Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Writer's Introduction to Paranormal Investigating

So, you are fascinated by ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night? You always wanted to hunt ghosts, track Big Foot, or spy the Loch Ness Monster. Maybe becoming a paranormal investigator is just the thing for you. I don’t encourage amateurs without any training at all to conduct paranormal investigating, though. 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, or get some on-the-job training, so to speak. If you do some investigating on your own, don’t do it alone, for your own safety. One good reason you never do it alone is: you may get hurt. Another is the slim chance the spirit may be a harmful one – as in, of demonic origin. In my opinion, whatever religion you are, utter a prayer of protection before you start any investigation.
First of all, no one is born a “paranormal investigator”. All it takes to get involved in the field of ghost hunting is to:
  1. Have an interest in the afterlife.
  2. Believe in ghosts – without it, you’re wasting your time. Though there are skeptics that are doing this, too, to disprove the supernatural. And that is all right, too.
  3. Find a place you wish to investigate.
  4. Invest in some equipment. At a minimum, a respectable paranormal investigator needs a camera, a notebook, a tape recording device, and a flashlight. More experienced paranormal investigators invest in EMF detectors or meters which pick up disturbances in electric and magnetic fields. You can find many of the things needed at places online like the Ghost Hunter Store ( or on Amazon or eBay. You can also find many of these things at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Radio Shack, etc.
  5. Spend time practicing HOW TO use your tools. As with any job, it is always best to know how to use them properly.
  6. Read everything you can on ghosts, poltergeists, UFO sightings, and any other kind of paranormal activity. Study the investigations of these phenomena to get a sense of how paranormal investigators approach their work. Learn the lingo and the different types of paranormal activity that may be encountered in an investigation.
  7. Join a local paranormal investigation group. Check out online sites like at:, MySpace, and even for information on groups in your area. If there are no groups in your area, consider attending a paranormal conference out of town, or even starting your own group. I know of one held in Virginia Beach every year: . You can find other paranormal conferences by using
  8. Take a class. Many organizations now offer courses in paranormal investigation, like Flamel College (, the International Ghost Hunters Society (, and, of course, there are organizations in your own locality.

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)
PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION - going to a known haunted place to record data (video, photos, audio, and temperatures), take notes, conduct interviews and get 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.
General Tips
  • Verify location, accessibility, safety, and related issues 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, like parking, paths, and hazards.
  • Wear suitable clothing, including sturdy footwear. Don’t eat a heavy meal immediately before ghost hunting, but don’t go ghost hunting hungry, either. Do not drink alcohol or use drugs before or during an investigation.
  • Never go alone. This is just common sense. If you get hurt, who will get help?
  • 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 should get permission from any owner or caretaker. Notify the local police so that they will be aware of your presence to take pictures and such. If you are asked to leave, do so immediately, even if the property is not posted.
  • Make sure you bring your ID. (A driver’s license, etc.) So, if you are questioned by the police, you can prove who you are.
  • If you become unreasonably frightened, leave. Always follow your gut instinct if you are prompted to leave. But remember, you have more to fear from the living than from the dead. Haunted sites are often isolated. That makes these sites attractive to people engaged in illegal activities. Use caution and common sense.
  • 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.
  • Find out all you can about the history of the locale you are investigating. Check out newspapers, town historians, the Internet, books for finding folklore or hard facts about the site.
The Basics
  • 35mm Camera – with at least 400 speed film. 800 speed film is also good at night, but you’ll have to test your camera’s flash strength to see which speed works best for you. If you are a more experienced photographer, you may want to try infrared film. When you develop pictures, you don’t need to go to a camera shop; a local drug store or department store is fine. Let them know you want all the pictures developed so that you get the pictures that they might think are bad ones. These “bad ones” are normally your best ectoplasm mist photos.
  • 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 no longer is the case. Not only do they allow you to see instantly if you have a positive photo, they can also take photos in a limited infrared range of light.
  • Flashlight with plenty of spare batteries – a common-sense item. Remember to bring plenty of 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-lens flashlight to help preserve your night vision. But it’s always a good idea to have a red-light flashlight and a white-light one in case of emergencies.
  • First aid kit – just in case, as it’s very easy to trip in the dark and get cut. Even if investigating during the daylight, you can accidentally get hurt. This is one reason you should never do an investigation by yourself.
