Ghost-Hunting For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Ghost-hunting equipment is only as good as the ghost-hunter who uses it — and how they use it. Simple equipment can be just as effective in an investigation of ghostly phenomena as the most sophisticated apparatus, as long as it is in the right hands. The value of any report is only as good as the investigator who made it, and the best reports are never dependent only on the equipment being used. If you're just beginning your paranormal research, read on to discover the equipment you'll need.

Basic ghost-detection devices

Here is a list of basic equipment to include in any ghost-hunting kit:
  • Notebook and pen (recording notes, witness statements, and making diagrams)
  • Sketch pad and drawing pencils (for maps of location)
  • Measuring tape (checking distance and witness accounts)
  • Extra batteries (you never know when they may fail)
  • Flashlight (this requires no explanation)
  • Recording device (for witness accounts and for electronic voice phenomenon or EVP)
  • Small tool kit (some electronic devices require screwdrivers)
  • Camera (for documenting the location and anomalous photographs)
  • Video camera (for documenting the location and investigation, plus interviews)
  • Portable motion detectors (great for securing locations)
  • Two-way radios (allow the group to stay in contact and they avoid the electromagnetic interference caused by cellular phones)
Electronic devices serve a variety of purposes during an investigation. They are used to document your location and can serve as both an alert that a spirit may be present and also for showing what is not a ghost. The devices in a ghost-hunting toolkit are pieces of equipment that have been adapted for paranormal research. Use of such devices is based on theories that have been developed over the last few decades that point to the idea that the devices can pick up distortions in energy fields that may be caused by ghosts.

These devices are not foolproof. Most were originally designed to check for electromagnetic surges caused by household wiring and industrial equipment so adapting them for the paranormal requires a lot of knowledge about exactly how they work and what the readings mean. For this reason, these devices are best used in conjunction with eyewitness accounts, when monitoring locations, and with other investigative techniques.

No single piece of evidence can stand on its own, which is why investigators are always looking for corresponding evidence during their research. In this case, anomalous readings on an EMF meter become more intriguing when they are backed up by something else, like a cold spot, witness account, or with other equipment at the same time.

Electronic equipment can be expensive, which is a sobering thought for investigators on a tight budget. However, other items that are low in cost and have been around for centuries can also be used to check for magnetic energy.

The compass

For those who may not be able to afford an electronic device, a compass can be purchased in just about any sporting goods store in your area. Ghost hunters have been using compasses for many years, often with successful results. The reaction that you get from a compass is basically the same reaction that you get from a simple EMF detection device.

The best way to use the compass is to carry it into an allegedly haunted location, leaving the compass open and flat out on the palm of your hand. Your arm should be bent at the elbow and level, extended at an angle from your body so that the compass is directly in front of you. The needle on the compass moves each time you change direction, and, according to reports, it begins to spin when it encounters a ghost or some sort of anomalous energy field.

Even though the compass is a very basic item, the reported behavior of the device in a situation involving paranormal energy is actually quite consistent with much higher-tech devices. The theory is that the device reacts to abrupt changes or fluctuations in the energy field of the location. A spinning compass needle would certainly show that something unusual is going on.

Dowsing rods

The art of dowsing has been around for centuries, perhaps even thousands of years. It is the oldest form of divination known to man and has been used for a variety of different reasons, including searches for underground water, discovering the location of unmarked graves, determining the sex of unborn children, and even locating ghosts.

How dowsing actually works remains a mystery, but it has proven to be uncannily accurate over the years. Even the American Society of Dowsers admits that “the reason the procedures work is entirely unknown.”

The standard practice of dowsing is to search for underground water sources. Many cities, counties, and corporations keep a dowser on the payroll. In most cases, a dowser searches an area with either a Y-shaped rod or two L-shaped rods in his hands. He concentrates on what he is looking for, which is usually a water source, and when he finds the right spot, the rods either bend downwards or cross over one another. No one knows how this works, it simply does.

To use dowsing rods to find ghosts, most dowsers recommend using two L-shaped rods that have been made from brass or some lightweight metal. Some dowsers even use metal coat hangers, so no standard material exists. The rods should be about two-foot long and bent into an L-shape, which fits into your hand. Then, hold the short end of the rod so that the longer piece points outward, away from your body. The rods should be held loosely so that they have room to swing easily back and forth.

