Jana is an amateur everything when it comes to space, nature and science. She loves exploring mysteries, both classic and new.
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.
How to Be a Paranormal Investigator
- Pick a Niche
- Learn to Spot Hoaxes
- Decide If You Want to Go Solo or Work With Partners
- Grow Your Archives
- Decide What Kind of Researcher You Are
- Maintain Safety and Obey Laws
1. 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 are 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.
2. Learn to Spot Hoaxes
Speaking of hoaxes, learn to spot them. Hoaxers make fraudulent claims for a number of reasons. Mostly it's the attention seekers and the inevitable 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 child can charm a family snap into an alien invasion. The best is to trust your instincts and to be wary of two emotions—excitement and hope.
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. 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.
3. Decide If You Want to Go Solo or Work With Partners
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 that 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 are no groups 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.
4. Grow Your Archives
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 catalogue to make sense of all the different cases. Always create a backup, especially if everything is on your computer.
Time and Budget
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.
5. Decide What Kind of Researcher You Are
Some people like to collect stories for no reason other than 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 by 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 all 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.
6. Maintain Safety and Obey 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 of. Morose advice aside, make sure that this exciting hobby doesn't take over your life - 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit