Ghost-Hunting For Dummies
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Ghost-hunting can be exciting, and it can also be physically exhausting and mentally challenging. Most of the time, the main requirement to be a ghost hunter is having a lot of patience. You also need to know what to do, how to stay safe, and how to gather all the information you can to ensure a professional investigation. Investigating the paranormal can be fun, but it’s also serious business and should be treated with respect and an abundance of caution.

Find Haunted Places

What causes a place to become haunted? No one really knows. In fact, there are so many types of hauntings from human ghosts, to animal ghosts, and even ghost ships, that no one has ever been able to come up with a general theory that can explain all of them. Any single theory would have to cover an immense variety of phenomena, and it just can’t be done. But, of course, the lack of a single, all-encompassing theory is no reason to give up on a search for answers.

haunted house
©By Vladimir Mulder/

According to the definition, a haunting is the repeated manifestation of strange and inexplicable sensory phenomena at a certain location. Hauntings have no general patterns, which is what makes them so hard to define. Some phenomena may manifest on occasion, or even continually, for periods that last from several days to centuries. Other manifestations may occur only on certain anniversaries, in accordance with distinctive weather conditions or for reasons that make no sense whatsoever.

Most hauntings involve apparitions or visual spirits, noises like phantom footsteps, unexplained sounds, tapping, knocking, and even voices and whispers. They can also include strange smells, sensations like the prickling of skin, cold spots and breezes, and being touched by unseen hands. Other hauntings can involve poltergeist activity, such as furniture and objects being moved about, broken glass, doors that open and close by themselves, and the manipulation of lights and electrical devices, circuits, and outlets.

Visitors to haunted places often report a variety of emotions, including anger and fear when negative forces are at work. Other sites seem to involve friendly, or at least benign, emotions.

There are some basic types of hauntings:

  • Traditional hauntings: The most widely known type of haunting, involving the spirit —or personality — of a dead person who remains behind at a location after death.
  • Residual hauntings: The most common type of haunting, when energy from past events leaves an impression on a place as a type of recording and repeats itself over and over again.
  • Poltergeist-like activity A haunting caused by energy generated by a living person, resulting in electrical activity and displacement of objects at a location.
  • Portal hauntings: A controversial type of haunting that can involve thin spots. or entrances from this world to the next. Often associated with magnetic areas and violent hauntings.
  • Demonic hauntings: Another controversial type of haunting involving something more dangerous, and more frightening, than ghosts. The definition of what a demon is widely varies but can refer to nonhuman, malevolent spirits that prey on families and locations.
  • Haunted objects: Possessed possessions, items to which ghosts and negative spirits become attached.

Where the Ghosts Are

The following is a list of some of the places where paranormal researchers have had good luck in finding ghosts and hauntings throughout the years:

  • Private residences and historic homes
  • Cemeteries
  • Theaters
  • Ghost towns
  • Schools and colleges
  • Hotels
  • Battlefields and crime scenes
  • Hospitals and asylums
  • Jails and prisons

A Ghost-Hunter’s Toolkit

There is a lot to know when you begin your paranormal investigations. You should always be learning and having an open mind about exploring new things and new ideas. No two paranormal investigators do things in the exact same way, but everyone should have a checklist of the essential items that are needed for their research. What follows is a checklist for the basic, the essential, and the high-tech items that can be used for investigations.

Basic items

Here is the list of basic items:

  • Notebook and pen (recording notes, witness statements, and making diagrams)
  • Measuring tape (checking distance and witness accounts)
  • Extra batteries (you never know when they might fail)
  • Flashlight (this requires no explanation)
  • Recording device (for witness accounts and for Electronic Voice Phenomenon [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)
  • Two-way radios (allows the group to stay in contact, plus avoids the electromagnetic interference that is caused by cellular phones)

Essential items

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. Many devices in tool kits are pieces of equipment that have been adapted for ghost research. 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, you can use other low-cost items, such as a compass or dowsing rod, to check for magnetic energy.

