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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part I - How to Run a Ghost Hunting Group: Interview with P.R.G. Founder & Director Jennifer Lauer

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

“I wanted to go out and investigate. I wanted to learn, and of course I wanted to out and find ghosts – [that excitement] usually only lasts about a year… and then, and you can see a big pattern in ghost groups, if they’re not organized and they don’t keep active and that drive is not there and they’re not learning anything…You have to want to progress. You have to want to learn from what you’re doing.” 

Jennifer Lauer is the founder of the Paranormal Research Group, (P.R.G.) [formerly the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group.] The organization recently expanded to include Pennsylvania as well as Wisconsin. In this interview Lauer shares some very thoughtful information about how she founded and continues to run this very successful paranormal investigation group. If you’re thinking about starting a paranormal group or revising group protocols, this is a must read article. Lauer has also co-written two books and is a frequent public speaker on the topic of paranormal investigation.

Robin: So, Jennifer, why did you start the group?

Jennifer:  I’ve always had a large fascination for the paranormal. I grew up with a father who was very open-minded and I remember being eight years old, sitting at the kitchen table and talking about everything from life after death to UFO’s to out-of-body experiences.  So I think that’s always been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to do with my life. I was raised that way.  I had some experiences growing up, some weird experiences I couldn’t explain.   In 1999 I didn’t know you could do this, that people like me really existed, that you could really investigate and research the paranormal. I think I was watching a television show on parapsychologists and it really intrigued me. And I thought, “Wow, I really want to do that.” And then, of course, I found out that you don’t really make money doing it [laughs]. I realized it couldn’t be my main job. But it has always been what I wanted to do with my life.

Robin: So, what was your first step? You saw the television program and what did you decide to do from there?

Jennifer: Well, I started talking to other people about the field, asking around, watching more television…figuring out who could I contact, who I could get involved with.  I started seeking out books. Loyd Auerbach had an awesome book, “ESP, Hauntings and the Paranormal.” He has a second book on case studies. And that’s where I started investigating a little more about the field and the world of parapsychology.

In 2000 I designed the website and all of a sudden people were just flocking and I found out that a lot of people were into this stuff. A lot of people are really interested in the area of parapsychology and ghosts.  By 2004 we had over 70 members, and it just got to be too much. Because everyone wanted to go on investigations and you can only take so many because we want to put a lot of effort into them and really get a feeling for them and what is going on.  And you can’t really do that when you have 30 people running around a house. You just can’t.

Members were getting upset because it would take six months to get on an investigation. So we cut back.  And I think where we’re at right now is the right place, somewhere between 3o and 50 people in general, and I think that’s where I would like to stay. That’s because not everybody investigates.

Robin: From what I’ve been reading off your website you have a two-tier group? Can you explain how that works?

Jennifer: Yes. We have two tiers as you said. We have the investigation group and then we have an Associate’s group. The Associates group does pretty much everything we do, because we’re very active, we stay active in the community. We do trips and tours and we teach at universities and colleges throughout the Midwest and just a variety of things. We’re always busy doing something. So those people are active in the group by helping with our fund-raising and they can help and be involved that way. And in that way they can show their support and feel a part of the group. However, they do not go on the investigations, they’re not trained to do investigations. Those people are good with that, because they want to be a part, and they want to be involved, but maybe they’re not scientific or they don’t understand everything the way that they should to be an investigator. There has to be a certain mind set.

And then we have the Investigation Team. They do all the investigations and then do everything else as well.  But the Associate Members can also bump up if they want. If we have an opening for an Investigator, if someone quits, and if we have an Associate that wants to bump up we can do that. Associates don’t want to be involved enough to do the work, but they want to be involved in the investigation process and know what we’re finding out…learning first-hand from us what is going on and how to understand it better. And that’s where it’s nice.  They get to be part of us, they get to feel like a family, but they don’t have to have any special talents or even the desire or drive to want to go out and do it themselves. There are just different people in the world…

Robin: Sure, so they get to live vicariously.

Jennifer: Yes, exactly. And it helps us as a group too. Because those people…we can assign tasks to them if we need help with something, they’re more than happy to get out there and do the things that we ask. They’ll ask, “hey, we want to be active, we want to participate, so what can we do?” For example, I’ve got the party coming up [10 year anniversary party for P.R.G.] and I need decorators. They’re going to love to do that, they’re getting free food, free booze – all they have to do is decorate the site for us.

