Being sensitive to different cultures and the deceased’s privacy during a public paranormal investigation

19th March 2017. Reading Time: 8 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 1114 page views. 0 comments.

When conducting an investigation, it is important to discuss with the venue what you can and cannot disclose out of respect for the deceased and their families.

I originally wrote this article back in 2017 after organising paranormal investigations at public heritage listed places who each had unique expectations and demands to be followed in order for the event to go ahead.  When we fast-forward to 2024, it is safe to say that quite a lot has changed in the space of paranormal investigation.  The biggest change seems to be social media and the rise of content creation.  There are more people exploring the paranormal than ever before and many of them are now streaming their thoughts, findings and adventures to their audiences around the World.

It seems to be the rage these days to host public investigations. I do get it, sometimes it is the only way now to get access to a location as the costs are extremely high. Hey I do as many public investigations as I do private ones so I do understand sometimes it is the only way. Learning through a lot of the work I have done with the venues and their restrictions, rules and guidelines, it is evident that being sensitive to someone’s culture and also privacy is a really important part of being a paranormal investigator. If you are going to run a public investigation it is more important than ever to ensure that you are being culturally sensitive and also maintain an element of privacy and dignity to the deceased as you are not just representing your group, but also the venue. Here are some of the reasons why it is important to be sensitive to these areas:

  • If you are investigating somewhere such as a gaol, it is quite likely that the deceased have family members that are still alive. Whilst someone is passed, it is crucial to not speculate or assume what kind of person they may have been or what they may or may not have done out of respect for the deceased and also any current family members.
  • If you are investigating a place where people of a certain culture has passed, again you need to understand that culture’s beliefs on the afterlife and the paranormal. Is the paranormal a taboo subject that a particular culture condemns? Do they believe in the afterlife? Are there certain practises or procedures that have to be in place to abide by their beliefs?
  • Venues are extremely protective of their reputation and also the experience that people walk away with. They are also very protective over the history of the place. Was there a darker side to their history that they do not want advertised? Again it could simply be out of respect for the families involved. As investigators we gravitate towards places with a dark history of violence, murder and suicide but a beautiful venue may not want to be known in that way.
  • It is just a respect thing – no one wants to go on a tour and think they are communicating with a loved one and then have some dude go and yell obscenities at them.

It is really important to sit down with your venue and ensure you are on the same page. What we find is a really good approach is to actually have the venue representative do an investigation with you. They can see your style and also help you out with any history and information you may need. It is then that you can have a discussion about what you can and cannot discuss. For example, at a recent investigation a location we were doing an event, they had a lot of Jewish immigrants live there post World War 2. It is obviously a very delicate subject and not something you really want to get into during a paranormal investigation so it is a subject we avoided and we let the evidence speak for itself and it never came up. This was not only our preference but more importantly something that the venue was originally concerned about. By not mentioning the subject at all, they were happy and we were not at risk of offending anyone. Win win! Again when we go into a gaol for example, they don’t want us to mention the names of the prisoners or their crimes so again we let the evidence speak for itself. I think when in doubt, it is better to ire on the side of caution and again let the evidence speak for itself. It can make your job a bit easier as well as you don’t need to remember the history. What is your name? What year is it? What was your crime? How did you die? What did you eat for breakfast – see easy.

A big thing here for us in Australia is understanding and respecting Aboriginal heritage. It is something we come across quite a lot and this is where respect comes in. As I do not have an Aboriginal background, I do not feel comfortable explaining my understanding in this area so I encourage you to please visit this link and have a read of this article called ‘The Afterlife in Aboriginal Australia’ It is not going to give you all of the answers but it is a general summary of the beliefs in this culture and there are some links to other articles on the site with some great information to help give you a better understanding. If you are dealing with an investigation that has some Aboriginal ties, I think it is more appropriate to consult with an Elder or a representative to ensure that you are doing things correctly. There is a protocol that needs to be followed when addressing an Elder and this article here is a great source to help you out ‘First National Elder Protocol’ When we dealt with the issue of Judaism, we consulted with a Rabbi and it was not only educational, but gave us an understanding of their beliefs and gave us an idea of how to respond if the issue came up etc. I encourage anyone to not just use google as your tool, but make contact with these professionals, you will be surprised how many will actually be open to having a chat with you. They are your best source of information.

Some venues may not be comfortable ‘airing the dirty laundry’ of it’s past. For example, one venue we have worked with was not comfortable advertising the fact that there had been a suicide on the property. It is something that can be found in old newspapers, but they don’t really want to put a sign out the front if you know what I mean. Family members in the region still live nearby today and out of respect for them and their family, they didn’t want us to mention the fact that there had been a suicide on the property. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have these discussions with your venue and to follow their wishes. Any negative attention and they can turn around and say “no more paranormal investigations as it is giving us a negative image“. Part of this as well is the experience that people walk away with. Most people that will be attending your investigation are likely to be somewhat local. They could even be ancestors or know people that once lived at the place you are investigating. There is always one or two people on an investigation that feel a family member or someone they know is trying to come through and speak to them. (whether this is the case or not it always happens). This is why it is so important not to be rude or provoke when you are ‘communicating with the spirits’. It may be fun watching Zak provoke on Ghost Adventures and hey I provoke too (in private when the time calls for it) but NEVER on a public investigation out of respect. Respect for my guests and respect for the venue.

Again, it is really important to respect your venue’s wishes. Quite a lot of places are reluctant to open the door to the paranormal. It can be a taboo subject, they may not believe in the paranormal, they may not want the reputation, they may be afraid of offending people or maybe they just don’t want to be associated with the paranormal – period! If you are lucky enough to have someone open the door for you, it is important that you act respectfully and abide by their wishes. If you go against what they want or represent them in a way they don’t agree with, that door will close. It will close probably not just to you, but to the whole paranormal community as well. I know this for a fact because we had this problem with Victoria for a very long time. It has been extremely difficult and a lot of work and reassurance to get some of these places to open up again. Why did they close? Some because they don’t want to attract paranormal thrill seeks who will break in. Some because they don’t want the taboo subject of paranormal or anything negative attached to the property. The majority of the time? The majority of the time they have closed the doors because a paranormal group has been in there beforehand and has done something to upset them that they not only kick them out, they don’t allow anyone else in. This can take years and years to fix and a simple mistake made such as offending guests or a culture is right up there as a reason to upset them. At the end of the day, even though it is not considered a legitimate profession, you still need to act professionally as you are not just representing yourself and the group, you are representing the paranormal community and the venue. Let’s show them how great the paranormal community can be.

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