Assessing The Activity
The following article presents general guidelines for how a good, experienced investigator normally would go about conducting an interview and investigation. Although every investigator has a routine of his or her own, most of what is listed here is performed in one way or another at one time or another. This article has been seriously summarized for the purpose of getting out as many important facts as possible without getting too drawn out… nothing’s worse than waking up with your face in a puddle of drool on the keyboard! Also, this article is much more focused on the people looking for help, so you can know what to expect, what you can do to help yourselves, and what you can do to help the investigator help you.
When we first are called in for assistance or an investigation, the investigator should gather as much information as possible, as soon as possible from the people involved. Normally, at that point in time, the investigator should determine, based on the facts they receive, whether or not they will; accept the case, are capable of helping the people in need, and are willing to follow through until closure.
A good, experienced, and ethical investigator will be true to themselves and the people who contacted them by being honest and helpful. If the investigator decides not to accept a case, in good faith they should try, as best as possible, to refer the individual or family to someone who can help them. Ed and Lorraine Warren had the utmost respect for investigators who called them because they realize that the case they are working on is too heavy for them at that stage of their experience level. That tells me that they are being honest both with themselves and the individuals they’re helping!
If you are the victim of ANY kind of supernatural or preternatural occurrence, you’re going to have a lot of questions. It’s the job of the investigator to answer your questions to the best of their ability. BUT, keep in mind that nothing in this line of work is written in stone and there are always exceptions to every rule and if an investigator does not have a solid answer to some of your questions, that’s quite natural.
They SHOULD, however, have answers to ALL questions regarding what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they go about achieving closure. These answers may come slowly at first though, until enough information can be obtained as to the origin of the problem and the different ways of handling the situation. Even then, new information and activity may cause the investigator to realize new truths and require an altered plan of attack. What are the things a good investigator or demonologist look for during the initial interview with the people involved and during the actual investigation? That’s what I’ll talk about now.
Let’s first talk about what we should be looking for during the initial interview, which usually will take place by phone. Normally, as soon as we start in with the details, the family or person involved will talk at the speed of light… trying to get out weeks, months, or years worth of activity in record time… slow down… we want to hear as much as possible, but we don’t want to leave out important details. Once the general overview of what’s been taking place has been talked about, the investigator should start asking a multitude of questions, trying to get further details of what, more precisely, is happening and why. The very first determination the investigator should make is whether or not the activity taking place is truly paranormal or if a rational, natural explanation can be formed. Here are some of the basic things we look for and why this information is important (remember that these are generalizations):
- How many people are involved, if a family, how many children, ages, sex, etc.If an individual, has anyone else witnessed the activity. – We look for any clues as to whether or not a specific individual may be a key player or catalyst, if a young boy or girl is going through puberty that would ring the “poltergeist” bell, of course, dependant on many other factors.
- Has anyone outside of the people involved witnessed any activity or experienced anything they would consider unusual. – Witnesses are ALWAYS important, a third party point of view. To get the information of someone not living in the house, maybe an overnight guest, relative, or friend, is very helpful.
- What is the religious background, if any, of everyone involved and are they currently practicing. – May give some insight into possible motives for the attacks or hauntings, and helps us determine, should a need arise, which religious denomination we would need to contact, and which guidelines to follow based on the person’s religious beliefs.
- Has any person concerned had any involvement with the occult, satanism, Wicca, witchcraft, Voodoo, Santeria, or the like in the present or past, or any friends/acquaintances who have or have had any involvement. – This is VERY important because if the person has involvement with these types of “religions”, ONLY a demonologist should get involved because of the greater risk of retaliation. A side note here, Wicca, Witchcraft, Satanism, Voodoo and Santeria are, in fact, considered religions and although Voodoo and Santeria are definitely not considered “bad” in nature (they are actually good for many people, when practiced as such), spells and curses placed by a Voodoo or Santeria practitioner are the most powerful you will find and extreme care should be taken. Most investigators who know of the power of these forms of religion won’t get involved, wisely so.