Robin: Seems like a great idea. I have to ask. You got interested in the paranormal, you did some research on your own and then you started a website. Why didn’t you do what most people would do and find a group and join that? Why did you trek on out on your own?  It seems like a very courageous thing to do, but…

Jennifer: Well, yeah, I’ve always been kind of a leader, I think.  And for one thing I didn’t think there was anyone else in the area doing this, I didn’t know of anyone else or what they were called. All I knew was what I wanted to do and what I was interested in. Back then, in 1999, ghost hunter wasn’t a big term.  So you might have to travel a couple of hours to get to a decent group. At the time I just wanted I just wanted to research and learn, and others followed.  I don’t know. It’s just kind of who I am and how I handle things.

Robin: Well, I like that. It shows a certain amount of courage to just go out there. So, when you started your own group what was it that you did want to do? What were your goals?

Jennifer: I wanted to stay active in the community. I wanted to provide as much information about the field as possible to other people.  I wanted to go out and investigate. I wanted to learn. And of course I wanted to out and find ghosts - that was always a goal. And I wanted to…I guess like any other group out there, you’re just excited to be doing what you’re doing because you’re learning something new and you’re searching for that unknown. I think a lot of people really find that exciting.

It usually only lasts about a year or two and then, and you can see a big pattern in ghost groups, if they’re not organized and they don’t keep active and that drive is not there and they’re not learning anything – that’s the big thing to keep learning and exploring and growing. Because if they’re not learning anything they’ll just be spouting the same stuff over and over again, and it gets boring  it gets to be repetitive and no one wants to do it anymore, and the ghost group just dissipates. And I’ve seen that 100 times.  Everyone wants to start their own group [laughs]. I see it a lot. But you have to have a certain goal in mind.  You have to want to progress. You have to want to learn from what you’re doing, not just stay repetitive because after awhile, that’s boring. I mean, it’s exciting in the beginning, but if you’re not willing to learn and move on and discuss different angles and different opportunities and look at things differently – just like anything else, just like your job – you learn and you grow and you develop new ways of doing things and you look at new techniques and theories. I really think you have to treat it almost like a job.

Robin: Ok, so in the ten years that you’ve been around, what have you learned?

Jennifer: Wow, I’ve learned a ton, especially from Dave [Schumacher – Anomalies Department Director]. Dave has been a huge boost to the group.  He is definitely the person who has put our group over the edge as to where we wanted to be. Dave is really an awesome guy when it comes to technology and understanding parapsychology. But he has a hard time running a group. He does what he does, and he does it magnificently, but he doesn’t like to deal with a lot of people on a regular basis. And so that’s what I do. We’ve noticed that this is just a marriage of wonderful things, since we’ve combined.  I take care of the group end, and I make sure that he’s happy with the way things are going with our people. He’s developed his relationships with the other people in the group. But if there’s an issue it comes to me not him. So he doesn’t have to deal with it. It’s perfect.

But he, on the other hand, brings us all of the wonderful information and technology, and insight and up-to-date information that our group needs to keep us going.

And then we started meeting other people along the way, like Cindy Heinen, she’s our EVP specialist, and she is amazing. We’re all in it, and it’s like a big happy family, but we have very specific goals in mind. And those goals change every year, because we want them to. We don’t want to do the same things we did last year.

Robin:] I see that you have two books and you’re teaching in colleges, did you foresee any of this?

Jennifer: No, no I didn’t foresee any of this at all.  I’ve never been one for publicity or fame or fortune. In 2004 my Dad died and being that he and I had spent so much time discussing these topics together. After he died I really put a stronger emphasis on research and finding out about things. Because when someone you love dies you want to try and make sure that they’re ok or are they just in the ground laying there?  You don’t know. Dave could tell you how it’s become a much stronger push, after my dad died, to find some answers. And I think we’re getting close to getting some answers on certain topics. I can’t be too specific on things because it’s a work in progress. We may not get any answers in our lifetime but I guess my overall goal is to do as much as we can so that someone else can take over and reach those goals by the work that we’re doing.

Author’s Note: In Part II – How to Run a Ghost Hunting Group: Interview with P.R.G. Founder and Director Jennifer Lauer, Lauer describes the process they go through planning and running an actual paranormal investigation.

Resources

Auerbach, Loyd (2005) A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. Atriad Press LLC. Dallas, TX.
Auerbach, Loyd (1986) ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook. Warner Books. NY, NY.
Fluxgate Magnetometer http://beta.globalspec.com/search/products?query_2=flux-gate%20magnetometer&comp=4934&pg=0&pageSize=10&show=undefined measures the strength and direction of magnetic fields.

Lauer, J., Schumacher D. (2007) Investigating the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Xlibris Corporation. Additional Copies of the Book can be ordered at Orders@Xlibris.com
 PRG.’s website (2012) www.http://paranormalresearchgroup.com/




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