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Ghost Hunting 101
By Kathleen Clark
I promised in a previous article, “Ghost Hunting 101-Basic Safety & Etiquette”, I would be writing about basic ghost hunting equipment to help out novice Ghost Hunters. It is now delivered! Here is a list of the most basic equipment I would send a “trainee” hunter out with. That isn’t saying that this is the utmost complete list and I am also not saying that you couldn’t do well with less. This is a simple baseline for you to get started while shopping for your starter equipment. Read it, pass it on to a friend, print it, and get it!
Permission Form-Let us not trespass! A signed copy of the permission form to be on the property should always be hand and accessible through the investigation.
Flashlight-Most basic of equipment, but safety is the priority and it’s nice to be able to see to get around. Extra batteries are necessary too.
Cellphone or Walkie-Talkie for communication and emergencies. Always be prepared.
Handheld Camcorder-Nothing is better than visual evidence. This is one piece of equipment I would not want to go without. If you get something visually, you don’t want to be standing with your hands in your pockets, wishing you had a video camera. Features you want to look for in a handheld video camera: lightweight, infrared, night vision, anti-shake, microphone, 20 MP or more, long battery life, extra batteries. Acquiring a tripod and having a remote control for the camera is an added bonus. (In case you convert it to a stationary for a hunt.) You can currently find unbranded cameras with most, if not all, of these features for around $70.00 on Amazon and Ebay.
Audio recorder-You want to spend some money on this. EVPs are the most common type of paranormal evidence and the better your recorder, the better the sound quality. Our group currently uses a Zoom brand with dual microphones easily obtained through Amazon. Costs around $100.00, has great sound pick-up (don’t fart!), but makes lots of noise if you are walking around with it recording. Having an external boom microphone wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Also a mini tripod for stationary EVP sessions. (See future articles for how to hold an EVP session.) Don’t forget to pick up some mini SD cards for recording (a few as your camera will likely use them too). Having a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones also works well with the audio recorder.
Mel Meter-This is a meter that measures both EMF and temperature simultaneously. This can give you baseline readings and tell you that you should be aware if/when temperature and/or EMF is changing in the area you are in. Having a separate temperature gauge and EMF meter will also do the same job, but it’s nice to just have the features all in one device.
Laptop with External Hard Drive-to download and review all that data you collected from the audio and video recorders.
Pen & Paper-so you can write down abnormal instances. Some things aren’t captured on any kind of equipment-like feelings- and having the ability to write them down along with date and time are important marks to have when comparing this evidence with any captured on other equipment.
Watch or Stop Watch-Important for time stamping and timing how long an incident continues.
Compass-for orientation in a room, building, or on property.
History-Last, but not least. This is often the most overlooked and also the most important information to have. The history of the property you are investigating can give important clues to the evidence you collect. It can also clue you in to where you should be focusing your investigation. For example-knowing there is a power line buried on the property could explain and debunk high EMF readings.
Keep checking back for future articles on Ghost Hunting. How to do an EVP session and an extended equipment list is forthcoming. If there is something you want to know about, please drop me a line and I will try to cover it and answer your questions.
Ghost Hunting 101
Basic Safety & Etiquette
By Kathleen Clark
There’s nothing like an exciting episode of the latest Ghost Hunting X TV show to pump up a novice Ghost Hunter to attempt their own investigation. It’s exciting to watch TV stars lock themselves in abandoned places or wander through ancient cemeteries late at night, catching some scary sights and sounds that “might” be evidence of a ghost. What we see on TV and the affordable price of low-end equipment makes everyone think they can be a professional paranormal investigator with a night cam and an audio recorder. Ready to head out and investigate? STOP!!
The TV shows aren’t telling you about all the extra work and the multiple, mundane cases they have to go through so you can see those exciting things. Watching a show about getting permissions, fulfilling safety precautions, and the long hours of combing through evidence would be kind of unsatisfying, wouldn’t it? The TV shows you are watching about Ghost Hunting are leaving out some very important guidelines about basic ghost hunting etiquette and safety.
I know, etiquette is the last idea on your mind when you are pumped up to try a novice ghost hunt. However, following these basic guidelines will ensure your investigation is uninterrupted, safe, and might even keep you out of county lock-up for the weekend.
Even an old, abandoned house or hospital is owned by someone-be it an individual or a corporation.
******You MUST get written permission to be on someone else’s private property*******
You cannot walk into someone’s private building without their permission. This is called trespassing (in some cases breaking and entering as well) and it is a crime. Getting caught trespassing can cost you a lot of money in court costs and may even ruin your weekend by getting you locked up in the pokey by the local police.
