I sometimes am asked how to go about starting a team. Generally people only have one or 2 things they would like to know but I’ve began to notice a common occurrence of most questions. I’ve decided to write a short, but sweet, “how to” that anyone can follow.
Step 1… Get an idea of what it is you want to do and what it is you want to achieve.
The reason for this is that the paranormal does not solely exist around ghosts and hauntings. The term paranormal is very broad and covers many different fields. You have cryptozoologoy, alien & ufo phenomenon, and ghosts & hauntings. These are your standard fields of paranormal, or at least in the aspect of investigations. So think about what it is exactly you want to do. For the sake of this “How To” we will assume it is ghosts & hauntings.
Step 2… Finding like minded people to join your team.
When most groups first start, they are done so with friends and acquaintances. It’s a good idea to look into your own group of friends for starting members. As your team survives, does cases, and simply exist you’ll get more and more people wanting to join but it’s always a good idea to have some starting members.
Lets say for a moment that you don’t have any friends interested in doing this, another option would be the web. Go visit social networking sites and paranormal boards and post about your team and that you’re looking for members.
Step 3… Picking a name.
Once you have step one & two complete, it’s time to pick a name to reflect your future team. General team names involve the area and specialty of the group. Some examples of this would be T.A.P.S, The Atlantic Paranormal Society. The great thing about a name like that is it allows for their team to be very open about where they investigate. That can however cause problems if you’re team is not big enough to handle the case load of an entire region.
Some more teams tend to go a bit more local like The Georgia Ghost Hunters or even more local like The Paulding Paranormal Society. The first involves the entire state and the second involves a county within a state. Some issues can arise with this as, for example, some people may be reluctant to contact a county based team if they are outside that county.
Then there is the choice of non-regional names. A good example of this would be Sci -Tech Paranormal or MetroPI, based in Georgia as well. This is a name that has no ties to a region and are more free to investigate wherever they are needed and choose to.
Step 4… Members to consider.
It’s always a good idea to have a diverse team, but this is left to your discretion as well. Some examples of people to look for could be:
The Investigator, follows through on all leads.
The Skeptic, questions everything and looks for “logical’ answers.
The Tech, someone who is good with electronics.
The Case Manager, this is the person who initially deals with the clients. Some people even have theirs call places to do investigations. Many historical places will let you investigate but they rarely come looking for you.
The following are more in the spiritual realm of the paranormal. You may want to keep your team tech and evidence oriented but you can sometimes get great results from using these.
The Religious, this is a broad field from Christian to Pagan. I try to have at least one of each on my team. Sometimes you will find a family or person that wants something done to their home that has to do with the occult.
The Psychic, many dislike this word and refer to them as ‘sensitives’ but it’s the same thing. Everyone knows what a psychic is.
Using someone who practices the occult can be tricky and does leave you open for attack by others. My own personal experience with this was being called “devil worshipers’. This was, of course, done by another paranormal team in a petty last ditch effort to discredit my team. Luckily it didn’t phase us.
I don’t practice this what so over but I like having a diverse team and some of your clients will want or prefer this type of help. Not everyone is one religion or follows one belief.
Step 5… Set up meetings.
Pretty self-explanatory. All teams need to have meetings. The occurrence is at your discretion and the discretion of your team. A standard format, for example, is monthly. Some teams do weekly, some do bi-weekly, some do quarterly.
Generally all business is discussed at the meeting. If your team charges dues, this would be the time to collect them. You also use this time to discuss pending cases, talk about peoples new experience, and try to add a little something extra to each meeting yourself. For example, always have a new lecture, short or long, setup for something related to the paranormal. So your team can learn as it grows.
It’s a good idea, as well, to setup meetings outside of the monthly meetings if you have current cases. All the people involved with the case need to be on the same page and it’s a good idea to go over everyone’s personal experiences and narrow down the cause of what’s happening in the residence or building.
Step 6… Equipment.
When first starting out, you most likely won’t have the funds to go out and buy brand spanking new gear. For the sake of this how to, we’ll assume you don’t.
First things first is find out what equipment you do have and that your team members have and take inventory. Go looking around your closets, the garage, for what else you can find. Here is a standard equipment list:
Pens and paper pads
Film and/or digital cameras
Tape and/or digital recorders
-Option but useful
Extended microphone for audio recorders, a lot of mics on recorders pick up a metal sound. This eliminates that.
The first 2 listed, you should be able to find around your house. Most people today have digital cameras or at the very least have a film camera. In my opinion it’s good to have both of the ones listed “and/or”.
EVPs are big right now and it’s best to have an audio recorder. Wal-mart sells a great inexpensive digital recorder by Sony that plugs into a computer and has software to put the audio clips on your PC. IR Thermometers aren’t as hard to come by as you think. You can get at local department stores, like Wal-mart, as well now. EMF Meters, be sure to check the internet for. Even eBay.
The best thing about all this gear is that you can find much of it laying around your house. No matter your age, I bet your parents have a tape recorder some where. I’m sure you got 35mm film cameras all over your house. Be sure to check.
Once you know what everyone has you’ll know what situations you can handle.
Step 7… Making a logo/banner and creating an interface for potential clients to contact you through.
