The Shadowlands Presents:

Ghost Hunting 101 is a registered trademark


 
Since I  started The Shadowlands website page in December 1994,  I have always been asked how to conduct a ghost hunt, what to bring, etc.  I don't encourage amateurs without any training at all to conduct ghost hunts without some idea of what you are doing or some who has some experience witn you.  You need some idea of what you are doing before you go off into that graveyard or haunted building.  I do recommend you contact an established organization near you and join them on a hunt/investigation before you go on your own.  I have many groups  listed on my Local Ghost Groups page.   I've created this page in order to give you the basics of ghost hunting in plain and simple talk and to provide that to everyone for free.  I think that there are already people going out and conducting ghost hunts or investigations who have no experience and they will not buy a book, attend a class or join a group to learn how to do it better.  I hope to reach them, because this is "no strings attached" information.  I also hope the rest of you who haven't done a ghost hunt yet or even some seasoned investigators can take something from this page and use it in the field.  The following info has come from books, articles, WWW and experienced investigators themselves.  Keep in mind these are the procedures I follow and they are, in my opinion, the right way of doing things.  Because this is not an exact science they are differing opinions and I've tried to keep that in mind.  Feel free to use this info any way you want as long as you mention where you got it. 

Please email me all the typos and other errors as well as suggestions,  I'm sure there will be additions and corrections in the near future, thanks Dave Juliano 
 



 

Definitions

Ghost Hunt - going to a place were there have been no sightings of ghosts and trying to catch some on film (video and photos), sounds, eyewitness, etc. (graveyards are the number one place to start, churches, schools and older buildings too) 

Ghost Investigation - going to a known haunted place and recording data (video, photos, audio, temperatures), notes, interviews and other evidence to prove/disprove the haunting and to assist the owners and the spirits in moving on and leaving the place if they want that.   The assistance can be either you directly assisting the owner with the situation or putting them in contact with experienced groups or individuals that  will try to resolve the situation.  Your assistance can be something as simple as educating them on what is going on and their options.


 
 
What you may Encounter: 

There are generally 2 types of spirits you may encounter.  One was a human at one time and it has remained on this level for some reason.  It may not know it's dead, may be held here by unfinished business, guilt, etc.  These spirits are like the person was when they were alive, so they could be good or bad, just like the living, but not normally dangerous.  This human spirit is the type you will encounter 95% of the time.  You could also witness a residual haunting which is just a playback of a past event.  This is just like watching a video from the past playing over and over.  The other type of spirit you may encounter were never human and are generally bad news.  You must be aware of  this type but not obsessed with them, the chances that you will encounter them in a regular ghost hunt are slim.  I have experienced both types and I just want to make you aware of their existence.  So be aware and protect yourself and you should have no problem. 
 

 
 General Tips
 
  • Check out the area in daylight so you are familiar with the area.   Look for dangerous places and obstacles that you will not be able to see in the dark.

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  • Look for no trespassing signs.  Make sure you are not trespassing.  If you are on private property you are risking getting a ticket or arrested in some areas.  You can get permission from many owners and or caretakers.   We will often notify the local Police that we will be in a grave yard "taking pictures" so they are aware of our presence.  If you are asked to leave do so immediately, you will not win this argument and you make other investigators look bad if you make a scene.

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  • Make sure you bring you ID. (drivers license, etc.) so if you are questioned by the police you can prove who you are.

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  • Never go alone.  This is just common sense.  If you get hurt, who will get help?

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  • The best times are from 9pm to 6am, these are the psychic hours, but anytime can produce results.  Photos have historically been better in the dark but don't let that discourage you from taking them during the day. 

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  • Find out all you can about the history of the locale.  Newspapers, town historians, WWW and books can be helpful finding folklore or hard facts about the site.  The books and web pages dealing with this type of info is enormous.  We have a haunted places listing here with over 1000 places listed.

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    What to Bring 

    The Basics: 

    * Digital Camera - Regardless of what you've heard digital cameras are great tools for ghost researchers.  Once upon a time they had their limitations and problems but that is no longer the case.      Now you are also get cameras that are modified to see in the Infrared spectrum of light or Full Spectrum cameras that can see in the Ultraviolet, Visible and Infrared spectrums of light at teh same time.

    * Digital Voice Recorderdigital voice recorders are with out a doubt one of the most important pieces of equipment that you should have in you investigators toolbox.  audio recorders are used for many different purposes throughout an investigation.  Recorders are used for interviews, spontaneous thoughts,  your notes and electronic voice phenomena (EVP).     When using audio recorders be sure to state the location, time of investigation, and investigators names.  When recording investigators names it would be wise to have each individual present state their own names, which will make it easier for distinction amongst voices heard on the tape during review.  Voice activation mode should be deactivated on tape recorders during use when electronic voice phenomena is trying to be achieved due to the fact that it usually cuts off beginnings of words, sentences, and phrases.   

