‘Guidance Notes for Investigators of Spontaneous Cases’ by Steve T. Parsons (SPR)

Steve Parsons updates the SPR Guidance Notes…

Steve Parsons has done a fantastic job in putting together the new SPR Guidance Notes for Investigators of Spontaneous Cases, replacing the previous Guidance Notes from the SPR on the subject with a much more up to date version. After reading through my own copy I wanted to take a little time to put together a quick review for you all to gain a brief understanding of this little book and why like a MEL Metre, you should probably have a copy in your paranormal kit bag.

As soon as you pick up the 67 page book its evident that you’re holding a structured professional set of instructions. Just looking through the various sections and sub-sections you can immediately see the great detail the Guidance Notes go into. Even if you’ve been investigating for years I think this book is great to have in order to help layout the requirements of your investigation.

Good structured start…

Parsons does a really good job of structuring the book in a format that delivers the content in an ordered fashion. There’s an overview of investigating spontaneous cases, types of phenomena and also types of information right at the front. Although this may seem relatively logical and some may feel they understand those areas already. However I think Parsons coverage of these areas is actually imperative to giving the reader and potential investigator great background to this area of the investigation process.

As we start the book you will find that the very first section outlines the potential aims for an investigation to the reader, something in my opinion that may have been lost by many over the years. In order to do this Parsons has laid out just four top level aims to be considered whilst investigating spontaneous cases. Aims which simply look at establishing the nature of the phenomena, if it could be fraud and then studying it. It was whilst reading this section that I thought that perhaps in the past, like many ghost hunters I may had jumped the first few sections and simply headed off on my overnight investigation. Although whilst dealing with a possibly haunted public location this may not be a huge problem, it does for me ask the question; are we really investigating correctly in order to gather good detail for future analysis? Probably not!

In fact Parsons doesn’t get into the actual on site investigation until much later in the book. Before hand he takes the time to discuss other considerations, such as gathering top level information and talking to the witnesses before even considering to investigate. This is something you don’t often hear about in the field today. These days its seems as soon as someone says their home is haunted a group will appear and hold an overnight investigation. Problem is, as Parsons eludes to, often an investigation may not be required at the location and if it does the it will more likely have a specific time frame when activity is believed to occur. For example, if the activity always takes place around 2pm then an overnight investigation would be likely unnecessary and yield few results if any. It was really good to see this simple, but extremely valid point made in the book.

The book goes on to cover some good investigation principles such as obtaining information from multiple witnesses, background historical information and much more. Parsons even explains the differences of information types. What I also found particularly good was that the point was made that the investigator should make the witness aware that they don’t have to answer all the questions put to them. Equally they don’t have to justify why they don’t wish to answer certain questions either, as investigators we shouldn’t be interrogating our witnesses. This may seem a little strange and perhaps problematic in regards to the investigation, but it does remind us that we are not there to attribute blame or pressure the witnesses into providing information regarding the case. We are seeking an understanding of the phenomena

Parsons makes a valid point in that the witness and/or location owner needs to be able to trust the investigator as for many this could be a very private matter. The information around the investigation may be very personal too, so should be treated confidentially. Hence why we should not push the witness to answer questions they don’t wish to. Through interviewing multiple witnesses and then conducting detailed research, we should be able to build a reasonable picture of the situation.

Keeping notes and records…

Which brings me to one of my favourite sections of the book for obvious reasons; ‘Keeping Notes and Records’. Obviously right from the outset you should start keeping notes in order to keep a complete record. However Parsons also mentions something I total agree with; during the actual investigation all those involved should keep their own notes too. Perhaps this would be a great point to mention my ‘Paranormal Investigators Journal’, as its an excellent tool to help log information throughout your investigation. These notes should be time logged and the entire team should assure their time pieces are synched before they start. This way if multiple people witness the same event, then their perspectives will be logged. Equally if only one person in a group witnesses the phenomena, then that may help our understanding greater too. Parsons also highlights that the individuals should log as much as possible, not only that which seems unusual. This way the full picture can be obtained. These days many groups do this using video cameras or CCTV, which is great, personally I think adding written notes also adds great value to the case too. That way we can gather larger amounts of data not he case.

Equipment also gets a good mention by Parsons, which isn’t a huge surprise considering many teams out there use varying types of kit today. However proper use of the equipment is outlined and also the best methods for capturing good data to support your investigation. For example, baseline readings are good if used correctly and its equally understood that taking multiple readings throughout the investigation is good practice too. Parsons also states though that gathering huge amounts of data can simply swamp the investigator. Which is a valid point as we are looking for patterns, hence we must understand our data and its limitations too.

Reaching conclusions…

A we reach the end of the book Parsons talks about ‘Reaching a Conclusion’, something many of us have been faced with as our investigations draw to a close. Perhaps something many of us have done due to those TV shows concluding with a big reveal! However this section of the book makes a fantastic point, although as investigators we may feel the need to conclude or suggest why the phenomena may occur, we shouldn’t without proper conclusive evidence. Jumping to a conclusion could lead to labelling the phenomena as something its not and providing the client with improper understanding of what is actually going on.

All in all Parsons has done a good job in my opinion in updating the ‘Guidance Notes for Investigators of Spontaneous Cases’ delivering a current version that will be very useful to any new investigators and ghost hunters out there today. Even if you’ve been investigating a while its worth grabbing a copy to guide your future investigations. We need more things like this to help define standard processes that we can all follow when investigating.

Buy Guidance Notes for Investigators of Spontaneous Cases…

If you would like to buy a copy of ‘Guidance Notes for Investigators of Spontaneous Cases’ by Steve T. Parsons, simply click on this link to go to the SPR website to purchase it directly.

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