High-tech items

If you want to advance your research, then it’s time to invest in an EMF (Electro-Magnetic Field) detector. There are many on the market, from the inexpensive (which are notorious for picking up electrical wiring and faulty appliances) to the most complex. To try and make a list of every electronic device that has been — or will ever be — adapted for use in paranormal investigations would be an endless task, but there are items on the market that you might consider:

  • The REM pod: The REM pod can detect a difference in field strength whenever a conductive material enters into its EM field.
  • Infrared motion detectors: 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.
  • Temperature-sensing devices: It is critical to monitor the ambient temperature of the site. Many sensors on the market can quickly detect temperature changes. When investigators or witnesses talk about cold spots, this is a way to confirm their existence.
  • P-SB7 Spirit Box: This device seeks out paranormal voices on the EMF spectrum and because it is believed that spirits contain electromagnetic energy, it makes sense that you can hear them with this device.
  • Ovilus: This device was created to convert environmental readings into real words, offering direct responses to your questions.

Guidelines for Your Investigation

These are a few of the guidelines, ideas, hints, tips, and suggestions for investigating the paranormal.

  • Make sure you have permission to conduct an investigation.
  • Keep your perceptions clear prior to the investigation. Never drink or smoke during or before an investigation.
  • Arrive with an open mind. Always be aware that there may be a natural explanation for what is happening.
  • Make sure that you bring along all the items that you need to properly conduct your investigation.
  • Interview the witness in depth, repeating questions, if necessary. This will allow you to tell how consistent the experience account is and whether any of the witnesses may be embellishing their version of the story.
  • Make sure that the witnesses are comfortable with the investigation and understand what you are doing.
  • Try some field experiments to reconstruct the events. Let the witness walk you step-by-step through the encounter or experience and have them explain their feelings at the time.
  • Always respect the location and whatever ghosts might be present. It is important to be respectful of the living and the dead.

What Not to Do as a Ghost Hunter

Many things that can happen in the course of a paranormal investigation, and not all of them are good. The list that follows offers some ideas and guidelines of things that you should avoid.

  • Never investigate alone. Investigations are not only more exciting with a team, they’re also much safer. Having other sets of hands allows you to have help during the investigation, gives you corroboration for anything strange that happens, and keeps you from walking into any problematic or volatile domestic situations at locations where you investigate.

The only time investigating alone may be allowed is if the investigator has many years of experience and if the investigator’s team is also present somewhere at the location. If a bad situation does arise, the investigator can still contact someone for assistance.

  • Never eat or chew gum during EVP sessions. This seems like an obvious one, but you may be surprised. Eating or chewing gum while investigating is never a good idea, but it is even worse when trying to record credible EVP sessions.
  • Never bring children to an investigation. Team members for your investigation should always be made up of members over the age of 16. This is legally smart in many ways and safer for everyone involved.
  • Never review your evidence half-heartedly. If you are going to record hours of tape during an investigation, then you must watch all of it, often frame by frame. The same goes for your hours of EVP. It all must be listened to, and while it can be boring, it is a crucial part of the investigation.
  • Never drink alcohol or use drugs during an investigation. This can be dangerous in many ways, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually, as well.
  • Never trespass on private property. Always get clear and specific permission from the owners of private property before an investigation.
  • Never leave your cell phone on during an investigation. Text messages, phone calls, and sounds from your smart phone can contaminate your investigations and can be very distracting. In addition, Bluetooth connections and incoming calls and messages —even when your phone is switched to silent —can disrupt equipment and audio recordings with interference feedback.
  • Never bring disruptive people to an investigation. Never bring along anyone to an investigation who is not willing to take things seriously. Bringing someone who is loud, obnoxious, and disrespectful can ruin an investigation of even of the most actively haunted place.

America’s Top 10 Haunted Places

Ghosts are out there. The following list are some of the most haunted places. Read on — or better yet, visit them — if you dare.

  • Goldfield Hotel, Goldfield, Nevada
  • Washoe Club, Virginia City, Nevada
  • Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
  • Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston, West Virginia
  • Queen Mary, Long Beach, California
  • Pennhurst State School, Spring City, Pennsylvania
  • Bobby Mackey’s Music World, Wilder, Kentucky
  • Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California
  • Waverly Hills Sanitorium, Louisville, Kentucky
  • The Haunted Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada

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.

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