This is the start of a short course about making and using free (or inexpensive) dowsing rods for ghost hunting.
Part 1 – How to Make Your Own Ghost Hunting Dowsing Rods.
Start with two wire coat hangers. They should be thin wire, the inexpensive kind that dry cleaners and laundries use.
Trim each so you’re using a little more than half of the coat hanger. (You’ll discard the part with the hook.)
Here’s the one-minute video.
Dowsing Rod Directions
1.) Use two thin wire coat hangers. (Some people use just one dowsing rod for their investigations. I’ve tried that, and prefer to use two. I think they provide more accuracy and clearer indications of paranormal activity.)
2.) Cut them so – at the bend – you have one short side (at least 5″ long) and then the long side (the lower part of the coat hanger).
3.) Bend each dowsing rod so each is at a right angle, about a 90-degree angle, not the sharper angle you started with.
4.) Use your pliers to curl each dowsing rod’s longer side, so the pointed/cut end isn’t a hazard. (During “lights out” investigations, it can be far too easy to unintentionally jab or injure a fellow team member.)
The next step is optional. If you want to be sure you’re not influencing your dowsing rods, you have two choices:
Use a hard plastic straw – not the flimsy kind that come with fast food. Grocery stores usually sell them in the soft drink aisle. Cut it into two sections, each about 4″ (9 – 10 cm) long.
Or, get a metal tube (brass or copper can be ideal) that has an opening wider than the coat hanger wire. The tube should be narrow enough to support the dowsing rods, but let them swing freely, as well. (A DIY store may cut the tube for you. 4″ is a good length, or longer if your hands are large. You may also ask them to burnish the cut edges, so you don’t risk cuts.)
Whatever material you use, be sure it’s firm and won’t yield to pressure from your hand. That way, you won’t inadvertently influence the dowsing rods with your hands.
5.) Whether or not you’re using those added handles, the final step is to curl the lower (handle) end of each dowsing rod, for safety.
Note: If you’re using the optional handle protections, be sure each curled handle end is at least 1/2″ below the end of the straw or tube. Otherwise, contact between them could prevent the dowsing rods from swinging freely.
That’s it. You’ve made your first set of dowsing rods.
In the next lesson (arriving later in 2019), I’ll explain how to hold your dowsing rods, and – in later lessons – how to interpret their movements, and avoid mistakes.
This is the fourth and final lesson in your free Introduction to Ghost Hunting course.
We’ve discussed the basics of ghost hunting. You’ve learned how to find a haunted site near you. By now, you’re finding other people interested in ghost hunting. In addition, I hope you’ve visited at least one haunted location, or will do so, soon.
That’s a great start.
In this lesson, we’ll review some of the most important points, and talk about what’s next.
At this point, some people will focus on organized ghost tours and ghost hunting events. At those, you’re almost guaranteed an interesting – and perhaps spooky – experience.
Tours can be a fine way to find local haunts. Some tours let you borrow their ghost hunting equipment, too. It’s a great way to test-drive difference devices.
If you enjoy the tour enough, ask about becoming one of their tour guides. It’s another way to explore ghost hunting, meet interesting people, and get paid at the same time.
I’ve been on many ghost tours and enjoyed all of them, for various reasons. But, some tours are better than others.
One way to choose a good, local ghost tour: Plan to be near a haunted site you’ll know the tour is likely to visit, at the time they’re likely to pause there.
When the tour shows up, stand back and listen, discreetly. Observe the guide and the reactions of the tour guests.
If it’s a good match for your interests, wait for a break in the tour, and ask the guide for a business card, or how to sign up for a tour.
Events are superb ways to gain access to sites usually closed to investigators.
Some events include workshops and presentations by professional ghost hunters.
Others feature “dealer rooms” where inventors and small businesses sell ghost hunting equipment. That’s where I see the most exciting ghost hunting tools… things the public won’t know about for months.
Mostly, I enjoy ghost hunting events because I can meet other ghost hunters – new and experienced – and swap insights. At every event, there’s always one moment (and usually more) when I say, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”
Events are where long-lasting friendships are formed, as well. They may be the best part of ghost hunting vigils and events.
Or, you may prefer to be part of regular investigations. If so, a ghost hunting group may be the best choice.
Pros & Cons of Ghost Hunting Groups
Before joining – or starting – a ghost hunting team, consider your options.
First, think about your likes and dislikes.
What are your priorities?
Is your schedule limited?
Do you need a team that’s local? Or, are you willing to drive for an hour or more?
Do you want a group that’s mostly fun and social, or a team of skilled, steely-eyed professionals?
And so on.
In other words, have a clear idea of what you’re looking for.
Next, find ghost hunting groups in your area. Friends may have heard about local ghost hunters.
YouTube is another good resources; search for the words “ghost hunting” and your town or county name.
Still no luck? Look for groups mentioned in news reports from around Halloween.
Maybe you know someone in a ghost hunting group. Perhaps you’ve gone with them on a few investigations.
Don’t assume that you know all of the group’s policies, beliefs, and practices. You might be in for surprises.
When you contact a group that’s accepting new members, ask questions. Be clear about things like:
What kinds of haunted sites interest you? For example, do you like (or hate) cemeteries?
Are you eager to investigate famous, local haunted houses? Or, do you prefer to explore new haunts?
Do you want to help frightened people living in haunted houses? Or, are you uneasy in private residences?
Ask which sites the group prefers to investigate. Also ask about sites the group definitely won’t visit, and why.
What about travel? If you need to stay within, say, 10 miles of your home or office, make that clear.
Do you have a car? If not, be sure most investigations can be reached using public transportation. Otherwise, ask if team members routinely offer lifts to sites.
Most ghost hunting teams don’t discuss religion or make it part of their research.
Others are open about their spirituality. For example, most members might proudly belong to one particular church.
Ask about this.
I regularly hear from people thought their new group was inclusive.
Then, every investigation started with the team holding hands and saying a very church-specific prayer, or following a faith-based ritual.
Go on several ghost hunts with any group you’re thinking of joining.
If your beliefs, practices and attitudes are compatible with theirs, that’s great.
If not, keep looking.
When are the team’s investigations and meetings? Do they fit your schedule?
For example, do they usually research at night or during the day? Do they meet on weeknights or weekends? How long are most investigations?
Does the group keep a strict schedule? If you value punctuality but the team tends to run late – or vice versa – that can present problems.
Also, is it okay if you arrive early and stay late, or vice versa? Does anyone else do that, so you’re never on your own?
Be sure you always have companions at haunted sites. Never investigate by yourself. (Bad people, living and dead, can prey on loners. Don’t be a victim!)
What’s expected of team members? Are some investigations and meetings mandatory? How frequent are they?
Is there a training requirement? Who is teaching and what are their qualifications?
Must all team members closely follow the training advice? Or, are you free to use what works best for you?
Annual, quarterly, or monthly dues may be reasonable if they cover things like the group’s website or liability insurance.
Get everything in writing before you join. If anything seems odd, ask to see the group’s recent financial report. All members should have access to that, on request.
Ghost hunting teams must get along. In fact, compatibility can be the make-or-break point for any group of ghost hunters.
An assertive or even boisterous ghost hunter may seem impressive at first. After a few ghost hunts, their constant comments can become annoying. That’s another reason to go on several ghost hunts before agreeing to join.
Are team members too chatty, or always silent, and are you okay with that?
Are you comfortable with how much time they’re in “lights out” mode? Does anyone seem too clingy – or even “flirty” – in the dark?