This is pretty simple. You’ll want a website and email address for people to always contact you through. It doesn’t have to be anything big and flashy, most people just want to see some evidence, maybe read over some previous cases, and have a way to get in touch with you.
You’ll see a lot of teams try to pack their sites full of information like terminology. This is nice for your members or potential members but you really just want to make a place where people can find you and contact you. Almost everyone has the internet, so it won’t be a problem. Just be sure to check your email every day!
There are also free services on the internet that are pretty amazing for allowing people to get in touch with you. There are voicemail services where you get a local phone number that leads people to a voice mail. They leave a message and it gets emailed to you. You can then call them from there assuming they left you their number, but services tend to tell you the number anyway. This is nice as, while many do have the internet, people will always appreciate a more real time touch to your services.
Now for your logo. This is important. This is the symbol of your team, this is how people will recognize you. Many teams use use occult references and symbols mixed in their logo, to give it a more mystifying affect. This is definitely an option. You can also do something simple like 3 colored blocks stacked on one another with your name next to it. A good idea would be to have your team members all come up with ideas and present them at the next meeting.
Step 8… Finding clients.
This may seem hard to do but it’s easier than you think. There are more people out there who need your help than you could imagine. A few good ways to get the word out is of course using the web. Many towns, counties, and states have message board websites. Go to these, make a name (usually related to the team) and post about your services. Be sure to include that anyone who wishes to keep it private can PM (private message) you or if they’re open about it allow them to post a reply. People will come if you do this!
Another more direct step is fliers and ads. Local newspapers don’t usually charge much for ads. Toss around a donation bin at your next team meeting and put it toward an ad in the local paper. You can also print up fliers and spread them all over town. Really work to get the word out!
Once you start doing a few cases word of mouth will spread and you’ll get even more people coming to you.
Step 9… Investigative procedure.
Be sure to setup a procedure for investigation conduct. For instant, smoke breaks? Drinks? Color clothing? Be sure to setup a break area for each investigation. For instance if you are doing a residence, let it be at your vehicle. Here’s a starting list for Code of Conduct for you, please edit at your discretion:
1. Smoke Breaks will be permitted once an hour for 10 minutes at the designed break area. There is no smoking while an investigation is being conducted.
2. All food or drinks are to be left in the designated break area.
3. All members will wear black pants or blue jeans and a black colored shirt during investigations.
4. All members will watch their language and conduct around clients.
Violation of any of these codes will result in the immediate dismiss of said member from (team name here)
Step 10… Case reports and paperwork.
The first thing you should do is create a release form that each client whose home you’re about to investigate must sign. Make sure that it sounds professional and that it will release you and your team from any legal recourse that may take place in the event something happens at their residence, building, or place of business. This sounds bad but in the long run you’ll be glad you have it and most people are happy to sign it. We have these in case they claim something was stolen. It may not have been, they may be crazy, but you need to protect you and your team.
Other paperwork can include something similar for your members. For instance, you should create an emergency contact form for each member to fill out in the event something tragic happens. It should include their full name, phone number, address, and at least 2 people to contact in case of an emergency. Be sure that you ask for their phone numbers as well. This is something I would make a requirement.
Now for case reports. These are fairly simple. Standard case reports include all members personal experience that were present. A typed out layout of all physical and ‘psychic (if applicable)’ evidence found. and Date and time. Many teams include print outs or a burned cd with all positive evidence on it for the client to review. Make sure you have 3 copies made. One for you, one for the client, and one for backup.
Step 11… Educate yourself and your team.
The internet is a great resource for educating yourself on the paranormal. The bad thing is anyone can put anything out there. If something doesn’t sound right or feel right to you, then it probably isn’t for you. Believe what you want to believe in and let it reflect in your work.
It’s a good idea to get familiar with common terminology, equipment, and theories so when your clients ask you questions you can give honest answers that have the ring of truth to them.
The TAPS website has some good definitions and information. And you can find many more sources of good information on the website and at your local book store. Just be sure to question even what information you find as there are some pretty hair brain theories out there.
A few things to keep in mind…
Be weary of your new/unknown members. As I suggested it’s best to start it with friends because you know where they’ve been. New people you don’t know could have a police record for anything. Sure they deserve a second chance but many clients would be upset if you allowed someone with a history of theft into their home.
Try to not disclose information, or at least too much information, to a client at least until the case report. it’s a good idea to tell your team members before the investigation to write everything down, try not to talk to much,and keep their findings to themselves till after the investigation.
Make friends with other teams. You can share resources, equipment, members, and cases that may be out of yours or their area.
Never charge for your services. For every team that does charge for an investigation, there are a dozen or more that won’t that could do as good a job. Most teams don’t charge, but if you so choose then so be it.
Always watch your manners around clients. No matter how good you think being “personable” is, people will always respect the respectable.
Watch out for the nuts. Both members and clients alike. There really are some crazy people in this world and a lot of them tend to be interested in the paranormal field. Watch your back and always question everything.
Watch out for trouble makers. There are some teams, or team leaders, who want their team to be the end all of paranormal investigation. The kind of people that are in it to get famous and will try to spread rumors about your team. It sounds stupid but it does happen. Just let your teams reputation speak for itself.