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Ethics, Protocol & Procedure...


CJ Schmit/flickrThere are many recently founded paranormal research organizations.  A long term interest in the paranormal, supernatural or occult mixed with the popularity of paranormal shows today has given rise to a great many amateur investigative teams.  While the majority of new investigators rely on TV for their standards of behavior and methods it is important to note that TV tends to edit out the 'boring' parts. 

Just as well we have encountered many teams that have questionable ethics a lack of real protocol and dubious procedures.  Not all investigators chose this route but the lack of any formal training or any official guidelines leave the investigators with nothing to judge their 'standards' by except what they see or can cut and paste on the web.


Ethics should be the first staple of any investigation team.  These are not only the guidelines for behavior at an investigation but also statements of expectations for the investigators.  We have seen amateur investigators go public with private case evidence before even reporting it to the client, we have encountered teams that trespass on private property without hesitation, we have had teams 'help' one client only to shift the problems to another and refuse to accept responsibility, we have heard teams slander another team to clients. 

Now ethics should not include some random assortment of  'investigators should not take photos while driving....'  This is not an ethic this is an expectation from founders.  If you would like to understand what a professional code of ethics looks like I suggest examining our summarized code on our ethics page.  All researchers should be expected to sign a waiver agreeing to this code of ethics and the founder(s) are responsible for assuring others are held to it.

Protocol is another area in which we have seen many failures with investigators.  Similar to ethics, protocol is a professional guide stating an investigator's foundation for their research.  Again, this is not some quick 'how we work' cut and past guide.  Professional research protocols state your purpose for the research, the origins of the research, your methods used in the research and detailed explanations of what the investigator(s) goal is.  Once again, take a look at professional protocols on here.

Procedure is another area we find that a great many teams are lacking.  We have seen many investigators that just don't know what to do.  They want to be 'Ghost Hunters' so badly they don't care what it takes to get there.  We have seen investigators time and again have mis-aligned priorities.  These investigators commonly put their own goals ahead of even the most common standards of research.  The first thing the team ever invests in is something to promote group cohesion.  Spending all of their funding on t-shirts, car magnets, banners, signs and all manner of promotional items to 'get their name out there.' 

Jo Naylor/flickrThis is not an issue with a team that is well-established, but if the team is recently founded and only has a couple of cameras and one surveying instrument between them it becomes a severe issue of credibility.  All of the funding that was funneled into promotions could have been used to purchase more equipment to increase options in their methods.  Teams that are well-established have gotten their name out there for their work, not because of their marketing ability.
   The question is, would you prefer a group of amateurs to investigate YOUR home with nothing but cameras and uniform t-shirts or would you prefer a team with extensive research capabilities, equipment and knowledge?  Any amateur team can fall into either category.

In reality any amateur ghost hunting team can hold to professional Ethics, Protocols and Procedures.  The problem is most investigators do not have anything to compare their standards to except for what is out on the web.  If an investigator is just starting out it is our belief that they should aim for the highest standards.  If they are out for a thrill or a club it shows in their standards.  If they want to be a professional look to their standards....


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Reader Comments (2)

Interesting that an article that touches on ethics, will use a photo that is lifted from the web and not credit the photographer. It appreciated if you ask permission but at the very least credit the photographer.

January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

You are quite correct Terri. Importing our blog stripped all of the captions and credit from the photos. Thank you for finding this so we could correct it.

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPW Creighton

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