Before we get started, this post is not aimed at anyone or criticising anyone in particular. It is based on some of my own experiences and observations which is causing myself and many paranormal and historical researchers some genuine concerns that I think need to be discussed. There is a range of reasons why venues are hesitant to open their doors to paranormal investigators and it all stems from unwanted attention.
Through the years, like many paranormal investigators, there are many locations I have tried to get some sort of access to and have been declined. The reason being is that the venue does not wish to associate itself with the paranormal. It is something that many of us have worked really hard with venues to change. Discussing what they are comfortable with and, what they are not comfortable with. Then there is the question of if any information is allowed to be publicly shared while maintaining its historical integrity are some of the things that have helped to progress this. As an example, one venue I worked with had an unfortunate experience with a previous paranormal group that ran a public investigation. It was during this tour that the investigators took some liberties with the history and felt they were making contact with one of the previous tenants who had passed. The information they were alluding to was about the kind of person the tenant may have been and felt that this person had done some horrible things. It was things that were not historically proven and were quite offensive accusations. Unbeknownst to them, there were descendant family members of this spirit they were supposedly communicating with on this very tour. Long story short, the venue was very reluctant to open its door to the paranormal ever again. It was too much of a liability and in their eyes, not worth the upset and hassle. On the other end, another venue I have worked with had documented history that can be found publicly if you know where to look, but it is not something they wish to have advertised because again it is hurtful to the descendant family members. These kinds of wishes need to be respected because, throughout all this, it is easy to forget that while you are dealing with the history of someone who has passed away, there are living families who still have to deal with this each and every day.
Immediately something that springs to mind, in this case, is the recent obsession with Jeffrey Dahmer from the popular Netflix series (which I couldn't stomach to watch personally.). Family members of his victims condemned this series and just want to be able to move forward, and not have their lives constantly dramatised and recreated on the screen to re-live over and over. While history should not be swept under a rug, sometimes the people closest to it also don't want to have it advertised to the entire world either. It is hard to make a judgement or know what it is like until you are put in that position yourself. When we go back to the paranormal, it is really easy to forget about the families and how they may feel. Regardless of what you believe when it comes to the paranormal, the majority of people believe that a spirit is the soul or energy of a person who was once living. This person was once alive with family and loved ones and now you are possibly communicating with that person. How would you feel if it was one of your loved ones? Are you doing so with respect? There are many locations investigators visit such as asylums and prisons. People often seem to attribute a lot of paranormal interactions as negative, something I believe has been inherited from paranormal reality shows. Of course, there is the notion that say if you are in a prison and there were not nice people in life that in theory, in the spirit world they would also be not so nice. While that may indeed be the case, we still cannot take liberties in accusing them of things they cannot defend. I find a lot of people tend to talk about things like murder, rape, theft and other things which they accuse the spirit of doing. None of which is historically documented. We need to be really careful not to 'rewrite' history from information that is not historically verified.
Unknowingly, many of us have possibly put some unwanted attention on a venue. I call it the social media effect. Think of all the beautiful little hideaways that maybe you used to sneak away to on a weekend to unwind. Photos go up on social media and suddenly word spreads. Now everyone and their dog seems to know about this hideaway as it is shared over and over. The venue goes from having 5 visitors to 500 in a day. The comparison I can make here is Redwood forest here in Victoria. It was a lovely spot and many years ago while it was often busy, you could still have a small area to yourself and even get some lovely photos without someone being in the way. When Covid happened, it started going viral on social media as a place to escape to (when we literally were only allowed to leave our house for 2 hours during lockdowns). It became so overflowed with visitors that keep coming so now they often have to have traffic management up there because the very small car park cannot handle the influx of visitors.
The same can be said about some paranormal venues. While there are some venues protected with good security, others are not and are more vulnerable. It is not just a problem isolated to Australia, it happens all over the World. Just recently a thread on Twitter in the UK was highlighting how YouTubers were entering a Church in the dead of the night to film videos and live streams for content. In turn, it attracted more and more people to the venue wanting to film their own content and they had to start locking up the Church.
With this in mind, I have a couple of stories to tell here so please bare with me.
