Looking Back – Ed and Lorraine Warren

People have asked my opinion of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  Here’s my reply.

Ed and Lorraine Warren have been — together and as individuals — vital to the development and popularity of this field.  Without their work, I don’t think there would be a “Ghost Hunters” TV show, etc.

I can say the same about Hans Holzer, Andrei Puharich, and many other 19- and 20th-century paranormal researchers, as well.

I’m not overlooking problems with their early research techniques.  We learn through trial-and-error:  There will be errors — and plenty of them — while any field is becoming understood and codified.

ironstoneMy articles (published in 2000, before ghost hunting developed its current popularity) about one of Ed and Lorraine’s first investigations — the Ocean-Born Mary story — are an example of early research problems.

However, we’re looking back on research in the mid 20th century. It’s easy to forget how little was available to paranormal researchers.

Ed and Lorraine didn’t have the Internet as a resource. They didn’t have my 30+ years of experience with historical and genealogical research.  It’s easy to point out the shortcomings of others, when they didn’t (or don’t) have the resources that can make a huge difference in how a story is told.

PARANORMAL BUSINESS MODELS

I was sometimes troubled by the business model that Ed and Lorraine used. I said so at the time.  However, there are no simple answers to the money issue.

In a perfect world, spiritual researchers — including ghost hunters — would be supported as many religions have been, by voluntary donations from their believers.  Without that kind of funding, it’s difficult to work in this field.

Many people view our work as spiritual, and accuse us of being mercenary when we try to recover the money we spend on research, which is largely unseen by the public.  Also, they may not realize what it costs us to travel to help clients… many of whom have reached such a desperate emotional state (from living with hauntings or even demon attacks), they’ve already lost their jobs.

Our options are limited, and some are slippery slopes.

OUR FINANCIAL OPTIONS

We can become “entertainers” …which can require compromises to build and maintain a fan following, or to meet the demands of ruthless managers and over-zealous producers.  While we create some problems ourselves, others are built around us without our permission and sometimes without our knowledge.

It’s a challenging field to navigate.

Ghost hunters can charge significant fees from clients who are able to afford it; a 2009 poll at HollowHill.com showed that some people were doing that, though they were in the minority.

We can cover our ghost hunting expenses with related part-time or full-time activities, including:

  • Writing articles and books.
  • Teaching classes and workshops.
  • Providing readings.
  • Speaking at events, or even hosting them.
  • Creating and selling products related to ghost hunting.

Or, we can maintain regular jobs, though that takes valuable time away from our research and the time we could use helping others.  (Most friends who’ve starred on ghost-related TV shows have kept their day jobs.  Some TV shows pay only an undisclosed “stipend.” It may not even match minimum wage levels.)

As I said, there are no easy answers to this dilemma.

THE WARRENS’ LEGACY

In recent years, I’ve softened my views towards 20th-century pioneers in paranormal studies.  Each of them has left an important legacy.

I am grateful to Ed and Lorraine Warren for facing the skeptics and vehement critics, and maintaining a firm belief in what they were doing.  I’m thankful that they conducted so much research, and were forthright about what they did and the conclusions that they reached.

Their integrity made it possible for us to review their work in the light of additional facts and tools developed in the 40 or so years since they began studying ghosts and haunted places.

This field wouldn’t be where it is without people like the Warrens. For that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Remember that Joshua Warren is not related to Ed and Lorraine Warren.  I’m not sure he’s actually made that claim, but I’ve been told he’s not always quick to deny the connection, either. (I published this article in July 2009. In May 2014, he replied, saying ” I have never once ever allowed that idea to persist.”)

FLAWED RESEARCH?

Were Ed & Lorraine’s methods perfect?  No.  (Ghost hunting tools and techniques still aren’t perfect. I’m not sure they ever will be.)

They did the best that they could with the tools that they had, the few sites they had free access to, and what little was understood in that era.

For example, no one carried an EMF meter during early ghost hunts.  Researchers weren’t aware that elevated EMF — from very normal sources — can disorient people and cause them to behave in odd ways.

Today, we check for electrical wiring and other sources of EMF, before leaping to any conclusions about paranormal influences.

In the early 21st century, we’re closer to understanding ghosts and hauntings, but I expect we’ll be harshly criticized by those who follow us 20, 40, or 100 years from now.

MY PERSONAL OPINIONS

When someone asks my personal opinion of Ed and Lorraine Warren as a ghost hunting team, I reply in three parts:

At first, I was dazzled by them.  In the mid-to-late 20th century, they were pioneers in a very exciting field.

When I later examined their work, using tools available decades later, I was disappointed when I could disprove some of what they said.  That cast a harsh light on their work.  Things that I’d believed as a child turned out to be false. That can embitter anyone.

Fortunately, I continued my research and reached a more balanced perspective.

Today, looking back on people like Ed & Lorraine Warren, I’m tremendously grateful for their work.  I was merely an “early adopter” of this research.  They were among the innovators.

AMITYVILLE CHANGED EVERYTHING

The name “Amityville Horror” wouldn’t be well-known without the Warrens.

The Warrens were instrumental in bringing ghosts and hauntings to the world’s attention.  They opened the door for anyone — with or without prior experience in this field — to conduct paranormal research.

That research has contributed significantly to what we know about ghosts and hauntings.  And, by making ghost research more accessible to everyone, pioneers such as Ed & Lorraine Warren built the foundation for our work today.

That is their true legacy, and I’m grateful for it.

Ghost Hunters – How Much Do You Charge?

How much do ghost hunters charge? As of 2020, most investigators don’t charge residents who are worried that their home is haunted.

Ghost Hunters - how much do you charge?However, many ghost hunting teams do charge businesses – including hotels and restaurants – that want to advertise that they’re haunted.

