“The curse of man, and cause of nearly all of his woes, is his stupendous capacity for believing the incredible.” – H. L. Menken.
I’ve been thinking of going on one those ghost hunts that seem to be advertised all over the place. You know the kind of thing – pay some money and get to spend half the night in some supposedly haunted location. You can be just like those people in TV shows like Most Haunted and others.
Then again, it’s pretty clear what goes on. A bunch of gullible clods get to wander about in the dark looking for non-existent ghosts, helped by the seemingly obligatory medium in tow, and the latest in high tech ghost hunting gizmos (EMF meters and suchlike).
You can expect séances and other mumbo jumbo, too. “Trigger objects” will be set up to elicit responses from the spirits. And if you just look at the websites that advertise these outings you will find rules and regulations that only a dimwit could agree to.
Having looked at some of these websites, I have to conclude that only the terminally credulous could think that they are actually going to find ghosts – but they also have to be willing to sign away their rights.
Participants in these events are encouraged to bring along their own recording devices – stills cameras and video cameras, as well as audio recording equipment, for example. Notebooks can be used as well.
But there is also a catch. Depending on which particular
cowboy outfit you sign up with, you can expect to give up your rights to anything you do actually record on the night you pay them to participate in. As I looked at the various websites advertising their ghost hunting adventures I noticed a common theme: you pay them money to go on a ghost hunt, but you also give them the copyright to anything that you record with your own equipment.
To be fair, not every ghost hunting business demands the same level of rights to your recordings. Some say that you retain your own copyright, but they have the right to use your recordings as they see fit. But sometimes, if you want to use your own recordings for your own purposes, you can do so only if you can get their permission. What if you don’t get it?
I have also seen a website promoting these ghost hunts even saying that they retain the copyright to everything you record and that’s it. They’re not daft – but their customers might be.
But it’s a bit difficult to offer links to these sites for two reasons:
1) The web pages (in particular their terms and conditions) seem to be altered on a regular basis, so anything I link to is likely to be modified (or radically changed) in some way by the time you read it.
2) I have found one website that says quite clearly that it is forbidden for anyone to link to it. And the same site has said that they will take legal action against anyone who disobeys them.
That second part is a bit naive, of course; it’s the age of the internet, and linking to various sites is not illegal. But there does seem to be more than just a bit of paranoia on that particular website. As is pretty typical for the modern ghost hunting fraternity, they do not avert criticism by producing confirmable evidence of the paranormal, they stifle criticism with threats of legal action. But if they think their beliefs cannot survive a collision with reality, they must be pretty insecure about it.
Most of these organisations seem pretty much the same, though. The ones I have looked at commonly state in their terms and conditions that they accept no responsibility whatsoever for their customers’ safety and well being. Go on one of these outings entirely at your own risk, it seems. But I’m not sure if these organisations would get away with it if someone were actually hurt or injured. The law as it is now requires such things as risk assessments to be carried out, public liability insurance to be in place, and efforts made to ensure the public’s safety. They may well do all of that anyway, but the fact that they tell you, in effect and sometimes in fact, that they have no responsibilities must say something about them.
Oh, and they make a point of telling you there are no guarantees that anything paranormal will happen when you go along on one of these outings.
The bottom line seems to be this: you go ghost hunting at your own risk; you have to be prepared to give up your rights to any photographic, audio or any other recordings you make; there is no guarantee that anything will happen anyway; your safety is your own responsibility, and you may not say anything about the hosting organisation (positive or negative) that includes a link to their website(s).
And you pay them money for the privilege – twenty five pounds or so is not untypical.
I think I’ll give it a miss.