    Flashlight w/ spare batteries - a common sense item.  Remember to bring spare batteries for everything.  Due to spirit activity, batteries often run down very fast and you don't want to miss anything because of dead batteries.   I recommend using a red light flashlight to help preserve your night vision.  

    First aid kit - just in case, it's very easy to trip in the dark and get cut. 

    Notebook w/ pens and pencils- you need to write and log in everything  that happens.  If you don't then you really don't have much research information.   An example of this is one investigator gets a EMF reading that's high and never writes it down.  Another investigator takes a picture of the same area but is not aware of the reading and gets a anomalous image.  Without that EMF reading the picture may be good evidence, but with a report noting the reading, the picture greatly increases in evidence value.  Many investigators use a pocket tape recorder in stead and that is fine, just make sure you have spare batteries and tapes. 

    * Jackets or weather appropriate clothes - if you are cold you are not at your best and your observation skill could suffer, pretty common sense. 

    * Watch - so you can log in the times of events and your arrival and departure. 

    Advanced

    Video camera  (optional tripod) - Video cameras are an important instrument for an investigation.  Unlike still cameras they provide us with constant visual and audio surveillance for review and observation.  The video cameras we use are equipped with infrared capability and this is the mode we use.   With video any phenomena occurring can be documented in its entirety.  This will show the length of time the phenomena occurs, what is happening, the conditions surrounding the phenomena, and possibly even the cause of the phenomena..   The Sony line of camcorders has an infrared night shot feature that enables you to video tape in complete darkness and see beyond what the human eye can see.    You can use these on tripods or walk around with them.   You should also invest in an infrared light extender which will help your camera see in the darkest places and make the quality of the video better. 

    * EMF Detector -  The Electromagnetic Field Detector, also known as an EMF, is the modern day ghost researcher's tracking device, a very important piece of equipment.  With this instrument it is possible to locate and track energy sources.   It will detect fluctuations in electromagnetic fields and low strength moving EMF fields that have no source.  It is a common theory that spirits disrupt this field in such a way that you can tell one is present by higher than normal readings with this meter.  Before using the EMF as a ghost research tool on an investigation be sure to walk around the area and take initial readings around energy sources such as light poles or electrical outlets to be sure of the readings you receive while scanning the area during the investigation.  Most units when purchased come with a manual describing most household and major appliances and their corresponding electromagnetic reading.   When using the EMF as a tracking device look for fluctuations of 2.0 to 7.0, this usually indicates spirit presence.  Anything higher or lower is normally has a natural source. 
    SJGR training sheet I give all my new trainees on EMF meters. 

    Cellular phone - if you have one it can come in handy in case of an emergency. 

    A Compass - it's a useful instrument to an investigator due to its compact size and low cost price.  When used on an investigation this will indicate spirit presence when the needle cannot come to a precise heading or spins/moves erratically.    This works on the same principle as a EMF meter. 

    * Motion Detectors - these can be used to sense movements by often unseen forces or spirits.  You can get battery operated ones for about 20 dollars and they are great for inside but I have seen them used successfully outdoors as well, just watch the placement.  You don't want a tree branch setting it off. 

    Thermometers - Thermometers are an instrument that is also very useful   There are two types used regular digital thermometers and infrared non contact thermometers.  When used on an investigation this will aid as a detection system for spirit presence.  Rapid temperature drop of 10 degrees of more could indicate spirit presence.   I recommend using the infrared non contact thermometers but cause they react in less than a second to a temperature drop and you can scan a large area quickly. 

    Hand Held Radios  -   Or Walkie Talkies are very useful in a large outdoor area and a building with groups spread out in various rooms.  They could be great in emergency situations or just to rotate groups.  Be sure to be aware they could interfere with your EVP recording though. 

     

     
     
    Step by Step Procedures 

    Here's a condensed version the most popular procedures for conducting outdoor ghost hunts: 

    1. Have everyone meet near the location and decide who will work each piece of equipment and divide into teams if necessary.  Pick a person or leader that will talk to anyone who comes in contact with the group (i.e. Police, Reporters, etc.)  

