Halloween is the perfect time for a ghost hunt.
Actually, any time is a good time for a ghost hunt, but with Spooky Season well underway, I thought it was time to compile a list of my top 10 ghost hunting tips for beginners.
So whether you’ve signed up for a hosted hunt, or you and your friends are set on checking out your town’s urban legends, here’s all you need to know for your very first ghost hunt.
1. Research your location
The history of your haunts are important. Whether it be a house or a castle, living, breathing people will have resided there and each had their own story. Becoming familiar with any past events that occurred in your location will help you conduct your investigation and may suggest certain areas to focus on.
If your location has a reputation of hauntings, discovering the stories behind them will help you connect with any spirits – besides, it’s only polite to know who you’re talking to. Be prepared to take any tales with a pinch of salt though, as the passage of time is prone to embellishments.
It is advisable to explore your chosen location in the daylight, so as to familiarise yourself with any dangers, and make sure you have permission to enter. Nothing puts the kibosh on the spirits like a trespassing charge.
2. Protect yourself (and your energy)
Your personal safety is the most important aspect of any investigation. Be sure to dress appropriately and be prepared for the temperature to drop when night falls. Bring adequate lighting and extra batteries (power sources are said to be drained by spirits as well as the cold) and appropriate footwear. Always err on the side of caution and avoid rickety staircases, dangerous ledges and anything that looks even remotely sketchy – You’ve come to visit some ghosts, not become one.
Also remember – there’s one thing scarier than ghouls, and that’s people. Never conduct an investigation alone, always have a mobile phone to hand, and never go anywhere you won’t be able to safely escape in a hurry.
Energetically speaking, I’d always recommend a quick protection circle before you begin. This can be done in accordance to your own belief system, or go something like this:
- Join hands
- Insert your own little speech about protection, peace, etc.
- Picture yourself and your group surrounded by a white light. This white light will shield you from any negative energy for the duration of your investigation. It will also prevent any energies from attaching to you and following you home like a lost puppy.
Once you’ve stepped into your spiritual hazmat suit, you’re ready to go.
3. Be prepared to wait around
You’ve probably seen the paranormal investigation programs, where a spirit is waiting around every corner and the presenters are sent into squeals of terror at every bump in the night. If you have, you’d be forgiven for thinking every ghost hunt is fraught with spectres and irrefutable evidence abound.
What you don’t see is the countless hours sitting around in the dark, with not an awful lot going on. You’ll be cold, you’ll be hungry and you’ll probably need to answer a call of nature at some point.
A real life ghost hunt isn’t the over edited scream-fest it is on TV. So don’t be disheartened if your investigations don’t send you running for your life in screams of terror. You’re not being a bad ghost hunter, that’s just the way it is.
Thermal imaging cameras, spirit boxes, K-II meters, the plethora of “ghost detecting” apps on your smart phone – These are all weapons in the arsenal of The Modern Ghost Hunter, with caring degrees of reliability. It can be hard to know where to begin.
If you’re new to the world of paranormal investigations, it’s best to start with the basics, and the pared-down version of this is:
- A simple camera or smart phone
- A voice recorder
- An open, but skeptical, mind
In my opinion, the more high-tech you go with your equipment, the more skeptical you need to be. Many of these tools are prone to fallibility and can be set off by electronic background interference such as battery packs or phones, so bare this in mind while using.
Alternatively, a step back into more traditional methods of spirit searching can yield results. After all, a ghost of old may be more acquainted with a set of dowsing rods than a box that scans radio frequencies. My personal favourite is the (admittedly equally fallible) pendulum.
When thinking about equipment, think about your motivation. What do you want to gain from your investigation? Do you want proof of the paranormal? If so, do you want to prove it to yourself or others? Take this into consideration when prepping your tool kit and choose what you feel most comfortable with.
If you are taking part in an investigation hosted by a paranormal team, they may have equipment available to use.
5. Review what you can on the go
Imagine you’ve just returned from your very first paranormal excursion. You’re reviewing the photographs you took for the first time. You come across a certain image. Your eyes widen. Your heart skips a beat. When you and your friends paused for your mid investigation selfie, a headless figure can be seen in the woods behind you, clear as day.
If you’d stopped and checked closely, you could have seen it. You could have engaged with the spirit, had a nice conversation about the afterlife and gone on to capture the best proof of supernatural activity the world has ever seen.
Or, you could have examined it, taken a few steps into the treeline and realised your new friend was no more than a stray branch at an awkward angle and an excellent example of pareidolia.
It’s not always possible to review on the go, but do so when you can. It will give you and your fellow investigators a chance to self-debunk and keep your internal confirmation bias in check.
6. Pay attention to your surroundings
We’ve already discussed how a ghost hunt can be dangerous and paying attention to any changes in your environment will not only keep you physically safe, but able to spot potential paranormal activity.
If you’ve brought along any trigger objects (items specific to the time period of your suspected ghost, for example) pay special attention to these. It can help to mark their position to confirm any movement throughout the investigation.
Sudden changes in temperature are said to be a precursor to ghostly goings on, and cold spots are sometimes indicators of a presence, so be aware of these too.
7. Pay attention to your spiritual surroundings
When dealing in the realms of spirits, it’s important to remember that you are a spiritual being yourself. We’re hardwired to notice the feeling of being watched – it kept your ancestors from becoming lunch for a sabre-tooth tiger – so pay attention to how a location effects you and trust your instincts. Sometimes it’s more than a place giving you the creeps, so when it comes to feelings of oppression or impending danger, trust your instincts and leave.
Personal anecdotes such as feeling a touch or a chill isn’t measurable evidence, but that doesn’t make it any less important in an investigation, so be sure to voice any strong emotions you may feel in an environment.
8. Be respectful
Would you like it if a stranger barged into your home and started acting like an aggressive baboon? What if they demanded answers to all sorts of personal questions about your life and death?
I wouldn’t, so why would a ghost? There’s no need to be rude to someone just because they lack a physical body.
Talk to any spirits and explain out loud what you are doing, and what you would like them to do to interact. Speak calmly and mind your P’s and Q’s.
Some investigators attempt to provoke a spirit to get a reaction, to varying degrees of supposed success, but I don’t recommend this technique. In my experience, “treat others how you’d like to be treated” extends to the dead.
It’s also important to treat your location with respect, whether it’s a place of historical importance or a private property – someone loved it, and cared for it, and you should do the same. The same goes for woodlands and natural environments – the earth is everybody’s mother, so be gentle.
And whatever you do, do NOT go pee pee in the graveyard.
9. Be skeptical
Confirmation bias is the paranormal investigator’s worst enemy, so it’s important to conduct an investigation as an openminded skeptic. There will be a natural explanation for most of your findings, and once they’re ruled out, we can explore the possibility of the unknown.
Additionally, pay attention to the energy of your group. It’s easy to unintentionally rile each other to a state of near hysteria, and the more scared you are, the more you’re looking for things to scare you.
Good evidence is strengthened when scrutinised and a good ghost hunter always self-debunks.
10. Leave As You Entered
It should go without saying to always leave a location the way you found it. Make sure it’s as secure as it was when you entered, leave nothing behind and if it’s late, be sure not to disturb any living neighbours.
As you finish your investigation remember to thank the spirits, your location and any staff, (physical) guides or others that allowed you to investigate the area.
Don’t forget to reinstate any protection rituals you did previously, just to make sure nothing follows you home.
What advice would you give to a new ghost hunter? Do you have any tips? Leave a comment below, or join the conversation over on our various social media things.
They might make an appearance in a future list.