COVID-19: Advice On Coronavirus For Ghost Hunters
⚠️ UpdateDue to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, parts of this article may now be out of date. You can find out the latest here.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you can't fail to have heard about the coronavirus and its spread across the globe, but with the number of infections amongst the population rising rapidly, is it still safe to attend a public ghost hunting event?
Although the World Health Organization today confirmed that coronavirus has reached pandemic level, the message from the government is not to panic, and as yet there are no major restrictions that have been put in place regarding events or public gatherings.
It's currently business as usual for most paranormal events companies, most of which are yet to comment on the situation. Those who have commented have advised their customers that events will be going ahead as planned but advise taking sensible precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Pitch Black Investigations have told their customers, "all events are still planned to go ahead regardless of the COVID-19 virus. Unless cancelled by the venue, or we feel like it's a high risk situation where we deem it's risky. Your safety is always put first."
Although there's no sign of any events being cancelled any time soon, some event organisers are imposing some sensible restrictions at their events, especially celebrity events which often include meet and greets, and photo opportunities. The risk of spreading the virus has also caused some event organisers to scrap some common ghost hunting activities, such as holding hands during vigils.
Spooktacular Ghost Events have asked their guests to "keep a social distance from other guests and staff on our events," and have said that until further notice guests will not be required to hold hands during séances.
One suggestion worth sharing was posted by Brecon Beacons Paranormal, they said to their followers, "instead of holding hands when doing a séance type vigil, just touch shoe-to-shoe. This would then still maintain a closed circle and everyone can keep their hands in their pockets."
Most Haunted Experience have told their guests, "although we all love to have a hug or handshake, whilst this virus is prevalent we have been advised that we should all refrain from these gestures." Meaning fans will still be able to meet the stars of the long-running ghost hunting show, but there won't be the same opportunity to huddle close for the perfect selfie for a while.
MHE aren't alone in this move, the Scottish Football Association has also issued a ban on hand-shaking.
It's not uncommon to see ghost hunters like Zak Bagans wearing face masks during investigations. Until now this has been to avoid dangerous airborne particles like asbestos and mould that are commonly found in abandoned buildings. We are yet to see paranormal investigators taking precautions due to the risk of viral infection, but what precautions should we be taking on paranormal events?
The most sensible advice that anyone can offer at this time is:
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- Stay away if you're feeling unwell
- Minimise unnecessary contact
- Wash your hands thoroughly before, during and after the event
- Use a tissue: Catch it, bin it, kill it
- Check the event's website for updates
The most important point here, as the Most Haunted Experience team write on their website, is that "if you or a family member are showing signs of illness, please do not attend."
Spooktacular Ghost Events add, "please wash your hands thoroughly before the event for at least 20 seconds, during the event at breaks, and before you leave the event." It's best to use hot water and soap, but due to the type of venues where ghost hunts take place, hot water might not be available, in which case hand sanitiser would be a better option.
Some events companies may provide this, but others are recommending guests bring their own bottle. Of course, this might be easier said than done at a time when the British public are panic buying hand wash, but don't worry too much, there's likely to be someone at an event that can lend you a squirt.
Usually on ghost hunts, team members hand out ghost hunting gadgets like EMF meters and spirit boxes. As it's not yet known how easily the virus spreads from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, it would be sensible to wash your hands before and after using them. Spooktacular Ghost Events have assured guests that all pieces of equipment will be cleaned during breaks to reduce the risk.
At this stage this is really just a precaution, as it's not known to what extent COVID-19 can be spread by touching an infected object and then touching your mouth, nose or face. The main way the virus is currently thought to spread is between people who are in close contact with one another, most likely by inhaling droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which is why using a tissue and the disposing of it properly is so important.
Are Event Cancellations Likely?
Most Haunted Experience say, "as always, the welfare of you all is paramount. We encourage all guests to follow this guidance and keep up to date with developments from Public Health England as they are issued."
Neither Public Health England or the UK Government have yet made any recommendations in regards to cancelling events or gatherings. Right now, the government has not cancelled sporting, music or other events, however it's not completely out of the question.
Switzerland has already banned major public events consisting of more than 1,000 people in order to slow the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, in Hungary indoor events of more than 100 guests have been temporarily suspended. Plus, there's already questions over whether some of the biggest events of 2020 will go ahead, including Eurovision, Glastonbury Festival, and even the Olympics. It could also affect National Paranormal Day on May 3rd, the day of the year when more ghost hunts take place than any other.
If a ban on gathering is put into place in the UK, then it's unlikely to cause too many issues for ghost hunting events, which are in most case too small to be categorised as a large gathering. Most ghost hunts would have no more than 40 or 50 guests, well below the maximum limit imposed in Hungary for example. However some large venues like prisons or industrial locations may have taken booking for more guests.
For now, the best thing to do is keep an eye on organiser's websites and social media accounts, as if the situation changes they are likely to inform guests with as much notice as possible, often this will be in the form of an email sent to the address you used to book your ticket.
Will I Get A Refund?
You should also check the terms and conditions of the ghost hunting event companies you book through - you'll normally find a link to their T&Cs in the footer of the website. You'll specifically need to look for the company's policies relating to cancellations. While this might vary company to company, the most likely outcome is that if events get cancelled you will be given the option to get a full refund or book onto another event when it all blows over.
One important thing to remember is that in most cases you will not be entitled to a refund if the event is still taking place but you decide not to attend due to your concern over the virus. Most event companies have a clause in their booking conditions along the lines of "we reserve the right to cancel an event due to circumstances beyond our control. In this case you will be offered a full refund or the option to move your booking to another suitable event."
Luckily, ghost hunting companies are generally a friendly bunch, so if you are worried and decide not to attend, given the circumstances they might, within reason, allow you to reschedule your booking for another event.
The monetary cost of your ticket might not be the only loss if an event does get cancelled. Due to the nature of paranormal events, it's often necessary to arrange public transportation in advance, or an overnight stay due to this type of event's late finishes. You may find that train tickets and hotel bookings made in advance are non-refundable and these costs are not something paranormal event companies are liable for in the event of cancellations.
Haunted Happening's terms and conditions state, "we will endeavour to ensure that every client is made aware of a cancelled event as soon as possible. However, if this has not been possible, Haunted Happenings will not refund any expenses incurred due to the cancellation of an event, this includes travel and hotel expenses." This is mirrored in other event companies' T&Cs.
The government has said that it's unlikely that there will be public transport closures as the risk of infection is no more significant on buses and trains than in any other public space. This means you shouldn't encounter any issues getting to a ghost hunt if you rely on public transport. However, transport authorities around the country are already planning for driver shortages due to infection and self-isolation, which may cause a reduction in the number of service. The advice is to check before you travel, including just before you leave.
Fingers crossed the spread of coronavirus will slow and the disruption will be minimal. Until then respect others, be safe, don't panic and be sensible.
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