Updated: Sep 13, 2020
We, as well as other paranormal teams, tend to spend a great deal of time talking about the cases we have worked on and the results found in those cases. But, today, it occurred to me that we very rarely spend any to me talking about the cases that we turn away. Not that there is a great back catalog of people that we turn away, but it goes without saying that there are certain red flags that can, and will, cause us to take a pass. I imagine that every group probably has different criteria for accepting and refusing cases, and I bet they all differ depending on the type of group that they are. In our case, we have very clear-cut goals and methods to how we operate giving us a rigid set of rules to operate with. Other groups who may offer the use of mediums, seances, or specialize in cleansings or exorcisms, probably have a broader set of guidelines that they use. No matter what the case may be, the cases that you turn away say every bit as much about who you are as an investigator as the cases that you take.
Typically, NTPI would like to never turn down a case, ever. Above all else, we like to think of ourselves as a team with the ability to help people who are needing it. Most of the cases that people call our number tend to be more lighthearted and curious than anything else. But that is not without saying, we definitely get our fair share of people looking for help with a paranormal related affliction. Turning someone away when they clearly are looking for help isn’t something that we like doing and we try to avoid it at all costs. But sometimes, unfortunately, the reality is that we must. And those are the cases that I want to reflect on today.
The number one thing that could cause us to turn down a potential investigation is timing. It’s an unfortunate reality that we all live in a world where bills have to be paid and we all have to work jobs to do so. We’re very adamant about our services being free of charge, but that comes at a price. If a client is calling for an investigation with a very rigid time frame that we can’t make work, we won’t try to force it to. In the past when we were desperate for cases to test theories we would often take cases that simply could not be matched up with our schedule. We would send alternate team members out to the location, try to do things over the phone, and a host of other things that simply didn’t work. We quickly found out that if we weren’t going to be able to give an investigation our full commitment and attention, it really wasn’t worth doing. Thank goodness it didn’t happen, but it is possible to do more harm than good. Our system is set up so that parts of our investigations are overseen by certain investigators to make sure nothing is missed. But, trying to jam whoever is available at the time into a situation that they aren’t equipped to handle isn’t fair to the investigator or the client. While each person on our team is capable, not everyone has the same level of knowledge about specific things. I would not ask any of the other team members to go assess someone’s electrical work or plumbing in their house. Likewise, my opinion about medical issues and drug interactions is equally invalid. That’s not to say that we haven’t all picked up things or have opinions crossing over into each other’s territories, but none of us hold a candle to the wealth of knowledge that the other’s might have and it’s a disservice to pretend as if we do. All in all, we function better as a team and if we can’t get the right tools for the job, it’s not worth doing. If you’re looking for us to work with you, your best bet is to be available for a Friday or Saturday investigation, or be flexible with scheduling so that we can send smaller groups to your location over multiple investigations. It’s a disservice to the client not to do the most thorough job possible.
Another huge thing that might keep us away is unrealistic expectations of an investigation. I always ask upfront about what the client is looking to accomplish. Do they need help, peace of mind, to have fun, or maybe they are just looking for confirmation that something is going on. It’s very important to know your goals. Clients that are just looking for us to endorse their location as genuinely haunted are going to be sorely disappointed. We’re never going to falsify or trump up claims so that you can bolster your business as a haunted location. Especially if you are in the business of giving out tours of your haunted location. Only clients who are willing to have everything that has happened challenged and tested are going to make the cut. Not every group is the same, and that’s not necessarily wrong. People are free to think whatever they want to think. It’s no different than leaving a good Yelp review. However, first and foremost, NTPI is in it for the science and the experience. If we come into your location, you can expect a completely objective investigation and collection of data about the time we spent there, and what happened. We are not in the business of saying a place is or isn’t haunted because that’s something we simply cannot prove. Even if we disprove every single claim in a location, who is to say at the time something happened that it wasn’t actually paranormal? Also, If your expectation is to come in and perform rituals and an exorcism, we’re going to immediately redirect you to someone else in the area.
