Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

The only two people that should know what is going on are the people that were on that pre-investigation; any of the weird things. The investigators that are going in are going in blind. Yes. We feel that’s the best way to go, because then there are no pre-conceived notions…”

 Jennifer Lauer is the Founder  and Director 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: Can you tell me about how your group does an investigation from the screening of possible clients to the actual investigation?

Jennifer:  When someone is interested in having us come out and check out their place they’ll either call or send an email and they’ll say I’ve got some stuff going on and I’m really interested in talking about it or having someone come out and do something.

The first thing we do is send out a question set.  It’s an extremely long questionnaire.  It’s something like 150 to 200 questions and it has a variety of different questions that will help us to get a better understanding of what they are experiencing. It also has a couple of different areas in it that allows for some psychological testing, just so we know that we’re not sending our people into an unstable environment.  They’re actual tests that are taken out of psychological texts. And we can score them. It’s really more for our protection than anything else. I don’t want to send anyone into a dangerous environment. So this allows us to screen an applicant and make sure that it is a safe environment in which to send our investigators.

After they send us back the questionnaire, we look at it to kind of get a feel for what they might have going on, what they might be experiencing. And then we set up a pre-investigation which is just two of our investigators going out to the location, sitting down with the people, talking to them and getting a feel for the area where things are happening. We’ll have them take us on a tour of the location, show us where things were happening, tell us who was experiencing them and who was involved.

We also videotape the whole session.  That way we can take it back to the group when we have a meeting, and we can say, “This was happening here, and they can see it.” We also do background readings with either our D.E.A.D. system or with just hand-held equipment just to see if there is a natural reason for that experience in that location at that time.

We also look at, which a lot of groups don’t, if the homeowner says that when they lie in bed they see something across the hall walking down the stairway. What most groups will do is  go to that stairway and they’ll investigate that. What we do is we go to the bed and try to find out if anything is happening in that area that has a natural explanation as to why that person might have hallucinated something. A lot of times a clock radio sitting next to the headboard can really scramble your brain waves because there’s are a lot of electro-magnetic fields coming out of those things. If you’ve ever checked them, you can get 50 milligaus coming off those things and your brainwaves can actually get scrambled. And if your brain neurons aren’t firing properly you can start to see shadows; a variety of different things can affect the human brain.  Those are the types of things that we want to look at.

What we do after the pre-investigation is we go back to the team. We explain what happened and give an overall concept of what is going on. If we have EVP we will listen to it or we give it to Cindy. If we think there is a good chance that something is going on here we’ll go ahead and set up a full investigation which, depending upon the size of the house will determine how many investigators we will take. We don’t want to take too many because then our equipment will pick up their natural electro-magnetic fields. We want to stay as small a team as possible; I think that’s really key.

Then we’ll talk to the homeowners again. We have them take the entire team on a tour of the house so that everyone knows where the areas are, except we won’t have them explain anything about what is going on. The only two people that should know what is going on are the people that were on that pre-investigation; any of the weird things. The investigators that are going in are going in blind. Yes. We feel that’s the best way to go because then there are no pre-conceived notions or anything like that.

Then we’ll do the investigation. We do them in a variety of ways. We may take a couple of investigators and set them off with a couple of hand-held sweeps of the environment. They’ll sweep for ions, radiation and EMF in different rooms. And then they’ll record them. Then we’ll have somebody else setting up the video equipment. And we’ll have somebody else setting up the D.E.A.D. equipment. Another person will get everything together – whatever else needs to be done at that time. Once everything is set up we’ll all get together and do an EVP session in one of the areas where something is going on. Then we’ll also do controlled sessions  in rooms where there aren’t reported happenings. That way we have a control.

We pretty much do investigations in layers. First we do sweeps, then an EVP session and then throughout the night we’ll maybe do a lights-out quiet time, an observation time depending on what’s been going on.  We’ll do another set of sweeps later on. We’ll run the D.E.A.D. system in different areas to see what we can pick up.  We may have several EVP sessions throughout the night.

And then, when we’re done, I have every one of the investigators fill out a little report sheet that they have.  Actually they’re supposed to be filling that out throughout the night, any experiences, anything they noticed that was odd or strange. And they turn in that with any readings they have for the ions. For example if they’re doing an ion sweep in the bathroom they have to record that, and they have to turn that in at the end of the night with the investigation notes. That way the Lead Investigator can write the report. 

Then we take all of the equipment back and the data is analyzed through the D.E.A.D. system to look for any correlations with any EVP that might be caught. So Dave will do the analysis of the D.E.A.D. system, Cindy will do the analysis of the EVP, someone else may watch the video.

Actually I just stopped that because I’ve had people watch hundreds of hours of video and seeing nothing. So what we’ve decided to do now, is  if we notice anything on any of the recorders or the data, we will go back to that time, because everything is date-time stamped. We can go back to the video at that time, just to make sure that anything natural happened that might be caught on video – like a child ran by at the time. We could understand that, because everything is date-time stamped.  Dave or Cindy may say, “Well, I noticed something at this date and at this time.” Then they can compare notes and we’ll look at the equipment readings at that time, the hand-held sweep information, we can see if everything jives or looks strange. Then we can create the report from that.

