Your Guide to Studying the Supernatural
Bring Your Magnifying Glass
The paranormal arena is not really an arena. It's more like a world filled with countless phenomena, subcultures and its own special kind of citizens. The panorama is so vast, a single person cannot solve every mystery that is out there. Not even a large organized group can ace that rainbow dream. There are too many shelves bearing their strange gifts and too few curious hands.
Pick a Niche
You'll make a way bigger contribution if you focus on a particular slice of the paranormal pie. Are you drawn to lake monsters or historical accounts of werewolves? Once you find your own freaky kind of love, see if you can find a niche within your niche. For example, let's pretend UFOs is your thing, which is one of the broadest fields you'll ever encounter. What about UFOs holds your attention? Perhaps you want to amass abduction testimonies or every report of a craft that landed in a forest. Such a narrow focus will eliminate the noise of a hobby that is often filled with too much information and hoaxes.
Speaking of Hoaxes
Learn to spot them. Hoaxers make fraudulent claims for a number of reasons. Mostly it's the attention seekers (those who want to see their name appear in some report) and the inevitable laughing trolls. The good news is that no matter the field you study, there are always signs that betray the fakes.
Unfortunately, photographs can no longer be trusted. These days even a devious five-year-old can charm a family snap into an alien invasion. The best is to trust your instincts and to be weary of two emotions - excitement and hope. Oh gosh! This person holding his fifteenth double whiskey is sharing his true account of having seen a ghost in his living room (it was watching T.V.). Sometimes, one wants to believe so badly that a good yarn fools us completely. Don't feel bad if you fall for a hoax - the celebrated author of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, had serious egg on his face after he believed a claim about fairies. On the flip side, don't wear the myopic glasses of the cynic either. That pale guy at the bar could be downing whiskey after whiskey because he really saw a ghost. Get to know your chosen field and pay close attention to its historical cases of known fakes. The day when hoaxes end will never arrive and one must adapt to their evolving trends to prevent dismissing a genuine event. Not throwing the baby out with the bath water is a lifelong effort.
Some Hoaxes Are Easy to Spot
Partnership or Solo?
Are you a lone werewolf? Do you work best sniffing after clues with your own ragged nose or do you need the support that teamwork brings? There are many paranormal societies who need investigators. Some will even train you. The benefits of an organization can include resources beyond your means, archives to riffle through and gaining experience in the field alongside experienced investigators. There are drawbacks, however. For anyone who just wants the truth without the drama, the following could be a deal breaker. Many good investigators have disassociated themselves from groups, even renowned organizations such as BUFORA, because politics got in the way. Yes, paranormal enthusiasts are an amazing bunch. But any collective, committee or club is burdened with opinions that differ and people who don't get along. This can be discouraging when all you want to do is test some alleged Loch Ness monster spit.
Sometimes, there will be no group in your area or they don't accept new investigators. Perhaps you willingly decide to go at it alone. This choice has its perks. You don't have to contend with rules and members you don't agree with and you have the leisure to develop your own investigative style and hours. The biggest drawback is that your work might not be taken as seriously. You can thank Hollywood for the popular image of the lone, crazy conspiracy theorist.
Even if you join a group, always grow your own archive. This collection guards anything you deem worthy of analysis as well as field records, training and interviews with witnesses. Here, you need to develop a system that works for you. Investigators' archives can be as individual as their personalities. Some basic requirements include a space dedicated only to your files (hard drive or a guest room), stationary, time and a menu or catalog to make sense of all the different cases. Always create a backup, especially if everything is on your computer.
Decide how serious this hobby is going to be. You need adequate hours to develop your skills. In the same vein, decide if you want to allocate a budget. This hobby can be enjoyed without spending a cent. However, if you are a more hands-on person and wants to drive to that distant location where Dogman was sighted, then you'll need to be happy with expenses such as fuel and refreshments. Maybe an expensive trip to the E.R. if Dogman is real.
What Kind of Researcher are You?
Some people like to collect stories for no reason other than occasional entertainment. We all have that cousin who hoards newspaper clippings, each describing a different Bigfoot sighting. He never leaves the sofa. Cousin Bob has two hundred ape stories and he finds great relaxation in just reading them. Are you a bit more analytical? When you look at those clippings, do you want to find out how many times Bigfoot showed up in a certain area and what the witnesses noticed most often? What links the reports? If you want answers and not just a good mystery, then enjoy pulling a report to pieces. It's fine to research online how to analyze a sighting but add your own touches. Sometimes the smallest detail can be responsible for a groundbreaking case.
Respect The Law
Safety and Laws
Interviewing witnesses is a whole game by itself. Today, one cannot waltz onto somebody's property to learn more about the claim they made in the newspaper. Professional investigators also do not show up out of the blue. They have guidelines on how to respectfully approach somebody. A witness is not a cardboard character either. After experiencing something they cannot explain, many will be uncertain or traumatized. An unwelcome interviewer can do more harm (to the case and witness) than good.
Trespassing on private property happens quicker than you think. You may explore land you never realized belonged to a trigger-happy farmer or worse, that secret military installation the government claimed was never there. Always get a good grasp of the area you are about to enter, be it somebody's orchard or a piece of desert in Nevada. Respect the law and people's privacy.
Stay safe when you venture from your home, especially when you go somewhere alone. Crime is unfortunately something one must stay mindful off. Morose advice aside, make sure that this exciting hobby doesn't take over your life (we all have that obsessed cousin...), or make you feel frustrated. If that is the case, take a step back and only return for enjoyment's sake. Here's the secret - when you flow instead of fumble, you stand a much better chance of solving something worthwhile in your field. So, relax, refine your approach and enjoy the experience.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit