This sort of research generally starts out as a hobby—there are lots of groups for people who are interested in paranormal phenomena. From there, serious researchers learn how to use all sorts of sources, logic, and science, to form opinions about what the basis is for unusual happenings. Once established as an authority
(accomplished by writing and doing lots of public speaking) doors open for publishing books on the
subject or consulting for TV and Movies. At this stage, very little actual investigation goes on—it is more
academic and appearances. There is really no “retirement” from this field—once you are an established
authority, requests come in for assistance for your whole lifetime.
3. What do you like most about your job? What do you like the least?
What I like most is that there are so few people who do what I do, at least professionally. Most who do are involved in “reality tv” rather than the research. I love the actual historical research—learning about who lived in a place and forming an idea of why they might want to come back to haunt there, or reading reports of bigfoot and lake monsters from before TV was invented. I am also paid extremely well, get to travel, and have a few people who recognize me from time to time. What I like least is that it isn’t regular paid work—I seldom work a full week for pay. I have to depend on the royalties from my books for additional income. It
most definitely is not a living wage—the genre is just to obscure. I also don’t like that my busiest time of
year is around Halloween. Media doesn’t seem too interested in the paranormal the rest of the year so I
end up working 14 hour days from August to November.
4. What skills do you believe are needed in your occupation? Are there any prerequisites or experience
needed in order to be in this career?
There are no prerequisites, but it is helpful to have a good command of language and good public speaking skills. Lifelong learning is a must—a working knowledge of everything from weather to electronics to sound waves to particle physics and biology is crucial. The ability to find the answers you DON’T know is absolutely necessary. It also helps to have a solid background in history and psychology. Special care is needed when working with traumatized witnesses as well. Interviewing is an art, as you don’t want to lead them to any conclusions while you are getting their story.
5. How would you describe the work environment?
The daily work environment is pleasant because I can work from home. When onsite, though, the surroundings can be rather uncomfortable. I habuildings, graveyards and even an old Tuberculosis Hospital. When in the TV studio it is often hot under the lights and tedious when they have to reshoot things.
6. What is the work environment like in terms of pressure?
(Deadlines, routine assignments, activities, etc.) Most of the pressure comes from people who are critical of the work, or even the idea that the work is worthwhile. Many people choose not to believe in ghosts, monsters, UFOs, etc, so they can be rather difficult to be around. Others are critical because they are also doing research and may not agree with my findings and opinions. Answering email can be tedious, as lots of people don’t understand that what they are experiencing has a perfectly natural basis (orbs in photos are reflections of dust, etc). Because I also am physically handicapped, sometimes work in the field can be painful and exhausting. The equipment is heavy and I often have to walk a fair distance. There is always a little “stage fright” when being taped or presenting to an audience. And time pressures during the fall are daunting—many times a TV news program will call me wanting an on camera interview in just a matter of hours.
7. In your occupation, do you work alone or with a team? If you work with a mix of both, which one
would you prefer?
Generally, I work alone. I do have an executive assistant who travels with me when I do conferences and lectures. If I need to be out in the field I have three or four people I call on to assist. I generally prefer to work alone, as it gives me much more flexibility as well as less people to be responsible for.
8. In terms of work hours, are they set or do you have flexibility with them?
I have to be extremely flexible. Most TV shows film during the day, but most venues (the places I would go to do onsite investigations) are only available at night or on the weekends.
9. What are the most satisfying aspects of working in your field?
The most satisfying part of my work is coming to a hypothesis where all the factors fit. A few years ago I did an investigation at an old hotel and was able to do enough research to actually put names and faces to the people we think are haunting it and why they are there. Equally satisfying though is finding a natural cause for weird things that happen—we had one case where the noises in the woman’s home were caused by squirrels. It was really gratifying to give her answers.
10. If you had the ability to do this, would there be anything that you would like to change about your
I would like to be able to have a full time staff (and enough work for all of us to be busy!) I like
managing people and resources, and I’d love to be in a position to pass along the business to someone
11. Is there any advice that you would like to give to anyone pursuing this occupation?
Diversify! Learn how to do research in general so that you can earn some cash to keep you warm and fed while you are waiting for the more exciting cases. Consider getting a Private Investigator’s license as well, so you have something to fall back on 10 months out of the year. Also, be VERY disciplined. Write a LOT of articles and books, and get your name out there so people know who to contact for this sort of service. Choose your clients wisely, and don’t work with media who will make you look silly.