    2. Enter the site and either privately or as a group ask for blessing or protection for the duration of the hunt.  YOu can use this time to put yourself in a positive frame of mind.  It does not have to be a religious thing so everyone can do this in some way.  I do encourage everyone to take the 10 seconds this takes and do this.  What can it hurt?  It's better to be safe than sorry.  Many experienced groups believe that there are evil spirits in many areas such as cemeteries and by saying a 10 second prayer or making sure you are in a positive frame of mind you can safely go about your business without worrying about them.  An experienced demonologist will tell you that by doing this in the name of God or whatever good deity you worship, you will keep any non human spirits at bay since they have to leave you alone when told so in this manner.    The prayers I use are found here.

    3.  Walk around the area to get a feel for the surroundings and allow the spirits to get a feel for you.   Do this for about 20 minutes.  Log in your start time and weather conditions and any other relevant information.   You can also begin to set up any stationary equipment like camera on tripods or motion detectors.  Make note of any areas that may cause you to get false readings or false positive pictures. 

    4.  Now go out there and get some pictures and recordings.  Be sure to note anything unusual that happens especially meter and temperature readings, visual sightings and strange sounds.  Also make notes of any feelings or emotions you feel that may be odd or out of place.  You can compare notes after the hunt and look for similarities in readings and feeling in certain areas or at certain times. 

    5.  Whether you stake out a spot or you walk around try to give everyone the opportunity to try everything and be everywhere.  This keeps every one fresh and at attention.  Rotate a few times during the investigation. 

    6.  When you are done have everyone meet in one spot and ask the human spirits here not to follow you home and to remain here.  Tell the others they must remain here in the name of God (or other good deities).  Again this takes 4 seconds, it's simple and it can save you some problems down the road.  If we are wrong about these prayers at the beginning and end of the hunt and they are not necessary then you wasted 14 seconds of your time.  If we are right about them, you saved yourself from allot of problems and grief. 

     


     


    Some additional steps for a house or building ghost hunt/investigation 

    * Every investigator or team should  keep a log of events/times - everything needs to be logged, not matter  how trivial.  You sneeze, log it in, it may have sounded like something else to another member elsewhere in the building. 

    * All members and owners if possible, walk through the location. One members map location noting: air vents, heater, electrical appliances, fuse boxes, computer, etc.  Mark down the temperatures in the rooms and any EMF reading you get during this walk through.  One member take 5-10 test photos during the walk through.  Do not discuss the details of the case during this walk through. 

    * Any witnesses that have not been interviewed before should be interviewed by 1-2 investigators and taped/videoed if it's ok with the witness.  The other members should walk around the location and record any feelings or observations.  Only the interviewers will know the location of events and sightings.  

    * Make no conclusions.  Share no conclusions or opinions with the witnesses or owners until all the reports, photos and tapes are reviewed.  You need to see the evidence and correlate it before you can give an educated opinion. 

     

     


    Taking Pictures

    * Orbs are most likely going to be some sort of aurborne debris, pollen, dust, etc so do get took excited when you capture these on you camera

    * no smoking at the location, this can appear like mist on the photos so you don't want to contaminate your evidence. 

    * Watch for dust or dirt being stirred up in the area you are photographing.  They can give false positive pictures. 

    * All long hair should be tied back or under a hat, again this is to eliminate any false positive pictures and to give the skeptics less ammunition. 

    * Remove or tie up any camera straps so you don't take a picture of that, it looks like a vortex when photographed. 

    * Don't bother with your cameras viewfinder.  Hold the camera out in front of you and aim at the area you want to take a picture of.  Many newer digital cameras do not even come with view finders.   This also helps in cold weather by keeping your camera away from your breath.

    * Watch for reflective surfaces and make notes of them.   The flash reflected off shiny surfaces such as windows, polished tombstones, etc. can look light an orb or other anomaly.  Make note of street lights and any other light source that may appear on the film. 

    * Let fellow investigators know when you are taking a photo so that you don't get double flashes and the night scope operators can look away.  If you think you have a double flash photo or any other false positive, log the picture number so you can exclude that photo from the batch when they are developed.  Night scope operators can get eye damage if they are looking at a flash through the scope so this is important. 

    * In cold weather be conscious of your breath so you don't photograph that, it'll look like ectoplasm mist.  If you think you may have, log that picture number and discard it when you develop the pictures. 

    * Many people like to ask the spirit if they can take their picture , it can't hurt. 

    * Take pictures anywhere and everywhere.  If you feel some thing or someone else does, take a picture.  Did you think you saw something, take a picture.  Take photos whenever you get a positive readings on any piece of equipment. 

    * Sometimes you will see an orb, mist or sparkles in your flash or others flashes, take more pictures right there, you may be near a spirit. 


