A while back I put out a call for guest writers looking to get some pieces up on the Strangeology blog. Today I'm happy to present an article written by Missy Lathrop from Paranormal Five over on Instagram. She is a mother of three and her family are dedicated paranormal enthusiasts and researchers. I hope you enjoy the read and if you have a story you'd like to share of weird or unexplained encounter, or a fortean topic you've researched and written about and would like to have it featured here on Strangeology, please get in touch and shoot me an e-mail! Without further ado, here's Missy's article!
Paranormal Kids by: Missy Lathrop
As a mom of three, raising her kids in the paranormal field, I get asked questions all the time, even some raised eyebrows from time to time, and that is okay. The paranormal and fringe topics are normal things to us. Finding ourselves diving into in rabbit holes and having questions that we cannot answer for ourselves let alone our children is a normal day in our home.
As someone that was drawn to the paranormal at such an early age, I feel like I had the upper hand and a responsibility to be able to provide resources and stories to help my children grow and develop their interest in this field. I am hoping while you read this you will be able to take something away and help shape and form the future of this field for the better!
As a kid I checked out every ghost book that my school and public library had. I have to admit that one or two of them never made it back... Sorry (not sorry)! I read both fiction and nonfiction stories and I was open to learn and to get spooked by it all. The Goosebumps series by RL Stein were, and still are, classic fictional stories that so many paranormal investigators dove into as children. I must proudly say that we have a pretty large collection of them, and we read them as a family. The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz is another collection of books that again impacted so many paranormal investigators. Between the creepy stories and artwork, you were glued! I believe that having a good balance of both fiction and nonfiction ghost stories and books can help develop both healthy thought and skepticism. Children can produce some crazy stories and ideas when it comes to the paranormal field that already have so many grey areas, learning fact from fiction is critical in teaching and navigating this field and teaching them one of the greatest tools as a paranormal investigator, your instinct.
Nonfiction paranormal books for children have come a long way since I was a kid! I remember at our school’s book fair every year they would have a small section of weird, fringe books and they still do! Trust me, I volunteered at my children’s school library for these events. Another one of my favorites is The Very Scary Almanac by Eric Elfman. I still have a copy of it. One thing that is great about that book is that it covers more than just ghost stories and haunted locations. There are witches, UFOs, and zombies too! They cover great locations and have pictures which is great from beginner readers. I also recommend Ghost Hunter’s Handbook: Supernatural Explorations for Kids by Liza Gardner Walsh. I have three kids that ages range from five to ten and they all enjoy this book. There are also a few pages for them to write in the book like a ghost hunter logbook so they can channel their inner Hans Holzer.
Another type of nonfiction books we use are ones from local authors here in New England or local authors from places that we are/have investigated. Supporting local authors that write about haunted areas where you live or travel to is a win in my book! Sharing the stories my with kids and then being able to bring them to the locations gives the story life again. You gain another level of respect for the history. Children enjoy hands on visual learning and being able to see the locations gives that to them. Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire by Marianne O’Connor is a favorite of ours when we go camping up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We have hiked and camped at a few of the locations. In Ghosts of Salem by Sam Baltrusis we take ourselves back to such a dark time here in New England. We walk the streets in Salem and head to all the haunted hot spots and pay our respect. In Gettysburg which I will say is our favorite locations that we investigate, we listen to my favorite author Mark Nesbitt stories over and over again about the how those 3 days changed the course of the Civil War. It truly is mind-blowing when your kids learn the location, the history, and the haunt.
Another option is you can turn on the Travel Channel and easily find many paranormal shows. I remember as a child watching Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings, Haunted History, Scariest Places on Earth, and the famous Ghost Hunters. I was glued to the TV when any of those shows were on. There can be some controversy with paranormal TV shows, and I get it, but I would be lying if I said I did not enjoy watching them all, as do my kids. There is not a paranormal show out there that I would not let my children watch. They throw in some scary stuff every so often but going back to what I said about learning fact from fiction, it does not bother them. They have made their own opinions on certain TV shows and how certain teams investigate. I always try to remind them to keep an open mind and respect others outlook on this field, encourage them to think about how they would want to be treated as a ghost or a spirit. I think by letting children see paranormal TV shows they can see great locations that they are unable to visit due to being young, but they can also learn investigating etiquette and the do’s and don’ts. It's also important to remind your kids that what you see on TV is nothing like what investigating is in real life.