- Has any person concerned seen a psychic for any reason. – Because psychics (like the kind you’d get a reading from or have come into your house to “feel” it out) see such a wide variety of people, there is always a chance that they have one or more spirits attached to them which may have found a greater attraction to the victim(s). Sometimes a psychic has been asked into a dwelling to help with a haunting and inadvertently makes the situation worse by opening more doors.
- Is any person concerned currently using the ouija board, or has used it in the past. – I’ve dedicated a separate article for this, Ouija Board.
- When did the activity begin or when did they first notice unusual things happening. – We may be able to correlate when the activity started with another piece of information given to us to better understand what started the crisis.
- What time of day does most of the activity take place. – Guidelines state that MOST of the time, inhuman spirits such as demon or devils, do not manifest during the hours of natural sunlight, of course, there are always exceptions to the rules. That does NOT mean that ALL activity taking place at night is inhuman in origin, HUMAN spirits can manifest any time of the day or night. The time of day helps us RULE OUT, for the most part, whether the family or individual is dealing with a human or inhuman spirit.
- What, specifically, are people seeing; Full figures of a person, if so, are the figures FULLY intact, light colored forms or mists, small pins or orbs of light of different colors, dark shadows or small, dark, quick moving objects, reddish colored lights or mists. – In general, human spirits will normally appear as; a fully intact form, light colored (white, blue, green, yellow, etc.) mists, orbs, forms, or pinpoints of light. Inhuman spirits normally reveal themselves as very dark (often described as “blacker than black”) shapes, human shaped forms that are not intact… perhaps deformed, missing eyes or other body parts… they try to duplicate the human body but because they are not of the same nature as humans, there is ALWAYS something “wrong” with their appearance. Inhuman spirits also may appear as reddish colored orbs, mists, lights, etc… red for anger.
- What, specifically, are people smelling; the scent of roses or musty odors, fresh smells or putrid, vile odors, with no apparent point origin. – The scent of roses is a GREAT sign, the sign of a Holy presence. Smells of anything vile such as what has commonly been described as “rotting flesh”, sulfurous odors, putrid odors such as excrement or the like are all the signs of something inhuman.
- What, specifically, are people feeling; Is there a “familiar” feeling, is there a uneasy feeling or is there a dire, hopeless, threatened feeling. – Feelings are extremely important sensors in a house that has some form of paranormal presence. Many people describe the feeling of “familiarity”, possibly the spirit of a loved one, relative, or other person they’ve known. The feeling of uneasiness or “being watched” can be associated with many things, typically of a regular human spirit, a malicious human spirit or low level inhuman spirit. The TRUE, outright feeling of dread and doom, hopelessness and threat to one’s being can really only come from one type of entity, the inhuman spirit. There is one twist to all this; typically, in cases involving poltergeist phenomena, rarely does anyone “feel” anything at any point in time. That is another indicator we look at when we look into the possibility of a case being poltergeist.
- Has any documentation or evidence been taken by the family. – If the family or individual has been able to gather any kind of evidence or has been documenting or keeping a diary of what has been taking place, that is an enormous help to the investigator. The family is in the house all the time, the investigator would only be there very little, in comparison, so the family members have the best opportunity of gathering evidence of anyone.
These are some of the basic things a good investigator will look into during their initial interview with the persons involved. As more information is revealed, the investigator normally will ask more directed questions along topics of value and continue on until they believe they have a good understanding of the big picture. Never should only ONE of these above questions cause an investigator draw an initial conclusion as to the nature of the case. ALL these facts must be weighed upon each other as to fit into a good, reasonable explanation. They should weigh the information given into the general guidelines of what every type of spirit’s normal classification would be, as listed in the Spirit Classification article. Once all the information has been obtained, the investigator should then determine what course of action to take. There are times when help and assistance can be given solely over the phone, the investigator giving direction as to the next course of action on a step by step basis, but most of the time, a visit to the actual location will be called for.
