by Karen Frazier

Imagine this: You are sitting in your home enjoying a little peace and quiet when a noisy band of people burst through your front door. They are carrying all sorts of stuff you don't really recognize - it looks like something out of science fiction. Some of it is so unfamiliar, it frightens you a bit. You try to ask who they are and what they want, but you can't seem to make them hear, see, or understand you. Instead, they start roaming all around your house without permission. Some of the language they use shocks you. Worse, sometimes they actually talk to you, and not very nicely. They ask you the same questions over and over, but ignore your answers. If it was just the one group of home invaders, you might feel a little traumatized, but with time you'd probably get over it. Unfortunately, it's wave after wave of these people, coming week after week with the same questions and expectations.

Then, one glorious weekend, you finally manage to get someone to hear you! "Please leave," you say. "I just want some time alone." Perhaps you don't say it with words. Maybe you make a sound or make something move.

Instead of affording you the respect you long for, however, one of the idiot invaders says to you, "Look - if you want us to leave, all you have to do is say it, and we'll leave you alone. Just use this device in my hand to make a word. Do it, and we'll go."

The device is futuristic and unfamiliar. You tinker with it for a little bit, but it's so exhausting to do so. Then, miracle of miracles, you actually make it say one word. "Go."

The group of invaders gets really excited. "It responded!" they say. Instead of leaving you alone as they said they would, the redouble their efforts, asking you the same questions over and over again. You slink off, dejected and knowing that next week, you're going to have to go through the exact same thing again.

The above story is a little heavy handed, I know. Yet - I wonder if there is some kernel of truth to it. After all, the most common theory of ghosts is they are people without bodies. They are consciousness carried on. They are the same as you and me, only we still have physical bodies and they don't.

I have a 16-year-old son. If I could teach him only one thing in his entire life, I think the lesson I would want him to receive from me is this: treat others the way you want to be treated. This is the most important tenet in my life. While I often make missteps in following this directive (sorry to that guy in traffic I flipped the bird to the other day), it remains my core philosophy with my fellow souls - both living and dead.

I was originally going to title this blog, "Compassionate Ghost Hunting." I chose a longer and less snazzy title, however, because I have a real problem with the term ghost hunting. It implies a lack of compassion and respect for our fellow souls. We wouldn't say, for instance, we were going "people hunting" if we were tracking down live people. So why on earth would we hunt people without bodies? Regardless of whether I was living or dead, I sure as heck wouldn't want someone to hunt me.

As paranormal investigators, we're naturally excited about what we do. We remain passionate in our search for the truth, and we employ what we believe are creative solutions to open communication with those on the other side. In that eager quest for evidence, however, I think we sometimes forget we are dealing with fellow souls who deserve the same courtesy, compassion, and respect we would offer our loved ones.

I believe spirits have the same free will we do. I also believe they retain the personalities and emotions they had in life. This is something I always try to remember when I investigate - that I am dealing with souls deserving of the same decency and kindness I believe I deserve from others.

Spirits are here for a reason. While I don't believe they are trapped souls, I do feel many remain out of confusion, unfinished business, a specific karmic path, or to watch over those they love. Others may not realize they have the choice to move on. Some may have gone years without human acknowledgement. Others may be frustrated at their lack of effectiveness when it comes to communication. All are worthy of our compassion, which is something we all would do well to remember when we investigate.

Guidelines for Compassionate Investigation

You are, of course, welcome to investigate in any way you wish, just as you are welcome to interact with living humans however you chose. If you'd like to include compassion as part of your investigative style, I offer you the following guidelines.
  1. Treat spirits the way you'd like others to treat you.
  2. Introduce yourself.
  3. Explain why you are there and what you're hoping to achieve.
  4. Always keep your promises.
  5. If asked to leave, do it - without asking for multiple confirmations of it.
  6. When you receive communication, acknowledge it and thank the spirit.
  7. Don't make demands.
  8. Don't expect spirits to perform for you.
  9. Explain all your equipment as you set it up, and show the spirits the various ways they can use it to communicate if they choose.
  10. Don't provoke.
  11. Instead of demanding information, ask how you can help or if the spirits need anything from you.
  12. If it feels as if you are upsetting a spirit with what you are doing, switch to something else.
  13. Remember that many spirits probably come from a time when things were a little different. Coarse language may shock them and your instruments may scare or confuse them. 
  14. Talk to the spirits. Tell them what year it is and what's going on in the world today.
  15. Don't demand a spirit leave. Instead, share options with them and tell them they have a choice.
  16. Sit quietly and see what you pick up. Spirit communication can be quite subtle.
  17. Try for real-time communication. You can do this by listening to audio recordings a few times during the EVP session, using a ghost box, or trying some other kind of a communication device. Explain exactly how you hope to accomplish real-time communication thoroughly so the spirit understands.
  18. Be patient, and don't express frustration.
  19. Go into an investigation in a peaceful state. If you're ticked off at someone, keep it away from the investigation.
  20. Don't mix your spirits (in other words, don't drink or take other mind altering substances while you investigate.)
  21. Have respect for hallowed ground.
  22. When you are ready to leave, thank the spirits and tell them when and if they can expect to see you again.