After that, begin searching the building or location. It has been suggested that it’s possible that by searching, and by concentrating on what you are looking for, you can find ghosts, anomalous energy, and some say even dimensional portals, using dowsing rods.

Walk about the location and follow where the rods lead you. They are supposed to point in the direction of any energy they detect. After you have discovered the energy source, the rods cross, signaling that the area in question has been found.

Advanced ghost-detection devices

Paranormal researchers of the past had little or no electronic equipment that could be used to monitor locations or to search for anomalous activity that may be present in a place they were investigating. In recent times, new theories have been developed which seem to suggest that many haunted locations have high levels of electromagnetic energy present in them.

Some scientists have pointed to these energy fields, which have been discovered to cause headaches, dizziness, and even hallucinations, as an artificial explanation for all ghost sightings. Paranormal researchers have developed their own theories suggesting that ghost themselves may be electromagnetic in origin or perhaps that the ghosts use this energy to manifest. The magnetic energy may also explain how residual hauntings occur, causing events and images to impress on the atmosphere of the location.

Although we still do not know exactly what electromagnetic fields and paranormal events have in common, researchers first began adapting electronic devices as a way to detect paranormal energy as early as the 1970s. This began the development of theories about spirits causing disruptions in the magnetic field of locations, making them detectable with measuring devices.

Today, Electromagnetic Field (EMF) detection meters are the most commonly used devices in the field. They are used to search for evidence of spirit activity and also for ruling out artificial sources of energy that may interfere with an investigation. Electromagnetic fields are present around any object that possesses an electrical charge, whether it be artificial or natural. They were never designed to detect ghosts. They were supposed to be used in the building and scientific trades to detect energy leaks and problem areas. They can certainly — and were designed to — be influenced by things that are not paranormal.

Electronic devices are always useful in an investigation, complimenting the other tools that we use and the other research that we do. The researcher should use the devices to both rule out artificial changes in the electronic field and to search for corresponding evidence to go along with the investigation is gathering. That evidence can be gleaned from witness accounts, photographs, temperature changes, or whatever else may occur. In this way, we can truly use this information to document a haunting.

EMF meter

The majority of EMF detectors have been designed to read in the 30 to 500 Hz range. They are calibrated at 60 Hz, which is the standard setting for most household fields. What most meters are designed to gauge are the currents induced inside of the location by artificial fields. Most common fields are around 60 Hz. It remains unknown whether paranormal energy is above or below this standard setting, which can make things difficult. The three basic theories are: ghosts are made up of electromagnetic energy; they disrupt the energy in the location; or they use the energy to manifest. Any or all of these scenarios may be correct, which makes it possible for EMF meters to track energy that is beyond normal.

The following section deals with different EMF meters, such as the one shown in this figure, that are used in investigations. We include usage directions, as well as some extra information and some things to watch out for so that they can be used correctly.

EMF meter ©Gary Galka, D.A.S. Distribution Inc.

A meter.

Basic EMF meters

Quite a few basic EMF meters that feature both analog and digital scales are on the market. Most basic meters range in price from about $30 to $100. The devices are easy to use if you follow some common sense directions.

An EMF meter should be carried in your hand, with your fingers wrapping around the bottom of the meter and your fingertips holding the side. Do not place your hand over the end of the meter, because your body will interfere with the readings. It should be noted that most basic meters do not have sensors on the sides of the meter, only in the front. This means that the energy fields must be approached from this direction only in order for them to be picked up. The best way to do that is to bend your elbow so that the meter is held out in front of you at a distance from your elbow to hand. Your arm can be extended for further reach, but do not bring the meter closer to your body.

When conducting a study of a location, gently move the meter from side-to-side as you walk. Moving it up and down too quickly can cause false readings and spikes to occur. As you walk, be on the lookout for sudden and extreme bursts of energy to be registered on the meter. If such an event does happen, try to pinpoint the source of the field. Usually, strong readings and surges of energy are signs that you are picking up an artificial energy source like an appliance, an electrical outlet, or even a hidden line in the wall or the floor. Always try to find a natural source for the energy readings before you begin thinking that you have found a ghost. These basic devices easily pick up artificial fields and should be used with caution.

