How Do I Find Out...?
Okay, BEFORE heading to your place of investigation, DO SOME HOMEWORK if you can. Here's a list of questions you should answer for yourself before assembling your team...
#1: What are the original reported phenomena?
#2: How many times in the past has similar phenomena been reported?
#3: Is there (locally) a natural phenomenon that might cause the reported "disturbance"?
#4: Is there historical precedent for the phenomena?
Okay, let's break it down...
When you received your report from your initial contact, what did they say happened to them? Did it happen to them or can you contact the person it did happen to? First hand reports are always best for accuracy. Not much to go on when you get the "Friend of a friend's barber's Aunt's Second Cousin, twice removed best friend's teacher in Grade six" report. I'm certain you get the idea.
Next, how many OTHER people have experienced this? Can you contact them? Are their stories documented somewhere in a book, newspaper or something else? There's no harm in asking just be careful HOW and WHO you ask. Although most public buildings don't mind having people look into their ghosts, what if your witness is not comfortable with even speaking to YOU about it, DO NOT cop out when talking to neighbors or librarians by saying "Mr./Mrs./Ms. _______ is looking for information on the ghost in their house and I'm doing the research!" In some areas, this is as good as planting a BIG sign on their lawn saying...
"THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED ACCORDING TO THE NUTBARS THAT DWELL WITHIN. PLEASE RIDICULE THEM AT YOUR LEISURE. THEIR NAMES ARE __________. ALSO, TEENAGERS AND GENERAL TROUBLE MAKERS ARE INVITED TO SCREW AROUND, TRESSPASS AND/OR VANDALIZE THE PROPERTY AT WILL AS EITHER A JOKE OR A CHEAP THRILL. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME".
Ask yourself how you would feel if you were the property owner.
Remember, YOU are doing the investigation because someone has given you a lead IF you must admit to why you're asking and BE 100% SURE that the person you are telling this to is trustworthy. (i.e.: Asking the fifteen-year-old skateboarder from across the street may NOT be such a good idea.)
Question 3 may seem kind of silly BUT I'm sure that in Niagara Falls, there lives someone who KNOWS their home is haunted because late at night, they hear growling, grumbling noises in their basement. Now, how close are they to the falls? Do underground streams run under their home? You can find this out at the local land registrar's office if they have no clue.
AGAIN, remember, handle your information with care if you disprove someone's theories of their ghost... To them, the rushing water of an underground stream scared the willies out of them and even if you have chapter and verse PROVING it's a stream making the noise, they may insist you do a thorough investigation, and you should. Sensitive recording equipment is good for this.
Do not just make assumptions on what you may feel is the "obvious." This is unfair to the witness, and not at all scientific.
Question four is often difficult and can lead to the REALLY nasty encounters of the very human kind. NEVER, if it can be avoided, say you're asking about the ghost UNLESS you are 100% sure the person with whom you're speaking is okay with your investigation.
Please read "Assessing the Story" for some tips to handle this...
On a historic building, such as Fort York or MacKenzie House, asking the staff is NOT a bad idea and if you approach gently, I'm sure you will get a very good response.
On private homes, it's FAR more difficult...
The land registrar's office can help with who owned the property and what was originally on the property.
Neighbors and librarians MAY have some extra information. AGAIN, handle your questions with care.
Of course you already HAVE asked the person who reported the phenomena if they have any clues as to the history of the place or even the "person" the ghost might be associated with, RIGHT?!?
IF you have found that a particular home had a rather nasty history such as a murder or the like, TRY to get an exact date and head to the library to check the local newspapers for the reports of who might have been involved.
And remember in cases involving tragedies be SENSITIVE, and use your common sense in regards to the feelings of everyone involved.
ANY good researcher knows that a single source doth not a good report make. Be as thorough as you can. NEVER be afraid to draw on the resources from within the GHRS or from friends of the GHRS.
Also, make sure that you're not re-doing the work someone's already done! Check out the local "ghost books" to see if someone's already done some leg work for you (MAKE SURE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR!) or browse the site(s) on the internet. It is always good to consider other people's findings, you may even be able to discover something new or add to the existing data!