As I’ve begun foraying back into the world of doing paranormal investigations, I’m rediscovering my love of the hunt. I know ghost hunting is pretty popular right now, and I know a lot of amateur investigators are jumping on the ghost hunting bandwagon, but you don’t just want to jump in willy nilly without knowing what you’re doing. So I’ve assembed the 10 things you need to know to do a proper and safe ghost hunt.
Pick the Proper Location
Paranormal activity can occur in all sorts of locations. For example hotels, cemeteries, prisons, hospitals, private homes, parks, bridges, scene of accidents, major disasters or murders, etc. Anywhere that residual energy might dwell.
What kind of ghosts do you want to encounter? Lost souls, murderers, accident victims, demons? Do you want playful spirits or the really angry ones who will push you down a stairwell if given a chance? Pick a location where reports include the type of energy you’d like to encounter or investigate. You may not want to lock yourself in an old abandoned mental ward until you’ve been doing this for some time.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve chosen a location, do some research. You must know what to expect or what you’re dealing with so you know who to bring on your team, what equipment you’ll need, what permissions you need to get, and what to have on hand in case of emergency. Does your ghost appear at a certain time of day or night? Make sure you investigate at that time. Does your ghost appear only in certain hotel rooms? Make sure you can book that hotel room. Is your ghost vocal? Make sure you bring something to record it. You don’t want to waste time investigating at the wrong time or place or in the wrong way.
If you’re investigating on private property always obtain permission from the owner to do your investigation. You will be trespassing if you don’t, and if you cause damage to the property, you will be liable. If you have to use bolt cutters to get into your location, you’re doing it wrong! It’s not worth the risk. It might look like the old abandoned hotel is safe, but you don’t know about hidden hazards that could hurt or even kill you. If you want to get started quickly, investigate a public park or other public location where ghosts have been sighted or reported. Just be sure to respect the property, do no damage, and leave nothing behind.
Assemble a Good Team
The right team is vital to have a successful and fruitful hunt. You will need people in the following positions, noting that one person may be able to fill multiple positions.
Researcher – the person willing to surf the internet, scan reports, get details, make phone calls, and secure permission to get onto the site to investigate.
Lead Investigator – this is the person who will lead the investigation. They will decide where the team goes and when, how the equipment is divvied up and set up, and will generally make decisions regarding the safety and efficacy of the team. Often the lead investigator will attempt to communicate with the ghosts, but sometimes that falls to the intuitives.
Audio/Visual Techs – you need people who can take digital photos, hold the video cameras, hold the digital audio recorders, work the EMF detectors, monitor the temperature, and document all the goings on during the investigation. I would assign 2-4 people to handle the equipment depending on what you’ve got going. Downloading and analyzing all the data can be done by them or anyone else on the team.
Intuitives – Don’t forget to bring your blood hounds! Bring along a psychic or two to help you pinpoint areas of unearthly activity. It will save you a ton of time and energy. Sure you have equipment, but are you using it in the room with the activity? Or are you wandering around 50 rooms of a hotel looking for one ghost? Intuitives will be especially helpful to have around if you want to help cross a spirit over. They are like canaries in the mines… if you see your intuitives running away from something, you should run too. Intuitives will be able to communicate with the ghosts and have a better chance of calling an entity forth.
Safety/Tactical Guy – this is the person who checks the area of investigation for safety hazards and comes equipped with items to help the team stay safe or get through obstacles or barriers. They check the area ahead of time and mark off areas too dangerous to tread through. They should also be capable of carrying an injured person, or hauling someone on the team up or down a hole with rope. This is the person that is responsible for the team’s safety.
Skeptics or Science-types – In addition to your intuitives, you also want to bring along a skeptic or scientific person. Don’t they cancel each other out? No. The skeptic is there to scientifically investigate reported phenomenon to see if it can be replicated in an earthly way. Skeptics are also the last to become possessed or influenced by negative entities since they are not opening themselves up to try to communicate with the ghosties. A good skeptic is like your grounding tool. When all your psychics drop, the skeptic will be standing there healthy and well saying, “What the heck just happened to our psychics? I see nothing.”
Comic Relief – If bad things happen to members of your party, one of the best ways to snap them out of it is humor. If the investigation is getting dark and scary, keeping your vibration high is critical, and having someone in your group who is great at cracking jokes can save the day. Trust me, I know, it happened to me. Bring the funny.
Use the Proper Equipment
Taking along as much equipment as you can will help you verify the presence of the paranormal. Here is a list of items you should endeavor to bring, and their function.
Digital Camera – Take a lot of photos of your haunted location. You never know what will show up on your photos that you can’t see with your eyes. Literally take hundreds of shots. There should be at least one person snapping photos every few seconds in each location. If someone is engaging with an entity or ghost, take a ton of photos of the person and their surrounding area.
Digital Voice Recorder – If you want to capture EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) then you want to have a digital recorder going at all times. Give a recorder to your lead investigator, your intuitive, and possibly your skeptic. To capture good EVP, everyone must stop all motion, someone will ask a question, and wait at least 5 seconds for an answer. You may not be able to hear anything, but your recorder might. You’ll analyze it later.
Infrared Cameras – If you have the budget for it, bring along some infrared cameras which are good at picking up ghosts in the dark. You can set them up in stationary locations around a single room, or have your audio visual person carry them while you walk. If you do walk around in the dark, be ridiculously careful!
Video Camera – If you’re investigating during the day or in lots of light, video your investigation. You never know what you’ll pick up on the camera. Plus if something really cool happens, like a brick gets thrown at your intuitive’s head, you’ll want to capture that evidence on film!
