Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Much Work Lies Ahead

In between all of the celebrations that my family and I have, I still must find time focus on what this blog is about…running a large ghost hunting group.

It’s true that in November, the group as a whole, underwent some personnel and strategy changes. As I sit here listening to Christmas music and writng this blog installment, I can’t help but reflect on all the changes and all the work.

We had a busy year. The last three months found us conducting three restaurant investigations, three residential investigations and a movie theater investigation. Busy indeed. And now, I am in evidence review mode.

Everyday in between taking care of ma, the house and my freelance writing work, I sit down in front of my monitor to watch footage streaming from the DVR in the hope that maybe the team may have actually caught something via camera during an investigation.

What always makes me laugh is the TV shows that depict investigators sitting around looking at video footage and listening to EVP recordings in what seems like a fairly short time. If only reality was like that.

Our team has a nine channel DVR system and on most investigations, we run at least five cameras at a minimum. That means that if we have a six hour investigation, it takes 30 hours to review the footage. Nope. We don’t look at all five cameras at once. We look at the footage for each camera-that’s six hours per camera per location in the building.

Add to that, there is the EVP work which, depending on what recorder was used, can be very time consuming. Why? There is a debate between investigators as to which technique works the best. I prefer using voice activation and a Sony recorder. It cuts down on recorder space and I have gotten excellent results but some investigators prefer letting their recorders run.  When you go through the recordings, it can take hours depending on how it was recorded.

Also you need a quiet area to do the review and a good set of sound canceling headphones. That always makes me laugh as I have friends who buy the really expensive headphones. Me? I have a set of RCA headphones purchased at Walmart for $19.99. I have had the same headphones for more than six years and they are great. I also have the gift of good hearing so I tend to pick up stuff no one else can thus finding those hard to hear EVPS.

Then there are the wireless mics that are recorded directly into the computer during the investigation and the hand held video cameras.

Did I mention the paperwork? In addition to all the evidence review there are also the reports that investigators turn in. Each report must be gone over and compared with other reports from the investigation in the hope of finding similarities in readings or impressions. As the team monitor, I also have my own reports to fill out and those include  weather temperature records taken every half hour, watching the indoor weather monitoring equipment and making notes on any changes, watching all the cameras, and constant note taking when I see what may be something of interest in one of the rooms.

In addition, as I do the evidence review here at home, I have forms to fill out whether I am watching video or listening to EVPs. I am a scientist after all and that means a lot of record keeping, classifying EVPs, looking at still pictures of the site, and looking closely at every anomaly that shows up on the video.

I also break away and do some investigating myself.

For those of you who see investigators on TV review their evidence in under six hours, it is very different in the real world. To do the evidence review for one investigation can take a week or more depending on how much equipment was used in the field.

And once the evidence has been reviewed there is yet another form called the Final Investigation Form and behind that is the Client Report.

Yes. Investigating the paranormal is fun but like any job, there is a lot of work involved and if we, as a group can help some person or family along the way then that makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holidays and Happenings

Merry Christmas!

It always fascinates me how the radio stations will stop playing Christmas music at midnight on the 26th. The reason being is that among most of the United States and the world, that is when the holiday ends.

When looking back over history it is interesting to note that the exact date of the birth of the Baby Jesus is unknown however, for years it has been celebrated on December 25.

As I was growing up, we had Turkish neighbors who celebrated on different days than we did and that is when I started doing research into Christmas and the days it is held throughout the world.

According to some sects of the Catholic religion, mainly in Eastern Europe, the holiday begins on the 25th and lasts until January 6. If you crunch the numbers, that totals up to 12 days. Sound familiar? That’s right. “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…’ and so on.

The days also mark certain feasting and religious occurrences that are celebrated as well.

The theory behind it is that although the recognized birth date is the 25th, the Magii and Shepherds did not arrive bearing their gifts until 12 days following the birth, which falls on January 6.

It is true that not everybody celebrates Christmas the same way and it is also true that not everybody celebrates Christmas so it obviously is not a one size fits all holiday but it is interesting to see how different cultures celebrate.

In our house, we always have an extended holiday. I think it stems back to the last few years when my father was sick. He always seemed to get pneumonia in December and was always getting out of the hospital after Christmas. One year, after buying a real tree, he got out in mid January. We had already taken our tree down but decided to buy an artificial tree on sale just so he would have a Christmas at home. We used the tree for years after as he always seemed to be sick during the holidays.

A couple of years ago both he and I got sick with pneumonia. He got well faster than I did as I had triple pneumonia. I slept through Christmas and New Year’s. We didn’t celebrate Christmas until February.

Last year marked the first year in a long time that my father was home and we made sure that he had a good one.