Meters like this are beginning models and are very simple in design. Anyone who is searching for a more sophisticated device should try one of the more advanced models available. However, don’t discount a basic meter completely. Although, admittedly, they are not as sensitive as other meters, and can be hard to use in indoor investigations, they work quite well for those who investigate cemeteries, historic sites, and outdoor locations. Because little in the way of interference exists at these sites, just about anything you pick up with the meter will demand an explanation. With no artificial fields in evidence, a basic meter is one of the best detectors to use in such circumstances.

TriField EMF meter model TF2

TriField meters, manufactured by AlphaLab Inc. in Utah, are some of the finest EMF meters on the market. Although their lowest-tier model still falls into the realm of a standard meter, it is far more sensitive than any other basic meters that are available. This newer model has replaced the older TriField 100XE model. It is an AC gaussmeter, AC electric field tester, and a radio power density meter in a single unit, which combines all the features needed for fast, accurate measurements of electromagnetic fields.

Most interesting for paranormal investigators, though, is the special frequency weighted mode that properly scales the magnetic and electric measurements to indicate the full magnitude of currents produced by each type of field inside the human body. It has a large LCD bar for accurate readings and an adjustable backlight for use in dark locations.

For the best use of this meter, it should be held with the right or left hand curled underneath the device so that the fingertips wrap around the opposite edge. You should never hold the meter so that your hand blocks the top of it. This can block the detection of all electrical fields. Even though you cannot block magnetic fields this way, you should err on the side of caution and hold it with your hand around the center.

Hold the meter extended in front of your body, again using the distance from your hand to your elbow as a guide. Move the meter back and forth and watch for abrupt and sudden surges of energy. You should notice that you are detecting a background radiation of the location that falls between 2–3 milligauss on the analog scale. This is normal. Watch for sudden changes and fluctuations that drive the needle much higher on the scale. When you find one, you should again try to rule out any artificial interference before you accept the readings as evidence of anything paranormal.

TriField Natural EM meter

This is perhaps the best and most sensitive meter on the market for paranormal investigations. What makes this meter so beneficial to paranormal research is the fact that it registers only DC or “natural” electrical and magnetic fields. This is the type of field that is given off by humans and animals and possibly, by paranormal energy, as well. It makes a great addition to any investigator’s arsenal, but it can also be tricky to use, so it may not be best for beginners.

The Natural EM meter was originally designed to detect changes in extremely weak DC fields. It is equipped with both an analog scale and an audible signal that moves whenever a field changes from its previous level. The meter was also designed to ignore artificial (AC) fields that are generated by man-made power sources, which is why it became so popular with researchers.

Originally, the meter was used to do field experiments on the energy levels of geomagnetic storms, including unusual solar activity in the earth’s ionosphere and the electrical activity of ordinary thunderstorms. The meter is very sensitive to changes of as little as 0.5 percent of the strength of the earth’s magnetic fields. When set on “magnetic,” the meter can detect the movement of any magnetic sources at the location. A tone sounds when the field increases or decreases. After the meter detects a change and then the field becomes stable for more than five seconds, the tone ends, and the meter returns to a base reading. The meter then remains at rest until the field changes again. The user can determine the amount of change that signals the audible tone by using a “squelch” knob on the side of the meter. Any changes in the strength of the magnetic field will register.

When the dial is set to “electric,” the meter becomes sensitive to electric fields as weak as 3 volts per meter. As an example of how sensitive the meter is, this is the equivalent of taking a ten-foot-square room and filling it with enough energy to lift a single grain of salt. Typical electric fields will fluctuate at about 1–2 volts per meter. Because of this, the minimum sensitivity on this model has been set to 3 V/m and has been designed to disregard “background noise.” Regardless, the meter remains so powerful that it can pick up the electrical field of humans and animals, sometimes through a wall. You can actually see the changes for yourself by holding the meter in one hand and moving your other hand across the top of it. For this reason, the meter can even function as a motion sensor. However, it isn’t foolproof because some people have such a charge to their bodies that they cannot use this meter without causing constant interference.

