This is the second lesson in your Ghost Hunting for Beginners course.
You may have been on ghost tours. (In fact, I recommend going on some ghost tours, first.)
You might have attended a few ghost hunting events, even investigations led by pros.
And, in the past, you and some friends may have explored a haunted house or haunted cemetery.
But, whether you’ve done any of those things – or not – what’s next may seem new to you.
In fact, the goal of your first ghost hunt is to become familiar with real investigation procedures. Don’t expect much. This is a “lite” version.
Think of it as a dress rehearsal. It’s a chance to make a few mistakes and refine your plans before you attempt a serious investigation
First, ask a friend or two to go with you
Never go ghost hunting alone. That’s more about the living than the dead.
Many “haunted” locations are used by criminals, drug dealers, and so on, as places to conduct business, unobserved. And some haunted sites are popular for parties – keggers, etc. At the very least, they’ll distract you.
Either way, never go ghost hunting alone.
It’s best to find a couple of friends who seem level-headed, are likely to remain serious even when they’re anxious (or even frightened), and share a general interest in ghosts and haunted places.
At the very least, ask someone you trust to accompany you, even if he, she, or they don’t share your ghost hunting enthusiasm.
Choose a place to investigate
Find a nearby location that is supposed to be haunted.
Not sure? Check back issues of local newspapers, from around Halloween. Often, they’ll describe local “ghost stories,” and some may be places you can visit.
The Shadowlands is the oldest and largest resource online, and it includes haunted sites from all over the world. Keep in mind that it’s only as accurate as the people who filed reports with the site, and some of those may have been trolls. Despite that, it’s a website I respect and consult, now and then.
Check my additional suggestions for 13 Ways to Find a Haunted House.
But, if nowhere nearby has a haunted reputation, I recommend any local, outdoor, historical site, such as a battlefield. (As I’m writing this in 2020, outdoor locations are safer for health reasons.)
Sometimes, historical markers are the best clues to haunted places. (If something dramatic happened at that location, ghosts – or residual energy – may have lingered.)
- Here’s a link to one database, mostly of the U.S. and Canada: Historical Marker Database. You can also find sites listed in Wikipedia.
- In the U.K., the U.K. Historical Markers site (a Waymarking page) may be helpful. Wikimedia Commons has its own, shorter list, as does Wikipedia.
(If you decide you enjoy haunted cemeteries, I’ve written an entire book on this topic: Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.)
Whatever the location, make sure it’s safe (and legal) to visit at dusk or later. Also, you may want to search online to see if others have posted information about their ghostly encounters there.
Throughout this course, I’ll mention safety. That includes personal, spiritual, and legal safety.
Pro tip: Search online using phrases like “police” combined with the maybe-haunted location in quotation marks. (Click here for an example, using the search term “police” + “blood cemetery.”)
You’re looking for three things:
- Reports that suggest the site has a crime problem. (Stay away.)
- Warnings that the police are especially likely to ask ghost hunters to leave. (Stay away.)
- OR… a site with a very weird history and the police are regularly called to investigate odd lights or sounds. (That might be a site to investigate.)
Ghost hunting can be risky. Your preparedness makes a difference. At each haunted site, you’ll learn a little more.
That’s true when you’re a beginner. It’s true when you’re a pro, too.
During every investigation, remain aware of your surroundings, and pay close attention to your internal radar.
Here’s one of the most important rules: Never stay at a haunted place after your “gut feeling” tells you to leave.
> It might be a sense of physical danger.
Perhaps, out of the corner of your eye, you noticed rotted floorboards in a dark corner, or you thought you saw a rat scamper away.
> It might be a sense that something truly evil lurks, just out of sight.
> Or, as you and your friends are entering a park or cemetery at 6:30 PM, you notice a sign saying the site is closed after 6 PM.
If something suggests danger to you, tell your companions. They may have a simple explanation that could put your mind at rest.
Or, they might agree that it’s a good idea to leave, and then go somewhere else.
No matter what they say, if you feel at risk, leave immediately.
Also, dress for comfort, not for style. Sturdy, closed footwear is essential. Check the weather report, too, so you’re caught in a downpour.
Your phone is the only equipment you’ll need
Don’t invest in any ghost hunting equipment, yet.
(Above all, don’t bring anything like a Ouija board with you.)