If a visit to the physical location is deemed necessary by the investigator, and it is agreeable with the family or individual involved, the investigator should inform the family of his/her intentions and what their plan will be. The investigator SHOULD also tell the family whether or not closure can be obtained. This is when the investigator or team must be honest and forthcoming with the family, for giving a victim family a sense of hope, only to be later left on their own is a great injustice and can do a great deal of damage to them emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
When an investigator or investigative team arrives on scene, they should immediately start sizing up the situation. They should, first off, ask for a quick tour of the premises, ensuring they tour every part of the house, including the basement and attic if accessible. If a psychic or sensitive is part of the group, he/she should also tour the house, separately from the main party, but always with another person. There is justified reason for that; while everyone else is off touring, getting the layout of the house, the psychic or sensitive should also be touring, more slowly and thoroughly, in an attempt to “feel out” any unusual sensations in the house. This serves a few purposes; a baseline for how the house will feel later in the investigation, to get an initial impression of what may be present in the house, and what exact areas the investigation should focus on during the investigation. The reason why this should be done separately from the main group is to reduce distractions and ensure the impressions being received by the psychic are truly from the house or its paranormal occupants. BUT, the psychic or sensitive should always have another person with him or her at all times, someone who can be very inconspicuous and psychically “neutral”, who can be there in case activity should occur. Some investigators may instead, choose to have the psychic or sensitive tour the house while he or she is performing the interview.
After the tour of the premises is complete, the investigator should first sit down with the people involved, one by one, and get their versions of what they’ve been experiencing, then after everyone has been individually questioned, the investigator should sit and talk to everyone as a group. Conducting the on-site interview in this way allows the investigator to get a very detailed view of what’s been taking place, on an individual basis, and also is able to get information from the group… information that an individual may have forgotten about or not considered necessarily paranormal. This interviewing technique works very well in its ability to put all the pieces of the puzzle into place, giving both the family and the investigator a complete, accurate picture of what is occurring to the family. During the on-site interview, the investigator should be asking the exact identical situational questions asked during the phone interview. This ensures that, first off and basically, that the stories are the same and it also helps reinforce any initial conclusions that the investigator may have come up with. The types of questions the investigator normally will ask during the on-site interview will also be very similar to the phone interview, but now should be much more detailed and focused.
Once the interviewing is complete, the investigator or investigative team should then take a break to form a general consensus of what they are actually dealing with and determine among themselves what course of action they should take during the investigation phase. This should be done without the family present. Once a consensus has been formed and a plan of action is agreed on, the investigator should then discuss all this with the family. Before proceeding, the investigator should ensure the family is comfortable everything, if they are uncomfortable in any way, then either a compromise would have to be made or the investigation should not continue. Remember, it’s the family’s crisis and the investigator is responsible for their well being once he or she accepts the case. If one or more family members is not cooperative (that is fairly common… where one or more person within a family is or becomes hesitant or hostile towards the investigator), it can lead to difficulties and could possibly throw off or interfere with the normal activity within the house.
Too many times, I’ve seen an investigative team enter a victim family’s house, take over, and firmly instruct them that they MUST do this or MUST not do that. That is the entirely wrong approach. In fact, it’s the exact opposite approach of how it should actually work. The INVESTIGATOR(s) should be as inconspicuous as possible. The family or individual should go about their normal routine as if the investigator is not even there. What we’re looking for here is to ensure that the situation is as normal as it is when the occurrences take place, we don’t want to induce additional activity, nor do we want to reduce what normally takes place… the investigator should be the “fly on the wall”. The ONLY time an investigator should direct the family or family member to do or not to do something is if/when the person may be, in the investigators eyes, in danger or if a particular person is a catalyst in what takes place.
Okay, a few questions here:
What time of day do investigations occur? – That depends on what type of haunting activity is taking place and/or what type of spirits are involved. Investigations of human spirits / hauntings or poltergeists will usually take place whenever the most activity normally occurs, day or night. Investigations of negative forces; negative human spirits or demonic or diabolical in origin will most often take place at night, when activity normally happens.