(Is that a service you & your team provide? You may be expected to  provide them with evidence – audio or video – or a certificate  they can display. They may also want quotes or reviews they can use in their advertising.)

Between those two extremes, I think it’s reasonable to expect a client to cover your travel expenses. That should include meals, especially if you’re investigating overnight.

And, if sleeping accommodations aren’t available at the site, then local lodging – perhaps at a Fairfield Inn or similar budget hotel – should be offered to investigators.

No investigator should be expected to work late at night, and then drive many miles – especially on an empty stomach – back to his, her, or their home.

What ghost hunters said

During June 2009, I conducted a poll when serious ghost hunting investigations were relatively new, and ghosts were trending in the news. I asked readers how much they charged when they investigated a private residence.

These were the results:

poll-chargesJune2009In 2009, in real-life conversations, most professional ghost hunters agreed with the poll results:  They didn’t charge the client anything at all.

Or – if travel expenses were involved – they asked the client to pay for gas and to arrange lodging.

Investigators who charged over $200 were also very forthcoming.  The figure that I heard most often was $350 plus expenses. That increased if the team included more than three people.

Four-figure amounts were not rare when the team included professionals, and six or more experienced investigators.

2020 update: In recent years, this has changed. Most ghost hunting teams do not charge anxious clients to investigate homes.  But, teams are more cautious about which locations to investigate.

Ghost hunting seems to be trending again. That may create fresh interest in having professionals investigate a home or business. So, we might see a return to 2009 fee levels.

Supply and demand?

Client fees and investigation services seem difficult to discuss, even among professionals who otherwise agree on most everything.

Some say, “You get what you pay for.”

Others insist that investigations are an essential part of our research. So, we shouldn’t charge anything.

I think the poll speaks for itself, to understand the financial side of investigations.

If someone is troubled by an apparent haunting in his, her, or their home, it’s probably easy to find a team – especially amateurs, and those looking to build their portfolio of investigations – to conduct the research free of charge.

If someone wants to hire a professional team, the fees are likely to be $200+ for that service.

What I charge

When I investigate private homes – rare, in recent years – I expect the home owner to cover my travel expenses.

If the site will use my research to improve their business (such as a restaurant or hotel that wants to claim they have ghosts),  a fee may be involved. It depends on whether I’m intrigued by the location.

A site like the Myrtles Plantation or Tudor World (the Falstaff Experience)…? As long as my expenses are covered, I’m delighted to investigate. My past experiences at both of them were memorable.

At the other extreme, I’ll turn down a site with health risks, such as a building with a recent rat infestation, or asbestos and black mold. Also, I won’t go into dangerous neighborhoods, day or night.

Generally, my fees vary with what they expect from my team and from me.

(Note: I’ll never say that a site is haunted, unless I’ve investigated it, found anomalies, and couldn’t debunk them.)

When a homeowner is frantic for help, I usually look for ways to reduce or eliminate their costs altogether.

I know that – by the time a homeowner or tenant contacts ghost hunters – they may have had medical bills or stress has taken a toll. Usually, they’re not in a financial position to pay professional investigators.

For ghost hunting teams

Carefully consider investigation requests. Especially if a site is old and badly maintained – or if it has (or might have) poltergeist activity – be especially cautious. Also, be sure you’re insured against damages the client may claim.

Remember: Poltergeists rarely respect costly vases, or the personal and replacement value of china that’s been in the family for seven generations.

Get everything in writing, ahead of time. If travel expenses will be covered, make sure you receive them in advance.

Be skeptical. I’m not saying that all victims of haunted houses are exaggerating, but some are, or they have mental health issues better resolved by health professionals.

In addition, we’ve seen an increase in demonic activity at some sites. So, be very sure the potential client isn’t describing something dangerous.

Ghosts and demons are two different categories. Most ghost hunting teams – including my own – are not skilled demonologists.

If a site might be troubled by demons or malicious entities, refer those clients to a local priest, minister, or skilled (and trusted) demonologist. (I generally refer people to John Zaffis, Pete Haviland, Carl & Keith Johnson, and others I know and trust.)

For homeowners, tenants, and business owners

No matter who is investigating, homeowners should check references carefully. Don’t rely on rave reviews by friends of the individual or the team.

Some people claim they’ve been ghost hunting for years.  Ask them for evidence of their expertise in the field. That means multiple years of experience, as well as professional, no-hype websites, YouTube channels, and so on.

Learn the best – and worst – that’s said about researchers you’re considering.

Be sure the investigation is worth the cost

If you’re a home or business owner, be sure you’re hiring a competent team.

Then, be prepared for the truth. Your site might not be haunted; it may just need repairs.

From my experience, about 80% of haunted buildings can be debunked. The usual problems:

Also, ghost hunting is not a field where haggling is the norm. If you respect the team enough to want their opinions, pay their standard fees.

The best investigators will tell you whether or not they think your site is haunted. They’ll also advise you about what you can (and can’t) do about the ghosts.

Investigating? Be honest.

If you’re part of an investigation team, be honest about your expertise. Avoid mimicking what you’ve seen on TV.

Your first steps are:

  1. Listen to the client. Note everything.
  2. Examine the site during the day, to debunk as much as you can. That includes everything from checking for level floors, bad wiring (elevated EMF), normal drafts, and so on.
  3. Investigate during the time of day when the site has the most paranormal activity. (That’s not always after dark.)
  4. Then, return to the site in the daytime, for one final attempt to debunk the phenomena.
  5. Advise the client what you found, what you didn’t find, what your theories are, and what they can do next.  (Don’t just abandon them if the site seems haunted to you, too.)

If you’re not willing to do all that for each client, and at a cost you think is fair, have an honest conversation with him, her, or them.

Perhaps a scaled-back investigation is enough. Or, maybe another team might be better suited for the job.