Wednesday, August 31, 2005


CHARGING DOES NOT MAKE ONE UNETHICAL or UNPROFFESIONAL, in fact, the exact opposite is usually true.

There is much debate in the paranormal world lately about charging for services or training. Many are upset with groups like TAPS for doing TV shows and like to point fingers at any groups who charge for goods or services or ask for donations. It seems that many feel that if anyone charges or gets paid for anything, then they are not reputable and are out to scam everyone.

"The real ghost hunters work for FREE!" they say. BUT.....

It takes money to run a quality website. It takes money to run quality investigations (now it can take a week’s wages just to pay for the gas to drive to that haunted house!). It takes money to put together quality training materials. It takes money to run a ghost hunters organization. It takes money to buy sensitive scientific equipment and high tech electronics. It takes money so that people even have time to do this.

It takes money to do just about anything. So why would anyone expect you to do ghost hunting totally for free? What, because you can’t guarantee your work or prove you are absolutely right about anything?

We don't think like this with other professions. Lawyers, Doctors and even Plumbers and Car Mechanics charge a lot for their services. They too can't guarantee the outcome of a procedure or even prove their views are correct or will not be proven wrong next week. Yet we are happy to pay what they ask for their valuable services, all while knowing they profess to only be "practicing" their professions and nothing they say is set in stone.

Keeping you free, healthy, clean and moving seems to demand a high price, one many Americans and most of the rest of the world can't even afford. Yet we don't call these people "unethical" or "unprofessional" because they charge us, we actually expect them to charge us a lot!

The excuses I hear people use to defend this sad reality usually fall along these lines: They worked hard to get their education, things like good equipment, well trained staff and insurance cost lot's of money and besides, do we expect these valuable people to just work for free?

How would they feed their families or give their children a quality education and a nice place to live? What kind of quality legal representation, health services or repairs can one really expect for free anyway? Why would anyone spend all their time doing these jobs if they didn't pay well?

And there is truth there. People do deserve to be compensated for the time it took to learn their trades or to teach what they know to others. People do deserve to be able to afford a decent life and to provide for their families. People should expect to get the best quality they can afford for their hard earned money.

We all know "The more they charge, the better they must be." "You get what you pay for" and "free usually equals CRAP" is how we look at things as a society in general. Besides, it's usually true.

So why is the world of the paranormal so different? Why is it that if someone in the paranormal asks for even the smallest donation to buy a new camera or cleverly uses the media's pocketbook to get themselves some decent equipment, sweet cars or to be able to afford more research, then they instantly become "unethical" or "unprofessional" and others will put them down for it?

Why is it that if someone asks for $5 for a CD of white noise that most people wouldn't have a clue how to make on their own, then they must be scamming you or "out to get rich"?

So many in the ghost hunting community seem to be saying "Look at me! I'm doing it for free so I'm better than everyone else!" and Mr. Snider of the Crawford County Ghost Hunters, seems to go even further by attacking the Haunted Voices staff and Mr. Todd Bates directly for charging $5 for a CD of white noise, which he personally doesn't feel is the best background for EVP recording.

I’ll say this about his opinion: I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's right. And I definitely don't think this general "you can't charge" attitude everyone seems to have is the way to get any kind of real "scientific study" done to further our knowledge and understanding of EVP or to give serious paranormal researchers any respect in the eyes of the general public.

I don't think it's fair:

I was at the meeting where it was decided to charge for some of the services on HV. I was one who was encouraging it since I know how much money it can cost to run a website such as this and how much time it takes to make it run smoothly.

HV offers many valuable products and services that people are more than willing to pay for. I don't see a problem with charging users a reasonable fee for things like advanced training and hard copy materials so the all volunteer staff can afford to make it even better than it already is.

Folks, the land of Free is unfortunately a dream. I wish it were not so, but bandwidth costs money and audio files take up a lot of it; hosting space costs money and again, large audio files and huge forum databases take up a lot of it; cool templates and custom programming costs money and time; chat rooms cost money and time, developing DVD's or CD's and their printed training materials costs a lot of money and time, and how willing would each of you be to use your home telephone or personal cell phone to provide three hours of training in your specialty to other people almost every night while footing the bill yourself? These things cost money. It’s a simple reality.

If HV keeps growing at this rate, it will go broke. That's a fact of life when running community websites and the crumbled ruins of millions of other sites who also thought they could provide advanced features to thousands of users for free litter the information superhighway. If HV is not destined to join them on the roadside, it needs a modest income to support its self as it grows. Technology costs money, and the funny thing is, it’s really not that much at all.

But it's not fair to ask Todd and his family or the families of the staff to go without things while we all enjoy the fruits of his and everyone else's labor for free. We pay handsomely for our entertainment, social events, and continuing education in the real world and while we usually wish it were cheaper, we don't expect those people to give us these things for free.

I believe it's unfair to expect anyone to give up their valuable time and energy teaching you or entertaining you or making you nice things without giving them something of value in return, especially when they are asking a tenth of what a giant corporation would while providing a better product.

We've all got bills to pay and families to feed. We don’t work for free at our jobs and it’s unfair to ask other people to work for free too.

