When I first stepped nervously into the paranormal world, twenty plus years ago, my first approach was to a man named Gary Sullivan. At the time, Gary was the founder of his small (now non- existent) team, and they were based in Melbourne, Victoria.
I was 22 at the time, working in Chelsea (in the same state), and a friend brought me in a page she'd taken from her parents' local newspaper, about a group investigating the old Cape Otway Lighthouse.
I only had a vague concept of what serious paranormal investigating was about, and it seemed, from reading his quotes in the article, that Gary was a big believer in sharing the knowledge he had accumulated in the 30 plus years he'd been conducting field investigations at that time.
He had included his email address so I proceeded to write him a long, passionate email, pleading to pick his brains, explaining my childhood experiences as a 5 year old sitter in my Mother's weekly spiritualist communication circle (complete with dim red lighting, medium's cabinet, and copper "trumpet" painted on the top and bottom edges with phosphorescent paint), and explaining how my fascination had grown from there. I had no fear of the paranormal, just curiosity.
I nearly fell off my computer chair when Gary replied with an invitation for myself and my Mother to join him at the beautiful old Mitre Tavern in our CBD for a one night investigation (I tend to call those "stakeouts" these days) in the reputedly haunted upper level, in a few weeks time.
I think we spent 3 or 4 hours there, my Mother wandering about gathering impressions, and me being Gary's constant shadow, as he explained the original uses of the equipment he had with him. He let me try his gaussmaster, parabolic microphone, and Trifield natural EMF meter too.
I was immediately hooked. The whole experience felt like one long, happy dream! I kept in touch with Gary, bombarded him with questions ("hey Gary, do you think ghosts could haunt sunken ships?"..the poor man!), he patiently answered all of them, and I continued to join him and his small team here and there for the next 5 or 6 years, until I felt I had learned enough to form a small team of my own.
One never really stops learning, so I did ask Gary a great many more questions through the years. Yes, Gary is still occasionally active in the field..and I do still ask him things as I doubt my "knowledge banks" will ever be completely full. I doubt anybody's is, but Gary's is fuller than mine!
Gary's advice to me, that first night, was that if I wanted to eneter the paranormal field for fame, fortune, and attention, then don't. That's not what this is about. That was the first time he ever spoke those words, "pay it forward" to me, too, and I agreed with him on that from the start. I have always done my best to do as he did.
This field is not Hollywood, as a certain "paranormal pariah" seems to think it is, in fact it's quite un-glamorous and can be tedious! Pay it forward, Gary said, and don't keep what you've learned to yourself, as we all know has been done in the past, and I daresay most of you reading this know who I'm talking about, too.
This wonderfully weird field does not deserve the blight that has been cast upon it by frauds, drama queens, and attention seekers, and although that fraud has been exposed often, for all the world to see, it seems that the facebook "ghost hunting" groups get more attention than some of the serious research societies, such as ASSAP and the SPR.
I find this very sad, indeed, and it makes me ponder the question; are that many people not interested in the academic side of the field? Is it all too hard for them to understand? Are they scared to approach the serious ones, as I once was, or do they not even try, and prefer ghost tours and fluffy TV shows instead? Not that that's a problem, to each his own as the old adage goes!
But if you find, as I did, that the academic side of the paranormal field is difficult to understand, then I encourage you to do as I did, and muster the courage to ask questions of those serious minds, even the better known ones. I was very pleasantly surprised by their willingness to share their knowledge with me, and I still bother them here and there to this day!
I would request something of you though, friends. If you learn something, please pay it forward! You never know, you might spark somebody's interest, and a small sort of chain reaction may happen!
I mentioned Gary is still active in the field, and that I still ask his advice on things.
We've gotten along well for many years now, my "Sensei"..and I, his "Grasshopper"...
Hey, don't judge us, we had a few beers one night, OK?!