So what is a paranormal investigator to do? Last week over on the National Paranormal Society Facebook page, the question was posed of what to bring to an investigation when weather, especially winter weather, threatens the health and safety of your team. Snow, ice, high winds and low temperatures all can lead to their own problems on an investigation and need to be addressed. I thought my response there was adequate, but felt like this was an important topic to discuss and expand upon.
BEFORE THE INVESTIGATION
If you have an investigation planned during the winter months, keep an eye on the forecast. If the forecast predicts severe winter weather, decide as a team (or make the executive decision as a lead investigator/founder) whether or not the investigation is really worth it. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is this investigation strictly for fun, or is there a client needing help?
2. If this investigation is at a pay-to-play location, what is their inclement weather policy? Can the investigation be rescheduled or canceled with full/partial refund?
3. How far away is the investigation location? Is the route to the location generally safe during severe weather, or do curvy, hilly roads, heavy traffic or other obstacles make the route unsafe?
4. If there is a client needing help, can they reschedule for another day? Can you provide assistance over the phone or through email? If they are some distance away from you, is there a team closer by that can assist?
5. Is the investigation indoors or outdoors? If indoors, does the location have heat?
If for any reason you do not feel comfortable, listen to your gut! Your safety and the safety of your team are the most important things; you can't help others if you're in danger or injured yourself! Since weather can be so unpredictable for many areas in the winter, a lot of teams lighten their caseload considerably...but that doesn't mean they cannot still make a contribution to the paranormal field.
The slower winter months are great for in-depth research of upcoming cases, studying, reading and taking classes. There are tons of great FREE online courses in a variety of subjects that are of interest and benefit to paranormal investigators. This is also a great time to catch up on evidence review, reach out to potential new clients, network with other investigators, write a blog or an article, and many other things that can be done within the safety and warmth of one's own home.
But sometimes, we just gotta go ahead with the investigation! Maybe its a location we've been looking forward to forever, or a client desperately needs help...or the weather just doesn't seem like its going to be that bad, but then later it gets worse. What are some things you can do and bring to keep yourself safe and warm through an investigation that is simply cold, to one that turns into a blizzardy mess?
1. Dress in layers! Layers provide extra warmth through air trapped in between and should you get too warm, its always easy to peel off those extra layers. Invest in a good pair of 'long underwear.'
2. Don't forget the hat, scarf, mittens/gloves, and earmuffs! Definitely don't forget a good pair of warm socks. Keep as much of your body covered as possible.
3. Make sure you wear a good pair of water-resistant shoes/boots with a strong, non-skid sole. Even if you're investigating a toasty warm private residence, there might still be slippery patches of ice on the walkway.
4. Hand, foot and body warmers are cheap and provide excellent warmth for chilly investigations.
5. You might consider adding a bright, neon colored accessory, such as a hat just in case you get stranded outside in the snow and need to be visible!
WHAT TO PACK
1. First aid kit, especially handy for slips on the ice. Make sure it includes items to specifically address these types of injuries in addition to its normal contents.
2. Extra handwarmers!
3. Emergency or wool blankets
4. High energy snacks, such as protein bars and plenty of extra water
5. Poncho, to help stay dry
6. Fully charged cell phone
7. Cash (in case you find yourself stuck at a country gas station that doesn't accept plastic)
8. A bag of salt to help melt ice around walkways
WINTERIZING THE VEHICLE
If you're going to be out traveling in winter weather to an investigation, whether its several hours away or just a few minutes away, its nice to have a vehicle that you know can hold up to whatever life throws at you. My ideal winter vehicle here in Appalachia would be a 4 wheel drive vehicle with snow tires and/or chains. Also consider:
1. Check the tire pressure, fluids, etc. before your trip and make sure you have a winterized windshield wiper fluid.
2. Jumper cables and/or a battery starter, since cold weather can often wreak havoc on a car's battery.
3. The necessary tools needed to pull a vehicle out of a ditch, such as a tow rope.
4. Gravel/sand/kitty litter and a shovel in case you get stuck
5. Car emergency kit, with flares and a small fire extinguisher
6. Map, in case the usual route is shut down or blocked
7. Always tell someone outside the team where you're going, when you're expected back, and what route you plan on taking.
8. A can of Fix-a-Flat or spare tire/jack.
1. You might want to bring a small space-heater to a particularly cold investigation. However, if you're going to bring a space heater indoors, please use it responsibly. Make sure its set up far enough away from any walls or any other objects and NEVER leave it unattended, even for a moment.
2. I do not advise using fire to keep warm, even at an outdoor location, unless it is a life or death emergency. If it comes to that, use general fire safety, never leave the flame unattended, and make sure it is put out completely when you leave.
3. Beware of weather and seasonal related false positives:
*Carbon monoxide poisoning has symptoms that some people mistake for paranormal activity and is more likely in the winter when people are running their heaters.
*Rodents and other animals seeking shelter from the elements may take up residence in walls, attics and basements. This can result in scratching, other noises, and strange smells.
*Howling winds can cause strange noises, and can seep in through doors, windows, roofs, chimneys and wall cracks, causing hard to track drafts.
*Falling temperatures during the night combined with the sun raising them in the day can cause building materials to expand and contract, making plenty of noises.
*Breath is likely to show up in photos and may be mistaken for mists, ectoplasm, etc.
Always use common sense and keep safety a top priority! Right now, we want to investigate ghosts...not become one!