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What it’s really like to be a ghost hunter

Welcome to part two of my ghost hunter interview. If you missed part one, where Chelsea, a 25-year-old college student and ghost hunter (formerly of Tulsa’s Ghost Scene Investigations) talks about her experiences at Waverly Hills, click here.

Q. So Chelsea, I’ve gotta ask: how did you get into ghost hunting?

A. I was inadvertently raised to be ‘spookily inclined.’ I grew up watching the Beetlejuice and Addams Family cartoons and paranormal documentaries. It’s what my mom loves and I was always around her as a kid, so it became a part of me. I really thank my mom for ingraining me with this sense of magic for ghosts, ghouls and the mysterious world we live in. The unknown always leaves me with a sense of awe and wonder.

Q. What’s the spookiest place you’ve ever investigated?

A. I think the most active place I ever visited was a wrecker yard. It involves some personal tragedies of the workers, so I can’t say much. It was where I heard my first disembodied voice, which was a faint whistling tune. The scariest experience was probably at a client’s home. It was a possible demonic haunting. Two of my team members heard a growling noise and were touched during a session. At the next rotation, it was my turn to go in that room. Probably was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. And the stupidest. I didn’t tell my mom I went in there when I got home (sorry not sorry, Mom).

 Abandoned stretchers at Waverly Hills, considered one of the world's most haunted sites

Abandoned stretchers at Waverly Hills, considered one of the world’s most haunted sites

Q. What do you say to people who accuse ghost hunters of being fakes or cons?

A. Any team who fakes its evidence or experiences during an investigation should not be investigating. The irresponsible teams make all the good teams look bad. (I have never met or heard of such a team, aside from the ones on TV.)

After I started investigating, I could no longer watch paranormal investigation shows because they are all faked. You just can’t go in expecting something to happen. I think if ghost-hunting TV shows were truthful, they would be very boring and cancelled quickly, so yeah, they have to fake stuff to stay on TV. I’m even wary of paranormal documentaries because I don’t know if I can trust their judgement.

corridor at Waverly Hills by Chelsea Copeland

Q. What do you need in order to be a good ghost hunter?

A. Investigating seems like it’s only right for certain people. Your head has to be in the right place. You can’t believe everything was paranormal and you have to go to certain lengths to disprove the occurrence before you can say it was probably paranormal.

For example, on one investigation, we kept seeing lights on the wall. Just to be sure it wasn’t car lights from the nearby road, one of my team members drove up and down the street as the rest of us analyzed those lights on the wall. You can’t go into this field with a voyeuristic intent, wanting to see something creepy. If you want that, go to a haunted attraction.

You can’t go into this wanting to be on TV, to be scared or whatever else. Unless it’s an incredibly active place (like Waverly or that wrecker yard), the typical investigation is just the team sitting in the dark, talking amongst themselves and listening to each other’s bodily noises. And an active location usually only involves three or four experiences.

Room 502, where a Waverly Hills nurse reportedly killed herself

Room 502, where a Waverly Hills nurse reportedly killed herself

Q. What’s the biggest misconception about ghost hunters?

A. There is so much more work involved in investigations than what is shown. There is the research before the investigation, client interviews, equipment inspection–this all takes several days. During the investigation, you have to set up, which could take an hour, depending on how much equipment there is and how big the location (we had Waverly wired from top to bottom, a feat I can’t believe we accomplished).

Then you have to review the evidence. For every hour of investigation, there are five hours of evidence review. Every time you look away, you have to rewind to see what you missed. Every time you stop listening to the audio, you have to rewind. If your intentions aren’t right, you won’t last the first evidence review.

Q. So if it’s not the lure of seeing an actual ghost, why investigate?

A. Our main motive for investigating is to help and document. Help the people who have to live with the hauntings and maybe even help the spirits themselves. I’m sure it’s incredibly gratifying, after everyone has told you you’re crazy for thinking your house is haunted, to finally have evidence.

Morgue at Waverly Hills

Morgue at Waverly Hills

Q. With advances in technology, it’s strange no one has proven the existence of ghosts. Do you think this will ever happen?

A. I don’t think we’ll ever prove the existence of ghosts. I think it would have too many real-world complications. Religions would fall and our entire lives would change. We base a lot of our decisions with our death in mind. I think we need that unknown in the world.

Does ghost hunting interest you? Would you ever give it a go? Why haven’t we proven the existence of ghosts? Do you have a question for Chelsea?

PS – I’m heading to a writers’ conference, so I’ll be a bit late responding to comments and returning visits. But I will. Please bear with me.

Photos courtesy of Chelsea Copeland
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31 Comments

  1. Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor

    Such an interesting interview. I hadn’t thought about all of the prep involved and behind the scenes work that they do. Have fun at your conference 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Ellen. Glad you found it interesting. The conference was so motivating and inspiring. Always a great time.