Some ghost hunters think it’s okay to have a beer or two before an investigation. Others smoke at the site. Some bring their small, fussy children when they can’t find a babysitter.
If something makes you uneasy now, it may annoy you more, later. Address these issues before joining the group.
The Decision Is Yours
Spend time with the group before committing to membership. See what their interests and standards are, under pressure at investigations.
If you find a good team, join. Ask how you can be helpful, especially during investigations. Above all, be active! We ghost hunters need more enthusiastic, dedicated researchers.
But, if you can’t find a team to join, you may want to start your own.
If you do start one, all of the issues we’ve talked about… they’ll become your responsibility.
Think about that carefully.
Be realistic about your resources, especially how much time you have. Being a team leader can require many hours of extra work, in addition to the time spent on investigations.
Starting a Ghost Hunting Group
To build a good ghost hunting group, go on several ghost hunts with a few interested friends.
Do they work well together? Does anyone try to take charge?
It’s natural for people to want to help out. And, in this field, it’s normal for people to want to be in control. (After all, a lot of paranormal research involves creepy things we can’t control.)
But, be cautious if the chemistry between team members leads to conflicts, or one person dominates almost every conversation.
Likewise, pay attention if someone seems like a spectator, rather than an active part of the investigation.
Maybe they’re psychic and need a lot of quiet, personal space to observe the energy (and any ghosts) around them.
Or, maybe they’re uneasy about a fellow team member… or about haunted places, in general.
Watch for personal interactions, especially romantic ones. A couple that’s dating now may split up, later. That’s fine if they remain friends. If not, it can fracture any team.
In addition, check the list of local sex offenders.
I know how preposterous that sounds, but in 2009, we learned that a major ghost hunting personality had been arrested (and convicted) on sex-related charges… twice.
Most of us were shocked. The man had seemed like the most charming, honest “country boy,” ever.
I’m not sure if he’s still active in ghost hunting; many of us won’t go near him, or attend any event where he’s a speaker or a guest. I haven’t seen his name mentioned in recent years, so he may have moved on to fields with more gullible members.
Of course, watch for anyone who has to be right, always.
In ghost hunting, it’s easy to decide something was definitely a ghost, when it wasn’t. It’s equally easy to brush off a genuine anomaly, and later realize it may have been a ghost.
Either way, can your potential team members accept when they’re wrong? Arguments and hard feelings can result.
If someone remains sullen or adamant about a mistake, the issue is likely to explode, sooner or later. They probably don’t belong on your team.
But, allow people to get used to ghost hunting. At first, everything can seem overwhelming, confusing, and awkward.
In time, they may respond more gracefully to mistakes.
Frankly, even seasoned investigators are wrong about some phenomena, regularly. Sometimes, that’s awkward. Most of the time, we laugh at our blunders and try to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
After several ghost hunts with a variety of people, consider balance.
Getting the Right Balance
What if you have four people with EMF meters, but no one who records EVP?
You could form a group that specializes in EMF. Or, you may add a team member who’s good with EVP.
What about gender or other factors? If your team is predominantly male, or one nationality, or most of them grew up together, will others feel uneasy?
Today, it’s easy to draw tribal lines after a misunderstanding. Keep all kinds of balance in mind.
When you’ve found a group of people with shared interests and a long-term interest in ghost hunting, discuss forming a formal team. If enough people are interested, schedule an organizational meeting.
It’s best to do this in person. If that’s not possible, try an online collaboration – a private forum, a hangout, a Facebook group, a Google Drive document, or something like Slack.
(Keep in mind that if you can’t find a common time for an in-person meeting, scheduling investigations may be even more challenging.)
Cover the basics at this meeting. For example, discuss the types of locations you’ll investigate, and issues related to spirituality.
Decide the best investigation schedule. Discuss distance or expense limits. Talk about what you expect from members, and so on.
You might have something like a mission statement. In other words, why you’re involved in ghost hunting. Start with something general. The group can modify it later.
It’s okay to model your team after an existing group, or people you’ve seen on TV or YouTube.
Discuss the group’s structure.
Will there be one leader, or do you prefer co-leaders? Is that a permanent, rotating, or elected position?
Also, who speaks for the group when dealing with the media? (You’re likely to have more contact with the media than you expect. Plan ahead.)
Who Does What?
Everyone should have specific responsibilities. You could choose titles, so each person understands who focuses on what. Everyone should feel important, but not overwhelmed by responsibilities.
Possible titles could include:
Lead ________ Investigator (EMF, EVP, cold spots, triggers, etc.)
Lead Photographer or Videographer
Safety & First Aid Specialist
Media or PR Contact Person
New Member Contact Person
____________ Analyst (photos, EVP, etc.)
Also, identify anyone who prefers to be the base team. Sometimes, base team members are interested in ghosts, but uneasy in dark locations. Or, they have allergies or asthma that prevents them from investigating dusty or moldy sites, especially during hay fever season.
Of course, it helps if they’re tech-minded.
The base team – two or three people – may be in a separate, lit room or outside in a van. They’ll stay in contact with team members via walkie-talkies, and perhaps monitors if those are in your budget.
They may supervise evidence analysis, too.
Of course, this is a lot to decide. Don’t feel rushed. It’s okay to start with a limited structure (or nearly none at all). Then, modify your team as needed.
But, a few points should be addressed, early. One is your liabilities. The other is your new member policy.
Will you conduct private investigations? If so, ask an insurance expert about liability issues.
There are two sides to this.
Find out what to someone charges your team with damage after an investigation. For example, if a team member breaks something at a haunted hotel or museum.
Also, a private home with malicious or demonic activity, it’s far too easy to make things worse. So, what happens if they sue you?
This is especially important when a client or homeowner withholds important information from you. That happens more often than you might expect.
Some homeowners are quick to tell you their worst fears.
Others may be afraid that you will think it sounds crazy. Or – at the other extreme – you’ll be too frightened to help them.
Every investigation is unique. Be sure you’re covered if the site owner makes a claim against you.
Then there’s the safety of your team.
What happens if a team member (or guest) has an accident, or even causes one?
People can stumble or run into objects in low light conditions, especially in old buildings.
Outdoor settings present different problems. For example, at cemeteries, you may encounter snakes, irregular depressions in unmarked graves, and broken pavement. (I think everyone on my team has fallen or twisted an ankle, at some time.)
Ghost hunting is scary enough.
A good insurance agent can prevent financial nightmares.
In every group, team members come and go. A member might take a job in another area. Or, his school or work schedule changes. Now and then, personality conflicts emerge and one person leaves the team.
Your group may also expand its size and scope. If so, you’ll need new members to support growing demands and responsibilities.
Decide how and when to include new members and guests.
Also consider if founding members must approve new members, and if it should be unanimous.
Even informal groups should aspire to professional standards. This is especially important if you’ll interact with the public or media.
Most groups choose a name. It should be completely different from any other group, especially in your area.
Your group may want team T-shirts or business cards. You might launch a website and a YouTube channel, or schedule events, lectures, and media appearances.
Unless you form a legal partnership, one individual owns the rights to the domain name, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc.
Discuss this early, perhaps with an attorney who specializes in copyright law and intellectual property.
And then, put it in writing.
In this lesson, you’ve learned about joining or starting a group. By now, you have a lot to think about.
Don’t rush into anything. Take your paranormal explorations one step at a time.
After about a dozen or so informal ghost hunts, you’ll have a much better sense of what you want to do next.
You may decide that ghost hunting is more fun to watch on your TV or in videos. In real life, it’s not that exciting to stand in the dark for hours, with nothing happening.
