A Warning to Ghost Hunters

It’s a common question. “Is ghost hunting dangerous?” Usually the person asking is talking about the risks involved dealing with negative entities and concepts of demonic possession. The answer to the question is, yes, it can be very dangerous. But probably for more reasons than you may realize. Paranormal investigation is not for the timid. The unfortunate truth is that there are more things out there trying to hurt you than just the paranormal things lurking in the shadows.

Physical Dangers and Health Issues

Putting all paranormal dangers aside, don’t worry we’ll get to those in a bit, let’s talk about the physical dangers. Anyone who has watched TV in the past ten years can tell you that a lot of paranormal investigations take place in abandoned, and sometimes condemned, buildings. This presents a long list of hazards that could harm or potentially kill an investigator, especially one that is new to the game. If the building is unfamiliar or in a state of disarray, there is a very real possibility that an investigator could get injured bumping around in the dark. I always recommend that investigators do a walk through of the locations they are investigating during the day, or at least with lights on, before going into full detective mode. Not only will it give everyone a good lay of the land and prevent your EVP tech from going to the hospital with a concussion, it’s just good investigative technique. After all, how are you going to debunk things making noise in the darkness if you don’t even know what’s in the darkness? I now a certain spot in Mineral Wells, Texas that has a giant hole in the third floor big enough for a person to fall through. I have heard horror stories from every investigator who has gone in there talk about how they forgot that it was there and almost stepped in. Another location, the abandoned Fort Worth helium plant, is full of dangerous hazards for people to impale themselves on. When we take people through, we are very serious when we say, “watch your step.”

In addition to physical injury hazards, there is a growing risk of biological ones as well. If the estate is old or in disrepair there is the potential for several molds and allergens to be present and irritate your lungs. Any level of moist environment can breed mold and bacteria which is a real problem for anyone who likes breathing. If you watch TV at all you have probably seen a growing trend in investigators wearing respirators. I made fun of this until I investigated at Yoakum Hospital. The building was so old and damaged from hurricane Harvey that the roof had caved in at places. It was the "perfect storm" to create areas for mold to thrive. While luckily there was no black mold present, there was enough contamination that it warranted the use of masks during our visit. A close friend of mine, Heidy Prestol, deals with permanent lung damage from black mold that she inhaled while working on a case in New Jersey and has not been the same since. Multiple treatments and medications later, she still suffers the effects today. It never would have occurred to me when I started doing this, that health concerns should be on my list of things to consider. Tetanus from cuts and scrapes, lung issues from mold, and injuries from unmarked or spilled chemicals are all among the top hazards you should look out for.

It may not be common knowledge that any domicile found to have been used for the purposes of making methamphetamine has to be immediately and permanently condemned. For that property to even be considered livable again it must be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. Because the chemicals and processes that are used to make crystal meth are so volatile and harmful, there is no amount of cleaning that can be done to salvage the property. The chemicals damage the structure of the building and the residue can damage an occupant’s lungs or be absorbed through the skin. Wandering around a location condemned for being a meth lab is not only very dangerous but highly illegal.

Depending on the location and region, wild animals can present another physical threat. I see a lot of groups participating in ghost hunts outside in graveyards and open areas at nighttime. Being from Texas all I can think about is how scary it is to be camping in Texas and just out of sight in the darkness hearing a mountain lion maul a coyote is a bit terrifying. This may just be a regional thing, but I am more scared of nocturnal predators stalking us from the shadows than any demon I could ever face, excluding Bigfoot of course. However, that threat is not just limited to the outdoors. Abandoned buildings can be the perfect home for all manner of critters who could be carrying nasty little infections. I’m always worried of rabid rodents and raccoons, and did you know that armadillo's saliva can carry leprosy? I don’t like being paranoid, but it really seems like nature is out to get us.

To round out all of this, it needs to be mentioned, that fatigue is the number one culprit for all accidents that happen during investigations. From sloppy work to physical injury, the root is, more often than not, fatigue. Ghost hunters tend to do most of their work at night, regardless of their reasons, this poses risk past just not being able to see. The fact that so many of us work day jobs means that working at night causes us to stretch ourselves thin. We stay up overnight investigating, reviewing evidence, and doing it all over again. Fatigue causes a host of health problems from high blood pressure to physical injuries as a result of the inability to concentrate. If possible, try to rest up before an investigation or if you must take a nap. Getting in a head-on collision because you fell asleep at the wheel isn’t worth it. All it will accomplish is making you the next subject for investigation.

Legal Dangers and Criminal Activity

It goes without saying that you should probably not be wandering around on someone else’s property without permission. But, knowingly and unknowingly, it happens. Keep in mind that this next section is written from the perspective of someone who operates in Texas. Laws may be different where you are and you should do research to make sure that you are covered. But my advice is always to ask the property owner before you go wandering around whether it’s legal or not. Anything else is rude at the least.