     
    Audio and Video  Recording 

    * You can set up stationary recorders and just let them run or you can walk around with them.  During audio recording, ask questions whether general ones or one specific to a certain spirit.   You can find a few ideas of question on or near the gravestones (i.e. how did you die, ask who left flowers, who is the presendent, did you live hereetc.) 

    * Make sure you view or listen to the whole recording.  EVPs are usually not heard at the time of recording but are heard only after the tape is reviewed. 

    *  Review notes where you should have recorded any normal sounds as well as unexplained ones (dogs barking, cars, etc.) This way you can tell what a sound is that wasn't heard by you at the time but is now on the tape. 
     

     
     
    Forms and Questionnaires

    This form is just something for you to build on.  It based on the form my group uses for outdoor investigations.  Feel free to download and use it.  I have a preview page of it  and you can download it there.  Add to it , change it to suit your needs, it's just a starting point. 

    Sample Interview Questionnaire 

    Outdoor Investigation Form 

    Sample Proposal Letter for Access to a Site for  an Investigation 

    Sample Release Form for Access to a Site 

    Sample Release Form for Confidentiality and Release of Information 
     

     
    Where to Look

    These are some places you can start your ghost hunting at.  These are suggestions and you should not limit yourself to just these, spirits can be anywhere.  Don't let the age of a building or area fool you.  The house I lived in for 29 years which had ghostly activity in for 26 years is only 70 years old but it is built on land that was settled and lived on in 1685.  Also, remember, do not trespass. 

    * Cemeteries - The age of the cemetery doesn't matter but the older it is, the more time it has had to accumulate restless spirits.  Why cemeteries? Well there are theories such as they are portals to the other side or that some spirits are drawn to their former bodies. 

    * Schools - Schools and former sites of schools may have the build up of psychic energies and imprints of all the highly emotional events that have transpired there. 

    * Theaters - The actors have run the gambit of human emotions inside the walls of a theater plus many have interesting hauntings attached to them. 

    * Battlefields - These are great locations simply because of their nature.  Many violent deaths in one area will always hold some spirits and psychic energy there. 

    * Churches - There is a long history of the faithful returning to the church they worshipped at.   They may be looking for the salvation they were promised and cannot find. 

    * Hotels/Motels/Boarding houses - Many dark dealing and highly emotional events take places in these rooms. 

    * Historic Locations - Many historic buildings, because of their age, have had more time to have spirits attach to it.  These buildings are often open the public and can give you a easy place to start.  Many even have known histories of hauntings and you may be able to gain access to the building after hours after speaking with the caretakers. 

    * Books on  Local Haunted Places - This what I used at first to get into some places.   They let an author publish the fact the place is haunted so there is a chance they may allow you in to take a look.

     
    More Tips
    * If it is is raining, snowing or foggy and you are scheduled to do an out door ghost hunt, reschedule it.  You cannot conduct a proper investigation in these conditions. 

    * Keep an open mind, any negative feelings may drive the spirits away.  Be respectful of the locations and the dead. 

    * Be skeptical, look for causes for any phenomenon such as natural or man made causes.  As an investigator you have to make sure your final evidence will stand up to scrutiny.  By eliminating all other explanations, your evidence becomes stronger proof. 

    * No smoking, alcohol or drugs at an investigation for mostly obvious reasons. 

    * No whispering, it can taint your recording results. 

    *  The Tax Assessors Office can give you historical info on many locations you visit. 

    Do not wear perfume,  cologne or anything else with a very noticeable scent.  This is so someone does not mistake the smell for a supernatural occurrence.  Spirits often use scents and smells to get our attention.  

    *  Make sure you let someone know where you will be so they will know in case of emergency. 
     

      
    Final Notes 

    Keep in mind that many of the people who will request an investigation will want to be comforted, educated and they may even want the spirits to leave.  Whatever your approach or beliefs, be prepared for this and if you are not willing or cannot help the people in the way they would like, at least provide them with names of people who may help them.  Also try to educate them so they understand what is occurring.  After explaining what is happening to a witness, many will no longer be frightened or as concerned and you will have done them a great service.   If you are a person or group that does offer more assistance through psychics, spirit rescues, etc. remember that the well being and the feelings of the living come first. 

    As with most of the page in the Shadowlands, this one will rely on others to help it grow.  So if you have a tip, procedure or suggestion to add let me know.  I am counting on the more experienced investigators out there to assist us here so we can all share the info and further this field of study in a professional and respectable manner.  
     

     
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    © 2011 David Juliano davejuliano@theshadowlands.net