  • Notebook with 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 an EMF reading that’s high and doesn’t write it down. Another investigator takes a picture of the same area, but is not aware of the reading and gets an 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 instead and that’s fine; 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.
  • Watch - to log in the times of the events, along with your arrival and departure.
  • Video camera (optional tripod) – Unlike still cameras, they provide us with constant visual and audio surveillance for review and observation. The video cameras many investigators use are equipped with infrared capability. 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 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.
  • Tape recorder with external microphone and high grade tapes – recorders or digital voice recorders are, without a doubt, one of the most important pieces of equipment that you should have in your investigator’s toolbox. Recorders are used for interviews, spontaneous thoughts, your notes, and electronic voice phenomena (EVP). You have to use an external microphone when recording EVPs (ghost voices and sounds). If you rely on the internal microphone, you will also be recording the internal gears and motors, and this will make your tape worthless. Use an external microphone; they are pretty inexpensive. The type of tape investigators most often recommend are high bias tapes or metal tapes.
  • Digital audio recorders – this recorder is small and easy to carry. You can also use the voice activation feature so there is less audio to review. This can be useful for note-taking as well. When using audio recorders, be sure to state the location, time of investigation, and the investigators’ names. When recording the names of each investigator, 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 are trying to be achieved due to the fact that it usually cuts off beginnings of words, sentences, and phrases. This is not necessary with digital recorders and they actually seem to work better in voice activation mode.
  • EMF Detector – 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 normally has a natural source.
  • Cellular phone – if you have one, it can come in handy in case of an emergency. Sometimes, they won’t work in a haunted area. Step across the street and the phone is usually fine again.
  • A Compass – it’s a useful instrument to an investigator due to its compact size and low cost. It can indicate spirit presence when the needle cannot come to a precise heading or spins/moves erratically. This works on the same principle as an EMF meter.
  • Candles & matches – batteries often run low during investigations, so you may run out of them and still need a light source. Another good idea is a camping lantern that runs on lamp oil. Be careful using the candles around motion detectors; they will set them off.
  • Motion Detectors – these can be used to sense movements by often-unseen forces or spirits. You can get battery-operated ones for about twenty dollars and they are great for inside, but there are investigators who say they have used them successfully outdoors, as well. Watch the placement: you don’t want a tree branch setting it off.
  • Thermometer or Thermal Scanner – There are two types used: regular digital thermometers and infrared non-contact thermometers. When one is used on an investigation, it can make a system for detecting spirit presence. Rapid temperature drop of 10 degrees or more could indicate spirit presence. It is recommended to use the infrared non-contact thermometers because they react in less than a second to a temperature drop and you can scan a large area quickly.
  • Hand-Held Radio or Walkie Talkie – is very useful in a large outdoor area and in 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.
  • The Divining/Drowsing Rod – made of willow or hazel. Divining rods were used to find water, now used in ghost hunting. The theory is that there is some element in the twig that acts in conjunction with the diviner to find the underground water. A forked (or “Y” shaped) branch of a tree or bush. The two ends on the forked side are to be held, one in each hand, with the third pointing straight ahead. Often, the branches are grasped palms down. The pointing end turns up or down when water is found. This method is sometimes known as ‘Willow Witching’. Another type of dowsing or witching rod is one using two brass “L”-shaped wire rods (commonly made of brazing or welding rod, but glass or plastic have also been accepted) that are to be held one in each hand. You can purchase drowsing rods too.
  • Alarms for Doors – One group of paranormal investigators uses these so that, when a door that is checked over earlier and is closed or locked, they can know when it opens when no one is near it.
  • Ghost Box (Frank’s Box)—Contacting spirits through the use of radio frequency devices or so called boxes as a medium for direct communication has been a huge topic of discussion lately in the paranormal community. The main device I am talking about is obviously "Franks Box" or "The Ghost Box" as its being called now. This device was created by Frank Sumption several years ago as a means to further his interest in EVP research. Frank began experimenting with EVP in the year 2000 which led to using a computer program called EVP maker invented by the German researcher Stefan Bion. After receiving various messages from computer savvy spirits relaying messages for other spirits who were not so technologically advanced, Frank came up with the idea to create a device that hopefully all spirits could use. His design was apparent to him almost immediately, but the actual construction of the device has led him to create at least 25 different models to date. Each box is unique in design and construction, but is based on the same principle.