That said, a few shows that my kids really enjoy is Haunt ME which is a Maine based paranormal YouTube series, as well as old Ghost Hunters episodes (who doesn’t enjoy watching those!), and Kindred Spirits because my kids love Chip Coffey. Over the last few years, we are seeing the paranormal gaining popularity and you are seeing more children in this field. With that being said, you are seeing paranormal books fiction and non, TV shows geared towards kids and even classes. I recently found an affordable weekly paranormal online class for children too. I signed my 2 older kids up for it and they love it. Each week they talk about different haunted locations, cryptids, or investigation tools. It is all done by someone that has a deep passion for the paranormal field and wants to share it with future paranormal investigators. After their last class, my kids wanted to watch a TV show episode on Eastern State Penitentiary which was the topic of that class. Once again, it is the repetition that helps children learn and keep them interested. It happens naturally with children and they lead the way.
Getting out there and exploring locations is probably the coolest thing to do whether you are investigating or not. You can put the pieces together and soak up the history. Like I said before we have gone to Gettysburg many times with my children. We have been going 1-3 times a year since my oldest was 6 months. So, to say that they know the battlefield and history is an understatement and many of the paranormal things they have experienced so far have been at Gettysburg. For example, one time the whole family saw a full body apparition at the Slaughter Pen which is over by Devil’s Den. It was one of those moments that I did not know what to look at. I was having this amazing paranormal experience, but I could not get my eyes away from my children’s faces. It is a moment that they still talk about.
Salem, Massachusetts is another favorite spot that we like to visit as family a few times a year. Visiting local cemeteries here in New England is a great way to just get outside and talk about the history. The kids have made up a game but trying to find the oldest headstone and seeing if they can find their birth dates. They also look for the children in the cemeteries and the ages. My kids have learned that cemeteries can sometimes tell a story of illness and plagues by the high volumes of deaths in a certain timeframe. It is a weird way to learn math too. The International Cryptozoology Museum is right in Portland, Maine which is not too far from us and we love visiting there as well. Getting out there and visiting location is a great way to help support a child’s interest in this field and it does not have be expensive either!
Beyond the realm of the paranormal, another great way that we have learned to help the kids stay motivated and excited while out on a hike or a walk is to go Bigfooting. We have many Bigfoot sightings here in New England and once the weather is warmer we love to get out and explore. My oldest child was on a big kick of watching all the episodes of Finding Bigfoot and the younger two followed! For holidays, something fun that you can get for your kids is a Bigfoot Researching Kit, which are easy to find online. The kit comes complete with a compass, a measuring tool for tracks, a notebook, and even little baggies just is case you found Bigfoot hair or scat. Another really fun activity is to teach your kids how to make Bigfoot calls and how to do tree knocking. It can be a great memory maker too if you take the time to customize a Bigfooting tool for your child. For example, I wood burnt a heavy duty stick for my oldest kid last year, which they take every time we go on hikes.
Bigfooting is a great way to get outside and spend time as a family whether you have anything happen or not. Camping is another great way to get kids interested in Bigfoot depending on where you go, and it is also a great way to do some star gazing. We have seen some crazy things in the sky around a campfire. There are many limitations on investigating with children at some locations and that is completely understandable. My kids do not think it is fair but hey it is life! We try to still make the best of the situation and get out there as much as can. My husband and I tell them that you have start somewhere.
As parents or mentors to children is it our duty to be able to support and guide them. Kids will have so many interests and they will change over time. The paranormal seems to be one of those passions that does not go away if you talk to anyone in the field. Even for myself, the paranormal has been one of the biggest things in my life that has made sense and stuck with me since I was young. My kids are being raised in a family that has two parents that are actively involved in paranormal field so there is not really an escape, but they aren't looking for one either. We have never pushed or forced this on them. When we have been in a location where they felt uncomfortable, we leave. We talk about the way they were feeling and maybe why. We try to figure out how we can push through those feelings the next time we're out investigating. As investigators, we all get scared and nervous sometimes and letting your kids know that it is a normal thing that can happen during an investigation reinsures their feelings.
Letting my kids lead the way when we go to locations and the times that we have investigated with them gives them a sense a pride and encourages them to become leaders. They are the ones using the tools and asking the questions. They remember the history and the names behind the possible haunt. It truly is amazing and rewarding to be raising opened minded, healthy, skeptical, future paranormal investigators for this ever-changing field.