Think you have a haunted house? Living in a place you believe to be haunted can be a scary experience. Should you tell anyone? Will they think you're crazy? Yes, you should tell someone, and no, they probably won't think you need a straight-jacket. There are some steps you can take to investigate possible causes on your own. Above all, keep a calm head, an open mind, and use your common sense.
The very first thing you should do is start a journal to list all the possible paranormal occurrences. In it, document the strange noises, cool breezes and phantom footsteps. Write everything down, even if it seems trivial or insignificant. Note down the time and date of every entry, and when or if the event recurs. If someone else experienced an event with you, write down who it was and what they said they experienced. If something only happens on a certain day of the week, note it. If a pet reacts to something you think might be related, jot down what the pet did, when, where and any possible mundane causes. The presence or absence of certain people in the area can also be an important clue. Often, keeping a journal can put a supposed haunting into perspective, and give you some insight into possible causes.
If you've analyzed a few journal entries and still think you have a real live haunting, you should rule out natural causes. Investigate the location thoroughly yourself, and compare your findings to what you've collected in your journal. If the rumblings in the wall only happen at 7 A.M., it might be the plumbing rattling as someone showers. If the lights flicker every night as you're making dinner, the cause could be overloaded wiring as you're using more power to run the dishwasher, cook in the microwave, whiz up margaritas in the blender, you get the idea. Rule out any outside environmental causes. Are you near a train or a power station? Is the guy next door broadcasting over a short wave radio? Do you have critters nesting in the attic? Dig deep. A little legwork can save some time, and possibly some embarrassment later.
As you check out all the above possibilities, try to gather evidence. If you have a camera, (even your cell phone will do fine), snap a few pictures when you think something strange is happening. Take a picture when you feel that cold chill crawl up your spine. Experiment with a voice recorder, too. Play back the recordings in a quiet room, or using headphones. If you do hear voices on the recorder, be sure it's not the television, the neighbor or someone's cordless phone before you decide it's the voice of a ghost. Be skeptical-it's better you find out your cat was hissing into the microphone than the paranormal investigator who drove a hundred miles! On the other hand, if you hear your long dead great aunt telling you where the lost family heirloom is, you might just have valid evidence of a ghost!
To learn more about recording ghost voices, or EVP (electronic voice phenomena) check out the American Association for Electronic Voice Phenomena at https://atransc.org/about-aaevp/. They offer useful advice on recording and interpreting what you've captured. Pictures are a highly debated topic in the paranormal community. Best to read up on the subject before you decide you've got the image of a ghost. There are thousands of websites and many books on the subject. Research widely, and use your best judgment.
The next thing to evaluate is your motivation for wanting a paranormal investigation. If you genuinely think your location is haunted, and you are seeking answers, that's great. Paranormal teams love to help people and document true hauntings. Most teams want to help dispel the fear surrounding hauntings, and help people understand the cause if they do indeed prove a haunting. What paranormal teams don't love are people who waste their time and money to be amused or entertained. They don't want to show up at your house to find an army of neighbors waiting to hold a séance. Groups of people hinder the process, and many teams will take offense to the idea that they are psychic séance holders.
There are times when calling a paranormal investigator isn't the best idea. If you are under the care of a psychiatrist, please consult this doctor before calling a paranormal team. Paranormal teams usually do not have doctors among their members and are not qualified to help you in that area. Sometimes hearing voices can be attributed to clairaudience, which is the ability to psychically hear the voices of the dead. Sometimes they have other causes. A medical professional is usually the best avenue to discern the cause of voices unaccompanied by paranormal evidence. If you're being treated by a doctor, and they say it's ok to give a team a call, then by all means, call! I say this not to offend anyone, but to assure the safety of everyone involved.
Another time when it's not appropriate to call a paranormal investigator is when you haven't cleaned your house since 1962. If a team can't move about the area freely, the team can't investigate. If the location is a condemned building, it also isn't safe for anyone to investigate. If you do not own the property where the supposed haunting is occurring, secure permission from the owner before calling in a team. If you have small children likely to be disturbed by an investigation, find a sitter for the night. If you have large dogs, find some other place for them to wait. If your spouse or roommate is uncomfortable with the idea of a paranormal team investigating around the house, it's best not to call until they are willing to be involved. Using common sense makes the investigation a better experience for all those involved.
So when should you call a paranormal team? You should call if you really think you have a ghost and you're scared. If you're not scared and just want proof, start the journal mentioned above and get in touch with a team. If a full blown apparition shows up in your living room, walks through walls and chats over tea, yeah, that would be a good time to call.
What about the clergy? If you belong to a church or religious organization, talking to a clergy member can be helpful. Some will bless a home, and some will hold prayer circles. That's great, and if it helps, even better. Most members of the clergy don't perform exorcisms, and going church door to door asking for one isn't the best idea. While most clergy members won't look for scientific proof, they have been known to tend to the spiritual side of things and can certainly help the situation.
Now that we've covered when and why to call a team, how do you decide who to call? Most people start on the internet, which is fine. The internet can be a great resource, but don't rely on it alone. Go to the bookstore and check out the paranormal section. Many authors will have contact information in their books. Go to the library and check out the newspaper archives, too.
When you find a team to contact, it's best to ask for references. After all, you are inviting strangers to your home. You wouldn't invite just anyone off the street, and you shouldn't invite just any team. When you make contact, the team will want to interview you, usually over the phone. That's great. While you're on the phone, interview them. Ask how long they've been doing this kind of work. Do a google search on the names you receive-this simple search can reveal useful information. If the team has a website, surf over and read carefully. If anything you read concerns you, ask the team about it. Be wary if a team will not disclose how the investigation will be conducted, and what equipment will be used. You have a right to know what will be happening in your home. If their answers don't agree with you, find another team. In the rare case that a team will not reveal information about its members, walk away. Different teams have different approaches, and one will likely stand out as the one best suited to you.
If you can't locate a team in your area, contact the closest one. Often, they will be able to point you in the right direction.