How long into the night do the investigations last? – Again, that depends. When dealing with negative spirits, the rule of thumb is that they can be active during the hours of 9 PM – 6 AM (typically the hours of natural darkness). Because every spirit is different, each follows its own routine and the investigator should have a good idea, based on the information obtained during the interview, as to the routine of the particular spirit involved. In many cases though, if I were to generalize, an initial interview/investigation will last from 9 PM until roughly 3:30 AM. Because we’re talking about inhuman spirits, very few investigator would leave before 3 AM… 3 AM is typically the peak time for activity for the inhuman spirit.
Why 3 AM? – The number 3, as theology states, is the number of the Trinity and as far as inhuman spirits are concerned 3 AM and 3 PM would be a mockery of the Trinity. BUT, since most inhuman spirits will not manifest during daylight hours… 3 AM.
How long will an investigation last, when can closure be expected? – That’s the toughest question of them all. This is where many inexperienced investigators make their mistakes. Promising a closure time frame is futile and is unfair to the family. The best answer a demonologist or experienced investigator can give is one that simply states that they will be there until closure is obtained, no matter how long it takes. This when the investigator must be honest and sincere with the victim(s)… can closure truly be obtained under the circumstances involved, if not, say so, explain why and what can be done to change things so closure CAN be achieved. Again, as far as time frames are concerned, cases can last for mere weeks to years, it all depends on the circumstances.
The investigator will be looking for signs or indications that back up the claims of the victim(s). The signs they look for are exactly the same as what they’ve asked during the interview: Certain odors, forms and shapes, lights, mists, sensations like cold or hot spots in the atmosphere, etc. They attempt to match what they are sensing with the guidelines of spirit classification and with all other information they’ve been told and what they sense. In time, a clear picture will take shape as to what is occurring.
Now, once the investigation is complete, the investigator should briefly discuss with any individuals still awake (it’s probably very early in the morning by now), a brief, generalized summary of what, if anything they’ve been able to obtain. It is very common, especially on an initial investigation, that very little or no paranormal activity takes place. That does not mean that the family is making this all up, or they’ve got over-active imaginations, it simply means that little activity took place. Rarely is a case solved on the first visit, it may take several visits to the location for the investigator to be able to pinpoint the exact nature and cause or the phenomena taking place and how to resolve it.
The investigator should follow up with the family within a day or two after the initial investigation (and likewise for any and all future investigations) and discuss, in detail, the findings of their investigation. This should automatically lead them to talk about what type of spirit they believe the family to be dealing with and how to protect themselves and gain closure. There are times however, when a victim is very sensitive and extremely scared of what’s happening to them and may appear to be on the edge of breakdown (in one form or another), the investigator, now acting as part counselor, must use discretion as to how much to tell the victim. If there a family is involved, the investigator may opt to discuss the full reality to the person who appears to be the “anchor”, the strongest, and only discuss generalizations with others. One thing very few investigators mention to the family, when talking about inhuman infestations, is the fact that there is a chance of the phenomena being more forceful and more active within about three days after an investigation. This is a fact that should be mentioned BEFORE an initial investigation is to take place, giving the family a chance to opt out. Of course, there are many factors involved in this possibility.
Lastly, the investigator must be fully prepared to deal whatever he is dealt. Once they have accepted the case (common sense says that if they investigate a case, they accept the case), they are responsible to follow through with what they started. It is very disheartening to a family to have an investigator do an interview and investigation and never receiving any feedback or never hearing back from the investigator. He or she should be ready to deal with how to begin the closure process (“What can I do to help” and “What is the best way to solve this situation with the least possible effect on the family”). They must also know how to get church intervention or assistance of the family’s denomination. He or she should be able to decipher when the family is being subtly, unnaturally, coerced into turmoil, and know how to gently intercede. One of the tricks a demonic or diabolical spirit enjoys playing is turning the involved individuals against each other, that includes the family, the investigator and their family, and the investigative team as a whole. What better way to hide than to create havoc and confusion all around.
Again, every spirit, every haunting, and every case is different but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, that tunnel may have many twists and turns but there’s always the light at the end.