Before investigating anywhere, public or private, get written permission and keep a copy of it on hand during your investigation. Some jurisdictions may require you to obtain permits. The only possible exception to this is a public cemetery during regular visiting hours (NOT after public hours-EVER). Even then, written permission is favorable.
Perform a daytime walk-through first. Always check the area where you will be investigating during daylight first to make note of any potential problem areas. Nothing ends a great investigation quicker than a team member falling into an old well, for instance. This is also an excellent time to determine where equipment can be optimally placed and to collect baseline readings.
This is a good time to do an equipment and battery check to make sure everything is in operating order and that you have all the equipment you need. Stay tuned for my upcoming basic equipment article.
Be Respectful of the property, buildings, possessions, and neighbors. Don’t leave the property in a lesser condition than how you found it. If you have to return to gather further evidence and/or want to protect your team’s reputation, having a favorable relationship with the owner and the neighbors is a good idea.
Be Respectful of the occupying entities. Working on the theory that most entities were once human beings, it is a good idea to treat them as you would any other stranger you’ve recently become acquainted with. Do not taunt them or act violently or rudely towards them.
Do not contaminate your evidence or the evidence others are attempting to collect (especially if you are on a public hunt with other paying folks). Sources of contamination can include smoking, wearing perfume, whispering, not vocally tagging yourself and your movements (“Kathy, entering the room” is a good tag on audio and video), flashlights not pointed to the ground, camera flashes, and investigators losing their cool when something unexpected does occur.
Review your evidence quickly while the investigation is fresh in your mind (less than 1 month), complete an analysis report, and deliver it to your client (if it was requested) along with a thank you note.
Following these basic safety and etiquette rules will help you stay safe and legal while you are trying to catch some Ghost action. If you are a beginner, try to hook up with a local group during one of their public ghost hunts so they can show you the ropes. Good luck and happy hunting!
By Kathleen Clark
For some who have never experienced a house haunting the lights blinking off and on, moans and groans of the unknown, and images of objects whirling through the air often come to mind. Picture a scene straight out of Casper The Friendly Ghost. What if you moved into a place and weird “stuff” keeps happening, but you aren’t sure it’s just your mind playing tricks on you? What if you aren’t sure if you believe in the paranormal and your imagination doesn’t run as wild as a Hollywood scene? Could it be that your house is haunted? As a rational human being who may be experiencing a “haunting”, these might be some questions you have. So what do you do to find out if your house is haunted? Fortunately, this article is here to help you make that decision and give you friendly advice on how to proceed.
First, let’s cover the basics. In my experience as part of a paranormal investigation unit and an independent psychic/shaman, I’ve discovered that ninety percent of the “haunted” cases I’ve worked on are what I call Freaks and Creaks. What that means is most of those cases could be debunked by natural causes or an individual is mentally unstable.
Check Point ONE
Thumping pipes, electromagnetic fields, drafty and settling houses, and shadows being thrown from outside light sources are very common causes for what people believe is a haunting. These are called natural, or mundane, explanations. Orbs in pictures are 99% dust and weird “watched” feelings or being touched can often be explained away by overactive imaginations and are also natural causes. It is always a good idea to make sure you can’t explain away the haunting symptoms before seeking a professional.
If you’ve made it past the first checkpoint, it’s time to discuss the usual pre-cursers to an active haunting.
Check Point TWO
Generally, a “haunting” begins when:
A) Someone dies,
B) Remodeling begins on a house,
C) An object is removed from or brought into a house.
Pinpointing when a haunting begins can be impossible. That’s OK. One cannot assume they “caused” the haunting by simply moving into a house. The haunting could have been taking place long before you ever called it home or could have started when you moved in with a “selfish” spirit.
So, we’ve made it beyond the checkpoints and you’re still reading. This sounds like it might be getting serious. The next step I suggest you take is finding a journal that you can start documenting everything you feel is associated with the haunting. Once you’ve gotten your journal set up (it can be written or electronic, though I recommend a written account as electronics can be subject to data damage) print the following list and start keeping notes.
Haunting House Indications
Lights On or Off?
Usually, the first-noticed and most common occurrences are lights turning off and on, flickering lights, or frequently burned out light bulbs. The occupant won’t see the light going off or on, but will walk into a room that they KNOW they turned that light off or on and now it’s just the opposite. Frequent flickering lights, televisions and radios turning on randomly, and frequent blown bulbs are also an indicator.
