Okay, I admit it, I'm a huge Walking Dead fan. I won't psychoanalyze that admission - just pure entertainment and perhaps a diversion or an escape. That said, I've been thinking about the current season’s events (please no spoilers, I’m still catching up), what I've learned from the show so far, and how it relates to paranormal investigation. Weird combination, right? I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts with others on some lessons learned. So let's talk zombies!
Things Are Rarely As They Seem
This is a common theme throughout the show. For example, it should have been no surprise that the town named "Sanctuary" was not in any way what it appeared to be - quite the opposite! I think the same can be said for our private investigations. If your interest is in helping people deal with spiritual attachments or hauntings, then you know that this is true. No matter how you vet the new clients, there are always unexpected surprises. Sometimes, it’s an unexpected family member or pet that isn’t cooperative (why are they there?) or extremely challenging working conditions. Doing an investigation in July in a home where air conditioning is not being used is one memorable example! There is always the thrill of discovery that keeps you going, but it would be great if there was a way to avoid it (no pain, no gain, I suppose). Having a screening process for investigation leads is important. While not foolproof, at least it might reduce the chances of having a bad experience at an investigation site. In the end, we just have to take it as it comes - because nothing is as it seems!
Another common theme on The Walking Dead is to never give up. I can't even guess how many times this "pep talk" has happened with one character or another on the show. In Season 5, Abraham said, " I will not give up the ship." Considering we are not surrounded by zombies (although we are talking about paranormal “stuff”), I strongly agree that we should never give up the hunt. Despite the challenges of poor working conditions, challenges with keeping the team motivated and engaged, and wading through endless hours of evidence for that one Class A EVP, our mission must keep us going. As paranormal investigators, we are seeking the science behind spirit and the afterlife – whatever we can prove has incredible implications for humanity. I can’t think of a better reason to keep investigating!
It doesn't take very long to make the observation that zombies have a one track mind - they are after fresh meat - nothing dissuades them from their quest. Paranormal investigation also requires focus. Everyone has heard the wisdom that you can't get to your destination if you don't know where you're going. If you lead a paranormal group or intend to start one, think about the mission of your group. Try to focus on the specific area of investigation where you have the most interest and experience. Some groups are science-based and focus on technical equipment and experimentation; others are more interested in exploring and contacting spirit as a hobby or pastime. In any case, the further you stray from your focus, the harder it will be to be successful and stay in it for the long term. Without a specific mission, groups can experience “mission creep” – investigating locations or for clients that are outside of their original intent. This can put additional stress or workload and, in some cases, cause members to opt out if it’s not “what they bargained for” when joining the group.
Look the Part
The first time I saw Carol on The Walking Dead smear herself with zombie guts and walk among them (or Michonne walking with 2 zombies in tow), I wondered, "Could I do that?" Ugh. Well, being a professional paranormal investigator requires that we also look the part! Not only do you need to thoughtfully target the type of paranormal group or method of investigation you are interested in, but you also must make an effort to learn your equipment, research the scientific or technical aspects of paranormal investigation, and project a professional presence. If you’re not currently in a group, there are lots of resources available online to increase your knowledge of investigative techniques and emerging technology. The technical aspects aside, I can’t say enough about looking and acting professionally on investigations. I would recommend that every group establish a Code of Ethics and hold members to it. When people have bad experiences with unprofessional or irresponsible paranormal investigators or groups, it hurts all of us!
Learn From Experience
This last observation is one that is often non-existent in zombie-land. Why would anyone assume that an old barn or abandoned store front contains no zombies? Yet, time and time again, the characters on The Walking Dead make this assumption. It seems as if they never learn! Similarly, why would you not try to learn from a technical failure or loss of evidence on an investigation…or adding a new member to the team that just doesn’t fit? I’ve seen both of these things happen. What’s the solution? Perhaps having a team workshop or training session will refresh everyone’s memory on the equipment’s operation. Is there a process in place to replace equipment or test it prior to the investigation? Is your new member screening and training process working? Even though many of us just want to “do the fun stuff,” there is definitely a need to have some processes in place to ensure the integrity of the data we collect and of the team we assemble to do the investigation. And, finally, why pass up an opportunity to learn and improve future investigations? Otherwise, you'll keep opening those barn doors and expecting not to find any zombies in there! We all know how that will work out!
Good luck on your future investigations!
Dr. Carol A. Pollio