At the other extreme, if you encounter something terrifying, you may wonder if ghost hunting is worth it.
If you stay in this field, you have many options.
Whichever path you choose now, it’s not a lifetime commitment. Interests and priorities change. Being part of a team may be fun now, but tedious later.
Start by gaining expertise as a ghost hunter. Later, explore other areas related to ghost hunting.
After that, narrow your focus to what you most enjoy. It could become your specialty.
In future free courses, I’ll describe some professional options that I’ve explored, and share my best insights.
I’m also working on courses related to specific ghost hunting interests, research techniques, and kinds of haunts.
This lesson is about preparing for a thorough investigation. It may be challenging. It’s likely to take you more than a week to complete. Have patience. Mastering this lesson will make a big difference in your success as a ghost hunter.
During every investigation, it’s important to separate how you feel from how the ghosts affect you.
This becomes easy, even second nature, after a few dozen ghost hunts. But, at the beginning, I recommend consciously checking this.
See my article, Baseline Yourself, for more information, links to free worksheets, and a helpful podcast.
Tools for Beginning Ghost Hunters
It’s not necessary to use any tools during a ghost hunt. In an earlier lesson, I recommended carrying some symbol of spiritual protection, but even that is optional.
Some people like to shield themselves spiritually, before entering the haunted site.
You may say a prayer.
You might mentally ask a relative – someone who’s already crossed over – to be with you and protect you.
You might carry a quartz crystal, a religious medal, or rosary beads.
You could imagine yourself protected by a pink bubble of loving energy.
Or, you may prefer to think of yourself shielded by a vivid blue light shining down from the heavens above.
As a beginner, I recommend a simple prayer or comforting ritual – even something like stargazing while sipping cocoa – before beginning a ghost investigation.
At the very least, that kind of routine can clear your mind of lingering thoughts from earlier in the day. You’ll feel fresher and more focused as you start the investigation.
But, if this seems silly, it’s okay to leap into your first ghost hunting experience.
The most important tools are your five or six senses.
During your first two or three ghost hunts, just observe.
Listen for strange noises and odd silences.
Watch for strange lights, shadows or figures. Pay special attention to dark corners and reflective surfaces. (Mirrors, windowpanes, and shiny surfaces can reflect ghostly images.)
All of your senses should be on alert. Some people hear ghosts. Some people see them. Many people report things like an odd chill, or breath on their faces, necks, or arms.
Other people sense changes in movement or energy.
Here’s an example:
At New Hampshire’s Gilson Road Cemetery, we discovered an unusual energy field. At the time, we said it felt like “wading through molasses.”
In later investigations, we felt it again. It was never as strong as that first time, but it’s something we’ve never forgotten.
The first time, it was a little alarming. I worried that, at some point, someone might be paralyzed by the energy field.
Fortunately, we kept wading. The energy field was about 20 or 30 feet across, and denser at the middle. When we escaped it, we felt a little drained, but that’s all.
To this day, I have no idea what it was. Maybe it was residual energy from violent deaths at that location, centuries ago. Or, it was connected with the unmarked graves and misplaced headstones at that cemetery.
During your investigations, notice what’s going on internally. Are you feeling excited, or a little drained of energy, or both? Are your emotions significantly different from earlier in the day? (This is when your baseline checks are important.)
Those observations are at the core of ghost hunting.
Ghost hunting equipment
Ghost hunting tools can be helpful, but they only confirm that something odd is going on.
Ghost hunting apps for phones and handheld devices.
But, many investigators rely on ghost hunting tools for other reasons, too.
It’s exciting to confirm your perceptions with hard evidence. It’s thrilling when an EMF spike occurs seconds after you felt a chill.
If a photo shows a strange shadow, it could be the same figure others have seen.
The voice from a spirit box can be startling, especially when a word or phrase fits the haunting.
And, when ghost hunting turns scary, your equipment can serve a second purpose.
Tools can provide a sense of comfort
Putting your attention on something very real and physical can be a relief. It’s a temporary break.
Any investigation can seem overwhelming. You’ll encounter things you can’t explain. They are phenomena and feelings you can’t control. It can seem scary.
That’s when it’s comforting to step back into the “real” world of cameras and audio equipment, ghost apps, and EMF devices.
That sense of control can be essential when an investigation suddenly seems overwhelming. After all, if your ghost hunting tools seem to go haywire, you can turn them off.
Anything that shifts your focus away from your fears… that can be a necessary break.
But, it may also be a problem.
Ghosts can be very different from what you expected. It’s normal to feel vulnerable.
It’s okay to take a brief “time out.” Focus on your ghost hunting equipment. Check your readings for a few minutes.
But also keep the risks in mind.
Ghost hunting tools can be a problem when:
You rely on them too much.
They distract you from real risks. Never ignore a “gut feeling” that warns you of danger.
Tools interfere with research. For example, when your Ovilus or spirit box keeps talking, but someone nearby is recording EVP.
When ghosts (or other entities) use those tools to frighten you.
Keep that last point in mind. Many people believe that ghosts interact EMF meters, real-time communication tools, etc.
If that’s true, malicious spirits can also use your tools to scare you.
For example, during one investigation in Salem, Massachusetts, several team members experienced waves of terror. At that point, I worried about their emotional well-being.
Next, another team member decided to act-out the victim’s abuse posture. (That’s never a good idea.)
Then, the Ovilus in my hand said my name aloud. That was truly odd. My given name – Fiona – was not in the Ovilus word list.
Something was trying to scare us in very personal ways.
Right away, I turned off the Ovilus. We rushed through our investigation in that part of the site, and moved to another area.
The rest of the site was haunted, but not in frightening ways.
It’s rare for a spirit to use your equipment to frighten you. But, if it happens to you, get out of that area.
Pause. Recover. Then decide the safest course of action. When in doubt, leave the site altogether.
Whatever you decide, be sure to warn other teams about your experience.
Never put yourself (or others) at risk when you’re dealing with something you cannot see.
Ghost hunting tools and equipment – personal choices
When professional ghost hunters gather, we often discuss ghost hunting tools. Opinions vary, wildly.
I believe that some ghost hunters “tune in” to some tools better than others. Few are adept (or skilled) in every research area.
One ghost hunter may take great photos, but get nothing in EVP recordings. Or, dowsing rods may respond, but not a pendulum. (I admire those who can use a pendulum well. They are rare, and usually psychically gifted.)
I’ve seen an Ovilus talk almost non-stop to one person, and then go totally silent in the hands of someone else.
Nobody’s sure why this happens. Avoid personal comparisons.
Every ghost hunter is unique. Spirit contact may vary with different people and types of equipment. It may change with time, but also from one location to another.
With more experience, you may develop different aptitudes… and others may not be among your strengths, after all.
Always remember, ghost hunting isn’t a competition. There is no trophy for Best Ghost Hunter, Ever.
Prepare for your first (or next) ghost hunt
This may be a good time to go on a ghost hunt.
Remember your previous lessons. Find someone – preferably two or more people – to go ghost hunting with.
Important: Even if you’re meeting a group of ghost hunters, take a friend along for safety and moral support.
Review my Ghost Hunting – What’s in Your Backpack? list for supplies you may want to have with you. (Don’t feel as if you need all of them. Carry those that make the most sense for where you’re investigating.)
Research the location ahead of time. See it in the daylight. Study the layout or floor plan.
Choose a place that’s not too isolated. Of course, avoid dangerous areas. (A neighborhood’s character can change after dark. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, ask locals’ opinions.)
