by Tony Harrington
When a person contacts our group, most of the time they do so with trepidation and concern that the voice on the other end is silently judging them or laughing at them. I think that is a huge factor as to why most groups don’t get that many calls in the grand scheme of things.
There is a stigma associated with people claiming something paranormal has happened to them. Most of the time the reaction from friends and family is “You’re crazy, there is no such thing as ghosts.” You only have to hear these words so many times before you start believing it yourself.
I am a firm believer in the natural over supernatural. I am perpetually seeking that ever elusive piece of evidence that can debunk a claim of a haunting. This puts me at odds with most of my group who walk into a place with a clean slate. The skeptic in me prevents me from doing this, but in being a skeptic the thrill of not being able to find a logical explanation for a paranormal claim and being left with the realization that perhaps something otherworldly is going on, is a lot more exhilarating than expecting to find proof of paranormal activity.
I have seen doors open on their own, lights turn on by themselves, a television power on by itself, heard disembodied voices, and felt something touch me. I have even seen the shape of something take form in front of my eyes only to disappear, an event that I still can not explain. Even as I write this I am thinking “That sounds absolutely crazy,” and it does.
If someone were to tell me that they experienced similar things, the skeptic in me would automatically write them off as either a storyteller or someone who simply wants attention. It’s a double-standard that I have, I admit that.
Needless to say, I understand completely when someone says, “I know this sounds crazy, but…”
My stock answer to people I interview prior to deciding to take their case is “We’re a paranormal investigation team, what does that say about us?” The bottom line is, no matter how outlandish someone’s experience may sound, it is real to them. It is VERY real to them and for the most part they are scared and seeking help or answers, or both. And we have a responsibility as a group of educated investigators with years of experience to provide both help and answers.
Sometimes though you land a tricky one, that one potential client who throws you for a certain loop and makes you question whether you are dealing with someone who has perhaps a deeper issue than ghosts. Several times I have gone out to meet a client and as I listen to their story I am also looking at them and gauging their health. Do they seem to have issues that could be causing the sensation of being touched or burned?
One woman clearly had health issues, her kitchen counter was filled with prescription bottles and her daily medicine bar was so full she couldn’t even close the lids on each day of the week. Her legs were swollen and her feet were cracked and purple. She claimed that a spirit would burn the soles of her feet by touching her legs. She also seemed to have a lot of memory issues, repeating stories over and over again, admitting she had early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. In some stories she admitted that her daughter was being mind-controlled by a device that talks to her through her television set.
It became clear that the woman may have had a host of physical and mental health issues and that there was really nothing we could do. Anything we could do wouldn’t work as the problem was not a haunting, the problem laid in her head and in her health. She asked if we would do a cleansing and we obliged though even after we were done she admitted that while the cleansing was happening a spirit was molesting her. We knew that she would continue to believe that she was experiencing paranormal activity even though we were unable to capture any evidence supporting her claims. We investigated her residence roughly six or seven times and not once could we say the place was haunted.
More recently we interviewed a deeply religious woman who felt she was personally under the attack of a demonic individual. The only problem is, she claimed that the spirit was only targeting her and that no one else was experiencing anything. Nothing in the house was being affected, her dogs were constantly unaware of anything amiss, and her roommate never experienced anything out of the ordinary. In our discussion with her the story began to slowly change. The demonic spirit was suddenly responsible for theft, vandalism, and a bevy of other misfortunes.
After an hour-long conversation it became evident that we were once again dealing with someone who believed they were being haunted but perhaps some undiagnosed mental illness was at play. She was claimed she was constantly antagonized by a demonic force but also claimed that she sees Jesus regularly and he talks to her and tells her the demonic spirit is in a layer of the underworld but can still manifest in our world.
She had researched some things at the library and applied what she read to her ‘experiences” and came to believe that there were feral spirits attacking her because she was a Christian and that is what these spirits are meant to do.
Who am I to say that Jesus doesn’t visit with her and have dialogue with her and that she isn’t being attacked spiritually for her righteousness? I have no clue how God works as I have never had any dealings with him. All I know is that every time we offered her an explanation she rebuked it and reiterated her belief that she is being attacked. There are a lot of other stories she conveyed that I can’t share with you because we retain our client’s confidentiality unless we get specific permission to use their stories on the blog and website. She did not give us permission so you are getting a capsule version.
Was she “crazy?” Who is to say? Her doctor would be the only one to diagnose her with a mental disorder but to me and to the founder of the group, it was clear that we perhaps were talking to someone who was not haunted but was dealing with some other issue. Other groups had investigated her claims and continuously came up empty-handed and ultimately realized her problems were out of their hand. We too came to that conclusion.
So what is the point of this article? In the field of paranormal investigations you will run into many types of people. Sometimes you get that one person who just sets off your spidey-senses, throws up red flags and sounds the warning bells in your brain. Of course listen to them, determine if the case warrants investigation, but be cautious as you may very well be getting involved with someone whose problem is of a more natural variety and not necessarily supernatural. It is awkward and uncomfortable at best and possibly detrimental to the client’s already unstable mental health at worst if you are dealing with someone who has mental health issues.
Has your team encountered a client who appeared mentally unstable vs. actually being haunted? How did you deal with them? What advice do you have for teams just starting out who may run into this type of situation?