Ghost Hunting & Paranormal Investigations
This tutorial is designed to give you a working knowledge of how to conduct a paranormal investigation or ghost hunt. My definition of paranormal investigation is: Investigating a site that has been reported to have paranormal activity. my definition of a ghost hunt is: Seeking out new sites where no ghost or spirit activity has been reported in order to find paranormal phenomena.
To be honest I’m not sure that this is the right starting point for what’s supposed to be a relatively basic tutorial in Paranormal Investigation and Ghost Hunting. That said, it is, in all probability the most interesting part, and I suppose the most important.
So what are we dealing with here? To tell you the absolute truth, no-one really knows, there is no such thing as an expert in the paranormal, be it ghosts and spirits or UFO’s, no-one truly KNOWS the answers. Let’s face it, if they did you wouldn’t be reading this, now would you?
There have been many well qualified people who have entered this field, the two most notable being Harry Price, and Dr. Hans Holzer. It’s from these two in particular we will be taking our definitions, and understanding for use in the field, so let’s define some meanings.
Ghosts are static beings; they don’t attach to people; they don’t appear in more than one place. Reports of apparitions of the dead having travelled and appeared to several people in various locations are not ghosts as I, and other paranormal investigators understand the term. Ghosts, appear to be surviving revenants of people who have died tragically or in traumatic situations but are unaware of their change of circumstances. Some ghosts may realize that they are dead but may be confused about their location, or the sudden and inexplicable change in their sensory perception. Under these conditions or when a person had acquired routines and habits, and a strong emotional attachment to a specific place, sudden unexpected death, may come as a shock. Sentient energies (human or animal) continue to stay on in the atmosphere where their misfortune or their emotional attachment had existed preceding death, unwilling or unable to part with the physical world.
Spirits, on the other hand appear to be free roaming souls who come and go at will, with none of the handicaps experienced by their ghostly counterparts. It would appear that these souls have come to terms with their altered state, perhaps even enjoying the new found freedoms of life without physical encumbrance.
Stone Tape Theory
I think the title says it all, but this particular phenomenon is nothing more than a recording of previous events. We don’t yet understand why, but it appears that under certain circumstances, the immediate environment records and “plays back” certain events, much like an electronic video device recording and playing back images from your television.
A common misconception is that a poltergeist or “noisy ghost” is a separate and completely different type of entity to a “standard” ghost or spirit. Dr. Holzer’s opinion is that poltergeist activity is in fact caused by one of two things; a child (usually female) approaching or experiencing puberty suffering stresses that cause the release of psycho-kinetic energy, or that it is part of the cycle of a haunting, where the energies required by an entity have built up to a level where interaction with the physical realm becomes possible.
Now to chuck a spanner your works, the above seems quite straight forward and clear cut Right? Wrong! How do we tell the difference? “What do you mean?” I hear you cry! Well let’s create a simple scenario;
Fred goes home one Thursday night eats his tea, settles into his favourite chair to watch TV, and promptly drops dead. Now assuming that he has followed this routine for some time, would it be unreasonable to assume that even dead, he wouldn’t continue to follow it?
So now you’ve attended his funeral and had good laugh and a drink at his expense, and you don’t expect to see him again. BUT The following Thursday he’s seen to follow this routine precisely, just before frightening the hell out of everyone by vanishing! So what’s going on here?
- A) He’s a ghost trapped into a routine because he doesn’t know he’s dead or for some other reason.
- B) He’s a spirit who isn’t going to be deprived of his favourite TV shows regardless of the lack of a body.
- C) The event was so sudden and unexpected that it was (for some reason) recorded by the immediate environment.
- D) Other?
This is where a Medium can be worth their weight in gold. A good Medium should be able to distinguish between a ghost, a spirit and what they term as “residual energy” or what we’d call stone tape theory when or if it’s replayed.
As the above scenario shows, the difference between different types of paranormal phenomena isn’t as clear cut as it first seemed, and the confusion doesn’t end there either! Next I’m going to introduce you to the wonderful world of “false positives”.