      Reply
  2. Mason Canyon

    Great interview. I’ve never believed in ghost hunters (because of the TV shows) but now I see there are some teams that are in it for the right reasons and are real about what they’re doing.

    Enjoy your conference!

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Mason. It was a great time!

      Reply
  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    I knew the shows were faked.
    I bet it’s like any other job. Lots of boring, non-glamorous moments.
    Most religions believe in the afterlife, so I think confirming ghosts would prove that.

    Reply
    • JH

      Good points, Alex.

      Reply
  4. Birgit

    Those so called reality shows are very fake and it is sad because they do a disservice to all the people who do investigate and to people who do believe. I think spirits are around and most don’t do too much…they may not even realize they are in another world. I wouldn’t mind going on a ghost search as a guest. If nothing happens, at least one gets to go through a building or a place that is different and has history.

    Reply
    • JH

      True enough! I’d love to spend the night in a haunted asylum.

      Reply
  5. Chrys Fey

    Nice post to follow the last one. I used to watch a lot of paranormal investigation shows. A few weeks ago, I tuned into one that I’ve seen before. These guys have always bugged the crap out of me because of how they act (so dramatic). I still can’t watch that show as a serious show. There was one that I liked, but it’s no longer on.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree. I just get frustrated or bored when I watch those shows. Stopped a long time ago.

      Thanks for your kind words, Chrys!

      Reply
  6. Chris Chelser

    Great to hear from a hunter in person! I have always loved watching the TV shows. Of course those investigations had to be fake start to finish, but I do believe ghosts are real. Too many first-hand experiences to write them off as imagination only.

    The haunted places with most activity I’ve ever visited were the former WWI fronts in Belgium and France. If I may ask Chelsea: have you ever been there? If so, what are your thoughts. If not, would you like to do an investigation there?

    Reply
    • Chelsea Copeland

      Hi Chris! Unfortunately, I have not been there, but you have piqued my interest! I’m sure they would have a lot of activity!

      Reply
    • JH

      That’s really interesting, Chris. I’d love to hear what happened while you were there.

      Reply
  7. Dianne Salerni

    Fascinating post! Thanks for sharing the differences between real ghost hunting and what we see on TV.

    Have a great time at your writing conference!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Dianne! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Reply
  8. L. Diane Wolfe

    I’m sure most haunted places don’t have incidents every single night. The house I grew up in was haunted and I’d say weird things happened 2-3 times a month. The group would’ve been just sitting there in dark I’m sure.

    Reply
    • JH

      I can add my experiences to that as well. I worked in a haunted museum, and while sightings and other weird happenings were somewhat common, they certainly weren’t a given or an every-single-night occurrence.

      Reply
  9. Roland Yeomans

    I am a firm believer in never hunting something against which I have no sure weapon! I believe some spirits might hitch a ride with a mortal foolish enough to place her or himself needlessly in its way. Brrr. 🙂 Fascinating post as always.

    Reply
    • Chelsea Copeland

      Good point! It’s been known to happen!

      Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Roland. Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  10. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    I love that the true motive is to help and to document!

    Funny about not watching the paranormal shows on TV. My husband, who’s a lawyer, can’t watch legal dramas because they drive him crazy with their inaccuracies. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      I bet! 😀 I feel the same way when people discuss the media.

      Reply
  11. Random Musings

    This was a really interesting read. While I’ve always believed in paranormal activity, I’ve always been rather sceptical about ghost hunters – primarily because I’ve only ever seem then on TV and it’s all too easy to fake. The results always seem way too convenient.
    It was really refreshing to read about a genuine ghost hunter who confirmed my thoughts about this, and makes me think that there are genuine ghost hunters out there, just not on TV!
    Debbie

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Debbie. I’m really glad you found something of value in this post. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Crystal Collier

    My comment just got eaten by the internet. I don’t need to go investigating. Ghosts are as real as the people around us, we just can’t perceive them because they’re composed of finer matter. (Oh the science behind this would blow some people’s minds, but it’s completely valid.)

    Reply
    • JH

      Hmm…interesting, Crystal. I wonder why so many scientists are staunchly against the possibility of ghosts, then? (I worked with a few of those. Scientists, that is.)

      Reply
  13. Lisa S.

    Chelsea’s team seems very well-researched. I liked the line about the team sitting and chatting during an investigation and listening to each others’ bodily functions (‘who’s tummy is that’)? A much more real image than the obviously fake paranormal TV shows.
    The wrecker yard sounds super creepy! Definitely not for the faint of heart, this profession.
    Have a great time at your conference.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Lisa. I always have an amazing time at that conference. It’s my inspiration and motivation for the year.

      Reply
  14. Tamara Narayan

    This sounds like a fascinating type of work, but my brain first goes to the practical: payment. Do the people hiring these investigators pay them enough for the ghost hunters to make a living? Or is this more of a hobby?

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, good question Tamara. From what I know, most ghost hunters do it for free. I’ll ask Chelsea to respond.

      Reply

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