Every October brings renewed interest from the general public about the paranormal: spirits, strange phenomenon and other instances of the unexplained.
Then there are those who live the paranormal 365 days a year. In New England -- the region believed to be the American epicenter of paranormal activity – the non-profit Connecticut Paranormal Research Society works to provide insight into the inexplicable and shed light on “anomalous activity,” and even help facilitate the growth of careers in the field. The CPRS aids clients experiencing everything from “uneasiness…to physical assaults” by researching and analyzing mysterious circumstances. There are other such groups around the nation, and more popping up all the time. But CPRS co-founders Joe Franke and Orlando Ferrante said much goes into paranormal research that differentiates the real thing from the dramatized.
“This kind of work isn’t for everybody,” Franke says. “You’re dealing with people’s lives and emotions, which means we must weed out cases of curiosity and thrill seekers.”
Paranormal research has gained notoriety in recent years, thanks to the success of cable TV programs like “Ghost Hunters” and the successful Paranormal Activity film franchise. TV and film provide a different perception of the painstaking processes paranormal researchers employ when on a case.
“Our work can’t be fit into…a 22-minute segment with commercials,” Franke says. “Movies would have you believe there are demons around every corner.”
Though different from how it’s portrayed in media, paranormal examination is still quite fascinating. The entire process is very much like detective work, as researchers like Franke and Ferrante collect as much data and evidence as they can. They do this by capturing a location’s environment throughout the case study by using video and audio recordings. Better quality equipment improves the quality of the evidence researchers find, and makes the process easier.
“Research has evolved because of [advancements in] technology,” Ferrante says. Of course, he adds that paranormal researchers must know their way around digital recording devices and a variety of cameras.
Bill Willkens, operator of the world’s largest paranormal organization directory ParanormalSocieties.com, also emphasized the value of tech savvy in this industry.
“[Those working with the] technical [aspect] and equipment…will need to solve problems on the fly in regards to equipment malfunctions and power issues. Researchers need to be patient, thorough, and skilled in interviewing,” he said. “Case managers also must be patient and be able to extract information from clients no matter how sensitive the situation. And investigators need to be impartial and level headed. They cannot jump to conclusions and need to have a well rounded knowledge of all the equipment they use, and when to use it.”
However, the most important requirement of a paranormal researcher is strength: “mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” Franke says.
Patience is also a virtue. Ferrante says the group has been on cases that can last several months. However, cases are not business ventures, says Franke. Rather, the reward at the end is bringing a person comfort, he says.
If spending your days working with ghosts has you tingling, here are examples of year-round careers in the paranormal field: