The specter of insurance for ghost hunters
Ghost-hunting TV shows such as “Ghost Hunters,” “Paranormal Witness” and “Paranormal State” make it appear as if anyone can hunt for ghosts. For the most part, anyone with a flashlight and tape recorder can call himself a ghost hunter. But if you want to make a career out of searching for spirits, you may want to search for some insurance.
The spirit of the law
Ryan Hanley, an insurance agent at Murray Group Insurance Services in Albany, N.Y., says that if you’re touting yourself as a professional ghost hunter, you should look into professional liability insurance. Annual premiums for $1 million worth of such coverage run from roughly $800 to $1,200.
|Ghost hunters may need to hunt for insurance to keep their finances from being ghoulish.|
Anytime you present yourself as an expert in any industry, your advice could be subject to a liability claim in court. So, Hanley says, “if you go into someone’s house and promise to get rid of all their ghosts for $500 and they claim you didn’t get rid of all the ghosts, they can demand their money back.”
Kevin Ross, agency principal at Ross Insurance in Massachusetts, warns that you’d be hard-pressed to find an insurance company that would sell professional liability coverage to a ghost hunter. “Ghost hunting is not recognized as a profession,” Ross says.
Nonetheless, Adam Shapiro, an attorney who’s a spokesman for Long Island Paranormal Investigators in New York, is looking for professional liability coverage. He and his team of 13 ghost hunters don’t charge for their services, so a client can’t ask for a refund. Still, the fact that the group’s services are free may not stop an unsatisfied client from filing a lawsuit.
Shapiro says Long Island Paranormal Investigators doesn’t carry liability insurance, but a recent ghost-hunting case has prompted him to seek it. A client of another investigator claimed that paranormal activity actually increased after a paranormal team did a “ritual cleansing” of the client’s home. An attorney has agreed to represent the disgruntled homeowner, according to Shapiro.
“Scientifically, this paranormal stuff doesn’t even exist,” Shapiro says. “So how would they quantify that their house was now ‘more haunted’?”
Scary equipment costs
If liability concerns weren’t enough to worry about, there’s also the need to protect the equipment used to track down specters.
Listening for ghostly voices (called EVP’s, for electronic voice phenomena) requires a top-notch voice recorder that may cost $70 or more. Equipment that detects changes in electromagnetic fields ranges from $20 to more than $200.
More advanced equipment such as a thermal camcorder with video (to pick up changes in heat signatures, detecting the presence of ghostly beings) may cost as much as $4,000. Special night-vision cameras and camcorders can run into the hundreds of dollars.
Filing a home insurance claim for damaged equipment entitles you only to an “adequate replacement,” Hanley says. Your insurance company does not have to replace the exact make and model, unless you have a special addition or “floater” on your policy, much like you would need if you purchased extra coverage for an expensive piece of jewelry.
If someone steals your ghost-hunting equipment from your car, your home insurance policy will cover it, say Sue Santoro, claims director at the Dowd Insurance Agency in Holyoke, Mass. A police report would need to accompany a theft claim. Auto insurance covers a vehicle but excludes personal property; ghost-hunting equipment would qualify as personal property and would be covered under a home or renter’s insurance policy.
Traipsing around in a dark house puts a ghost hunter at risk of falling down stairs or tripping over unseen objects. If a ghost hunter gets hurt but doesn’t want to sue the homeowner for compensation, Santoro says, the ghost hunter would be covered under the medical payment portion of a standard homeowner’s insurance policy — regardless of who’s at fault. In this instance, no one admits or denies liability.
If a ghost hunter were injured and decided to sue the homeowner, however, the homeowner’s liability coverage would cover the homeowner’s liability, including legal costs. But the injured ghost hunter would be on his own for immediate coverage of medical expenses.