While everything above is straight forward, you may be surprised to find that sometimes we turn down clients for being too pushy. We completely understand that you are excited to be a part of a paranormal investigation, but we are not an amusement service. If you want to book us for parties or speaking gigs, that’s an entirely different thing (and we do actually charge for that). But if the investigation is one of pure curiosity or thrill-seeking, while we are happy to participate in these kinds of investigations, other kinds of cases and responsibilities will take priority. On that same note, we are not above compensating property owners for letting us investigate on their property if it’s a good location. That being said, we are not rich, and we do not make any money doing this. If you are asking large amounts of money to come to check out the property that you have already made up your mind about, we’re probably not interested. There are several buildings and locations that we have been “invited” to come to investigate, that honestly, I would really love to see on the inside. But then when the invitation comes with a prohibitive $600+ price tag to spend one night in a building without working amenities and black mold, we suddenly lose interest. It’s not to say that we won’t spend a large amount to go see a place we’re really interested in, but not because someone roped us in as if we were going to be guests. Unless you’re willing to play ball on the budget and let us investigate the way we want to (overnight, full-access within reason, and overnight) probably don’t bother calling us. While I’m sure your super haunted location is worth it, we’ll come to do it when we have saved up enough money and have sought you out. Not the other way around.
While tourists or the inexperienced may want another group there with equipment to help them with their investigation, most professional investigators do not. More people equal more contamination and less control over the environment. Chaperoned investigations are more of a paranormal slumber party than a real investigation. Those are not what I am talking about at all. Those situations involve providing equipment, hands-on help, amenities, and sometimes food. To me, that is an event, not an investigation. Unless that’s what we're looking to get into; these types of locations are a hard pass especially if there is any money involved. While I think you are welcome to charge whatever you want for such activities, I think stuff like that is great fun and I encourage groups all to do things like this, it’s just not conducive to research. I know that like us most paranormal teams when looking to investigate a location are not looking for a place where another investigator is going to babysit them all night. Paranormal teams want to set up experiments in a particular way, have access to as much of the location as safely allowable, and have minimum interaction with whoever is supervising the property.
Hand in hand with what I just talked about, let’s discuss what we consider to be reasonable pricing just really quick, and I promise I will get back on topic. I would love to see a bit more standardization in pricing. Some places are very affordable, and I would be willing to pay more. Others are prohibitively expensive and restrictive about what your group is able to do during their time there. For us, a typical investigation is only about 8 hours, but we want the option to go longer if we need to or end up running behind. Not including daytime filming away from the property or outside before the arrival time, typically, we show up at a location around 7 or 8 in the evening to set up and possibly do some interviews. After that, we usually stay until about 1:00 in the morning to about 8:00 am depending on what is happening. In short, from 8 pm to 8 am (12 hours) we want access to the property without much interruption. We understand that a property owner may want themselves or a proxy on location to watch for property damage and such. But, we don’t think it’s appropriate for you to call up all your friends and have a party while we are trying to work. Depending on the size and type of property we have always felt $150 - $300 is a fair deal. (about $25.00 an hour or less). Smaller locations will take less time, larger locations longer. More than one location that we have tried to accommodate has asked up to a thousand dollars just to spend 4 – 6 hours in a location as part of a “guided investigation” which we have absolutely no interest in. Places with amenities like working power outlets, running water and bathrooms, etc. we would be willing to pay slightly more, but certainly not a chaperone.
I think one of the final and most crucial red flags, beware of anyone who is guaranteeing that you will get activity. Even people who are experiencing deep afflictions will tell you that many times it is a completely random thing. Nobody can guarantee true paranormal activity. Believe me, if they could, paranormal study overall would be much better, and they would be on the cover of Time Magazine. More often than not when someone says I ama guaranteed to get activity somewhere, it’s followed up with a very high price tag. But, even if not, I’m still suspicious. People who make claims like this are typically looking to get investigators to acknowledge paranormal activity at any cost including trickery. If you’re a good investigator you could probably expose them, but to what end? All you have really done is wasted your time because they will just deny it to the end. Worse yet, if you don’t catch it and get fooled, you will just look that much more foolish when the person either comes forward or another team exposes the fraud. While a claim of "guaranteed activity" isn’t an instant trash canned message, I warn any group to proceed with extreme caution.
Of all the reasons that we must turn down a case, I’m happy to say it rarely happens. Furthermore, I think I speak for all paranormal investigators when I say that there are no investigations that get turned down because they sound too scary. I laugh every time I hear that one… well until it happens, I guess.