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Friday, 10 November 2006
Below is a list of key points that should be considered when performing an investigation.

Research
Once a location has been identified, one member of the team should conduct as much research into the venue as possible. This includes looking at plans, and legends relating to the place in question. Initial interviewing of witnesses by the researcher may also be conducted at this time. The researcher should, at this time, keep their findings confidential until after the investigation so as not to prejudice the investigation.

A tour of the location
This comes in two parts: a “base line” tour, and the investigation. During the “base line” tour a number of readings will be taken (average temperature of locations, EMF readings, etc.). Also, a plan of the location will be produced. The “base line” tour usually takes place a short time before the investigation to try to be as close to a “control” reading as possible. The Investigation is self-explanatory and is covered in the following points.

Vigils
The vigils are usually carried out during darkness hours because there is little ambient noise so unusual sounds can be heard more easily. In addition, it is easier for light anomalies to be seen. The vigils can be static or mobile, meaning that the team will either stay in one spot for a certain length of time, or they will move around the location.

Photography and constant filming
During the investigation photographs will be taken. It is helpful if the time that each picture can be recorded. For digital pictures this is not a problem, but for 35mm pictures some other form of record needs to be made. It is a good idea for the photographer to announce each picture as a number (e.g. 1,2,3,etc.) As the investigation is being continuously filmed by one of the observers, the video camera’s microphone will pick up the photographer’s calls. These can then be matched with the time display on the video film. The investigation should be filmed on video camera to pick up any missed photo opportunities.

Note taking
Notes should be made during the investigation, which can then be cross-referenced, with any photographs taken. Anything of note should be recorded, including: sounds, sights, smells, temperature changes, personal feelings of the investigation team, and any experiments carried out.

Evidence collection
Attempts should be made to obtain evidence that supports paranormal theories, or offers a rational explanation, during an investigation. This can be done through the use of “trigger” objects, and dustings. A “trigger” object is an object with a clearly defined edge that is placed on a piece of plain paper. The edge is drawn around and the “trigger” is left in a secluded location. The idea is to see whether the trigger object moves. It is a good idea to have the “trigger” covered by a motion sensor and, where possible, a video camera. The use of dusting is an age-old technique where flour or talcum powder is dusted lightly in an area where “hauntings” have occurred. Should something occur then the powder layer can be examined to see whether there is any evidence of human or animal interference e.g. footprints.

Debrief
After the investigation, a full debrief should take place as soon as possible in a “safe” environment. Ideally, each member should make a note of their experience (if any) in private and place their notes in an envelope. This removes the possibility of their description being influenced by any other team member. During the debrief, photographs (when available) and video footage should be analysed, and minutes of the debrief taken. Criticism of the investigation should be constructive at all times.

Witness interviews
It may be necessary to conduct witness interviews with anyone present on the investigation after the event to obtain a more in depth account of any experience. The notes made during the investigation and the private notes made during the debrief should always be used at this point.

Evaluations
When all the evidence has been gathered, the investigation team should come together with all of the information obtained and discuss their findings. Rational explanations should be discussed and assessed on a balance of probability. As a result of the evaluation it may be deemed necessary for a revisit to occur to obtain further evidence, and/or conduct further experiments.

Conclusion
When the investigation team has come to a conclusion all persons concerned in the investigation (e.g. witnesses and property owners) should be informed of the conclusion and offered a copy of the report.
 
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