So what is a “false positive”? In a nutshell, it’s when you appear to have captured paranormal phenomena on an electronic or other device and you haven’t, simple as that.
False positives can be caused by the simplest things, more often than not the immediate environment, the weather, and poor investigative practices are cause of this problem. The best way of explaining them is to show some evidence of them. The pictures and videos below are examples and explanations of false positives.
Nothing paranormal here! just a human hair!
Ghostly orbs? No, just common or garden rain!
A sneaky spook? Nah! just someones frosty breath
In this video Mike St. Clair of VIPER Paranormal shows you how to identify a false long exposure ghost picture and how to view the EXIF Data. EXIF data shows information about the photo, the camera that was used, and how the photo was taken.
Bunk’D! A look at the k2 meter and the uses within the paranormal community. Including ways it can be used to produce evidence that is not real and other issues with relying on it’s data.
And these are just a few of things you have to be careful about! Think about reflective surfaces (any reflective surface!) dust, moisture, and camera straps. Always consider the mundane first and the paranormal as a last resort.
Take a note (where possible) of anything in the immediate vicinity that could cause seemingly “paranormal” effects on your equipment. You’d be surprised how the shadow from a tree can look like a human shadow figure of some sort, or the reflection from residual moisture in a tree can look like a misty shape.
When recording EVP (electronic voice phenomena) always talk in a normal clear voice, whispering can be mistaken for actual EVP evidence.
Now believe it or not, YOU can be made to produce false positives! Seeing and hearing is not necessarily believing or believable. The first problem here is that we see and hear in a very limited range of the available spectrums. The other problem you have is that outside influences can adversely affect those senses.
Electro-magnetic fields have an adverse effect on the human brain. Exposure to high electro-magnetic fields can cause hallucinations and other unpleasant effects.
Ultra-sound (high frequency)
Exposure ultra-sound at approximately sixteen Mega-hertz can cause “corner of the eye phenomena”. This is because it resonates (or vibrates) at the same rate as the human eye.
Infra-sound (low frequency
Exposure to infra-sound is said to produce symptoms of nausea, and headaches, it is also reputed to cause sensations of ‘presence’ as in paranormal presences.
Unfortunately all of these things can occur naturally, and be caused by man-made things. The most common, EMF’s and ultra-sound, can be detected by relatively cheap equipment, infra-sound however is far more difficult to deal with, but extremely rare.
So what now? Well, once the target for the investigation has been decided, it needs proper and thorough research. Although others would disagree, I believe that the information gathered by the researcher(s) should stay with the researcher(s) and be withheld from the Medium until AFTER the investigation, and only shared with other group members as appropriate. If there are environmental or other dangers at the target venue, then that portion of the information must be shared with everyone.
- Research can make the job of identifying phenomena easier. Knowing what the “expected phenomena” is likely to be, will help spotting false positives and poor Mediums (and I’ve met a couple of those too).
- Researching the history of a location can help in uncovering information for why a supposed haunting may be occurring
- Research can be published along with other reports concerning the investigation. This adds credibility to the reports and the group as a whole.
- Research allows for a risk assessment
And just when you thought the fun was over, if something comes out of the investigation that wasn’t covered in the pre-investigation research, it needs researching too. You may have uncovered something previously unknown about a known site.
Best Practices for Investigations
Do – Ensure that all devices are undamaged, properly operating, and have fully charged batteries.
Know your equipment. If it makes a noise, find out how to turn the sounds off. Know what sort of batteries it requires, what tapes, or flash memory it takes, how long it will run for unattended or how long it takes to charge the flash.
Get permission to be at the location you plan to investigate. Trespassing is a great way to ruin your reputation. Being arrested for trespassing is even worse.
Have a plan before you show up. This cuts down the amount of time it takes to set your equipment up.
Work as a team. There should be at least three of you and working together will help make things like taking baseline readings run smoothly.
Document what you do, when you did it and what you experienced. You can do this with cameras and audio recorders but a pencil and notepad never suffer from battery drain or run out of tape or require a change of flash memory.
