Before the ghost hunters

24th March 2023. Reading Time: 7 minutes General. 1501 page views. 0 comments.

What did people do before social media when they felt they were the subject of a haunting?  

The paranormal field has been around for well over a century.  We know that historically for example the Society for Psychical Research was established in 1882.  The Ghost Club was founded in 1862 with its foundations laid a decade before that.  Ghost stories themselves have literally been around since the beginning of time. While our scepticism and religious beliefs have certainly changed since then, it seems our belief in ghosts has not. Experiences with Poltergeists and Banshees were written about in the 1600’s such as the famed Drummer of Tedworth and Devil of Glenluce.  The very first written account of a ghost was said to have happened between 61 & 113 AD by an author known as Pliny the Younger in one of his famous 247 surviving historical letters. It was a letter to a Roman Senator called Licinius Sura that is believed to contain the very first ghost story ever written.  Times were different and as time evolved, so too did belief structures and the way people viewed the paranormal.  Eventually, people began to dedicate their curiosity to finding out just what was out there.  This of course eventually grew into the paranormal field that we know today.

The paranormal field itself is more popular and accessible than it has ever been.  Reality television from the 1990s through the 2000s meant that people got to see first-hand that investigating the paranormal was something an everyday person could do, and so they did.  Social media soon exploded not long after as did the number of paranormal groups that would pop up each week, many emulating what they had seen on television.  Others had already dedicated a large part of their lives to paranormal research and finally had a platform to showcase their work which had largely been unknown before by a mainstream audience.  Social media also meant that people had a place to easily find someone that could assist with their ghostly problems.  You only have to participate in a paranormal Facebook group for example to see how many people have questions about things that might be going bump in the night in their own house.  Smartphones mean that many people have some sort of 'ghostly' photo they were able to snap in the midst of the weird things happening.  Whether the photo truly represents something paranormal or not, for the person who took the photo, it is their own form of validation or their own 'proof' that what they experienced happened.  Most people these days if they were having some sort of problem would start looking through social media to find someone in their area that can give them advice or even come to their house.  But what did people do before social media?  

Putting aside the fact that there have been people for centuries collecting experiences and investigating the paranormal, a lot of people did not know who to turn to.  People were out there and there were organisations to turn to, but a lot of people didn't know about them or know what to do if they felt they were experiencing a haunting.  So what did they do?  Who did they call?

The police

When diving through historical archives and in particular newspaper articles, it seems in many cases that local police enforcement were called in when desperate families didn't know what to do about the strange happenings in their homes.  Here are a few examples!

Police Burn Ghost Doll

On the 4th of September 1954, the Daily Telegraph in Sydney published a story where police were called in to 'burn' and dispose of a supposedly haunted doll!  

In 1908, police spent 3 weeks investigating the strange rappings, concussions and explosions at a house in Brunswick (Melbourne Victoria) that had the entire neighbourhood on edge. 16 different police who slept at the property in a bid to understand what was going on were unable to explain the strange happenings which included what they described as violent knockings on the windows and ceilings.

These are but only two of what are countless examples from all over the World.  In fact, police are still called today when things go bump in the night.  One of the more famous cases in which the police were called to a few decades ago eventually led to Worldwide media attention which brings us to the next outlet of help .... the media.

The media

The way the media showcases the paranormal is quite different to how it was a few decades ago.  Cast your mind back to one of the most famous hauntings - The Enfield Haunting.  Without getting into too much detail, after calling the police (a common method discussed above) who themselves thought something spooky was going on, they suggested the family contact the media in the hopes that someone could come forward to help them.  They contacted the daily mail and the rest was history. 

Photo Source: Graham Morris Daily Mail

Contacting the media before social media in a way was almost like putting a call out on Facebook.  It gave the journalist an intriguing story while potentially attracting the attention of people who would be interested in helping people in need.  I suppose it was a win-win approach for all involved.  While some may question the motives of those seeking media attention and rightly so, we have to consider that some people became so desperate that was the only way for them to get the attention of someone they believe could help them - paranormal or not.


Remember writing letters?  I have a big box in my cupboard of correspondence I used to write to friends when they moved away.  I also had a pen pal at one point too!  Now with social media, we can remain quite close to who we are far away from and have real-time conversations without having to wait a month for a letter to arrive.  A lot of psychical researchers from the past would actively collect experiences and engage in written correspondence with those who felt they were experiencing something paranormal.  While some were added to case studies others would receive advice on what they could potentially do.  It was the snail mail way of putting up a facebook post! 

Modern-Day Ghost Hunters

Now people have a plethora of investigators ready and able to answer the call.  You only have to look on YouTube or Facebook and now Tik Tok for videos of investigators conducting investigations in the private homes of the general public to help them get answers on the hauntings they feel they are experiencing.  It does however bring up the important topic of ethics and exploitation, something that doesn't necessarily get discussed enough in this field.  While they obviously have the consent of the people who asked for help to be filmed and share the information, sometimes I wonder just how much the people are really being helped at the expense of paranormal content.  This isn't saying everyone out there is bad, I know some really great people who are professional, but we have to agree and a lot of you will have had to deal with clients and 'clean up the mess' of an unprofessional group or individual that tried to 'help' before.  Some charge thousands in what is essentially a scam.  Others put fear into their clients with talks of demons and dark entities making people feel unsafe in their own home environments and leave.  Then there are those who treat it like it is a free investigation.  They come in, do the investigation, film it and get their content and leave.  In some of these cases, nothing is really resolved at all for the client wanting assistance and help and matters are then often made worse.  There is no regulation in the paranormal field especially when it comes to private cases.  Perhaps this is where we should start to look at combining the benefits of both the new and old ways.  We can use social media to filter through people and get references before seeking help.  We can use things like correspondence to gain the information we need sometimes without having to let a stranger into our home.  It is also worth mentioning that organisations mentioned above like the SPR and ASSAP are places that At the very core no matter who you are, we need to remember that these people are asking for help and sometimes we really have to ask ourselves if we truly can help them.  

* If you have managed to make it to the end of the article, of course there is much more that can be added, this is a brief snapshot of only some of the ways people got help with their hauntings.

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