Ideally, select a haunted site that’s been recommended by someone you respect, and who’s encountered something “odd” there.
Plan to spend no more than an hour at the site. Half an hour maybe as long as you can tolerate.
During your first ghost hunt
Start with the basics. Just observe.
Remember that most of ghost hunting is waiting. It’s important to be patient.
But, never expect ghosts to put on a performance for you. Most are not entertainers.
(If you’re ghost hunting in an old music hall or theatre, that may be an exception. Those ghosts seem to like direction.)
If one area has no activity, check another.
It may help to focus on one kind of anomaly at a time. That might be a change of temperature, an odd sound, or a strange shadow.
Then, before moving ahead, compare notes with your friends or team members.
Omit nothing, even when it was an odd breeze or something you think you “just imagined.”
As a new ghost hunter, your observation skills are your highest priority. Develop them early, and you’ll be far more effective in later ghost hunts.
Of course, before you leave your first serious ghost hunt, it’s okay to use your camera, a ghost app, or a voice recorder to detect spirits.
That will help you gain confidence with how those tools work.
(Don’t expect immediate results. Initially, you’ll be sorting normal reactions from things that can’t be explained. You’ll also be learning which settings or buttons do what, for each ghost hunting device.)
When the investigation is over, pause to be sure you aren’t leaving anything (or anyone) behind.
Then, leave quietly.
If you forgot something
If you get to your car and realize you left something at the site, don’t return to it, alone. Ask someone else to go with you.
Also, don’t take remove anything that’s not yours. That’s important.
In rare cases, I’ll make one exception: It’s okay to take litter or rubbish from the site, especially if other ghost hunters left it behind. BUT, do this only if there’s a trash container at the entrance to the site.
Do not take whatever-it-is to your car. That includes coins, an interesting stone, flowers, a four-leaf clover, or anything you thought of as a “souvenir.” It may hold negative energy.
(Ghostly hitchhikers may be amusing at Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction. In real life, you do not want to take ghostly energy home with you.)
If you’ve already made this mistake, return the object to the haunted site immediately. (Of course, don’t go there alone, especially after dark.)
If that’s not practical, do not burn the item. Instead, bury it at least six inches underground. (That depth prevents animals from digging it up.)
Then, mentally break any link or connection between you, the object, and the haunted site.
After your first ghost hunt
Immediately after that brief investigation, pause to record or jot your thoughts about your experience.
The next day, review those notes. Study any last-minute evidence that you found – photos, EVP recordings, and so on. Add your current thoughts to your notes, as well as things you’d do differently next time.
Repeat this a few times, until you feel more sure of yourself.
This may be all you want from ghost hunting. Or, you may decide to take the next step.
You’ll learn more in the next lesson.
Lesson Three – recommended steps
The following steps are suggested but not required. If you follow them, your ghost hunting experiences are likely to be better.
1) For a minimum of three consecutive (and average) mornings, do a baseline check of your mood, energy, physical health, etc. Record your notes, or jot them down for later reference.
2) Identify one or more friends who’d like to go ghost hunting with you.
3) Select a day, time and location for your first ghost hunt.
4) Research the site. Confirm as much as you can about the site’s history and folklore. (If you visit the site ahead of time, be sure you’re not alone, especially if the location is isolated or in a so-so neighborhood.)
5) On the day of the investigation, pause for another personal baseline check. Then, visit the site while you still have some daylight.
6) Stay at (or return to) the site around dusk. (If it’s a return visit, be sure to run another baseline check on your emotions, sensitivity, energy levels, and so on.)
7) With at least one other person, walk around. Observe your external and internal experiences.
8) Leave when you starting to feel stressed or tired, or when the site closes.
9) Record your results as soon as possible.
10) The next day, review your notes and any evidence from the visit. Add your current thoughts and observations.
11) Repeat this until it’s no longer awkward. Once you say to yourself, “Okay, I think I’m beginning to understand ghost hunting,” you can decide whether or not to continue in this field.
Select a tour and go with a friend. (It’s always more fun to share the scares with someone you know.) During the tour, jot or record notes. Then – at another time, with friends – you can return to the best haunted, public sites.
After the tour, verify every story. Sometimes, only a few of their tales are true.
Case study: New Orleans’ LaLaurie Mansion
For example, in New Orleans French Quarter, tours pause at the infamous LaLaurie Mansion. Guides talk about the ghost of Madame Delphine LaLaurie. They describe her as a small, cruel French woman who spoke limited English with a heavy accent.
Then, guests hear – in lurid detail – about the ghost of a servant girl. According to that tale, the child leaped to her death from a specific window on the top floor of the home.
Some versions of the story describe how the child’s ghost got her revenge. She set fire to the mansion. Since – according to the stories – the sadistic Madame LaLaurie had chained her slaves inside the house, dozens of them died or were badly injured in that fire.
Before the ashes had cooled, Doctor and Madame LaLaurie fled back to France. They were practically chased out of town by New Orleans citizens wielding pitchforks and torches.
When the tour guide concludes that tale, tour guests dutifully take pictures of the third floor. They hope for ghost orbs or an apparition of the little servant girl.
But, the facts are very different.
The house had only two floors when Mme. Delphine Lalaurie lived there. The third was a later addition.
This means no servant – child or adult – threw herself out of the top floor window. It didn’t exist, then. (Since I started talking about this, many tour guides changed the story to say “she threw herself off the roof.” And, for all I know, someone did.)
Delphine’s grandfather was an Irish immigrant. So, it’s possible – but unlikely – that she had a heavy French accent, as some tour guides suggest.
Also, right after the fire, newspapers reported that Mme. LaLaurie visited her slaves that had been hospitalized. She wanted to be sure they were okay.
So, she and her husband weren’t run out of town as their house burned.
Does Mme. LaLaurie haunt the French Quarter? Maybe. But, she only lived in the LaLaurie mansion for a few years.
Where else to find Mme. LaLaurie’s ghost
If you want to see where she spent far more time, check the haunted site of her former home on Royal Street. When I was last there, it was an antiques shop just a few feet away from the delightful (and truly haunted) Brennan’s Restaurant.
After dark, Madame LaLaurie’s apparition appears in the shop’s upstairs window. It overlooks Brennan’s outdoor seating area. (I’ve seen that ghost when I was dining at Brennan’s.)
I’ve also heard that Mme. LaLaurie haunts the shop, downstairs, but I haven’t confirmed that story, personally.
Brennan’s Restaurant ghosts
Brennan’s is haunted by several ghosts. They include a chef on the first floor and, upstairs, the apparition of an old lady upstairs. (She may be Mme. LaLaurie, but she might be someone else.)
Brennan’s also has a haunted portrait, a dramatic cold spot, and the ghost of a woman who only appears in mirrors. If you’ve read or watched Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, you’ll know why that gives me the chills.
Of course, Brennan’s restaurant also attracts celebrities, because it has some of the best food in New Orleans. If you’re planning to dine there and casually look for ghosts, reservations are a good idea.
But anyway… the LaLaurie mansion tale is an extreme example of a ghost tour’s made-up story. One person who lived there said that his condo wasn’t haunted at all. Another friend had spent a couple of nights at the mansion and he swore that it had several ghosts.
An important question about ghost tours
Many ghost tours portray real history at truly haunted locations. They’re great ways to identify public places you can investigate, later.
This is worth repeating: Before purchasing a ticket, always ask if the tour is based on real history, or if it’s mostly “just for fun.”
If you can’t find a serious ghost tour, or they don’t interest you, that’s okay. You may have other resources in your daily life. For example, your friends may know about local haunts.
