Saturday, March 3, 2012

PR at it's finest

I read today an article on the Jeffrey Dahmer Tour, the big one down in Milwaukee that retraced the nefarious killers steps and reminded people of the tragedy that this was (I'll link the article at the end).

It got me thinking...why do so many people protest the things we do as paranormal investigators? For ages, people have been fascinated by the human mortality, morbid as it may be. We've been drawn to the macabre and grisly truths that often goo unspoken. And this was one of them.

But I think it's all in the presentation. When KMPI brought Mush Bauers chair back to the Campbellsport Inn, we didn't make a big deal about the haunting aspect of it. Sure, it was part of it, but the truth was, it was only a small part of a bigger picture. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary. Business picked up for the Inn, and people came from cities, counties, and states away just to once again view the famous chair that Mush himself build and could be seen sitting in in his life. Just as they did when he was alive, just as they did for his funeral. And they continue to come.

Then again, comparing a man like Mush to Jeffrey Dahmer is just insane. Mush was a huge supporter of the community and the local kids baseball teams and athletic clubs. He donated much of his time and money to anyone who needed it, and has always been remembered as a great man. Mr Dahmer on the other hand, was a severely troubled individual, a recluse and a sort of reject of society who knowingly committed heinous deeds.

Still, the two go somewhat hand in hand. Both attracted the paranormal community as well as the community as a whole. Even our haunted house met with it's share of protests, some of which we thanked the people for their concern, and some of which we had to address more directly. The haunted house (Phantoms of Fond du Lac) was a touchy one, because of the level of gore involved, and again I think this is where the line is drawn. While the paranormal is often faced with traumatic deaths and ghastly historical events, many people would often just rather this all be left covered up. And the truth is, I think often we have to face a level of tactfulness and integrity to pull it off successfully.

In the case of the Campbellsport event people want to know if indeed someone does haunt the Inn yet. Rumors have flown around about this since the last owners back in the 70's. I received an email awhile back from the newspaper informing me of the calls she's been getting about it, so I know the interest is there, and we are meeting very, very soon with the owners to discuss what we found. And then, we will be meeting with the public, based on what the owners decide. And again, we have yet to encounter one protest on the issue, which is great!

So I think it really comes down to tact, and integrity. I think some groups that focus on the gore, and sensationalize the Hollywood version of a ghost or demon or zombie, tend to get frowned on publicly because, while we all have a secret draw to the paranormal, we all want it to be professional. And so maybe its me on my high horse, but when I see groups senstionalizing the darker side of paranormal, even in the name of "art" by putting it on tee shirts and stickers, I just know it's going to end up as a PR nightmare. As a general rule, my group has solved way more problems than we caused, and we've helped kick-start a number of events around the state now. So I really do listen when I complaint comes in about something we are doing, because even if what we deal with is sometimes a bit dark and scary, we try to shed a whole new light on the situation, that people can walk away more informed, and less afraid.

The haunted house? That's a different story! But it's also not paranormal ;)

To sum it up, for the groups out there reading this...keep it clean, and keep it real. Sensationalize the darkness, and turn it into a media frenzy, and you're inviting trouble that affects all groups everywhere. So be respectful. Of our clients, of our science, and of each other.

link to article:

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