The Southwest Ghost Hunters was formed in 1985 by five airmen serving overseas in the United States Air Force. Two were very skeptical; two were hardcore believers and somewhere in between was Cody Polston who became the group's president. The name simply came from the fact that all of our hometowns were in the Southwest, so it made sense to us.
The idea of this group was to utilize these different viewpoints, skeptic and believer, to investigate haunted places from a perspective that could lead to an unbiased conclusion. The believers became the "ghost hunters" while the skeptics became the "investigators." From day one we have never believed that ghost hunting and investigation were the same things, so the different terms were used to differentiate between the two kinds of methodology. This was essential as each group approached the mystery differently and had different criteria. The goal was to presented both sides and let the reader decide on what they want to believe.
The ghost hunters interview the witnesses and are searching for specific information from the systematic studies that have been done by various parapsychologists over the past 140 years. This information has been compiled and is known internally as the Gurney/Myers Standard. It is essential to understand that other organizations have different names for this standard (the SPR Standard and the Standard for Spectral Phenomenon for instance), however the importance of the standard is vital if you are serious about investigating hauntings and ghosts. People have "paranormal" experiences all the time, and most are explainable through psychology due to the effects of one's belief system, worldview and the bias that they create.
The basis of the standard is actually quite simple. It takes an approach of eliminating the known factors that can be identified and accessed in their validity and to examine the traits of apparitions and hauntings as defined by the systematic studies. While it cannot be used to prove a haunting, it can be used to eliminate the common factors that create legends and myths. If the standard is met, the mystery will still remain (as does the possibility of a paranormal oriented cause).
The goal of the investigators is to attempt to identify and/or replicate any natural or manmade causes of the reported phenomena, search for alternative explanations and to challenge the findings of the ghost hunters.
In the beginning, when it was just the five of us, everything ran well. Our friendship enabled us to communicate despite having different worldviews and objectives. However, when the group began taking on new members, several issues started to cause problems. To be quite honest, the issues were often on the side of the believers who thought that their perspectives on specific investigative issues were being prematurely dismissed by armchair skepticism. This was eventually solved through the addition of new by-laws or modifications to the group's operational procedures.
The by-laws were never meant to limit the field of inquiry, only to ensure that the methodology used was not only consistent but also used the same base criteria applied to the field observations. The operational procedures were there to ensure that the field observations were recorded and analyzed by the same people utilizing the same operational procedure. This was essential if we wanted any of the results of the group to be repeatable.
As time passed, others interested in the hobby noticed what we were doing and wanted to join in and help. This, combined with the mobile nature of being in the military, created satellite teams that spanned across the American Southwest and the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association was born. Soon other teams began to join us, agreeing to use our methods in exchange for sharing information and resources. Those teams simply became charters of the core group, yet maintained their original identity.
By 1996, the group had reached its maximum of fifty members spread out over five teams in five states (Texas, New Mexico, Utah, California, and Nevada). However, the ever moving nature of the core members in the military often resulted in the cancellation and creation of other charters. Even though this was not the desired effect, it did manage to spread the use of the methodology and resulted in deeper investigations of reported hauntings.
With this in mind, the group reduced the number of charters to one per state (to keep the numbers manageable) and decided that only one team would be allowed to investigate a location at a time. The information on the investigations were centralized and shared with the other teams, limiting the duplication of effort while still allowing the group to use multiple observation points. This was essential as an investigation is not easily duplicated.
With the internet taking off in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the group decided to start hosting their own site to share information and pictures of the investigations with the public. This was not just to show off but to share ideas and to network with other groups. The group had to be flexible and adaptive to this ever moving situation, and changes were constantly made to the supporting charters in order to maintain a tight knit group that could function as a unit while maintaining the individual identities of the teams.
By 2002 most of the teams were either defunct or inactive. Only New Mexico, Texas and Arizona remained.
The influence of the ghost hunting TV shows had a negative effect as it promoted the "entertainment only" style of "investigating" to the world. By 2009, only the core group remained, residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This leads us to the current state of the organization. The main group is doing very well, still active, and continues to investigate the haunted places in the Southwest.