And we’ve got all the sheets from all the investigators so that we can look at that and correlate that time with everything.  And everything is put into a full report. If EVP is collected we put that on a CD. We go to the owner and we do the reveal. We’ll sit down at the table and we’ll go over the whole report with them. We’ll explain what we found, what we experienced.   If we caught any EVP we will play the disk and have them listen to it. They’ll keep that as well as the report. And there’s always a conclusion at the end of the report of what we believe may be happening.

We always tell them that client care is one of our biggest concerns. If things continue and you’re worried about it, please get back in touch with us – especially if we didn’t find anything. Because they spend 24 hours a day there, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re there for one brief four to six hour session.  A lot of times we don’t collect everything. You can’t be at the right place at the right time all the time. So we make sure they know that, “Unfortunately we didn’t catch anything at this time. But we don’t think you’re crazy.”

The people who have had these experiences, there has to be something that’s creating these experiences, whether that be a ghost or whether that be something natural in the field that you are seeing. Client care is really important, and we want them to know that we’re here for them…So often they say, “Oh, I’m not crazy. That’s all I wanted to know! I knew I wasn’t crazy and now I have proof.” A lot of times that alone makes everything better for them.

We don’t have a lot of clients that say, “I have to leave my house.” More often we have people that just want to be assured that they’re not crazy. They say, “You’ve collected that evidence. You’ve shown me that I’m not crazy. That makes them happy.”

Robin: So you’re saying that the majority of people you deal with just want assurance that they now know what is going on and they’re not insane?

I would say that 80% of the people that call us just want to make sure that they’re not seeing something and that they’re not crazy.

Robin:  There is a contingent out there, however, that’s scared to death. You’ve met the client group out there that’s scared to death? How do you deal with the scared ones?

Jennifer: Sure. There was one [client] in particular that had called us. They called us at night time and we had to drop everything and get a team and go out there. It was a case of RSPK which is Recurrent, Spontaneous Psycho-kinesis (the current term for poltergeist activity). The popular theory behind poltergeist activity being that there is a human agent that is affecting the environment with their minds.

It had to do with a young female. And after we did an investigation and told her that’s what we felt that the case was,  we explained that the activity was probably coming from her. We explained how the brain works and how the brain functions and how that can happen, and that it’s a natural cause. We explained that it’s been studied under lab conditions and how it has been reproduced and that it’s not a “crazy-person” thing but that it happens more frequently than people understand or recognize. She didn’t want to believe it; she wanted to believe something else. However, after we brought that from her sub-conscious into her conscious by making her aware of it, it stopped.

So a lot of times making someone aware of the fact that it could be them, if it’s P.K. [psycho-kinesis] it will definitely stop it. That happens a lot. A lot of times we’ll hear, “well, I don’t know what you did but it’s gone now.”  Well, we didn’t do anything, we didn’t do anything. Just the fact that we were there and you thought that we were doing something, brought the issue that you were facing in your subconscious to your conscious…It’s the, “O.K., someone is here now and they’re going to take care of me. I’m going to be safe and everything is going to be O.K.” And then in fact, everything is O.K., because the issue is resolved in their  mind. Especially if it’s P.K.; because P.K. is done in their mind. So just by making them aware of it, it solves a lot of them.

Robin: Well, we always wonder if we’re going to come across the truly dangerous investigation. Has your group ever experienced anything…I hate to use the word demonic, but have you ever experienced anything of a questionable nature? Or that was a little frightening for you, perhaps?

Jennifer: Not really. I think there was one time in Milwaukee that I got scratched and that Heather got scratched too. But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it had to do with anything. There was a huge pulse in the electro-magnetic field of the home. I was sitting on the floor and where I got scratched was very level to an outlet.  And I think it could have been ball lightning coming out of that outlet, and it burned my arm coming down. I think that’s pretty much what it was.

I couldn’t tell you for sure, but the area and the circumstance that I was in, watching it on the D.E.A.D. system; we could tell that it was really erratic. So, I’m going to go with the natural explanation because there was no other possible rational explanation for that. But, other than that, when we go into an investigation, it’s a job and we don’t let our emotions get the better of us. And when something happens we’re more likely to say, “All right! Come on let’s do this [laughs].”

I think we use our minds a little more for…patterns. We’re always looking for patterns. Our mindset is a little bit different, we don’t go based off of emotions, or based off our perception, because we have so much equipment.  We can ask, “Oh, hey, did something happen? I felt something.” And you can see in the environment [using our sensors] whether something did change. So if something did change, and I felt something, then I can say wow [laughs] I’m pretty good! I’m able to detect the changes in the electromagnetic field. So that’s the way we look at things. We’re more fascinated than scared. Fear comes from the unknown. Because of what we know about the field we’re less involved and less scared. We bring more research and science into it.

Robin: Are there any specialized pieces of equipment that your group uses that maybe others don’t?