I am sure a couple of years ago, you probably all saw or heard about a video where an urban explorer came across a tank with a preserved shark in it locked away in a shed. If you were from Victoria, even though it wasn't mentioned where it was, it was pretty easy to determine the location, thanks to some of the landmarks such as the Giant Worm. Even a quick google search of Giant Worm and the word shark gives you all the information you need and anyone would be able to find where it was. People soon descended on the property to see Rosie. All trespassing in the process. Sadly not everyone had good intentions and her tank was vandalised. It caused a deadly chemical to leak from her tank, but that didn't deter visitors. The video somehow went viral over a couple of weeks and due to the chemical inside the tank leaking, it became a race either re-home her or destroy her as it was becoming a grave concern for authorities and locals. You only have to look at Facebook and youtube over that period to see the number of people who visited her and put up videos on social media is quite disturbing. Look up Rosie the Shark on YouTube and you can see it for yourself! All the while risking their lives breathing in a deadly chemical. All while trespassing and on many occasions breaking the locks that were put on her shed (with new locks being replaced each day and eventually security having to be hired to man the location which by the way was always on private property). She was eventually transported to Crystal World with the tank repaired and is now on display with the hopes of creating a museum she can live in permanently. I visit her often.
The mixed feelings part is this. If the video had not been released, Rosie would probably have been left to rot in a dark shed and no action would have been taken to save her. Most people wouldn't even know about her. It certainly wouldn't have gained the media attention that it has. On the other hand, the video promotes illegal activity. Urban Exploration is illegal when you are entering sites without the owner's permission. Remember this was private property. In some cases, it can attract vandals. I know working with a lot of historical properties, this is one of the reasons they are so scared of letting people from the paranormal field in. They don't want people attempting to trespass or attract vandals or attention. In a lot of ways, however, Urban Exploration has helped highlight some dodgy acts - look at the work Seph Lawless has been doing which highlights the fact that big business doesn't clean up after themselves and it can become dangerous. Without his photos, action would not have been taken. The maker of the original Rosie video was been an integral part of her rescue. It doesn't stop however some of the enthusiasts want their own adventure.
As you know I work with Black Rock House to raise money for its restoration by running tours with my Brother. We restrict what we do and don't allow groups to come in and investigate to share their findings on social media or run their own events. While some people think it is because we are gatekeeping, it is more that we are not only protecting the security of the venue, but we are also protecting its historical integrity. Getting to the bottom of the history at Black Rock House as an example is incredibly difficult because there are not a lot of historical records. We only talk about things we have records of. As an example, there was someone who told us they had a family member pass in the house many years ago. The death certificate seems to say otherwise so it is not something we can say happened and so we don't. You can see how easily this could be said and suddenly become 'history'. We often have people wanting us to tell them about a person they heard was hung from a tree. Again, no record of this, it was something a psychic picked up many years ago and it appeared on message boards. There is no record to say it ever happened (not that I guess you would keep a record of that sort of thing, but if there is no historical record, we cannot say it happened). Just recently a very large internationally-based YouTube channel wanted to film there. This channel had millions of followers and it turned out that my 10-year-old son is a fan of this channel. While yes it would have been great publicity, we had to decline because we didn't want the attention of millions of followers let alone teenagers descend on the property emulating what they were seeing on YouTube. While the pitch to us was that it was free publicity and we would benefit, for them it was another location to visit, get some likes and subs and move on to the next while we were left with the aftermath of unwanted attention. At the risk of sounding like an old person complaining, there is a huge problem with vandalism on the grounds of the house caused by teenagers. They are often climbing on the roof to sit on the castle wall, damaging the tiles and causing roof leaks. They bang on the windows to get the attention of the ghosts inside (something they have done while we have conducted tours) damaging the window shutters in the process. These are not cheap to fix as a heritage-listed building can only be fixed with certain materials by people qualified to repair heritage homes. There is a lot of red tape and it is all very expensive. While there is security that visits and CCTV, it can only do so much, and so with all these stories in mind, we feel we have a responsibility to protect not only the structure of the building but its historical integrity.
I feel it is very important to point out there are a lot of content creators who do some amazing work and are very thorough in their historical research and respectful in what they do. They have the blessings of their venues and work together with their venues and help gain them more visitors which in turn generates more revenue meaning the venue is able to stay open so there is definitely a place here, it is just something that has to be handled delicately. I think there are some discussions that should be had here because there are benefits and there are downfalls. While you may be doing the right thing and have the right intentions, unfortunately not everyone is the same. To some, the likes and subs are more important than the building and that is really sad. Whether you are a paranormal investigator or content creator, it is worth taking a pause to just think about the impact and message you are giving to your followers. While you may not think you have much of an influence, I can assure you that you do and if people are watching, then you carry a responsibility to show them how to respect not only our history but the venues as well. If we don't, more and more venues will close their doors to the paranormal for good and that would also be very sad.
Cover Photo by Tim Mossholder: Pexels
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