Usually, I recommend tools that are already on your phone, and free (or very inexpensive) to add.
For example, a flash camera is useful, and your phone probably includes one. (If you can set the ISO, I suggest 200 at the very least, and 400 if the site is extremely dark.)
You can probably use your phone to record videos as well as voices (EVP).
Some “ghost radar” apps actually work. A few are free. Try them, just for fun. Don’t expect much.
Your phone probably has a flashlight, too, but I recommend carrying a spare flashlight, just in case.
(I’ll talk about this in a later lesson. Short version: Don’t rely on any one tool that uses batteries. They can suddenly fail at truly haunted sites. Always have a backup.)
If you’re outdoors, you may want some bug spray and a first aid kit, just in case.
Indoors, a medical-style mask can prevent inhaling dangerous mold, mildew, and – at sites with rodents – hantavirus.
With that in mind, it’s time to go with – or meet – your friends at the haunted location.
When you arrive
Before you enter the haunted site, pause. Review how you’ve felt during the day. Happy? Anxious? Eager? Also think about any physical issues, such as a headache or a slightly upset stomach.
Now check how you feel at this moment, including your mood and any physical concerns.
In a future lesson, I’ll talk more about personal baseline checks. For now, it’s important to recognize if – at the haunted site – your mood shifts abruptly, or you suddenly feel different physically. Those can indicate an outside influence.
How a haunted site impacts you, personally, is a major part of ghost hunting. So, it’s helpful to recognize if that sudden headache was actually building up, all day. Or if you were in a good mood all day, but – at the haunted site – you abruptly feel angry.
After mentally noting how you feel upon arrival, it’s time for you and your friend (or friends) to enter the haunted site.
Once you’re there…
For your first ghost hunt, just walk around. Use your five (or six) senses. Watch for anything that looks odd. Listen carefully for unusual sounds. Take note of unexpected odors, as well as hot or cold spots.
You may want to review 3 Easy Mistakes Beginners Can Make on Their First Ghost Hunt.
Something weird, strange, or unusual may happen. If it does, see if you can find a logical explanation.
More likely, nothing will happen during your first ghost hunt, even if the site is truly haunted.
Ghost hunting is like that. We may spend two hours for every ten minutes of “something weird” at a location.
Not sure what professionals pay attention to? Read Ghost Hunting – Look for What’s Weird, to get an idea.
Plan to spend at least 20 minutes at the site, but not more than an hour, unless it’s fun or a fascinating location.
(Remember, this is just a “dress rehearsal.” You’re getting used to the basics of choosing and spending time at haunted places.)
Afterwards, visit a coffee shop or some other comfortable location. Compare notes. Talk about your respective experiences at the site.
Then, plan your next ghost hunt
I recommend following these steps at least two or three times. (It’s okay to visit the same site repeatedly, if that’s convenient.)
See what happens. Decide if you like this. Try different times of day, different kinds of sites, and so on.
Recruit friends to join you, if you think you’ll continue.
Is this what you expected?
If you’re just ghost hunting out of curiosity, that’s okay.
No matter what your initial goals were, it’s fine to stop after two or three ghost hunts. That may be all you need to decide if ghost hunting is really for you.
Sometimes, I meet people on ghost hunts who… Well, I’m not sure why they’re there.
Often, they aren’t sure either.
Note: They often the same people who insist that the site wasn’t really haunted. Or, at the other extreme, they’re so open and vulnerable, a malicious spirit preys upon them.
The best way to achieve results as a ghost hunter is to know why you’re there and what you’re looking for.
Part of that is knowing the reputation of the haunted site. But also, remember your personal goals in ghost hunting.
Revisit your earlier goals and limits
After you’ve spent time at a haunted site or two, take another look at your ghost hunting goals. Do they still apply, or should you modify them?
Revisit your limits, especially in terms of what keeps ghost hunting interesting: time of day, weather, boredom, and how long you’d like to spend investigating each site.
If you’re still enthusiastic about ghost hunting, it’s probably time to consider ghost hunting tools and your related talents. That’s in the next lesson.
Share your thoughts!
After test-driving a casual ghost hunt (or two or three), what did you learn? What worked and what didn’t? Did this change your plans for your future investigations? What questions do you have now?
Leave a comment here. Other students may benefit from – and appreciate – your insights.
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