EMF Detector – This nifty device will tell you if there is unusual electromagnetic activity in the area, which some say is a sure sign of paranormal activity. You can buy an EMF detector online. Research the different frequencies that are detected and decide which one will serve you best.
Thermometers – Ghosts often bring their own cold front. Check the chill and record your data. See if you can correlate it with the other information you’re picking up.
Motion Sensors – Ghosts can trip motion sensors, sometimes. They can also hurk items across a room that might be picked up by a motion sensor.
Think about safety
In addition to equipment designed to nab your ghosts, you must also think about personal safety equipment. Here is a list of items to consider bringing along on an investigation. Your security/tactical person should manage and inventory these items and give them out to appropriate personnel.
Flashlights – If you’re trudging around in the dark, you’ll need some light. You can use handheld flashlights or headlamps. If you’re using infrared cameras, you can only use red lights.
Walkie Talkies – If your team splits up, it’s vital to be able to reach them in an emergency and to check in. Make sure your walkie talkies have a long range and don’t pick up interference from other devices.
Glow Sticks – These are great for lining a path back to safety. Drop a few of these on the ground if you’re in a dark maze-like environment. If you’re running (for some reason) and you need to find the exit fast, these are probably your best bet. Plus ghosts can take out electrical equipment but I have yet to meet a ghost who is a match for a glow stick!
Door Stops – It’s a good idea to prop open doors so they don’t get mysteriously slammed or locked on you, preventing you from getting out in a hurry.
Proper Attire – Know what kind of terrain you’ll be walking around in and dress for safety and comfort. Will there be mud? Loose floor boards? Wood with nails sticking out of it? You should wear good boots or close-toed shoes (no heels ladies). Have jackets with zippered pockets, or a tactical vest with pouches, long sleeves, gloves, etc. Dust masks, shemaghs, or bandanas to cover your face if the environment will be dusty or filled with airborne nasties.
Batteries – Where there are dead people you’ll find lots of dead batteries. Investigations can end quickly if all your brand new batteries mysteriously get discharged. Have tons of back up batteries for all your equipment.
First-Aid Kit – Sprained ankles, bonks on the head, cuts, bruises, and wounds can certainly occur during an investigation. Better safe than sorry! It could be a while before you can get a fallen comrade to a hospital. Be sure to bring ice packs, bandages, wound closures, anti-bacterial wipes, antiseptic sprays, antibiotic ointment, burn gel, slings, and something you can use as a splint. Oh and bring a jacket (love, mom).
Rope – Hopefully you won’t ever need rope, but it’s handy for all sorts of occasions. Hauling a friend out of a hole, helping someone down a well, restraining a possessed psychic. Fifty feet of rope never hurt anyone, so bring it.
Food and Water – Keep your team hydrated and energized. Water bottles for everyone and energy bars to keep them going. Often investigations happen long after dinner. Skulking around a prison can sure make you hungry! Be sure you’ve got enough food to handle emergencies, especially if you are somewhere remote.
Cell Phones – Charged cell phones you can use to call for help are essential.
Zip ties or handcuffs – On the rare chance that someone in your party does get possessed, you’ll want to be able to gently restrain them so they don’t hurt themselves or members of the team.
Do not bring weapons on a ghost hunt. Ghosts won’t be affected by them, but if the possessed members of your team get hold of them, you’re all dead. If you must bring a utility knife, fine, but give it to your skeptic to hold.
Go in strong
Be sure you’re well rested before starting your hunt. Tired people are more easily influenced by dark forces. Be sure you’re healthy and well. No drinking of alcohol before or during an investigation. Stay sharp and in control. No drugs of any kind either. Stay alert and in your right mind.
Never hunt alone
This is super important. The buddy system rules when hunting ghosts. No one goes anywhere alone, not even the bathroom. If you’re alone you could be easily injured or influenced and there will be no one around to help you. If you’re with a team of people and you break off into groups, make sure there are at least 2 people in a group, although I recommend 3 people per group. With three, if there’s trouble, one person can get help, one person can be in trouble, and the other person can stay with the troubled individual. Also, if someone does get possessed, you’ll want at least two other people there to restrain him or her.
Know the signs of possession
You might think it can’t happen to you, but it can. If you’re stirring a hornet’s nest of haunted hotels or houses, you can get stung! You’re opening yourself up to the paranormal, basically inviting it to show itself, so don’t be surprised if it latches on to someone in your group. It’s important to know the normal behavior of everyone on the team so you’ll know if they start acting strangely.
Signs that someone is being negatively affected by something paranormal include: getting sick or nauseous, feeling dizzy, acting confused, unable to speak, breathing strangely or irregularly, sudden bursts of unusual emotion (sadness or anger for example), swearing, attacking a member of the team, hurting themselves, speaking in odd languages or in an odd way, eyes rolled back in their heads, overt sexual behavior, thrashing around, or passing out.
Always keep an eye on your team mates. Remove anyone who appears to be acting strangely. Sometimes the act of removing them from the area is enough to bring them back to themselves, and sometimes you need to help them come back. This is when you use love and humor. You may also need a strong voice to tell the offending entity to back the heck off!
Learn how to analyze your data
When the investigation is over, the real work begins. It can take many hours to analyze all the data from all your equipment. You’ve got to correlate what your psychics received with what the equipment picked up. You’ve got to scan photos for unusual or anomalous images. Look for orbs in your photos. Look for dark shapes or shadows that have no physical correlations. Put your thermal readings together with your EMF readings. Listen to the digital recordings for any EVPs. Try to piece it all together and look for evidence. This can be painstaking and requires a very discerning ear and eye. Working with a partner or having everyone on the team take a look at the data can be very helpful so you don’t miss anything.
Be safe, have fun, and get on out there! There’s a whole other world to explore. Get your equipment, your team, your gear, and get ‘er done!