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Impatient and inexperienced ghost hunters can lead to tragedy

Everyone wants to be a ghost hunter these days. It sounds exciting, and who wouldn’t love traipsing around in cemeteries after dark, getting scared and having a great time? After all, look at the fun those folks on TV are having. So how do you go about doing it?

Most folks start by looking on the Internet for information, sending out e-mails to local groups, and that sort of thing. But that soon becomes quite old because all those people want to do is talk about training, being respectful in cemeteries, trespassing and the sorts of other boring details that obviously have no bearing what so ever on what some believe paranormal investigation to be about. So you do the obvious thing and start your own group, right?

Wrong.

Ghost hunting and paranormal investigation are taking quite a hit because of impatient people that are doing exactly what’s described above. They don’t want to join established, experienced teams because they want instant gratification. They don’t have the patience to do it right, and, as said before in this column, patience is the one thing that everyone interested in this field is required to have.

A local historical home, friendly and helpful to ghost hunters over the last couple of years, has had several bad brushes with these inexperienced groups lately. Recently a fairly new group made reservations for a popular weekend, which resulted in other groups being turned away. The group then not only didn’t honor their reservation, they wouldn’t return the property director’s phone calls when an explanation was sought. That incident, combined with several others that include damages and more means the property is now closed to ghost enthusiasts while the owners figure out a new and much stricter set of rules, and possibly higher rates, that all groups will be required to honor.

And giving other ghost hunters a bad name is only the least of it.

Last year, a Toronto woman lost her life while ghost hunting. An area university building was the sight of a past murder, and despite no reports of haunting activity, this woman and her companion thought they’d check it out. They couldn’t obtain permission to investigate, so they attempted to gain access to the building through the roof. While crossing from one building to the next, the woman plunged several stories to her death when a wire gave way. She lost her life by committing an illegal act for a groundless tale.

That may seem like an extreme incident, but it’s not the only one. A North Carolina man was killed early Friday morning while checking out reports of a local ghost train.

An Aug. 27, 1891, train wreck killed approximately two dozen people near Statesville, NC, and folklore reports the train has since been seen and heard on the anniversary of the accident. Despite the fact that not one single person alive can say they’ve experienced this, several folks gathered both near and on the tracks this year to “investigate” the legend.

About a dozen people were on the trestle about 2:45 that morning when a real train came around the curve. The engineer sounded his horn and hit the brakes, and the ghost hunters ran, but only 10 of them made it to safety. One woman survived the incident when she was pushed off the trestle and fell to the ground, but 29-year-old Christopher Kaiser of Charlotte, NC, was killed when he was struck and thrown from the same trestle.

This accident could have easily happened here in Middle Tennessee. I’m frequently contacted about the Chapel Hill ghost lights, also supposedly the product of a train accident. I’ve asked around for years, and I’ve yet to speak to a single person who has actually experienced what the legend says. The best I can do is to hear about “the friend of a friend” sort of incident. Because of this, I don’t put much credibility in the legend. Then you combine that with the fact that a ghost hunt in this area means you have to both trespass and walk around on an active train line, and I just don’t think this folktale is worth checking out.

In spite of this, people regularly traipse down there for a look, and a few are arrested from time to time. They commit an illegal act and risk their lives for what appears to only be a folktale?

If you do want to be a ghost hunter remember that your greatest tool is patience and use it from the very beginning. Find an experienced group to work with and take the time to do it right. Study, learn and don’t go off on your own and make the sort of mistakes that might get you killed. Ghost hunting can be fun, but it’s not worth losing your life.
 

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