Disappearing Magical Objects
Objects appearing and disappearing are also first-noticed and the most dismissed clue. Like the keys you just laid on the counter and now they are gone. Hours later you find them on the staircase. It is usually small items (jewelry, money, trinkets) and they seem to turn up in weird places-hours or days later.
Doors, Drawers, Cupboards-O-pen?
Opening and closing of cupboards, drawers, and doors are very common. It is rarely seen, but every time you walk out to the kitchen THAT drawer is open. At first it is usually assumed as a flat mate’s bad habit. Slamming of those cupboards, drawers, and doors is less common, but common enough it can be a factor.
Unexplained shadows playing across your walls? Seeing dark shadows or shadow-like human forms drifting across walls or doorways can be an indicator that you are not alone in your house. Often shadows won’t occur unless the first three indicators are happening pretty frequently in your house. The dark shadows are believed to be energy manifesting itself to make its presence known.
Fluffy is Freaked
If you have pets and they are always acting strangely in your house, particularly when any of the first four indicators are occurring, you may want to start keeping a journal about the weird occurrences. Your pets may be seeing something in your house on a light spectrum not visible to the human eye.
Nothing More than Unexplained Feelings
Many people living in “haunted” abodes claim they have feelings of unknown origins. Being watched is the most common description, but irrational bouts of raging anger, trembling fear, or utter sadness have also been reported.
Now it’s time for an assessment. We have covered six different indicators for initial signs of a haunting. If you can definitively say you frequently experience 4 of the 6 indicators, it would benefit you to continue reading this article...
If you are still reading with me, then you are experiencing at least 4 of the initial indicators on a regular basis and you have eliminated any rational or logical explanation for those indicators and/or want to learn more. Yay! Here is where I am going to get more in depth. I have been exploring the paranormal for most of my adult life and I can truly say I have only been in 4 homes/buildings I can say are haunted without doubt. Of those 4, only one house terrified me to the point where I wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable returning to it.
Back to business. You have been experiencing several of the indicators discussed earlier, but you are skeptical and still aren’t really sure your living in a haunted house because maybe all of the things you are experiencing could have other explanations. Before you actually talk to another human about this and step into potential “crazy town”, you need more signs that you have a haunted house. The next few indicators are usually evident in more involved hauntings.
Did my keys just fall?
In a higher energy haunting, the occupants of the house can sometimes see things move. Maybe just a little slide of your drinking glass across the coffee table, or your car keys falling off the counter top. You may even consider it a trick of the mind and dismiss it.
Described as cries, whispers, or a voice from nowhere. Most of the time the words are not clear enough to understand. Sometimes, however, they come through loud and clear. Commonly, occupants will hear their name called. Investigators who catch these voices on audio call them EVP - electronic voice phenomena.
90 Degrees and Freezing?
Unexplained hot or cold spots in the house can indicate a spirit nearby. Extreme and quick temperature changes which cannot be explained by heating or cooling vents.
I Smell Roses
A common indicator of a haunting are odd smells appearing at different times. Often these scents are associated with a deceased spirit, such as a favorite perfume or a pipe scent.
The Ghosts in the Hall
If you are seeing a physical otherworldly form, note it immediately. See if you can interact with it. Take note of what it looked like and how it behaved.
The next few signs we are covering are pretty rare, but they do happen. Usually, I see these only in a very involved hauntings or in places where energy and emotions run high - like churches, funeral homes, schools, and hospitals. If these are happening, you absolutely should have someone come out and check into your situation.
Let’s get Physical
Physical evidence of a haunting is pretty rare, but it does happen. Writing on the walls, images appearing in objects, occupants speaking in different languages. Document it right away!
Levitating Chairs-oh crap!
If you are walking into a room and items are levitating, your first priority is safety. If you can safely investigate this phenomena, get a camera rolling and investigate. If it isn’t safe, call somebody.
Some occupants will describe the slight touch of a clammy hand when no one else is in the house. A slight chill down their neck or back with the feel of cold fingers. Others just describe it as a light touch.
In very rare cases, physical assault happens. Object flying across the room, apparitions pushing-pinching-hitting, scratches and bruises. It is most certainly time to seek help!
If you feel that you are involved in a haunting, please contact a legitimate paranormal group near you. Professionals will listen to your situation without bias and have helpful information about paranormal situations. They should be able to answer your questions or at least give you a place to begin looking for answers. See GRASPP’s “Have You Noticed” (above/right) article to help you identify a quality paranormal group.
Lastly, recognize that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to a true haunting. Assert your place as the head of your home and let spirits know that you are the master of your domicile. Don’t be afraid to be curious and explore the haunting symptoms keeping in mind that safety always comes first. And remember-document, document, document those incidents!