Treat the location with respect. After all, you may want to go back.
Map the location and mark the placement of equipment. Even a rough map will do, because it will help you debunk on the night and may help during evidence review.
Bring spare batteries, video tapes, camera film, audio tapes etc- if your equipment uses it, have two spare sets of everything. You never know when you will need it.
Interview witnesses, if anyone is willing to talk, record their experiences. This may give you good ideas where you need to put equipment.
Reinvestigate, especially if you come up with anything interesting. Ghosts rarely perform on command.
Carry a watch for noting times of occurrences and specific details; use walkie-talkies to keep in touch with other team members; bring a flashlight, check the batteries. Have a first-aid kit on hand.
Give the outside of any building a thorough once-over. Note any bushes or tree limbs that have contact with the building and could cause banging or scraping noises. Look for visibly loose boards, siding, shingles, rain gutters, or shutters.
While outside, stand in several different locations and observe if there are any sound amplification points. House angles, trees, and terrain changes can affect how sound travels.
Indoors, check all windows and doors for drafts. Don’t forget to check attic and basement access points.
Rooms containing fireplaces should also be examined closely. Is the flue open or closed? Are there any animals nesting in the chimney that may be causing unexplained noises?
Safety first, if a structure or an area looks dangerous, then avoid it don’t climb rickety ladders or unstable staircases. Don’t walk on rotted floorboards or wade into half-flooded basements. Don’t touch bare wires.
When placing equipment, make sure it’s away from electrical and magnetic sources such as breaker boxes or stereo speakers.
Try to get double coverage on a room or specific location: two cameras, two audio recording devices, one of each, etc.
When experiencing something, it’s good draw another investigators attention to it, but without revealing anything in particular to them. Some people are very susceptible to the power of suggestion and could easily be influenced.
Turn off cell phones while conducting an investigation.
Don’t – Be afraid, there is nothing to be afraid of. Ghosts and spirits are unlikely to harm you.
Eat, drink or smoke on site. If you must take a break for a cigarette or munchies, or grab a coffee, do it well away from where your fellow investigators are working.
Drink alcohol, or take any other perception altering substance (including some prescription drugs) before or during the investigation.
Fail to show up. If you have been asked to investigate a location, be there when you said you would be.
Wear perfumes, scents, colognes or anything else that has a strong odour.
Run or scream, no matter how spooked you get. Leave the location if you become startled or uncomfortable, but do so as calmly as possible, preferably escorted by another team member.
Bring absolutely all your kit. Work out ahead of time what you’ll need and make sure you aren’t overburdened with equipment.
Put off doing evidence review. Otherwise it just mounts up.
Behave unprofessionally in front of the client or site owners.
Shirk your share of the work after the investigation.
The equipment needed for a paranormal investigation is not as extensive as you might think. Harry Price managed with nothing more than stationery and a torch! However we are in the early part of the 21st Century so here goes;
Pens, pencils and paper
Two way radios
Candles and matches or a wind-up flashlight
Tape and or digital voice recorders
First aid kit
And (although already covered above) don’t forget spare everything for any devices you have at least twice over!!!
Processing and Publishing Data
OK, we are almost done and this is arguably the shortest bit ……to write about that is! You’ve had the fun of the investigation and now there’s work to be done. This work consists of:
- Evidence review; reviewing video footage, photographs, and EVP. – ALL GROUP MEMBERS
- Producing reports and getting those reports on to the website with the appropriate copyright notice with all links and evidence. – ELECTED GROUP MEMBER(S)
- Researching anything that appeared “unusual” when compared to the pre-investigation research or differed from the expected phenomena. – ELECTED GROUP MEMBER(S)
Agreeing, arranging and researching the next investigation. – ELECTED GROUP MEMBER(S)
- Production; editing of audio and video etc. – ELECTED GROUP MEMBER(S)
If you’re still up for being a Paranormal Investigator and Ghost Hunter we’ll cover the finer points as we go!