Jennifer: Yeah, we have a Fluxgate  Magnetometer. It is about $15,000 if you’re going to buy it.  It’s very expensive, but it’s very detailed. It’s an electromagnetic field detector, but it collects 400 samples a second. So it gives us a great range of what is going on. I mean you can walk around with those Dr. Gauss and if you happen to get a really big signal you might pick it up.  This thing can detect changes within the whole house. It’s just so sensitive that if anything happens it’s going to detect it.  You can vary the bit rate if you desire. You can set it for one sample per second if you want or up to 400, which is just amazing.

It takes a lot of space on your computer to do it [laughs] but it gives you a really great look at the environment, especially the electromagnetic in the room, because that can just cause havoc.  It can create mood swings in people. What it does is it interrupts your natural brain flow or pattern, the electricity in your brain.  And when that happens you experience things.

Robin: I imagine a lot of groups would love to have a $15,000 detector but...

Jennifer: Well, we’ve been doing this for so long that we just collect as we go.

Robin: So do you charge dues from your members?

Jennifer: We do.

Robin: Do you charge fees for your services?

Jennifer: No. We charge membership one time, and one time only. We’ve got people who have been here for six or seven years that have never paid but once. The website does say we charge a yearly membership. But I tell people if you stay active in the group I’ll never charge you again.  However, if you don’t stay active for over half a year, even if you’re an Associate member, we will drop you out.

 If you stay active in the group you can stay a member for life. However, if you don’t stay active then step aside and let someone else take your spot and be active. I don’t want 600 members who aren’t active.  It just doesn’t make sense.  So they lose their membership. If they want to rejoin again they can. But if you just remain active you would never have to pay again.  It’s an incentive for the people to just stay active.

Robin: How do you screen potential members?

Jennifer: I really don’t. I think everyone has great in them…bad in them. But that’s one of the reasons I charge people to join; because people put more into something that they’re putting their money into.  If they’re a complete nutcase [laughs] we’ll eventually find out. But we’ve got a lot of nutcases in the group that are really good people.  We’ve had a couple of issues where people are just out of their mind, weird, strange, kind of scary…I refund money. I just say, “I don’t think this is the right place for you.”  But I don’t deny anybody. I don’t want it to be like they feel they have to perform in order to be in this group.  I don’t want that. If you want to be in active in this group then we want you.

Robin: So for you it’s more about willingness than credentials.

Jennifer: Yes, but right now we don’t have open membership for onsite members. We’re at our limit for investigators. But it’s still a great opportunity to get involved as an Associate member.  And it’s a great opportunity for us too, to get to know them before we put them in a situation that could be dangerous – for us too.  Before we take someone into an investigation we want to know how they’ll act. So it gives us an opportunity to get to know them before they become an investigator, before we move them up to that place.

We also do full training sessions. We have a manual, not the actual book that you saw, but an actual manual. It’s a members’ manual that is about this thick. And we sit down for a whole day and we train them on every piece of equipment, every theory, everything that we have. So that they’re well informed before we go out on any investigation.

Robin: So we all have our favorite stories, our favorite paranormal experience. So what is yours? What really set your heart racing?

Jennifer: I did have one. It was before I got into the paranormal field. I was 21. I was living with my mom. I was trying to save my money because I was getting married.  My fiancé lived in the house with us.  We lived in the house where my grandparents had lived their entire married life. My grandfather had died in the front room of a heart attack as my brother watched.  It was back in 1977.

My fiancé and I were staying in the room where my grandparents had [lived].  It was in the front of the house. It was the most beautiful room, all the light from outside would come in at night. It was just a very warm and inviting room.

At the time I was working a second-shift job and I wouldn’t get home until around 11 o’clock at night. When I got home my fiancé was already sleeping in bed and my mom in bed too. She was in a bedroom that was way down the hall. 

When you get home late you can’t always go to bed right away.  So I sat up and watched TV for maybe an hour or two.  It was maybe around 1 o’clock when I decided to go to bed. So, I went in and got ready for bed, my fiancé at the other side of the bed. I laid down, and within 2 seconds I felt this breath on my ear. I could hear it. It was whispering so quick and so wispy that I could hear it, but I couldn’t understand what it was saying. \ I could feel it, its hot breath on my ear. And, of course I froze. I thought, “what the… what the heck was that?” But the really weird part was that I could feel the breath on my ear. So I panicked. I pulled the pillow up over my head. I was 21 at the time [laughs], but I was panicked!  And all of a sudden it happened again. It was like the pillow wasn’t even there. I could feel the breath on my ear and I could hear the whispering. And I passed out. I don’t know if it was from fear or what it was. But I don’t remember anything after that.

Of course I never told anyone about it. It was freaking me out.  And three months later, I was talking to my mom about something, and she said I have something to tell you. You’re into that paranormal stuff, and I’ve got to tell you this. I had this really weird thing happen to me last night.”  She was in her bedroom and had the same, exact thing happen with the whispering in the ear. And she described it exactly as I did. I had not told her. But then I did - that I had had the same experience.  It’s never happened since and I can’t explain it. It really got me wondering what it could have been.


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/

No comments:

Post a Comment