“Ghost Hunting Doesn’t Involve Breaking the Law”
It seems that no matter how much I or other professional paranormal investigators lecture on the subject, some immature and amateurish yahoos out there just can’t seem to get the message- if you have to sneak in under the dark of night and uninvited then you’re not real ghost hunters and you deserve all that is coming to you under the letter of the law. Lately there have been more than a few stories that have crossed my desk about so-called ghost hunters having run-ins with local law enforcement.
Let’s be honest. Kids have been sneaking into cemeteries for generations, but now those that get caught are using an excuse that is sadly becoming all too familiar, “But, we’re ghost hunters.”
No. You’re trespassers and you’re breaking the law.
It’s not just cemeteries, which are usually owned and operated by a church or local historical society, that are putting up with this; privately-owned businesses and other historical locations are also facing an increase in unwanted visitors especially after they are featured on one of the many reality ghost hunting shows that plague cable television. The owner of an abandoned mental hospital reluctantly stated that he would have to higher security guards after the stars of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters found evidence of paranormal activity at the site. Since airing the episode local groups and teens have been flocking to the site in hopes of a cheap thrill and capturing evidence of their own. These individuals only succeed in perpetuating the mocking of paranormal research.
Take for example this brief from the Bainbridge, Ohio Police Blotter.
SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY, SOUTH FRANKLIN STREET: Chagrin Falls asked Bainbridge officers to assist with checking the cemetery at 3:27 a.m. on July 22. Three Euclid women were there hunting for ghosts. No vandalism was found. The women were advised of cemetery hours and told to leave.
I think they should have at the very least been gifted with citations for trespassing, which depending on local laws can include anything from a small fine up to and including jail time.
The Burnside city council voted to deny public access to a popular park after several incidents where thrill seekers were making neighbors nervous and scared. Groups began centering on the area after a YouTube video posted 6 months ago supported evidence of a legendary haunting there.
Under the new policy, police patrols of the area would be more frequent and anyone found in the park at night would face a $5000 fine. Permits could be issued to residents who use part of the walkway to access their homes from bus stops.
Trespassing in the St. Louis-area Wildwood property, particularly in the city’s parks, has been an increasing problem based on reports from the St. Louis County Police Department.
Wildwood Police Capt. Kenneth Williams said a pattern arose when residents tried to use or hide in the parks after dark; police also said some destruction of property recently occurred, prompting patrols around the park to increase after a wood carving worth $500 that was stolen from the area.
This is not only scientifically unprofessional, but childish and completely unacceptable behavior from any member of society.
I’d like to note that there is a very serious problem to public safety when police have to be routinely taken off of wider patrols to focus on small areas where any mature individual with common sense and decency knows not to be. Maybe when their house is being robbed, or an accident victim’s injuries might not have been so severe had an officer been closer at the time, then maybe- just maybe- they’ll finally get the hint.
A new after-hours policy was established to discourage people from trespassing in parks and other areas after dark with fines for violating the ordinance being up to $1,000 or a year in jail.
Professionalism doesn’t just apply to your research methods or fancy team jerseys and shiny new equipment. It extends to how you conduct yourselves on and off the field. It isn’t just a love of the paranormal, but a respect for the locations and the owners of those locations.
In many cases contacting the city or church that owns the cemetery or other property and presenting your honest and objective intentions goes a long way toward garnering permission to legally access and investigate the area.
From a purely investigative nature, you could always go there during the day since we know that ghosts don’t just come out at night.
I also want to point out that cemeteries by design are in urban areas close to well-traveled roads and residential homes. This can seriously pollute any evidence due to a large amount of X factors. Even abandoned cemeteries in secluded and neglected locations have environmental and noise pollution levels and these factors don’t necessarily decrease just because it is nighttime.
Whether ghost hunting is a hobby or a serious part of your life, it should always be conducted respectfully and professionally. If you can’t do that, then do public safety a favor- stay home and watch it on television.
© 2012 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions