Nine Steps to a Successful Ghost Investigation
So you’ve always been curious about the paranormal. You’ve seen a few scary movies, read a book or two, and watched a few ghost investigation reality television shows. Cruising around on the internet or talking to a friend you’ve found out about public ghost investigations. $30-$75 later (yes some can be quite steep in price) you’re raring to go on your first real life paranormal adventure.
For a first timer there is some apprehension and fear as ghosts are considered to be scary, but shortly into the investigation you’ll realize ghost are more interesting and fascinating and there is really nothing to fear. I’ve led numerous public and private investigations, and find many people are ill prepared for an investigation. I don’t mean to imply they shouldn’t be there. I would encourage anyone who is curious, believer or skeptic alike to try an investigation; particularly the skeptic as it becomes more and more difficult not to believe the more you investigate.
When I say many participants are ill prepared I mean many people show up without any training, equipment, or other knowledge which they really need to be successful. They will usually have a good time regardless, but with some forethought and a few preparations a good investigation can become a great investigation.
Training isn’t terribly critical initially as most public investigations will begin with some very basic training, but sometimes parts of that training is too little too late. Since we’re here let’s cover training. By reading this you will be ahead of the curve over those others who just buy a ticket and show up. There are really a few basic things anyone needs to do to be successful during an investigation.
1. Dress appropriately
You wouldn’t wear crazy yet stylish heels on a long hike, or shorts to a fancy dinner party.
Ghost investigations are the same way. I’ve investigated posh upscale locations, and I’ve investigated dilapidated factories covered in dust, grime, and refuse. I’ve investigated freezing buildings and sweltering buildings. Learn a little bit about your venue and know what to expect and dress appropriately. Is the venue heated or cooled? Is it nice or filthy? Indoors or outdoors? Will weather be a factor? A lot of investigating involves moving around. Dress for comfort. Nothing will ruin an investigation faster than stylish, but uncomfortable shoes, or other clothing items designed more for appearance than comfort.
Along with inappropriate dress avoid noisy jewelry or clothing that will clatter, or otherwise contaminate an audio recording. Keep in mind a lot of investigations (most all of them) take place in the dark. Sequins, excessive jewelry, or anything else that can catch and reflect light may give false evidence. One investigator put duct tape on the back of her phone because the reflection off of the case made what appeared to be orbs if it caught any stray light.
Along with appropriate dress I should mention that the idea of a ghost investigation is to capture evidence and have interesting personal experiences. That evidence is visual, audible, and olfactory. Yes ghosts can leave odors. If you are wearing a bottle of cologne or perfume not only are you likely to miss olfactory evidence, but you are going to ruin the chances of anyone else in your group from capturing olfactory evidence. You will likely also be remembered as that one person in the group with the flowery stench cloud about their person. Ghost investigations are one place to leave perfume/cologne home. Even in small amounts it’s a bad idea.
2. Don’t whisper
The lights are off, we’re looking for scary ghosts, the public host investigator is doing an EVP session, and we have something important to say to our friend. Our natural inclination is to whisper. We’ve been taught that our whole lives. It’s rude to interrupt so we do what we must to communicate without being rude.
So why is whispering such a big deal? One of the most common and convincing pieces of evidence investigators capture on investigations are EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena). EVPs are captured voices on an audio recording which weren’t audible to those making the recording, but are there on playback. Sometimes the voices are shockingly crystal clear, other times they are barely intelligible whispers. Most often EVPs fall somewhere between these two extremes. Later, when reviewing evidence it can be difficult to distinguish between an EVP, and an investigator caught whispering on the recording, about the girl with crazy high heels in the stench cloud, to their friend. Oftentimes potentially good evidence has to be dismissed because the reviewer can’t decide if their recording is legitimate or contaminated.
Don’t whisper, talk in a normal voice. If doing so would be rude excuse yourself from the group and talk elsewhere.
3. Tag Evidence
Okay, so you’ve whispered about the high heeled woman in the stench cloud of perfume to your friend, and now you’re all worried about contaminated evidence. You decide to excuse yourself, and in the process kick a metal chair making a banging sound. Things aren’t going well. Mortified you are worried the investigation is a bust because of all these mishaps. Now what?
Good investigators will “tag” their evidence. For a police officer this is an involved process involving stickers, case numbers, and lots and lots of tedious paperwork. Well for ghost investigations it’s much simpler than that. You merely confess to your ghost investigation sins and move on as if all is forgiven, which it is.
If you whisper or hear someone else whisper, loudly and clearly say “whispering”. The investigator who is reviewing the evidence later will instantly know the noise they just heard on their recording is contamination, and can dismiss it out of hand without fretting over whether what they are hearing is evidence or not.
Tagging is also important for other noises which may occur during an investigation. Stomach sounds, passing gas, bumping into a wall, shifting in place, anything at all that can make noise needs to be documented or tagged in the audio recording. It sounds embarrassing, but hey we’re hunting ghosts. On the coolness factor with our friends and family it’s right up there with playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, so what is there to be embarrassed about? Be proud, say it out loud and own your strange bodily noises.
4. Bring some gear
This one sounds like a tall order. You’ve just spent a small fortune on a ticket, but hey it’s for charity or some other good cause right? Now I’m telling you to bring your own gear?!?! What are you paying ticket prices for? What; you don’t have $1,500 for a thermal camera, or $300 for the latest Mel Meter? Isn’t it the host team’s responsibility to provide gear?
The host team at a public investigation will have some gear present, and they will be using it for those they are leading. Some hosts may even let you use a piece of gear yourself. Many host teams have also found out that is a good way to lose track of really expensive gear as it gets lost, stolen, or misplaced.
You will have fun if you don’t bring gear, but you will have a blast if you bring your own. Now above I listed some more pricey options in the gear department. You can really gear yourself up without spending a lot of money. For $16 you can get a AA twist on Maglite flashlight, and most smart phones have an audio recorder built in. There is nothing more exciting than capturing your own EVPs. For a little more money you can buy a dedicated audio recorder which is going to give you better quality recorded audio than your phone. Be leery of cell phone ghost apps. Most of them are unreliable, and for entertainment purposes only. Not sure how to use a AA Maglite to hunt ghosts? Ask your host, they will know how and show you.
If you are willing to spend a little extra money you can get a Ghost Meter Pro for around $30 (it’s discontinued so it won’t be around too much longer), or a K-II meter for around $60. An audio recorder, AA Maglite flashlight, and a K-II are all I usually use even though I have a plethora of more expensive gadgets and gizmos at my disposal.
Speaking of gear when all is said and done you’re going to need to listen to all that audio you captured. Can I recommend Goldwave? Goldwave is an audio program that will let you isolate EVPs, and you can used it free for a considerable amount of time before you have to consider licensing it. If you’re going to investigate, EVPs are the easiest evidence to collect so you should audio record, and learn how to find and isolate your EVPs.
5. Be respectful
This isn’t a hard one, but some seem to struggle with. This encompasses a lot of what has already been covered. Don’t whisper, don’t wear cologne/perfume, don’t talk, laugh and joke all through the investigation so other investigators can’t get good evidence.
This also applies to the ghosts, and the venue owners. You are a guest of the venue owner, and the host group so be courteous and treat their venue and property with respect.
I once purchased a ticket to attend a public ghost investigation, and was put in a large group, half of which was a bunch of rowdy members from a paranormal group out of Colorado we will refer to as (DBP). The paranormal guide was someone I knew and a friend, so we split the group in two and I ended up leading half the group during the investigation, the non-DBP part. Since we were in assigned location we couldn’t stray too far from the other half of the group. The other half of the group (DBP) was led by my friend, in an attempt to keep them as contained as possible.
This group, DBP, was very noisy and spent most of the investigation joking, laughing, hooting, hollering, and essentially goofing off with each other. It was evident they weren’t taking the investigation seriously, and it was unsurprising to learn they had a hard time as a group getting access into indoor venues for their private investigations and did all their investigations outdoors. When they weren’t horsing around they continually pointed out how their equipment was far superior to everyone else’s and essentially heaped scorn on my guide friend for the equipment he was using.
I had several people in my group all of which had paid a considerable amount of money to attend the investigation. They were clearly irritated and annoyed by the antics of DBP and halfway through the investigation, despite attempts by my friend and I to fix the problem a few of my group actually left angry at the bad experience. As it wasn’t my event, and I didn’t have much authority and couldn’t expel the members of DBP. The point being… be considerate of others, and be aware of how your behavior may be interfering with their experience.
6. Be careful
Ghost investigations are 99.9% safe as long as you follow some basic rules. There is always that one person though that just begs for trouble. Unless you’re working with a highly gifted medium you never truly know what/who the spirit you are talking to really is. Inviting a spirit to come home with you is a horrendously bad idea. The sweet little girl spirit you are talking to could very well be demonic in nature, and inviting it home could be the recipe for homemade Amityville Horror in your own home.
I have worked with several gifted mediums. Two of my favorite were with me at a venue. One of the mediums, saw a little girl and the other saw through the subterfuge and saw that it was negative spirit imitating a little girl. I can tell you inviting something home is bad news.
The other thing you can do to be careful is stay away from Ouija, Seances, black magic, scrying, etc… These are all things that can open the door to evil influences. Toying with these things will negatively impact your life. I lost a very promising new investigator who after her first investigation decided to tinker with an Ouija the following night. I should have warned her, but I didn’t realize it was going to be an issue. I received a phone call the next morning at 6:00 AM from a terrified investigator. I responded and cleansed her home, but she will no longer investigate at all.
Just remember talking is fine, but seeking specific dead loved ones, making invitations, or challenging a spirit without knowing what you are doing is a recipe for disaster.
I wish I had a better word for this one, but in all honesty I don’t. This is a simple act and should be done at the end of EVERY investigation. Whether you are religious or not this is the time to get there. The existence of an afterlife if anything smacks of religion.
Once the night is done and you have exited the venue, before you go any farther it is important to in a loud clear voice let the spirits at that venue know they are not allowed to follow you home. It is then highly, I can’t stress this enough, important to say a prayer for protection and ask God to keep the spirits there and not let them come home with you.
Forgetting to do this can lead to hitchhikers, so it’s always important to remember to end the night with a prayer.
8. Be patient
Lastly be patient. Ghost hunting is a lot like fishing. You might go to the lake one day, and catch one fish after another, the following day at the same time, same place, using the same bait you cant get so much as a nibble.
You can go to a venue and see orbs, hear voices, and see shadow figures, and the next day investigate the same venue and get nothing. If you are just starting out go to two or three investigations before you throw in the towel. Also audio record and listen to your audio. You are bound to get at least one EVP during any investigation.
9. Have fun
At the end of the night the goal is to see something neat and have some fun. Having fun is what makes investigating worth the effort. Just make sure you follow these guidelines and make sure your fun isn’t infringing on someone else’s fun and you will go far.
I hope I see you on the next public ghost hunt!