Anyway, as I return back to where I started with this blog, I have friends who think I amm strange because I tend to believe in the 12 days of Christmas thing. My friends and some family members feel it is all over on the 26th. I don’t but that is what I believe in and in a lot of ways it saddens me that people don’t embrace the old ways and thoughts.

This year, I received nice gifts from friends and family. My mother and I didn’t have a lot to spend for gifts but we are having a great holiday so far. We have good food, are enjoying the lights and other stuff. And, yes, church plays a big role in that as well. But for us, it’s all about being together for another year.

So as your Christmas celebrations wind down, mine are still continuing and my mother and I plan to have our official celebration with gifts next weekend. Nothing big but at least we will present each other with a gift from our hearts.

So if you happen to run into us shopping and playing our Christmas songs, don’t ridicule us or look upon us disapprovingly, we are simply following the old ways. Why not? What’s wrong with enjoying things a bit longer?

Friday, December 23, 2011

It Has Been A Long Journey


It is hard to believe that I last posted here in March of 2010. Saying that time flies is a cliché but to be honest it does go so fast. Sine the last blog, my father got sicker and required a lot of care. My mother and my focus was mainly on his well-being. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say it was very time consuming and at times could be frustrating.

The year 2011 brought changes that I did not expect. Some were for the better and others are still working themselves out. For example, I did do some traveling outside of ghost hunting to Hawaii, Arizona, New York, Los Angeles and other places. I also was able to increase my freelance writing clientele to three steady clients per month.

As all this was going on, my father grew sicker and my focus was more on him. If you have never taken care of anyone who is elderly and sick then you have no idea what a 24-hour job it is. I spent many months balancing his needs with my own and found out something I had never realized before. I am only human.

When I was younger and up until the time my father got really sick, I had built my life around multi-tasking and living as if there wearen’t enough hours in the day for me to complete my tasks. A typical day consisted of interviewing for my newspaper stories, making it to various doctors appointment, booking investigations  for California Haunts, making sure my father was changed, fed and taken care of and, writing late at night. It was also late at night that I would update the California Haunts Website and do whatever I could not fit in during the day. Most of the time I found myself sleeping four hours….five if I was lucky. And then I was filling the gaps with ghost hunting and the occasional trips.

At some point during all of this I did something that I had not done since starting California Haunts more than six years ago. I began to delegate leadership tasks. Looking back, I should have just shut things down until my father’s health either improved or….didn’t. Anyhow, without going into detail, things changed within my group very rapidly as I could not attend to a lot of the functions needed for running the team.

As the months flashed by, I neglected to keep a close eye on things and as my father’s life drew to a close,  I was blinded to all things except him.

In June, he died at age 85 and while I received a lot of support from team members and friends, the frist month or to after his death brought eye opening events that changed m outlook on the way things in my life and within my group were going.

Suffice to say, the group underwent some changes in personnel that I felt were necessary. Although it hurt as some of the people involved were people I considered friends and some had been with me since the beginning of the team, we had reached an impasse and they departed.

When I look back on it all, I am saddened that the events had to happen but I know my team is better off and I know my team members are better off as well. I have new members who are ready to hit the floor running and am excited.

New beginnings and continuing adventures.
Pictured are from rear left to front, Ma, Ruth, Karen, Sandy, Chuck, Tom, Charlotte, Linda, Kat. Not pictured: Veldena, Becca, Randy, Fred, Julie, Jerry, Lorna, Jose, Laura, Patrick, Kelley, Stefani, Trish, Dana, Susan, Susan, Richard, Wytnei, Janelle, Tammy, La Shia, Nancy, Irene, Rachel, Mia and James.

As I write this, it is December 23,  2011. Hard to believe that I am nearing 2012. California Haunts is continuing with a team of 35 and a future that is bright. We are booking investigations and are booked solid until April. I have brought aboard new members who will bring a lot to the group and I have restructured things a bit. Funny thing is….the restructuring consists of putting things back the way they were when this group started and the way the group has run for the five years leading up to 2011. (If it aint broke…)

Although my life is still busy, it has slowed down somewhat. I now take care of my mother, 80, but is nowhere as difficult as it was with my dad and she is our oldest ghost hunter. Yes. She does go out and investigates with us.

So. Looking forward, I am thankful for the friends and group members that have stuck with me. I am thankful for those who have offered to help my group better itself and look forward to working with them.

To all those who have supported me through this change, I thank you and appreciate your friendship. Now, I move forward and as things transpire, I will take you, the reader on the journey so you can see what it is like to run and maintain a paranormal group. I will be sharing results and investigative techniques. Hopefully you will see something that interests you.