It is not right:

Todd was totally against charging for anything except the few bucks for CD's because that’s exactly how much they cost him to make. He was willing to provide the three hours of FREE telephone training to anyone who might ask and even three or four more for advanced training without charge. He was willing to manage an ever growing community of affiliate groups by himself and provide them all with constant technical advice and support.

He was willing to give up hundreds and even thousands of hours of his time and talents so that people could have a nice place to learn more and share their knowledge about EVP.

He is definitely a man on a mission to share EVP with the world, but reality has come to roost and he is quickly going broke trying to save the world by himself. It just goes against his nature to charge for this stuff even if every single penny does go right back into the site along with many more that come straight from his family’s pocket. He was obviously angry that we even had to discuss it and I’m sure it was physically painful for him to finally make the hard decision to charge for anything.

After all Todd and the Haunted Voices staff have done, even if you don't agree with their methods or theories, it is just plain rude to exclaim they are in this for money. No body gets rich off EVP, and to even argue such a point is just plain silly. If anyone is planning on using EVP to get rich, take this ghostly advice from a pretty famous EVP recording and: "GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!"

The VOLUNTEER staff worked hard for hours to figure out ways to charge the least amount of money possible and still pay the bills. That sure doesn’t sound like greedy folks to me.

Free can't mean good science and besides, the public doesn’t respect free.

Every group says they are out to conduct "scientific" study, yet they try and do it for free and with the gear and training they can afford on such a budget. Does this really sound like the way to conduct "science" or to have your research taken seriously by anyone? I mean no offense to any group when I say “No, it’s not”.

After 60+ years of study, the world has still proven ZIP about the true nature of the Electronic Voice Phenomenon. One reason I got so interested in EVP in the first place, is that I thought this would seem to be the simplest way to prove, once and for all, something in the paranormal realm.

What more convincing evidence can one get then a disembodied voice answering specific questions on tape? How hard would it really be to prove it's not radio waves or our imaginations messing with us?

But I want to see some real science. I want structured experiments. I want to see environmental readings other then from a cheap thermometer or a radio shack EMF meter designed to find electrical wires in a wall. I want to see hypotheses written down and methodical research done to prove them. I want to see serious researchers trading data and working together to find the methods that work best while avoiding unnecessary duplication of things that have failed.

I say enough of the free host websites featuring "trust me! My $20 memo recorder and I really were in the empty cemetery with no one else around. Doesn't it sound like someone says 'get out', and isn't that really scary?" It's not convincing to the general public and I feel just fuels the scorn paranormal researchers must endure. That kind of thing might be fun and indeed pretty scary for people to listen to, but it's not science and it proves nothing.

I want to see video of the microphone and the surrounding area to prove it's not someone faking it. I want multiple recording devices going to make sure it's not some ambient noise or to try and locate the source by triangulation or spatial computer modeling. I want to see more creative engineering and experimentation in the devices used to capture EVP and more people seeking grants to fund such in depth research.

I want to see different types of recording equipment used to try and figure out exactly how it's being done and who might be doing it. I want to see long term coordinated study of the same locations by different groups to see if you consistently get the same voice and I want to see some attempts to initiate conversations with whoever is responsible for the mysterious voices you do record.

Enough of the scary ghost stories and “reality” TV shows where computer generated skulls come out of the windows of expensive New Orleans restaurants looking for free publicity. I want to see proof! I want to see science. And I don't think you can get either without some money, perhaps serious money.

If the string of paranormal TV shows has taught us anything, it should be that money can’t buy you love, but it sure does buy some cool electronics and comfortable cars while also opening the doors to places you never even knew existed!

I can’t understand how any ghost hunter can conduct serious research or expect to be taken seriously by the general public when they so proudly hail “We don’t charge anything and never paid a dime for any of our training or equipment! Those who do are frauds!”

That just seems unnatural and somewhat paranormal to me. Imagine what you would say to the scientist who told you the same thing! However, my views on this particular topic are often criticized by ghost hunters the world over.

As a matter of fact, when Todd and I first met, we had a rather heated discussion about using multiple recording devices and being more "scientific" when recording for EVP. I had criticized in my blog some things he had posted about the methods he uses when conducting investigations. He advised his students to stick to recording and not burden themselves with all sorts of techno gadgets which is exactly what I wanted to see more of!

He felt very strongly that the use of cameras, thermal imaging and multiple audio or other recording devices would make it harder for EVP to be generated by the “spirits” and all that technology would simply distract the researcher from the recording process.

I felt very strongly that all that equipment was needed to conduct serious scientific research to capture some real hard evidence so the study of EVP might finally get some serious funding or at least not be completely blown off by the general public.

Over the last few months we have learned from each other and come to respect one another’s opinions. Heck, look at me now I even joined his staff to try and do what I can to help out!

The simple fact is that no one knows what EVP really is or how best to study it. But I don't think anyone ever will with a budget of zero!

Work for free if you must, but if others wish to donate to the cause or if ghost hunters choose to charge for some hard copy materials or advanced training, don't point your finger at them and say they are unprofessional. I think the exact opposite might just be true.