Friends may be helpful
Your friends – and long-time residents of your community – may know places where you can go ghost hunting. Ask them.
Remember that some people are embarrassed to admit an interest in ghosts. Others think it’s bad luck to talk about ghosts. A few may object on religious grounds.
Of course, it’s easiest to open the conversation at Halloween.
At other times of year, you could ask your friends if they’ve ever watched ghost hunting TV shows. You could break the ice by mentioning a popular (or once-popular) ghost TV show you’ve seen.
Then, ask if the person knows any haunted places nearby. (If they seem genuinely interested in ghosts, ask if they’d like to explore a few haunted places with you.)
Websites can be great resources… or disappointing. Many websites simply copy from each other and never check the facts.
Older websites – from before 2004, when the “Ghost Hunters” TV series became popular – may be more reliable than websites created later.
TV networks’ websites can be one extreme or the other when they describe their ghost-related shows. Some articles are well-researched. Others can be 99% hype.
Double- and triple-check every ghost story.
(Later in this lesson, you’ll learn more about that research.)
October can be a bonanza for ghost hunters. That’s when the media jump on the ghost hunting bandwagon.
The week before Halloween, almost every newspaper and news show runs a story related to a local, haunted place.
Take notes. Then, ask your friends if they’ve seen or heard the story, and if it’s true.
That conversation can open more doors. For example, once they start talking about ghosts, your friends may remember other spooky locations. Or, they may know someone who lives in a haunted house.
If you’re in a hurry and a public location seems credible, it’s okay to visit it with a friend. But, be sure the site is both convenient and safe, if you’re going there after dark.
Around Halloween, weekend afternoons may be the best time to visit. You might find other ghost hunters there, too. If they’re chatty, they may recommend other local haunts. Take notes, and find out as much as you can about the local ghost hunting scene.
More Halloween news stories
Every Halloween, a few reporters try to cover a new haunted location… something that’s not so well known.
This means they reported on a different site last year, and the year before that, and so on.
So, a little research could turn up many local haunts.
Sometimes, magazines, newspapers, and news shows have online archives.
If not, your public library may have back issues of newspapers. Ask the reference librarian how to access them.
Also, ask if he or she knows anything about local ghost stories. (Generally, avoid sounding too rabid about the topic. In fact, unless you’re sure the librarian is enthusiastic about paranormal topics, it’s best to call these stories “folklore” or “legends.”)
Of course, the word “folklore” has been used for ghost stories since the 19th century and perhaps earlier. Does your public library uses the Dewey Decimal System for nonfiction? If so, look around 398 for folklore and fairy tales from your region. They may include tales of spooky encounters and haunted places.
Also browse regional history books from the late 19th century, when Spiritualism was popular. Often, those books include quirky references to local, haunted places. (For the Dewey Decimal System, check 917 and especially the 970s if you live in North America, and 914 and 941-942 if you’re in the U.K. or Ireland.)
And, if you can’t find back issues of local newspapers, visit the publications office. Many media offices keep copies of their own old issues.
While you’re there, ask to speak with their entertainment editor. He or she probably knows several local – and unreported – haunted locations. (Reporters keep notes, year-round, for future Halloween issues.)
Before you leave the newspaper office, share your contact information. You may be a useful resource for them when they’re writing next year’s Halloween stories. And, they may be able to get you into haunted places that are otherwise closed to the public.
That’s how I was able to investigate haunted MBTA tunnels and abandoned rail stations under the streets of Boston, Massachusetts. It was an extraordinary experience, and one of many where reporters opened the doors – literally – to sites the public never see.
Of course, it will be easier for you to work with the media once you’re recognized as a local, credible resource for ghost-related news stories.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite ways to learn what’s haunted – and what isn’t – may seem intimidating at first: conversations with the police.
Do you know a police officer or dispatcher? The police can be a great source of information. I’m not kidding. I’ve known several police officers who were avid ghost hunters.
The police know “annoying” and weird locations that generate too many calls. For example, some ghosts enjoy setting off security alarms. Those calls annoy the police, and they’ve already tried to debunk the cause.
Sometimes, police officers will talk about those locations and other eerie events. A few may tell you their own “ghost stories,” too.
For example, one New Hampshire police chief was eager to tell me about every cold spot he’d encountered. He even described an unusual hot spot he found in the nearby woods. (He believed that hot spots were probably evil energy. He might be right.)
A few years later, in Texas, a police officer questioned my team and me during a cemetery investigation.
When he realized we were serious researchers, not thrill seekers, he cheerfully gave us a personal tour of two haunted cemeteries.
Do your best to remain on good terms with the police in every community. They can be among your best resources, and you may be able to solve some of their “weird phenomena” cases, as well.
Thanks to the recent popularity of ghost hunting, you’ll find many regional books about haunted places. Look for them in bookstores and in libraries.
Some of those books are very good. Others are awful. Most are somewhere in between.
Many “haunted places of _____” include the same old stories, but some of their information may be useful. Mostly, look for well-researched books that cover new ground, so to speak.
One of my favorites is Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire. It identifies off-the-beaten-path haunted sites in the Granite State, especially near hiking trails. (Many locations are near public campgrounds. So, you’d have ample opportunity for legal, late-night ghost investigations.)
Local ghost hunting groups
Sometimes, local ghost hunting groups discover great haunted sites. Go on a few investigations with them.
How can you find ghost hunting groups? Ask owners of local haunted sites like restaurants and hotels. Search online, too.
Some ghost hunting clubs are excellent. Others may be going through “growing pains.” That’s normal. Ghost hunting has waves of popularity.
Here’s the usual pattern: First, the ghost hunting group is organized. Everything seems fine for a while.
Then, disagreements occur, or an unqualified person tries to take charge.
After a heated exchange, the team splits into rival groups. Both try to grab the limelight. It becomes more about fame than research.
At the other extreme, some groups are a few friends who casually visit haunted sites. They enjoy a “good scare.”
Afterwards, the group goes to a restaurant, pub, or someone’s house. They spend the rest of the evening laughing about the experience.
If your ghost hunting goal is about fun or social reasons, join that kind of group. As long as they visit popular and benign haunts, you’re certain to enjoy the experience.
In other words: keep your own ghost hunting goals in mind.
If you are interested in serious paranormal research, look for any group that is widely praised. It’s best if they been researching for at least two years. Another plus: if team members include a good balance of skeptics and believers, and everyone gets along.
Go on three or four investigations with them. Don’t commit to anything. Weight the pros & cons of joining a team, before making any decisions.
In later lessons, I’ll talk more about evaluating ghost hunting groups, or forming your own team.
Local historical societies
Almost every community has a historical group or society of some kind. Many turn up their noses at the suggestion of ghost hunting. Others seem to relish the topic. You won’t know until you ask.
Some of my most interesting investigations started with a historian who was a “folklore expert.”
He liked how I talked about ghost hunting. For me, it’s a personal encounter with real history.
After that, he introduced me to several people. They opened their homes to my team, so we could investigate their ghosts.
The creepy feeling
Many of my team’s best discoveries started with someone saying a place “felt haunted” when he or she passed by.
We had no other reasons to visit those locations.
Often, those sites weren’t haunted. Maybe the place had a history. Perhaps visual cues created a feeling of dread, that’s all.
Each site may have seemed disturbing at first glance, but – when we did some research – it wasn’t ghostly.
Several other sites that seemed a little odd – or even chilling – were haunted. Every one of them had a weird history, too.
So, once you’ve exhausted all known haunts, investigate places that – for no clear reason – have always given you a chill.
