Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Colleen Collins

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.

Paranormal Investigations: Do Ghost Hunters Really Find Ghosts?
by Colleen Collins

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!


Colleen Collins said...

Good morning everyone!

Thank you, Beth, for having me as your guest author today.

As mentioned in the article, my husband and I co-owned a private investigations agency for ten years. He's now returned to being a criminal defense lawyer, and I still occasionally conduct investigations. If anyone has a question about private investigations, feel free to ask!

I'll drop by throughout the day to answer any I'm curious if any of you have ever hired a ghost hunter...or seen a ghost...


Kay said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog post, Colleen.

I've never hired a ghost hunter, and doubt I would because I'm more of a do-it-yourself type. I've never seen a ghost but do know I've experienced the presence of loved ones who are no longer with us.

I also find much of the ghost hunting shows far-fetched. Many times it appears to me as if they are really stretching to make things look valid. I'm certain there are legitimate hauntings, but feel many times things are played up for ratings.

I do have a question for you about your work as a private investigator. What type of cases were your favorite and what type were your least favorite?

Unknown said...

Hi, this is Colleen's other half, Shaun Kaufman. Years ago, as an attorney in Colorado Springs, a potential client came to me and claimed that the house that they had just purchased was haunted and they wanted to sue the former owners because they failed to disclose the presence of these otherworldly forces.

I could tell that they believed that their house was haunted, and as much as I wanted to help them, I had to tell them that no Judge would recognize their paranormal claims as a sufficient basis to rescind their home purchase. I later learned that they did hire a "ghost hunter" although I don't know the outcome.

Colleen Collins said...

Hi Kay,

What type of cases were/are my favorite? In general, I enjoy finding people, the more difficult the case, the better. I like putting together the clues, tracking leads, etc. Often, by the time I find someone, I know them well -- similar to how a writer gets close to a character, bit by bit.

My least favorite type of case? Not really a case, but a type of investigative service, and that's process services. Had two different people chase me after I served them legal papers last year, one threatening some inventive retributions that included a frying pan she was carrying, and I said to myself, "That's it. No more of this."

So when my husband asks me to serve legal papers for his law firm, I politely request he call another investigator or process service agency :)

Colleen Collins said...

Hello Shaun! To think we've been together 11 years+ and I never heard that ghost story. Wonder what that ghost hunter did...and did he/she find anything in that house.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi everyone,
Keep those comments coming! Colleen will draw names of her contest winners tomorrow evening.

Here's a comment from Patty in the Murder and Mayhem Cozy Mysteries group on Facebook:

"Ohhhh this sounds like an interesting book. I might just have to check it out. Love a good female PI book."

Unknown said...

Beth, you out did yourself, again. "Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye" appears to intriguing & it will keep the readers captivated. Love, good female P.I, story. Will be adding this book to reading list.

Beth Groundwater said...

CandaLee Parker from Google+ said: "How awesome is this! Checking it out!! Thank you for posting, Beth Groundwater."

Janette Harjo said...

Hi Colleen!
I enjoyed your Ghost Hunting blog and am here to say I DEFINITELY believe in ghosts due to things that have happened to me.

While I have never actually SEEN a ghost, I have experienced them in such a way as to leave no doubt in my mind as to their existence.

Once one woke me as it laid itself of something else across my legs on the bed (there was nothing else in the house that could have explained the weight on my legs.) It scared me so bad I laid there without breathing until I passed out. When I woke the next morning, nothing was there.

Once while at a writer's conference at an old manor house, I retired to my room upstairs early and sat on my bed, with the door closed and latched, to read. I heard the door open and I looked up to see no one there. It spooked me bc I knew I had latched the door. I looked at the bedroom window to see if maybe a draft had somehow caused the door to open, but the window was closed. After a couple of minutes, the door closed again and re-latched itself, just as if someone had opened it, come in to see who was in the room, and left again. I went back to reading my book and assumed it had been the ghost of someone who wanted to see who was in his room. :)

I have had other experiences and you are welcome to contact me if you would like to hear more. :)

AFA hiring a ghost hunter; no I would not. Why should I if I can ghost hunt by myself? I hope I win your Book! :)

Clamo88 said...

Colleen, I've never seen a ghost but my partner and I swear a friendly ghost named Lafayette lived with us many years ago. Lafayette was the ghost from an inn in NH and seems to have followed us home one day. We would go into a room and find things moved about that neither of us had touched, doors closed that we had left open and vice versa, and odd little things like that, nothing ever malevolent.

I'm interested in your book about the private investigations - something I've always been curious about.

Colleen Collins said...


My first thought - wow. Second, I'm impressed you continued reading!

Great story, thanks.

Colleen Collins said...


Fun story! And the name Lafayette...perfect.

Colleen Collins said...

Teresa, thanks for your kind words.

I'll be checking in throughout the day to answer any P.I. questions and read about more ghostly tales...

Janette Harjo said...


Colleen Collins said...

Hello everyone,

It's Thursday evening, time to randomly pick two winners to win a free ecopy of SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE...and they are...

Kay and Janette!

Kay and Janette, please forward me your email addresses where you'd like your gift copies sent. My email address: writingprivateinvestigators-at-gmail-dot-com

Thank you everyone for dropping by. Special thank you to Beth Groundwater for being a great blog host.

Kay said...

Thank you, Colleen for selecting me as one of the winners. I've just emailed you. Thank you, Beth for such interesting blogs.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much for visiting, Colleen! You always have fascinating topics to share.

Julie Robinson said...

Though I'm too late for the contest, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your article. I want to believe, but the skeptic in me finds logical explanations.

Female Private Investigator said...

This is interesting and important post like that female investigator.He is being a criminal defense lawyer of investigation.