Being sensitive to different cultures and the deceased’s privacy during paranormal investigations

1st March 2024. Reading Time: 7 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 1784 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 seeing a lot of chatter online about similar topics, I thought it was a good time to rewrite and re-share some thoughts on this important and controversial topic.  When I first started organising public paranormal investigations at public heritage-listed locations, I soon learned that many of these locations places had unique expectations and demands to be followed in order for the event to go ahead.  Much of this was focused on privacy and respect.  One location for example had a historically documented suicide on the property.  While quite a significant time had passed, it was still quite painful for the descendants in the family. As such, they wished for this not to be discussed in any capacity.  Another location had an unfortunate incident in the past which meant doors were closed to the paranormal community for many years.  It seems that a group of psychic mediums conducted an investigation that the general public could attend.  What they didn't know was that one of the spirits they claimed to be picking up information from, had family on the tour.  The psychics then went on to claim some pretty horrible things about the character of this person and even accused them of committing crimes of which there was no historical record, it was just what they were picking up psychically.  As you can imagine, the family members were quite distraught and put in a complaint.  This group was asked to never return to the location, and with it, the doors were also closed to other investigators for a number of years.  Who can blame them? 

This as I mentioned was all back in 2017.  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.  Others are making channels or short videos detailing the history of locations and maybe even some spooky stories.  With this comes its own set of challenges.  Videos contained historically incorrect information and presented them as fact.  Ghost stories were exaggerated and in some cases even made up for clicks.  Locations suddenly had 'demons'.  Some locations have been upset by the way people have behaved and wish they never let people through the doors in the first place.  I don't necessarily think it was done on purpose by the investigators, I think it was done simply because some people are more naive and don't realise because they have become desensitised to these kinds of things because of social media.

In some ways, it all becomes a bit of a ghost story and it is easy to forget that there are real people and families who have trauma and are grieving.  Imagine how incredibly painful it would be to have someone claiming to be speaking to one of your family members and changing history by creating a narrative that never existed just because it makes a video more entertaining?  Some may feel they are helping by putting someone's story out there, but what if the family don't want the story out there for all to see on YouTube?  

When I wrote my original article, I made the following list of suggestions to consider when working with a new location which I think is still pretty relevant today.  It extends beyond hosting an investigation there, I think these discussions should also be had if you are a creator who is filming at a location.  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 for 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 practices 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.

What items do you think should be added to this list?

It is really important to sit down with your location and ensure you are on the same page. What I always found was 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.

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 not 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. Now venues are a lot more open to having investigators come through and host events, however a few years ago this was not the case at all, and this I know from experience.  It was extremely difficult and a lot of work and reassurance to get some of these places to open up again. Why did they hesitate? Some because they don’t want to attract paranormal thrill seekers 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 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, whether you are an investigator or content creator with millions of followers, you still need to act professionally as you are not just representing yourself, you are representing the paranormal community and the venue. Let’s show them how great the paranormal community can be.

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