Aside from trespassing, which we will get to in a minute, the number one concern about investigating in a location at night is accidentally wandering up on criminal activity. Since I know most of my readers are probably all upstanding citizens and would never think of doing illegal things in places they shouldn’t be, I should probably fill you in on a secret. Drug deals and fencing operations like to operate in places that people will not usually go. The cover of night and seclusion of graveyards and abandoned buildings is pretty much the default location for this kind of activity. Don’t get me wrong, not every graveyard and abandoned building is a den of gang activity and drug dealing, but it is a possibility. There are a couple of locations that NTPI regularly investigates that the police have told us they like us out there because it reduces the presence of criminals going there. And while not to say that the homeless are criminals, there are some dangers with wandering upon any stranger you don’t know in the middle of the night. It’s just best avoided.

Here in Texas, there are many levels of trespassing that you can be charged with if you decided to ignore all my advice about getting permission. If you live in a country or state that does not have trespassing regulations more power to you. Here in the Lone Star State, being arrested is the last thing on our mind. If you are found on someone’s property when you shouldn’t be, you are more likely to be shot on sight by the property owner than stopped by the police. Both civil and criminal trespass involves entering an owner’s land or accessing the owner’s property without permission. Criminal trespass involves entering or remaining in a place knowing one is there without a license or privilege. Trespass involves simply entering onto land without the consent of the landowner. Trespass does not require a state of knowledge, but only requires the act of entering. An example of criminal trespass is standing in an apartment complex in front of a no trespassing sign. An example of civil trespass is walking into a homeowner’s gated garden without his permission.

A district attorney can charge an act of criminal trespass as an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony. A DA will charge a misdemeanor or felony in criminal court. The level of the crime is determined by the defendant’s criminal history, what she was doing on the property and whose property she entered. In most states, criminal trespass is an infraction or a misdemeanor.

In several states, including New York and Florida, a DA can charge criminal trespass as a felony. In New York, a court can find a person guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree when the trespass involves the possession of an explosive or a deadly weapon, including a firearm, rifle or shotgun. A conviction may also result if the trespasser had knowledge that another participant in the crime had possession of an explosive or a deadly weapon. The action of trespassing with such materials is considered a Class D felony, and the penalty ranges from no jail with probation to incarceration for seven years.

But this is not the same as breaking and entering, which is a separate offense. The crime of breaking and entering involves entering a residence or an enclosed property with force. Force can be as slight as the push to open a door. If the party who breaks and enters has the intent to commit an offense on the premises he entered, the act can be charged as a burglary. If the party does not have the intent to commit an offense on the premises, the act can only be charged as criminal trespass.

For example, a party who breaks a window to enter a home and then crawls into the home can be charged with burglary if he entered the home to steal personal property. But a party who breaks a window and puts his hand inside the hole just to see the extent of the damage could be charged with criminal trespass. And, while other states and countries might have different rules, in Texas, being in a cemetery after sundown without permission is considered criminal trespassing.

Spiritual and Psychological Threats

This can be a bit more of a gray area. Depending on where you fall in the spectrum of Ghost Hunters, not everyone will agree on any of these points. The number one concern for believers in the spirit realm is probably negative attachments, possessions, and spiritual attacks. A lot of people invest their beliefs in the existence of demons and feel that they can have a real effect on the people who go looking for them. While I haven’t experienced anything this profound firsthand, we have had second-hand contact with people who have experienced what can only be explained as a possession. Even though it’s not something I personally believe, I have to consider it as a very real possibility. As much as I say that we cannot define what these paranormal events are and shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that its ghosts or demons, I should also be saying that we still cannot rule it out. While I don’t think that every place is inherently dangerous, each place admittedly has a different level of foreboding to it. I can preach non-belief all day long, but even just thinking about spending a night alone in certain places gives me anxiety. It's the things that we don’t really understand that are the most dangerous because we don’t truly know how to deal with them. Sure an exorcist can come to your house and do the rituals, but we have a well-documented history of people not surviving exorcisms even in modern-day settings. You have to ask yourself; Is this worth the risk? If you’re religious, I highly suggest prayer before during, and after. To some of us that are science-based investigators, this may sound silly. But what is it hurting? Possessions and attachments seem to happen most often in places that had negative trauma. If this is a thing that worries you, I suggest that you consider not investigating those places. Really, I suggest that you probably don’t investigate. You tend to find what you are looking for and if you expect these things to happen, they most likely will.

If you have mental health issues, I think you may find that ghost hunting may not be best suited for you in certain situations. This is all greatly dependent on the individual and what conditions they are afflicted with, but you should consider some realities before you take a deep dive. Many of the locations you may find yourself at are going to have a very dark history and oppressive feeling to them. The very nature of looking for ghosts is a bit macabre. Working late at night, often fatigued, and isolated can result in a cocktail specifically designed to exacerbate mental stress. If you have bad anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or something worse like schizophrenia I strongly urge you to take precautions if you decide to proceed with ghost hunting. I myself have depression and anxiety and find paranormal investigation quite fulfilling, but I also take care of myself and surround myself with a support system to keep me from going to dark places personally. Take caution in what you are doing. Hand in hand with the spiritual side, many professionals will tell you that people with anxiety and depression are the prime targets for the things that want to attach themselves to you. It is something to be considered before you invest in that first EMF detector at the least.

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