Also, here are some PDFs that may help you find more haunted sites.
Even when a ghost story seems reliable, fact-check it.
Here’s what I recommend:
During the day, visit the site with a friend. See what’s there. Check the most likely spots for unusual EMF. (To keep a low profile I usually use a hiking compass. It can react to high EMF, and passersby rarely notice hikers.)
In some locations, it also helps to have a good excuse for being there.
For example, in a haunted cemetery, say you’re there to see a famous grave. You can identify this kind of grave ahead of time by using a website like FindAGrave.com. (Besides, many of those graves – or plots near them – are actually haunted.)
See how the location feels. Look for nearby landmarks, especially historical markers or places of note.
If the haunted site has a staff or a maintenance crew, they may be more receptive to ghost hunters. Ask if they’ve had odd experiences at the site, or know anyone who has.
History may hold clues
If the site seems promising, check its history. Look for possible names for the ghost, as well as his or her reasons for haunting.
At the very least, the past should suggest reasons for residual energy hauntings.
Here are a few resources to help you research the site and its ghost (or ghosts).
>> If the site was the scene of a tragedy, look for old records – newspapers reports and local history books – that mention it.
Be sure it happened at the place that’s supposed to be haunted. (Street names change. Highways can be moved. Use old maps to verify the location, if you’re not sure.)
>> If the ghost has a name, be sure he or she actually existed.
Local records should include the family’s surname around the time the ghost supposedly lived there. You can check old phone books, city directories, newspapers, court documents, vital records, census records, and so on.
For surnames, I start with family histories, online. Some websites focus on individual family names. They can be very useful.
For more detailed research, I like genealogical websites. FamilySearch.org (free but not always reliable) and Ancestry.com (not free, but they offer far more records) are among the best.
Many large genealogy sites allow you to search on “sounds like” names, in case the name had different spellings.
(That’s helpful if the ghost’s surname was something like Maguire, which can also be spelled McGuire or MacGuire. Or, Maloney could be Moloney, Mulloney, and so on.)
If the ghost lived more than 100 years ago, be especially careful about alternate spellings. (Through the 19th century, people were less strict about surname spellings.)
For example, at least two websites describe a York (Maine, USA) ghost named Mary Miller Jason. That name was an error in a regional ghost book. According to her gravestone, her name was actually Mary Nasson. (In some historical records, her surname is spelled Nason. Maybe the Jason error came from that.)
Visit local historical society and ask them about the location or people in the ghost stories.
But, as I explained earlier, some historical societies are uncomfortable around ghost hunters. Historians can feel protective of local landmarks, too. They worry – unfortunately, with good reason – about vandalism.
It may be best to say that you’re researching local folklore. (It will help if you already some regional history, and don’t look too suspicious.)
Genealogical libraries can be useful
If the town has a genealogical library, visit it. It may be a dedicated room in the public library.
(Most will not try to convert you to the Mormon religion. If the subject comes up, it’s okay to say – firmly – that you’re not interested. Usually, they’ll shift their focus to helping you find the historical records you’re looking for. Also, they’re unlikely to flinch if you mention ghost hunting. They can be quirky like that.)
Keep in mind: Even if the name in the ghost stories is wrong, the site may still be haunted.
For example, I’ve found no record of a slave named “Chloe” at the famous Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana. The children she supposedly poisoned…? They lived to be adults and at least one had a family.
Despite that, I have no doubt that the Myrtles Plantation is profoundly (and weirdly) haunted.
Still, it’s very helpful when you can confirm the roots of a ghost story. It can also put your research – such as things said in EVP – into a context that makes sense.
Also, anytime you are in a library that has old records, look for vintage maps featuring the location that interests you. Those maps can be excellent resources, and show you what else was in the neighborhood. It may have had a bearing on whatever caused the haunting.
Or, you may stumble onto a haunted site you didn’t know about.
For example, when researching ghosts in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, a couple of us found a rare, 19th-century map. It actually included a note – and an arrow – indicating “the haunted house.”
Until then, we’d never heard about ghosts at that location. We immediately added it to our research list.
In this lesson, you’ve learned several ways to find locations to investigate.
You’ve also learned how to research local ghost stories to separate fact from fiction.
Some stories may be urban legends. You’ll find historical foundations for others. Yet others may have no obvious history, but the ghosts are still real.
Try to find as much related history as you can. When you know what really happened at a site, you’ll know what to look for, and who the ghosts may be.
For example, if you have a psychic sense of smell, you may notice a smoke odor in a location that’s haunted because of a fire. (I’ll talk about types of manifestations – and perceptions – in a future course.)
Mostly, it can save time if you know exactly where a tragedy occurred. You can focus your initial investigation there.
Also, if you investigate on related dates, such as the anniversary of the tragedy, your research may be more productive.
Also, I’ve had good results investigating on the birthday of the most likely ghost.
I’m not sure if the ghost is waiting for someone to wish him a happy birthday, or what.
But, it’s the kind of anniversary that triggers ghostly activity.
Is it helpful to sing “Happy Birthday to You” to the ghost? Maybe. That song wasn’t popularized until the early 20th century. Your 19th century ghost may not have a clue what (or why) you’re singing.
But, perhaps he (or she) will appreciate being remember and react. I suppose it’s worth a try.
In this video, you’ll learn more tips about when to go ghost hunting.
When is the best time to go ghost hunting? If you’d like to encounter a real ghost, some times may be better than others. In this short video, Fiona Broome share some of her best scheduling tips, so you can make the most of your paranormal investigations.
Finding a haunted site is vital, but it’s just the first step to a successful ghost hunt.
In the next lesson, you’ll learn some of the best ghost hunting tools and practices.
Lesson Two – recommended steps
1) Identify two or three possibly haunted places near your home, school, or workplace.
2) Keep a list of potential investigation sites. You may not use all of them, now, but this list may be useful later.
3) Select one location. Learn as much as you can about the site. Look for its history and evidence of ghost stories.
Search online, and visit at least one off-line resource (historical society, public library) to find additional information that may support – or debunk – the site’s stories.
4) With a friend or two, visit the location in the daytime. Is there physical evidence to support the ghost stories? That could be anything from a historical marker to a “creepy feeling.”
5) Locate at least one ghost hunting group in your area. Search online, using the name of your city or town, plus the word “ghosts.” If that doesn’t work, try your county name, or the name of your state or region.
6) If you don’t find a local group – or if none of them are right for you – start asking friends if they’re interested in ghost hunting.
7) If you have enough people – and collective expertise – try an informal ghost hunt. Choose a well-known haunted site that’s open to the public). Visit it shortly before dusk and see if anything ghostly happens. (You’ll probably investigate the same location you visited in step four, above.)
Welcome to Introduction to Ghost Hunting, Hallowfields’ free, four-part course in basic ghost hunting.
You’re about to begin an exciting adventure.
Included in this course
Here’s what you’ll learn in the next four lessons:
How to start ghost hunting. That’s this lesson.
Where to find ghosts. You’ll find tips in lesson two.
What to expect and what to do. That’s in lesson three.
How to join (or start) a ghost hunting team. You’ll find suggestions in the fourth (final) lesson in this course.
If you have any questions during this course – or as a ghost hunter – first search for the topic. Also check the FAQs. If you don’t find your answer there, leave a comment. I’ll do my best to answer all questions.
Each lesson is designed to take about one week, part-time. You may need more or less time, depending upon your schedule, interests, and previous ghost hunting experience.
I’m sure you’re eager to start ghost hunting immediately, but please explore each lesson thoroughly.
