I am an investigator because I say I am, and because I'm able to convince you of the veracity of my status. It's not like people go to school for this; my degree is not in fortean research (it's in English, in case you were wondering). But I have been doing this for a long time, and partially through the training I received with MUFON and partially through experience, I believe that I am qualified to act as something of an authority. Without any official accreditation process, though, there doesn't seem to be any way to say who is "officially" an investigator and who is, at best, an enthusiastic amateur. And I'm afraid that, without the means to differentiate, we'll end up with more people like the poor woman who was struck and killed by a train while monster hunting.
I know it's not the most popular opinion, but stumbling around in the dark used to be considered dangerous, and perhaps it's time the activity regained its status. Unlike most reality TV shows, ghost and monster hunting appears to be something that just anybody can pick up and do, and that particular illusion is not only dangerous, but a tad insulting, to be honest. It takes a lot of work to properly investigate anomalous activity, and almost none of it is as sexy as what's shown on television. But, while real fortean investigation may not be something that just anyone can immediately do well, it is something that anyone can at least learn to attempt safely. So, if you want to join the rest of us stubbing our toes in dark rooms and shadow-filled forests, please take the time to educate yourself on your environment and its potential hazards, and then take them very, very seriously; they pose much more of a threat to your health than any ghost or goblin is ever likely to.
Here are a few of the rules I've come to live by:
1. Know the area. Seriously, check it out. You can find a map of just about anywhere online for free. Learn about the neighborhood. You really, really, really don't want to get mugged during an investigation. You should also be paying attention to any environmental hazards and pitfalls, which leads directly into...
2. Check it out during the day first. Take a good look, in person, at the area you'll be investigating. Look for anything over which you could trip, or into which you could fall.
3. Last but not least on my little list is a reminder to bring adequate equipment. You don't need nightvision goggles like a Navy SEAL, but a flashlight will come in pretty handy if you're in the middle of the woods at night.
These are really the bare minimum preparations you'd want to take before heading out anywhere, but they should at least get you thinking about the potential dangers of willingly running off into the night in search of monsters. Be safe out there.
Yours in Impossibility,