Museums often have difficulty defining their roles and niches in the 21st century. Apparently one problem raising its head lately is the issue of dealing with swarms of paranormal investigators interested in tracking departed spirits in historic properties, all under the rubric of what is oddly called reality TV. It’s apparently a real-life problem for a number of museums. One floorboard creaks at the wrong time, and suddenly the ectoplasm hunters are out in force. A recent (and serious) request to a museum list for examples of paranormal investigation policies (PIPs) and resulting searches yielded the following:
• The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site in Philadelphia has an extensive PIP. For a fee, you and your investigation team can visit the Historic Site with a staff member between 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. to search for the departed. You can bring snacks, but the gift shop will not be open.
• David Harvey, Senior Conservator and Museum Consultant in Los Angeles, is apparently working on a new pamphlet: Things Shouldn’t Go Bump in the Night: Paranormal Research in Museums and Historic Sites. We can’t wait to see it.
• At the Institute of Texan Cultures, a paranormal event was held in 2008. It included the memorable dictum “To ensure everyone’s enjoyment, professional decorum must be maintained. Anyone creating a disturbance or distraction will be escorted from the event with no refund.” This does
• A Google search yields hundreds of incidents of paranormal investigations at museums and historic houses. Investigators are—dare we say it?—haunting every historic site and structure in the darkness hoping for a manifestation.
We believe that museum policies should be strong and effective, but we had no idea that their influence was felt in the other world as well. We are heartbroken to report that, here in a museum almost wholly devoted to paleontology, not one single dead creature has manifested anything or attracted any paranormal investigation fees. We will be doing a little investigating of our own.