Also, no matter how quickly – or methodically – you go through this course, it’s a good idea to review these lessons (a second time, or more) after you’ve been on a few ghost hunts.
I’ve been ghost hunting for decades, but I’m still learning.
This field keeps changing. Researchers find new ways to detect and communicate with ghosts. More haunted places are identified and opened to investigators.
New investigators (like you) enter the field and make important new discoveries.
And, of course, people like me revise and update our books and courses every few years.
That evolution keeps ghost hunting exciting. There’s always more to learn. Every day brings new opportunities to encounter paranormal phenomena.
I hope you enjoy this course, but – even more – I hope ghost hunting is a great adventure for you.
You’re important. You might make the next big breakthrough in ghost research.
The Course Starts Here
Before you go ghost hunting
From the start, think about your ghost hunting goals as well as your limits.
Here’s my video overview of this step as a ghost hunter.
Ghost hunting can be an exciting, fascinating experience. To get the most from ghost hunting, it’s important to establish your goals and limits. In this video, Fiona talks about the importance of planning ahead, to be sure you have an exciting – or even terrifying – ghost hunting experience.
Ghost hunting can be boring. It can be uncomfortable, and – at times – terrifying. It’s okay to admit that. Your teammates may feel the same way, and it can help to talk about it openly.
Also, consider how much time and money you’re willing to invest in paranormal research.
When people don’t know their ghost hunting goals and their limits, they can lose focus. They continue ghost hunting long after it stops being interesting or fun.
Why ghost hunting…?
Are you looking for proof of ghosts? What kind of proof? In other words, what would you need to encounter (or experience) to feel as if you found your answer?
Decide this ahead of time.
Is your interest more scientific or spiritual?
If you’re looking for scientific evidence, you’ll probably focus on measurable phenomena like cold spots and EMF (electromagnetic fields) surges.
If you’re deeply spiritual, are you looking for a personal connection with “the other side”? Is that to develop your psychic awareness, or to help spirits “cross over”?
Does ghost hunting seem like fun? If so, does it have to be fun, and what kind of fun? Interesting, or just “a good scare”?
No matter what your goals are, ghost hunting isn’t what you see on TV.
Much of ghost hunting is boring. (They edit that out of TV shows and movies.)
You’ll stand around for hours, usually in the dark, waiting for something to happen.
Often, nothing happens. That’s when paranormal research can seem like one of the least fun hobbies, ever.
Boredom isn’t just an annoying part of ghost hunting. Boredom can be dangerous, as well.
Ghost hunting dangers
During every investigation, do your best to remain alert. Remain aware of your surroundings, and pay close attention to your internal radar.
From the start, never stay at a haunted place after your “gut feeling” tells you to leave.
Most haunted locations are safe.
A few may have real-life risks such as uneven walkways, rotting floorboards, or toxic mold and mildew.
Usually, you’ll know about those dangers ahead of time.
Now and then, you’ll encounter angry, territorial ghosts. They may startle you, but most aren’t dangerous.
Demons and malicious spirits are rare, but they’re also a genuine risk. They can injure you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
If your internal radar – or “gut feeling” – gives you a deep sense of anxiety, pay attention to it. It is better to leave an investigation site and feel silly about it, than to put yourself at risk.
Test-drive ghost hunting
If you’re ghost hunting out of curiosity, that’s okay. See what it’s like.
No matter what your initial reasons or goals were, it’s okay 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 too sure either.
If the site is truly haunted, that lack of focus can be a problem. If you’re not paying attention, mischievous spirits can push you, isolate you from your friends, or terrorize you on a deeply personal level.
So, know why you’re ghost hunting. Decide what it might look like to achieve your ghost hunting goals.
Know your limits
Also, be sure to define your limits. Know how bored or afraid you’re willing to be.
Ahead of time, decide how much time and money you’ll spend on ghost hunting.
You can encounter real ghosts without expensive ghost hunting equipment. In this 16-minute podcast, professional ghost hunter Fiona Broome explains how to use your five (or six) senses to find real ghosts and haunted places.She talks about the kinds of evidence you might see, and what to listen for. Fiona
In a later lesson, I’ll talk about sophisticated ghost hunting tools – and backups.
In a frightening situation, it can help to feel protected by Deity, or something representing your spiritual beliefs.
This could be garlic, a small Bible, a pentacle, blessed salt, or even your “lucky socks.”
Generally, ghost hunters carry something small and unobtrusive.
Sometimes people tell me they’re atheists, or don’t believe in spiritual protection.
Keep this in mind: In frightening situations – and in a matter of minutes – people can change from calm, logical thinkers to emotional wrecks.
Even experienced ghost hunters can be surprised, startled, or experience bone-chilling fear.
The issue may not be ghosts. Other entities can be attracted to haunted sites, especially if they think vulnerable people will investigate there.
Prepare for terror, just in case
If anything might be a source of comfort for you, bring it with you.
This could be a swatch from your childhood “cuddle blanket.” It might be a religious medal. It might be a quartz crystal. Or, you might choose an MP3 of traditional hymns or Broadway tunes.
It’s not so much what you carry, as your belief that it works. Inner confidence – in a Higher Power or in yourself – is your best protection in a truly terrifying situation.
Of course, it’s better is to detect danger with your internal radar or “gut feeling.” Almost every experienced ghost hunter can tell you about an investigator who stayed too long at a dangerously haunted site.
The investigator who died
Here’s my story: I don’t like to talk about this, but it happened to someone on my team. She was bright, funny, a mom, and a skeptic. Also, she was fit & healthy, and led an active life.
After a routine investigation, she decided to visit another haunted location on her way home. I’m still not sure why.
But, something there terrified her.
(She wasn’t easily startled. In fact, even during our most unsettling investigations, she was usually the last to leave. So, when she told me how troubled she was after her independent, late-night exploration, I was alarmed.)
A few days later, her sudden death was a shock to everyone who knew her.
We still don’t know if it was connected to something paranormal at the second site. We know that she literally ran from whatever-it-was… perhaps too late to escape its effects.
Don’t take chances.
Normal, expected risks
Some haunted sites present physical risks. Abandoned or neglected buildings can have rotted floors, uneven stairs, dangerous mold and mildew, or even a rodent population.
In dark, poorly maintained cemeteries, you may stumble onto unmarked graves (depressions the size and shape of buried coffins), exposed tree roots, and holes dug by rodents and snakes.
In wooded areas frequented by hunters (whether or not it’s hunting season), wear something reflective or brightly colored.
(Neon-colored vests are inexpensive. You can buy them at stores such as Target, sporting goods stores, and online retailers like Amazon.)
Never rely on your mobile phone for safety. In many haunted places, EMF levels can be high. Electrical devices – including phones, cameras, and other devices – can fail. Usually, the problem is the battery. Even freshly charged devices can go flat as soon as you enter haunted location.
Some say ghosts drain battery energy for their own use. I’m not ready to believe that. But, I’ve seen all electrics lose power – almost instantly – upon arriving at investigation sites.
Here’s a short video about what to do if you’re using a phone (or other electronics) for ghost hunting, and the batteries go flat.
Ghost hunting equipment can fail in haunted settings. Here’s one way to continue your investigation anyway – Try “old school” ghost hunting methods. In this video, Fiona Broome shares a few easy ways to make the most of a ghost investigation, even when everything seems to go wrong.
Of course, you could just leave the site if you’re uneasy about how (and why) ghosts might be tampering with your camera, phone, or other gadgets.
Mostly, never assume that it’s okay to go alone to a deserted, haunted place. If you need to call for help, your phone may not work.
