If you have an unexpected encounter with a ghost or a weird creature, here's what you should do to document it and report it
YOU'RE VACATIONING IN an old hotel. You step out of the bathroom, and there at the window is a semi-transparent figure in Civil War-era dress. It's a ghost! But what do you do? You do you tell? How?
Or let's say you're camping up in the mountains. With your fishing gear in hand you clear the woods at the trout stream. Standing at the water's edge is a 7-foot hairy creature. It's Bigfoot! Wait until everyone hears about this! But what's the proper way to report such a sighting?
Unexpected encounters with ghosts and weird creatures, such as Bigfoot, make up some of the best evidence we have for these phenomena. You can't just rely on your memory to report these sightings, however; there are specific things you should do to help ensure that your experience is documented accurately. This will help not only with your own credibility, but with any subsequent investigation as well.
The steps below are meant for people who unexpectedly encounter strange phenomena, such as ghosts, weird creatures, poltergeist activity, etc. They are not designed for paranormal research groups or ghost hunting groups, who should have their own protocols for documenting their investigations.
WHAT TO DO
These steps should be taken as soon after the experience as possible, while it is all fresh in your mind.
- Get hard evidence. If at all possible and you have a camera handy, try to get photographs. Even if it's with a cell phone camera, a low-resolution photo is better than none at all. If you can get an image, it will increase the credibility of your story manyfold. If you have a voice recorder, record what you see as it is happening.
- Physical evidence. If it's a creature, see if you can get photos of footprints or other physical evidence it might have left. Collect hair or stool samples, if possible.
- Time and place. Write down the exact time and place where you saw the phenomenon. In as much detail as you can, note everything you saw, every action. If you didn't have a camera, make drawings.
- More details. Make note of its size, shape, color, gender. How far away from you was it? (Measure if you can.) How did it move? Did it speak or make noise? Did it see you and react to you? What did it do?
- Sensory details. Was there a distinct odor or fragrance? How did it make you feel? Did it affect you physically in any way?
- Other witnesses. If there were other people with you who witnessed the event, record their names, ages, addresses and occupations.
- Location. Note the exact geographic location of the sighting. This is especially important if you're out in the wilderness. Otherwise, record the building name, room number, street, city and country.
- Environment. Note the time of day, lighting, weather conditions - even if you're indoors. Was it sunny, brightly lit, dim lighting, overcast, dark, moon-lit, raining?
- Sky position. If it was a flying creature, where in the sky was it: north, south east or west? How fast was it moving? Estimate its size in relation to something else in the environment.
- History. Does the location have a history of ghost sightings, haunting activity or previous sightings of weird creatures?
- Your story. From your notes, write a narrative of your experience, just as it happened. Tell it like a story, but do not exaggerate, make assumptions or add elements to make the story more interesting. Stick to the facts.
- Other stories. If there were other witnesses to the event, have them write their own stories. Do not consult with each other during this writing; you want each story from each person's perspective.
- Make a formal report. Report all this information you have documented to a respected paranormal research group. (Do not give them your original materials; give them copies.) You can also provide the information to an established paranormal website, like this one.
Here are some places where you can send your information:
(With thanks to Billy Booth, About.com Guide to UFOs/Aliens.)