As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Colleen Collins is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Colleen is running a contest for a free electronic copy of her latest book, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye, the cover art for which appears above. Colleen will select TWO winners tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the names in a comment on this post.
Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye is a part-memoir, part-reference nonfiction book based on the experiences of a professional private investigator and writer. Audiences: researchers, writers, detective-fiction fans, armchair detectives and anyone curious about the real world of private investigators!
"As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s."
~ Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators
Sounds like a great read for anyone interested in learning more about what P.Is do! Below is Colleen's guest article.
Besides being a writer, I co-owned a private investigations for a decade in Denver, Colorado. In my last two guest posts at Beth’s blog, I’ve written about the work of a legal investigator and the importance of “MOM”--motive, opportunity and means--in a criminal proceeding. This time I’m talking about something lighter…so light that some people swear they can see right through this subject, if at all.
I’m talking about ghosts.
More specifically, ghost hunting or paranormal investigations. I write about paranormal investigations, among many other investigative topics, in my new nonfiction ebook, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.
Now let’s kick off our discussion with a definition.
What Is a Paranormal Investigator?
Most paranormal investigators are people who are certified in parapsychology, or who have studied paranormal investigations. Their goal is to help people in need, and often paranormal investigators do not accept money for their services (although they may accept donations for travel, lodging and expenses). Some paranormal investigators make money through writing books, conducting "ghost tours," giving workshops, or even starring in TV reality shows about ghost hunters.
At my agency, we specialized in legal investigations, and occasionally other types of case work, such as background checks and infidelity investigations. A few times people called, asking if we could investigate a ghost. We’d tell them no, we didn’t, and offer some tips before hiring one.
Tips for Hiring a Paranormal Investigator
Look up an established paranormal investigations organization in the area. For example, the National and International ParaHaunt Paranormal Family Network gives referrals to paranormal investigators throughout the U.S. and the world.
Check the background of the paranormal organization or investigator before you retain their services. Contact the Better Business Bureau, research the organization/person on the Internet for news stories and client referrals, review their website and contact any former clients for recommendations, or hire a private investigator to double-check the paranormal investigator's background (especially if you’re inviting this person into your home).
Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts. On the other hand, I’d become a believer if I captured evidence of one. Which I tried to do a few years back…
My Informal Investigations at Three Haunted Hotels
Several years ago, I visited the Stanley Hotel here in my state of Colorado and took its Ghost Tour. The "Stanley" is known for its Room #217, where Stephen King first began writing his book The Shining, later made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson.
My Digital Photos Caught “Orbs”
I took photos during this Ghost Tour with my digital camera, and others in the group (including the tour guide) said I had captured orbs, which supposedly indicated the presence of spirits. The Paranormal Encyclopedia says that "both skeptics, and many ghost hunters, agree that photographic orbs are most often, if not always, caused by natural elements such as dust, pollen, or water vapor." I don't know what caused the orbs, but if I'd seen, oh, a spectral figure in the photo…well, then I'd believe I'd captured evidence of a ghost.
Claims of Ghosts, But When I Visited...
I've visited other supposedly haunted hotels and buildings around Denver, Colorado, starting with the “Brown.”
The Brown Palace Hotel
I've taken the ghost tour two times at the Brown Palace Hotel, built in 1892. Both times, the guide told us fantastic stories about ghosts and ghouls who haunt the hotel, from a long-dead string quartet that still practices their music to a ghost-like train conductor who walks through walls. I would have loved to have seen or heard one of these apparitions, but I didn’t. Neither did anybody else on the tours.
Although one of the tour guides swore that late one night she saw a “black mass” of vapor swirl up to the ceiling and disappear. Hmmm. Shame no one got a picture of that.
House of Mirrors
Seven or so years ago, I was writing a novel that featured a ghost character who lived during the late nineteenth-century silver-boom days of Colorado. During this era, there was a famous madam, Mattie Silks, who supposedly still haunts her old living quarters in Denver (called the House of Mirrors).
One spring afternoon, I visited the House of Mirrors, which had morphed into a bar/restaurant. The business was closed, but a friendly bartender let me in to walk around and look at spots where the madam's ghost has been seen and heard (several people claimed to have heard her whispering on a certain staircase). Did I see or hear any ghostly goings-on? Unfortunately, no.
The bartender wanted to share his personal ghostly tales with me. Claimed that late at night, when he was alone cleaning up, sometimes the elevator would suddenly start working, its doors opening...and no one would be inside. And then there was the night when, alone again, an entire shelf, out of the blue, crashed to the floor.
I wish I could imagine ghosts in those happenings, but it seemed to me that both the shelf and elevator had been in serious need of repair.
Would You Hire a Ghost Hunter?
If you heard mysterious noises or voices, would you hire a ghost hunter? Or, have you ever witnessed a ghost? Please post your answer in a comment.
Thanks, Colleen! Now, who has a comment or question for Colleen Collins? Good luck in the contest!