  • Franks spirit receiver starts off with a standard white noise generator which is fed through a random voltage circuit of Franks own design. The random voltage is linked to an AM radio receiver which reacts to the voltage by tuning to a specific spot on the radio dial. This is known as voltage tuning and is a common function of late 80s and early 90s radio receivers. Though various radio stations are turned in for a split second every so often along with regular static, the devices also allows the spirits to interact with the device and create their own vocals through the receiver and for lack of a better term, talk through the device.
  • A newer version of the box simply tunes back and fourth through the AM band which Frank is calling the Sweep method. At first, he believed that the random voltage design is what allowed it to work but after using the sweep method, he has since changed his mind as it seems to do a better job. Frank has made his plans available on the Internet for anyone who is interested in experimenting with his device. He also makes available his own receiver plans for those who want to take it a step further and create the entire box from start to finish.  
  • Frank has created at least 25 versions of the box to date and handed them to several individuals for ongoing tests. The initial results have been pretty positive and many people have experienced some kind of communication which they would regard as evidence that the box really works. Unfortunately, the difficult part about Franks design is his using the AM radio band as the medium for receiving the voices. This is one fact that makes it easy for any skeptic to debunk the operation of his device. For starters, the device will receive little snippets from various radio stations as it scans through the AM band. At any given minute the device could spew some various words from passing stations that could be put together as a sentence and claimed to be from a spirit when in fact its just audio matrixing. Another possible scenario includes a few parts from Radio Shack and a couple of minutes of assembly could yield a small yet powerful enough transmitter to broadcast over the AM band and inject various words and phrases into the box directly. Definite care should be taken when operating the device to ensure the above scenarios are not part of the equation. Using recorders and other tools, such as an EMF detector, can help legitimize the results. EMF detectors should be placed far enough away as not to cause interference with the box or produce false readings on the detector itself. Places to download instructions to make a “Ghost Box” are:
  • (how to cheat, using a Radio Shack radio)
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 a 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. Or, each person in their mind utters whatever prayer from their own religion. I do encourage everyone to take the ten seconds this takes and just do this. What can it hurt? My philosophy is: it’s better to be safe than sorry. When you are done with the investigation, have everyone meet in one spot and ask the human spirits not to follow you home and to remain there. Tell the other non-human kinds that they must remain there in the name of God (or other good deities). Many experienced groups believe that there are evil spirits in many areas such as cemeteries and, by saying a ten second prayer or making sure you are in a positive frame of mind, you can safely go about your business without worrying about them. A good rule also is to never use sarcasm and jokes in haunted settings, especially toward the ghosts. Remember that you are visiting a location that a ghost considers “home”.
  3. Walk around the area to get a feel for the surroundings and to allow the spirits to get a feel for you. Do this for about twenty minutes. Log in your start time and weather conditions, along with any other relevant information. You should also set up any stationary equipment like cameras on tripods or motion detectors. Make sure to take 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. Note anything unusual that may happen, especially meter and temperature readings, visual sightings, and strange sounds. Make a note of any feelings or emotions that you feel that may be odd or out of place, and write that down. You can compare notes after the hunt and look for similarities in readings and feelings in certain areas or at certain times.
  5. Stake out a spot and walk around, or try to give everyone the opportunity to try everything and be everywhere. Rotate a few times during the investigation.
  6. If you are troubled by unwanted thoughts after leaving a haunted location, relax. Eat some comfort food. Watch a happy movie or TV show.
  7. Talk it out with a skeptical friend. Spend some time in a church. If the unwanted thoughts persist, see a professional for advice.
  8. 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.
  9. All members and owners, if possible, walk through the location. One member will 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. Another member can take 5-10 test photos during the walk through. Do not discuss the details of the case during this walk through.
  10. Any witnesses that have not been interviewed before should be interviewed by one or two 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Generally, you cannot help a ghost. You can advise them to move on, but don’t waste more than about ten minutes discussing this. If you aren’t making any progress, it’s best to leave that kind of work to a professional, like a priest, minister, or psychic.
  13. If you’re in this to earn pay, then forget it. Most investigators don’t do it for money, but for fun and to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. And shouldn’t that be what it’s all about?

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