This particular meter also features a “sum” setting, which combines the readings from the electric and magnetic fields of the location. The meter does not differentiate between the two and the scale and signal don’t change whenever either field changes.

It can be complicated to use, and this is why the meter is best-suited for those who have been working in the field for some time. It can be learned by just about anyone, though, so long as they have the time and the patience to experiment with it.

Although this meter can be used as a handheld device, it’s very delicate and just about any change in motion can cause it to react. For this reason, it’s probably best used as a stationary device to pick up transient fields. The meter is capable of detecting activity in an entire room and the device can be easily monitored by either a video feed or even by a researcher, as long as they remain quiet and relatively still during the investigation. This enables the ghost-hunter to detect any unseen changes or fields in the location and it is very effective. To make the meter especially sensitive in the “electric” and “sum” settings, place it on a metal stand or surface.

Other paranormal detection devices

Making a list of every electronic device that has been — or will ever be — adapted for use in paranormal investigations would be an endless task. If you have technical skills, you can consider building some of your own equipment, but for those who want to purchase the many different kinds of equipment, other items are worth considering.

REM pod

The REM pod, or radiating electromagnetism pod, is different from other ghost-hunting tools in that it radiates its own electromagnetic field. Traditional EMF meters are tuned to detect the fields produced by flowing currents of electricity or radio frequencies. Because the REM pod radiates its own EM field, it can detect much more, which, in theory, makes it easier for spirits to use the device to communicate.

REM pod ©Gary Galka, D.A.S. Distribution Inc.

A REM pod.

The REM pod can detect a difference in field strength whenever a conductive material enters into its EM field. The device’s telescoping antenna allows for 360-degree coverage, which means that it should pick up anything that moves in and out of its field, including spirit energy. When the device is triggered, one of its five colored LED lights illuminates. An audible tone accompanies each of the lights — red, green, blue, yellow, and purple — to indicate the strength of the field disturbance.

It is an interesting device. Essentially, it is a capacitive circuit paired with an oscillator to generate an EM field. It is wrapped in a cylindrical-shaped case with the lights and antenna on the top. The technology it uses is not new. It is basically a modified Theremin, a musical device invented by Russian scientist Lev Sergevich Termen in the 1920s. Unlike other musical instruments, the Theremin is played without making physical contact with it. Just like with the REM pod, the closer the musician moves their hand toward the instrument’s antenna, the higher the note that it plays.

The device has five levels of sensitivity, set using a switch on the base, and this determines how close something, or its energy, needs to be to the device so that it is triggered. The REM pod also had automatic baseline adjustment. This means that if an object fell into the device’s field, or something nearby was to switch on that produces a field, the REM pod would ignore it and readjust after a few seconds. It also has a useful function called ambient temperature deviation detection. The pod either makes a high- or a low-pitched noise to indicate a sudden change in air temperature. The noise is also accompanied by a visual signal in the form of a red or blue light.

The REM pod is a good alternative to paranormal researchers who have voiced their skepticism about the use of traditional EMF meters. These doubts are based on the fact that basic meters, like the popular K-II, cannot detect electromagnetic fields around the human body. This makes many question their usefulness — if they cannot detect a person, then how can they detect a spirit? The REM pod does not have this issue. It can be triggered by a person or an animal getting too close to it. This makes it easier to believe that a ghost may trigger the device.

When investigating, the REM pod should always be left in a stable location. It should not be carried around as a handheld device. Multiple devices can be used to track the movement of energy in the location.

When the REM pod is in position, consider calling out to the spirits that may be present and encourage them to interact with the device. Remember when doing this, though, that a ghost is unlikely to know what a “REM pod” is, so you should encourage them with phrases like “can you move toward the glowing box in the room.”

Infrared motion detectors

Infrared motion detectors were included on the list of essentials for paranormal investigators because they serve several purposes. They can be used to secure an area from intrusion by the living, register the movement of energy fields, and even pick up temperature changes in the monitored area.

In the past, before the widespread availability of electronic equipment, researchers used string and tape to seal off rooms and doors that they were monitoring for ghostly activity. This insured that the locations remained uncontaminated and if the tape was broken on the door, the investigator had some idea that the room had been entered. Now, infrared motion detectors are available so that researchers can still seal off rooms and the meters serve the dual purpose of monitoring possible anomalous activity.

