot, AR hoping to have captured something otherworldly. So far I have not, but the evidence review continues. I also have 90 minutes of video footage of a hallway to review.
This is the part that most paranormal investigation shows only cover in brief snippets. It is the review of the evidence, the most critical part of an investigation. It is during this laborious process that we comb through copious amounts of EVP sessions, video, and photos in the hope of discovering something that we can use as proof that paranormal activity is present in a home/business.
Incidentally, it is the part I dread the most. On one hand it is exciting to see if your hard work during the investigation paid off with the reward of an EVP, a curious image or something unexplainable on video. It’s the journey though that is daunting.
You run 3 EVP sessions at 15 minutes each. You now have 45 minutes of audio to review. That is fair for a small location such as a home. But let’s say you investigated an expansive location such as a museum or an old hospital and you have conducted 10 fifteen minute sessions. You now have 150 minutes of just audio to review. That does not count any video footage and photographs you may have taken.
More times than not, reviewing the evidence takes longer than the actual investigation and since you have already investigated the location you now get to sit back and relive the entire event with an objective eye.
How should you review your evidence? Everyone does it differently but there are some factors you should consider.
Be Alert: Do not attempt to review evidence when you are tired or easily distracted. EVPs especially can be very quiet or appear suddenly. You have to listen, not just hear.
Separate Yourself: Find a quiet place to review your evidence, a place where you will not get sidetracked by outside distractions. Turn off your cell phone, shut down Facebook, log off of any internet messenger services and focus.
Write Things Down: A notebook and a pen are your best friends during the review process. Keep a log of any EVPs you hear. Note the recording name if you have more than one session and the time at which the EVP occurs. Write down what you think you heard. This goes for photos too. Write down the photo’s file name and what you thought you saw. With video, always reset your counter so that you can write down the time at which you saw the item in question.
Repeat: If you hear an EVP, see a photographic or video anomaly, check and recheck. If it is a suspected EVP, listen to it over and over and send it to a friend to review to see if they are hearing the same thing you are. They may recognize the sound as something natural that you overlooked or they may be able to validate that they are hearing the same thing you are.
Share: Don’t be afraid to share your findings with your friends as described above. You are part of a team and your team members will help you out. Don’t get your feelings hurt if they debunk the evidence you searched so hard to find.
Understand: know that more times than not, your investigation will come up empty-handed. Paranormal investigation is nothing like it is on TV. It is not edited or trimmed and no multiple takes are afforded you. What you end up with is all that you have. You typically get one night on a scene as opposed to the several nights studio produced programs get, so your chances of collecting “proof” diminishes greatly when compared to the guys from TAPS or Paranormal State.
Take Breaks: While it is important to not get distracted during evidence review, it is equally important that you allow yourself scheduled breaks to get up and stretch. Drink some water, grab a snack, walk around, stretch and reinvigorate yourself. If you become bored or tired you will miss things and make mistakes in documentation and cataloging of data.
Research: If you are a great paranormal investigator, you were taking notes during the investigation. Remember significant dates and names that your host has given you. If they give you a story about a location, verify it the best you can. A lot of places have a rich history composed of stories that have been passed down and passed around. In all these wonderful tales, the truth often gets buried and we take “hearsay” as fact.
One case we investigated had a great grisly story associated with it. Allegedly, a man died in a house during the hot Arkansas Summer. His body went undiscovered for weeks as he was a known recluse. During that time his body began to decompose and when he was finally discovered he had reduced to a liquefied state. His remains had to be pushed into the basement through a hole in the floor of his office on the ground level. What could not be swept away was washed down the drain of a nearby shower.
The current homeowner swore it was the spirit of this man who haunted the house. Unfortunately, none of it was true. We researched newspapers, vital records, and obituaries, asked local journalists and first responders as well as local residents. No historical proof that such a tragedy ever occurred existed. When we pressed for further details we came up empty-handed.
Research itself is exhausting, frustrating and filled with dead ends. Not every state has an archive of death records and obituaries. Cataloging of these items were not commonplace in some states until the early part of last century, so often times there is no way to verify information passed down from generation to generation.
The internet is a great tool, yes, but the results are wide and varied. Learn to use the search engine’s advanced search options. Don’t be afraid to visit libraries or contact local historians.
Reviewing evidence is a daunting task but it comes with the territory. You have to be willing to sacrifice your time to provide feedback for your clients if they so desire. Your personal integrity and the integrity of your organization is reliant upon evidence. If after extensive review you come up empty-handed then you can tell the property owner in good faith that there is no evidentiary support of their claims and their location, in your professional opinion, is not haunted.
On the flip side, extensive review of evidence could provide that ever-elusive piece of proof that substantiates a client’s claim.
I have to get back to reviewing evidence from our latest case. Check back soon for our final report and any evidence we may have discovered.