This is a topic I've put off for awhile, because it's sort of a sensitive topic...Legend Tripping. Long story short, Legend Tripping is the adolescents' version of Paranormal Investigating. You don't actually investigate anything...you pile in a car, drive somewhere someone else has already been, freak out, take a few pictures, and go home. It's what sophomores do for fun in high school...heck I did it too when I was 16 and got my car! But now there are groups that do this, seemingly full time, and it's caused a bit of an upset in the field.
It used to be places, homes, businesses, were actually HAPPY to have us come in. They called us, begged us to come, and were grateful for our help. We were providing a service to people. But then, the legend trippers came out in full force. Blame the media, blame society, blame the fact that gas prices finally leveled off a bit, but in the end, it all came down to the trippers. Because they were so numerous, and came and went so quickly, businesses came to see it as an opportunity, and began to charge people just to walk into a doorway at night.
I remember doing some big places in my time...the Oshkosh Theater (The Grand), JFK Prep, and the historical societies of many cities (just to name a few), and I did it all for free. On my own dime. Everything - the tee-shirts, the equipment, the cases, the tapes and batteries, the evidence review and the car...everything. And it's a costly sum, too. We currently own thousands of dollars of equipment, and have invested hundreds in apparel and accessories. This isn't just a group of juveniles hyped up on Red Bull in their moms' car...this is a TEAM that actually tries to HELP people, free of charge. And now, you can't hardly go to a place without them asking "What's in it for me?" or "You need to pay the $50+ fee up front". And the fees have been as low as $10-$20, and as high as in the hundreds. And all this time, we've been asking for nothing and are now being charged for our charity? That would be like having a Good Samaritan stop, pull you from your burning car, and you sending them a bill for your hospital expenses later. Insanity, they call that.
From the business perspective, I get it. I really do. Letting groups come in all the time is a liability, and that costs money insurance wise. But it's the number of legend trippers that have caused this upsurge of places charging to come in. Back when we got started in early 2003, I could count the groups in this state on one hand. Now, I swear to God if I went to a bar tomorrow and exclaimed that I heard some county park is haunted, there's 20 groups canvasing the area before the weekend is over. You can't hardly throw a rock before some teenager squeals "What was that!?" and makes a fly-by-night group. And more than them, even, it's the dissension of groups - splitting up and re-forming, making new groups, and thinking they have rights to lay stake to some kind of claim of property just because they were "from the area" or "it's in their town". There's just too many, like a city full of McDonald's restaurants. No place to fill up in gas, no place to cash a check, just burgers and fries everywhere. Eventually prices will go up, people stop buying and move on, leaving a ghost town in their wake.
There are many good groups out there, and some have been around a long, long time. But there are a lot of groups out there who are doing this for "fun" and not for its intended purpose. And those groups are dangerous, because they litter graveyards with vandals and they fill properties at night with trespassers, and roadways in the countryside with thrill seekers.
And it is these thrill seekers that have caused so many places to charge, since they all assume that's what every group is now. I mean, you can't blame them, they must run across 10 thrill seeker groups for every one decent group out there, how are they to know the difference? They collect the money and walk away!
KMPI is not a group of thrill seekers. We're a group of people, a team of people, furthering the science and providing much-needed peace of mind to regular folks. We're volunteers, and advocates for the community, and we're educating those who have an interest and a few who just have a few questions or concerns. We are, what we are. But we're not a bunch of thrill seekers looking to bum around on a Friday night all giddy and hyped up after the latest episode of Ghost Adventures. We're real people, with families and jobs, and we're making a difference.
Something should be done, though...a registry of sorts, maybe? Something to differentiate the actual groups from the thrill seekers. Because unless something gets done soon, the legend trippers and thrill seekers will have ruined the credibility of actual groups everywhere, and turn the whole thing into one big joke.