The one question I was meaning to ask last night and I didn't was, "Do you prefer the term 'Paranormal Investigator' or 'Ghost Hunter'?" I think if it were me I would prefer Paranormal Investigator because Ghost Hunter conjures up an image of Ghostbusters and Elmer Fudd (wabbit hunter), but Paranormal Investigator means you can investigate ANYTHING paranormal. UFOs, Bigfoot, an array of monsters, and if you are cornered by your more conservative relatives and they ask you what you do, you can say, "I'm a PI" and let them make the assumptions they are going to make, which would be that of you sitting in a car with a long lens camera taking pictures of someone's cheating spouse in a dumpy motel.
Last night I had the extremely good fortune to meet with an interview with real deal Paranormal Investigator Ross Beard of Anoka Paranormal Investigations. We met in the pouring rain last night at Billy's Bar and Grill in the great city of Anoka, a town we had quite an interesting discussion about, but I'm saving that nugget for another blog entry.
I came to know of Ross after attending a community education class he taught, Ghosthunting: 101. I found the seriousness and passion he approached the subject with to be quite impressive. I sort of thought it would be kind of a "Ha, ha, ghosts right?!" type of class (it was a held at a bar, for Pete's sake) but it wasn't. It was a very eye opening experience and made me realize how much actual work and science goes into this sort of "hobby." I reached out to Ross to see if he would be willing to let me interview him for my little bloggity boots here and he was more than receptive, AND by the end of the interview I found myself being formally invited into his group, Anoka Paranormal Investigations! I told him that I was a huge chicken and me doing investigations may be something long, long, if ever, in the future, and I would love to play more of a behind-the-scene role as some sort of Web Mistress for the group, which he agreed to. Just happy to be on the team, coach!
I started out with the most basic question, "Why Paranormal Investigating? How does someone get into this field?" Ross said he had been interested in this sort of thing since his early teens growing up in Mound, MN. "I was the only one who would, ya know, spend the night in the haunted house as a kid." He also credits the show Ghost Hunters as being a huge influence as to why he went into the field, "When I first saw it I was like 'Finally, someone is showing this stuff.'"
Being a busy working husband and father doesn't really lend itself well to this sort of field, however. Ross did admit that he does find it hard to strike a balance between investigation and evidence review and family life since the former is such tedious work. "We have five camera set up, all running for six hours. That's thirty hours of footage that needs to be gone through, along with still photos, digital recordings, and everything else. It takes a lot of time away from my kids. When we first go into it we thought it would be kind of fun and light-hearted, but for the clients, we are their last hope. They contact us when they have no one else to turn to, when they're one step away from going to the loony bin."
"It's worth it though," Ross continued, "for that whisper of an EVP, for the shadow you catch for a split second on video."
There are some people in the world who aspire to live in a haunted house, but for most people it is not the ideal situation. That is why Anoka Paranormal and most other paranormal investigating groups stress confidentiality. "They don't want the neighbors to know, they don't want people coming over to their house to know." Ross said. When investigating, if Ross is able to debunk something he isn't disappointed, "That's our job. To debunk, do find another reason for why all these things are happening. We present the information we find to the client in black and white. Good and bad, no matter of what the evidence we collect." Anoka Paranormal is also a big believer in getting the family involved with the investigation. "We had one lady throw us her keys, say 'There's a frozen pizza in the freezer and pie in the fridge, lock up when you leave!' Oh no, get back here, your helping us." Ross believes when doing an investigation they are merely taking a snapshot of their 24/7 lives in this location, they need to be in on the investigation, "And of course, for liability reasons." Ross has discovered most activity seems to happen in the early morning hours. I asked him why he thought that was. "If you go outside in the in the middle of a sunny day and shine a flashlight, how many people are going to notice that? Now if you shine that same flashlight in the dark, when everyone is quiet and asleep, you'll get a lot more notice."
As I spoke to in an early blog post about the Paranormal and Religion, I had to ask Ross if he did anything special to prepare himself for an investigation. "Prayer of protection." he quickly answered, "And I tell everyone else in my group to do the same thing to whatever they believe in." He said that is something you fast become schooled in, what other people believe. Not only to help the homeowners and guide them in the right direction when it comes to "cleansing" the location, "We haven;t done our job unless the family is at peace. When we present some people with the evidence we collected and it shows that their place is haunted some people say, 'Okay, cool great.' And don't want to do anything about it, but most people ask us, 'What do we do now?' and that is when we need to contact a priest or whatever they believe or feel comfortable with to help put these spirits to rest." Ross then said, "That's something you never seen on all those shows. They are never done, they never do anything to help out the owners."
"What do you think of all those shows?" I asked him, "Ghost Hunters is my favorite, but in the last few years they started using emotions as evidence and I don't agree with that." I asked him about my personal fav, Ghost Adventures, "Those guys..." he said, "They get what they ask for. You go out looking for something demonic, you're going to find it." Ross has so far been truly blessed (in my opinion) to not come across anything demonic, but we did have a rousing discussion about Ouiji boards and I said if I were ever stupid enough to use one and found that, whoops, opened a gate to Hell, I said I would burn it. "No! Never burn it!" Ross said, "You drowned it! They can't cross water. But it's not the Ouiji board that opens gateways. It's the people. People don't realize how much power they have." Amen brother. I asked him how willing the clergy has been with not only talking about these sorts of thing,s but with helping out if need be. "Depends on who you talk to. And if you don't like what this guy has to say, all you gotta do it find another priest." He then alluded to having a priest on speed-dial, as it were, who has helped him out with many investigations. I asked who it was and what church he was affiliated with, but I was shut down, in the nicest way possible!
We then got into the science of things. Now, this is the part I have a hard time wrapping my TV-and-wine soaked brain around. I get it, in theory, but I don't get it. It's like math. I'm terrible, TERRIBLE at math, but I had one teacher in one grade in high school and with her I got it, but then I forgot it, so oh well, at least I passed.
"I tell people all the time, it's more about physics than it is about paranormal." Ross said. He was kind enough to keep the science chat to a minimum because I told him, "Yea, I don't get it." He gave me a brief lesson on quantum physics (for those of you who know me, you can only imagine the look of confusion mixed with horror on my face, but I really tried hard, you guys! It was like when the monkey in Homer Simpson's brain set the tambourine down and and pointed at the person talking to him like, "Pay Attention!") And when Ross was telling me about how the city of Anoka traps energy because of the limestone beneath the streets filled with quartz I was fascinated and kinda annoyed at myself that I didn't understand it better (I'm saving a lot of the Anoka-centric and Billy's stuff for another blog post. Local interest!) Maybe I should see if community ed. offers a Science For Dummies Who DayDream Too Much class.
I asked Ross if there was any location he would flat-out refuse to investigate. After a bit of contemplation he answered, "No." Well, how about this then, I asked "If you ever run into something demonic, would that make you quit?" "No." He answered. Bad Ass.
I had such a blast interviewing Ross last night and I got to hear first hand some great ghost stories about not only the place we were sitting in, but a lot of private homes in the area. So, thank you, Ross for letting me interview you and I so look forward to working with Anoka Paranormal Investigations! Funny story, when I was trying to tell Ross all the great marketing opportunities the internet has to offer I told him, "You can purchase domain name for thirty dollars for two years!" He literally took thirty dollars out of his wallet and threw it at me! It was awesome! I felt like some sort of stripper! Make it rain!