Say “Boo!” to work.
A creaking staircase. A toppled candlestick. A hovering orb. Things that go bump in the night.
There’s a market for ghost hunting. But there’s also a market for revenge poetry. My question is, how does one make a living in such a specialized field?
We have enough difficulty at Ministry of Imagery soliciting work on our mystical and never-visible Internet connection. It’s always a hustle, and sometimes a fruitless one. So how how on unearth does a ghost hunter drum up business? Is it a first-come, first-spook basis, or is there paranormal pounding of the pavement?
To find an answer to this question, I wrote to several well-respected ghost hunting groups. I kept in mind that I might not get much of a response, being that Halloween is well-considered to be peak ghost hunting season. (No joke.)
L’Aura Hladik is in the thick of this busy bout of business, my initial contact was the seventy-fifth email she had received that evening alone. L’Aura founded the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society ten years ago. You’re probably thinking, other than a drifting mist caused by a cloud of hairspray, what sort of apparitions could appear in a state that boasts regular ghouls like The Boss and Tony Soprano? Apparently, ghosts dig the Garden State, as L’Aura has been hosting monthly meetings for NJGHS, which has been featured on the local news as well as The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet. I wrote Ms. Hladik to find out how and why one would maintain a career in ghost hunting. The answer is surprisingly similar to our worldly word endeavors: it’s a passion, one that often doesn’t translate into a safe haunted by cash.
To build a client base, L’Aura initially sent business cards out to new age bookstores, and later purchased an advertisement in the yellow pages. Nowadays, NJGHS has been able to solely rely on their website to attract those who require their services. The new age seems to benefit from the digital age.
In order to maintain their reputation, NJGHS sends each client a comprehensive report of their findings two weeks following the conclusion of their investagtion. It’s the resulting word-of-mouth and their professional conduct with cases that they rely on to keep the haunted hitting them up for help; as L’Aura puts it, “We don’t hunt for clients. Our investigations come from people reaching out to us. We never charge for our investigations.”
L’Aura may have learned how to delegate various NJGHS organizational tasks to her Team Leaders, but that doesn’t mean that catching the creepy is her only job. An administrative marketing assistant by trade, L’Aura is currently looking for a “regular” job to balance her spirted pursuits, and she realizes that ghost hunting isn’t as lucrative as, say, becoming a medical professional. “There is no money to be made in this unless you score the awesome full body apparition picture or video clip. Then Hollywood offers you mega bucks to use it in one of their cheesy horror movies,” she says with a smile.
Paranormal investigations have been hip to the kids since Pliny the Younger hunted the first ghost in 100 AD, and although the equipment has evolved to include electromagnetic field meters, ultrasonic motion sensors, and even Geiger counters, the basic need has renamed the same: hunt the haunted and seek the spooky. Seances, teenage cemetery tours, and even the game Bloody Mary have all come from our enthrallment with the eerie. And much like a lady’s G-spot, the discovery can be both frightening, fantastic, or fake.
Like my childhood curiosities of the carnal kind, my personal paranormal investigations were awkward and took place in the dark. My pals and I were Ouija board aficionados, but much like the parental warnings I got about closing my bedroom door when boys were over, the professionals say don’t play around with phantoms. Ouija boards — along with amateur demonology and haphazard magic — are like cap guns, the choking game, and huffing spray paint: they are dangerous and best avoided, no matter how bored you are. One of the most stern Ouija warnings comes from Dr. Dave Oester, from the International Ghost Hunters Society:
“The use of such a tool for the sole purpose of spirit communication does not belong in the hands of children….The Ouija Board, though sold as a toy, is not a toy by any definition and there are those who have suffered the consequences of their own ignorance by using it.”
And he doesn’t just mean mortifying make-out sessions in a dark basement, either.
The International Ghost Hunters Society is a larger organization than the Jersey outfit. They have everything from books to classes to “ghost town” milk glass pendants for sale on their site. Their compendium of articles stopics such as Gnostic Christians, The Ripple Effect of Orbs, and Residual Hauntings In Time. Now, I might be a skeptic when it comes to certain things, such as Gays for McCain and vaginal orgasms, I do believe in ghosts, and I believe that people who make it their life’s work to pursue the undead and unseen deserve at least a moment of my unadulterated, nonjudgmental opinion. Which is good, because, as previously mentioned, Dr. Dave is a skeptic when it comes to certain members of the ghost hunting community himself.
“Demonologists who prey on religious superstition and claim to rid homes of demons simply take the 30 pieces of silver and leave behind a home with the ghost more angry and vengeful than before. The demonologist does not exorcise the demon/ghost and the family generally has to move out due to the increased activity after the exorcism. Demonology has no place in ghost hunting as it promotes fear and dread by an unknown paranormal entity, right out of Hollywood.”
The IGHS doesn’t perform exorcisms, and has learned through the botched experience of their peers that poorly performed ghost-ridding rituals often leave behind a more pissed off invisible tenant than before.
The International Ghost Hunting Society does provide some of the most professionally accomplished paranormal specialists in the world, providing education and information for those who are looking to better understand ghost hunting.
IGHS doesn’t charge for investigations, but does believe that “ghost hunters should charge to carry out an investigation that supplies the business owner with photos, video, and EVP recordings of that haunting.” Which makes sense. Proof might cost you, but doubt is always free.
“We have no outside day jobs,” Dr. Dave says. His team has written twenty-two books on the subject of the paranormal, and they have found a way for their investigations to become fodder for future guidebooks on ghosts. Their client base is virtually nonexistent. In place of working solely for the victims of hauntings, they work with ghost hunters in order to train them on how to be more professional and informed. IGHS has offered home study courses for a decade now, and they boast members in over ninety countries. In the ether known as the Internet, they can brag that they are the largest ghost research society in the world wide web.
As the doctor decried, “We have helped start over one hundred Internet ghost clubs back when there were only a few web sites with stale information and photos. We share everything we know with our members, and grandfathered the ghost hunting movement on the Internet.”
The cash flow for the average ghost hunter is nearly as invisible as the specters they strive to see. “Many of our ghost hunters earn income either by writing books or by developing walking ghost and cemetery tours. Walking ghost tours operators earn about $20 a head, and have between one and two dozen folks per tour. Do the math. This is perhaps the best and only way to earn money as a ghost hunter that is ethical and provides an entertainment service,” Dr. Oester concludes.
I suppose that it’s like writing in that way. Anybody can blog, but if you have morals, you publish.
I might be a skeptic, but I’m also savvy. Dr. Oester, his wife, and the entire International Ghost Hunting crew, support themselves entirely from their writing, which affords them a life doing what they want: traveling full time in their RV coach. The team has traversed the states eight times, and have field investigations numbering in the thousands. As for verification, they have recorded over five thousand “ghost voices” and have phantasmagorically peeped nearly four hundred sites.
The real proof for me, is just that. They spend their days doing what they love, searching for some sort of evidence of the ephemeral, scouring the globe for ghosts. A book deal is part of what began their funding, which is a shade I’m trying to search for myself.
Send your scares to AinsleyDrew at the gmail one. And thank you to all of you who donate! You’re the treats, I’m the trick.
If you like my vagina jokes, you might Like It.
A note on the sources: A huge thank you goes out to L’Aura of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society and Dr. Dave Oester of International Ghost Hunters Society. Their responses were extraordinarily informative, and I only integrated snippets. For further otherworldly info, click on their sites.