As I wrote last week, historical data can deepen your investigation and help you to better relate to the spirits that may inhabit a building.
So what should your team historian research? Here are my top six suggestions:
Who lived, worked there?
For homes: What was the owner’s income status and career? Did a family live there? What were the names of the original occupants (or those who lived there the longest)?
For businesses: What type of business was it? Did it entail dangerous work? What was the owner’s reputation? Did a lot of people come and go from the building? After all, you’d ask different questions in an old dry goods store than in a former brothel.
What activities took place there?
The events that regularly took place at a location contribute to its overall energy. Repetitious activity can also result in residual energy (where the energy of the activity and not the spirits still takes place, such as running up and down stairs). Buckland Station was not only a home; it was a stage stop. Bowers Mansion’s owner Eilley Bowers, a Spiritualist, held regular séances attended by the area’s elite. The Goldfield Hotel once held weekly dances that attracted young couples from throughout the region.
When was the heyday of this building?
Knowing the era the building was fashionable helps shed light into what life was like at that time. Were there human comforts like electricity and running water? Were the occupants completely self-sufficient? Did they have cars or wagon teams? What was the lifespan/infant mortality rate?
Is this the first building on the site?
Knowing the land’s history gives you an understanding of the complex layering of what occurred there and the types of energies that may still hang around. The Goldfield Hotel is the third hotel on that site: the others burned down, resulting in two deaths. But even earlier, this site had been the location of the Vera Lode Mine. Some say the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe is built on a former Washoe Tribe summer encampment.
Did anything cultural/newsworthy happen here?
Perhaps a famous celebrity performed there or a tragic accident occurred on the premises. The Cal Neva Lodge saw raucous parties thrown by the Rat Pack—stars who defined their era. The Miner’s Cabin at the Gold Hill Hotel (Gold Hill, Nevada) was next to the entrance to the Yellow Jacket Mine, which suffered a devastating fire in the 19th century, resulting in the death of many miners.
What was the community like?
Say you’re investigating a 1800s clapboard house. Was it located in a ritzy neighborhood, an ethnic section or where manual laborers tended to live? Was the economy industrialized or agricultural? Was it a rough and tumble mining camp primarily populated by men? This gives insight into the type of people who lived there and a hint to what their lifestyles were like.
What other areas do you think it’s important to research prior to a ghost hunt?
In addition to the important areas of research that you’ve listed, Kathleen, I would like to add that the team’s historian should also research whether there’ve been historical reports of paranormal activity at that location, and if so, how far back does the activity date, and under what circumstances did the purported paranormal activity take place?
Excellent suggestion, Sharon! Is the best way to find this information by interviewing current and past residents? Or have you found another resource?
In addition to interviewing current and past residents, I’d suggest searching the newspaper archives of the local library and, of course, there’s the internet.
Thank you, Sharon, I appreciate your input. Have a great weekend!