(The good news is: electronic equipment often starts working again – as if nothing had happened – when you leave the haunted site. I’ve seen flat batteries seem to recharge themselves, about 1/4 mile from our investigation.)
Two simple precautions
Speaking of danger, here are two of the best ways to remain safe.
Oneis: Never trespass. That should be obvious.
The other is: Never go ghost hunting alone.
Many haunted places are isolated. Safety is a concern. If you encounter someone brightening – living or dead – you should not be alone.
Ghost tours and ghost hunting events are a fine way to start.
You could try ghost hunting with a few interested friends.
Or, look for local, informal ghost hunting groups. Contact them, and sign up for one of their more casual investigations. Learn more about their members, as well as the kinds of investigations they prefer.
Friends are best when you’re bored… or scared
Sometimes, who you’re with can be more important than where the group investigates. For example, many people enjoy ghost hunting with others who share their interests.
Skeptics may have more fun with other skeptics.
If you’re a believer, you may prefer to investigate with other believers.
Either way, on your first few ghost hunts, keep an open mind. Ghost hunting may surprise you, or it might be a big letdown.
Choose companions who are interested in the paranormal but – like you – are willing to consider the evidence objectively.
However, most ghost hunters see the best results at dusk and after dark.
Are you going ghost hunting with an established, organized research group? Follow their schedule.
But, if you’re exploring a haunted place with a friend or two, arrived shortly before dusk. Then, you can see what’s there while you still have daylight. As light fades, thing may become eerie.
In full darkness, the intensity may increase. Leave as soon as the paranormal energy exceeds your comfort level. You don’t need to explain yourself. You don’t need to make up an excuse. Just leave.
I usually leave a haunted site while I’m still having fun, but nothing new or interesting has happened for at least half an hour. (That varies with how much has already happened, and whether I have good reason to expect more phenomena, later.)
Also, I’m mindful of my own energy levels. As soon as I begin to get tired, I tell my team members I’m going home.
Be sure to leave while you’re still fresh enough to drive home. Remain alert. Late at night, other drivers may not be at their best.
If you’re exhausted or feel too anxious to drive safely, get a lift with someone else, and return for your car the next day.
1) Decide why you’re ghost hunting. Determine your goals.
2) Be realistic about ghosts and haunted places. Ghost hunting isn’t like it looks on TV. You’ll experience boredom and – possibly – terror, as well. Decide how bored or frightened you’re willing to be. It can help to keep a diary, as an overview of how much fun ghost hunting is (and isn’t).
3) Set specific time and money limits, too.
4) Start with a plan of action. You may want to learn more about ghosts from books. Or, you might list several haunted places – local and distant – you’d like to investigate.
5) If your interests are scientific, start learning about ghost hunting equipment. Compare prices. Read reviews. Ask professionals for their recommendations, too, but don’t buy anything yet.
6) Think about exploring haunted places with others. Talk with friends and look for local ghost tours, ghost hunting events, and investigation teams.
Welcome to your free, four-part course, Introduction to Ghost Hunting.
You’ll get the most out of this course if you allow at least a week to complete each lesson.
Also, the videos, handouts, and links in each lesson are optional. However, the more you learn about ghost hunting – especially the topics that most interest you – the more you’ll enjoy visiting haunted place.
Before they do any serious research at haunted sites, most ghost hunters take baseline readings.
That means they walk around the location and check it with ghost hunting equipment, especially EMF meters and digital thermometers. Investigators hope to establish normal levels for the site.
They’re also looking for any issues that could later be confused for something ghostly.
The EMF from a refrigerator can affect readings in the next room.
An old-school “instant on” TV holds electrical charge long after it’s turned off.
High carbon monoxide levels in any building can trigger headaches, nausea, and hallucinations.
Iron bars inside cement walls can store magnetic energy, setting off EMF meters.
Underground pipes and streams can affect dowsing rod readings.
Those are just a few things you’ll detect with a thorough baseline reading.
However, there’s another essential baseline reading: yourself.
Be aware of how you normally feel, and how you feel on the day of the investigation. That’s a personal “baseline” you’ll refer to if ghostly energy affects you, mentally, physically, or emotionally.
For example, let’s say you’ve had a difficult week at work. At home your roommate or partner has been cranky, and your dog chewed up your favorite shoes. Due to stress, you haven’t been sleeping well.
On Saturday morning, you try to sleep late. You know you’ll be up late during that night’s investigation. But, you’re woken when a neighbor’s child accidentally hits a baseball through your kitchen window. You leap from you bed, and then have an argument with the neighbor.
It’s not a good start to the day.
That night, during the investigation, you could blame your anxiety on a residual energy haunting. In fact, the “residual energy” is your own.
This is why it’s useful to know your usual, baseline emotional levels. And, it’s why I suggest double checking it the morning before a ghost hunt, and immediately before each investigation.
Do a Personal Baseline Check
There are two basic baseline checks. The first is your average mood and temperament.
Baseline check number one.
For at least three days in a row, pause when you first wake up. Even before you get out of bed – possibly before you even open your eyes – check with your emotions are like.
Are you happy, sad, or somewhere in between? Are you feeling calm, little anxious, or even the little eager?
What about your physical well-being? How’s your energy level? Did you have a restless night after watching a suspenseful TV show? Or, do you feel refreshed and ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Consider every aspect of your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. If possible jot a few notes about this, or, if it’s easier use an app on your phone to record a few thoughts.
Do this right away, even before getting out of bed. (If you wait until later, it’s easy to forget exactly how you felt. Accurate notes and observations are essential as parentheses.
If you don’t see a clear pattern within three days, keep checking each morning until you’re confident of your personal, average baseline. This gives you a good idea of how you feel on an average day.
It’s a reference point you’ll use on the day of the ghost hunt, and during the investigation.
Also be watchful for patterns of external triggers. They could be weather and seasonal changes, foods, or medications. You moods might change at different phases of the moon.
Know your normal moods, feelings, and energy levels.
Dreams Can Reveal More
Here’s an alternative method: Try to remember your most vivid dream of the night before.
At the conclusion of that dream, were you happy, sad, energetic, tired, bored, or excited?
How people feel in their dreams often reflect their personal baseline emotions.
Repeat these checks regularly, especially during and after major life changes.
On the day of the ghost investigation, check how you’re feeling at least twice more.
The morning before a ghost hunt, check your emotions when you first wake up. Keep it simple. Mostly, you’re comparing how you feel on that morning, against how your average morning is.
As usual, make a note of this. Jot it on a piece of paper for later reference, or record it in an audio file on your phone.
Right before the ghost hunt, pause for one more check. A momentary reflection — “How am I feeling?” — can be enough.
New ghost hunters should probably make a more formal check at that point.
Pause for a few minutes before you reach the investigation site. Are you especially anxious or eager? Your heightened sensitivity can affect the investigation.
It can even be an asset, as long as you’re aware of it.
One More Baseline Check
After the investigation, see how the ghost hunt affected you. Also consider whether you’re taking some of the sites energy home.
Don’t mistake that for a ghost following you. (That problem is extremely rare. Most ghost hunters will never experience that.)
After a ghost hunt, I often like to go to a coffee shop with my team members. We discuss what happened and casually review evidence. Sometimes, we exchange digital files. In general, we unwind from the stress of the evening.
That’s closure. It prevents a lingering connection to the events of the evening.
Baselines are important. Do you have a pre-investigation checklist? It might be a list of tools to bring with you and equipment to double check. Add your baseline check to that list, as a reminder.