When searching for your own motion detector, look for a device that is not only triggered by motion but by temperature changes, too. A meter that monitors in the infrared range is able to pick up light changes, temperature changes, and of course, what cannot be seen by the human eye. By backing them up with a camera or video camera, motion detectors have become vital pieces of equipment when compiling evidence of a haunting.

When sealing off an area for investigation, simply place the meter outside of any door leading into the room that you want to remain closed. This can also work for larger areas by “closing” all the access points with motion detectors. This ensures that your paranormal experiments or monitoring is not interrupted and provides good evidence that any anomalous readings that are collected were not caused by human interference.

By spreading the motion sensors out through the area that is reportedly haunted, researchers should watch for them to be triggered by anomalous activity. If the alarms on the meters are set off, be sure to first look for a natural or artificial explanation for the alert. It possibly was set off by an animal, another researcher, or even an artificial surge in the electrical system of the site.

Temperature sensing devices

Paranormal researchers should almost make sure that temperature sensing devices are in their tool kit. Monitoring the ambient temperature of the site is critical. We are aware of the temperature of the surrounding air in our daily lives, based on what the weatherman tells us during the evening news. When a witness or researcher speaks of feeling a “cold spot” in a reportedly haunted place, it is within the ambient temperature of the location. This is where we need to focus our efforts when looking for temperature changes and abnormalities.

Many sensors that can quickly detect temperature changes are on the market. The first step is to make a record of the background, ambient temperature of the location. A basic thermometer works just fine for this. It does not have to be fast, merely accurate. This temperature device should be separate and independent from all other temperature-sensing devices, so the accuracy of any readings isn’t contested later.

Then, we move on to our second unit. The best device to measure rapid changes in the ambient temperature is a device that can pick up temperature readings by the use of an external probe. Several are on the market, and some have metal probes that extend from the meter, whereas others have softer, flexible probes.

These devices are affordable and can be purchased from many electronic supply companies. Most of them have a measuring unit of fewer than three centimeters, which is capable of measuring the rapid changes to the temperature needed when looking for cold spots. A moving cold spot possibly can be tracked with such a tool because it can react so quickly.

When looking for a device like this, try to find one that is accurate, simple to use, and affordable. After you turn it on, most meters give you a new temperature reading every few seconds. Most meters also offer other options, like high and low limits, and sound an alarm when these limits are reached. An effective way of using them is to monitor an area with an array of these devices. By setting the alarms on the units to sound whenever a low temperature threshold is reached, we can easily focus on different parts of the location when needed. We can then have definitive temperature data from within the room, or at the exact location that we are monitoring.

Remember that because paranormal research is not an exact science, we have to check and double check and confirm and re-confirm any of the evidence that we collect in order for it to be seen as legitimate. Because many researchers report the presence of “cold spots,” we need to find a way to measure them. Although we should never, ever discount the feelings and experiences of witnesses and investigators, we should also make every effort to legitimately verify such claims with the most reliable equipment that we have at our disposal.

Relative humidity gauge

This device is fairly inexpensive and can be used in conjunction with a thermometer to record the ambient conditions of an indoor or outdoor location. This enables you to record what the conditions were at the time of the investigation and may also help to rule out any natural effects that may appear in photos and video.

Because it has been theorized that residual hauntings may be caused by water embedded in the physical structures of some locations, a humidity gauge could become crucial when determining the humidity that is present.

Combination devices for ghost-hunting

One of the most convenient devices that can be used for investigation is a device that combinations several different pieces of equipment into one unit. MAG-TEMP meters offer simultaneous EMF and temperature readouts on one device, using an illuminated display. It has everything that you need to measure electromagnetic energy and temperature fluctuations and it fits in one hand.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Zak Bagans is the host, lead investigator, and an executive producer of Travel Channel's popular series Ghost Adventures. He travels to domestic and international locations rumored to be haunted in search of evidence proving the existence of the supernatural. He founded the world's largest paranormal organization, The Ghost Adventures Crew.

This article can be found in the category: