Ghost Hunting: Getting Started
Words of Welcome
First off, welcome to the world of paranormal research. There are several reasons to go ghost hunting. Maybe you want to find some evidence that there is some kind of life after death. Maybe you think your house is haunted and want to try to find out for sure. Or maybe it just seems like a fun hobby and have an interest in the supernatural. Any reason is valid, the important thing is to enjoy the hunt and learn as much as you can.
I have hunted ghosts for several years now and I'm not going to lie, it can be pretty boring. You will be going to places that are supposedly haunted and trying to capture evidence of the paranormal, and that takes some time and a lot of patience. With that out of the way, let's get started.
So what is the most basic gear that you should acquire before going on a hunt? For beginners and people who aren't sure if they will be passionate about the hunt, you really only need a video camera and a digital camera. If you decide that you do enjoy ghost hunting, take a look at some other gear that you may want to consider purchasing.
As most people who are new to this hobby, you don't want to spend a ton of money on equipment, though for two cameras, it's OK to splurge a little. After all, you can always use them for something else so it's not exactly going to go to waste if you decide that ghost hunting isn't for you. You could even opt to buy a digital camera that can record video. Most cameras run about $100, but you can find cheaper ones on Amazon or Craigslist. It's entirely up to you how much you are willing to spend. Just remember that you pay for what you get so a $10 camera may not be in your best interest.
Location, Location, Location
OK, you have your gear and you're ready to start hunting those ghosts. You're probably wondering "how am I going to find places to investigate?" This is probably the hardest part of the hobby. You're going to have to do some *gasp* research! Sad, but true. You need to do a bit of digging to find haunted places to investigate.
Where to begin? Well you can always hit the library or local bookstore to try to find places around your area that are haunted. Libraries also tend to have a microfiche viewer, those machines you sometimes see in movies where the main character is looking through old newspaper clippings. Take some time to find some mysterious happenings that were never really explained.
Another good source is asking around your neighborhood. Every town has it's own ghost stories and seeking out some neighbors is a good way to find rumors that maybe that old house on Main Street is haunted.
The internet is a great source of information, though you're likely to find a lot of superstition type stories. Anything like "drive into this tunnel and honk the horn three times" is probably going to lead to disappointment. Be smart and decide if the stories are worth taking an entire night of investigating or not.
Be Aware of Property Laws
This is something that you are most likely to not take into account when finding a location. Those signs that say "this area is closed after 9pm" or "no trespassing" aren't there for your amusement. Someone owns that land and they set the rules. And yes, if you break those rules, you may get to experience an encounter with the local police.
While I'm on the subject of law enforcement, it is generally a bad idea to go ghost hunting right around Halloween. The police are well aware of trouble areas that attract rowdy teenagers. If you decide to visit a haunted park or cemetery, I advise that you don't do it around Halloween. A lot of teens like to show up at these places for some mischievous fun and you don't want to get lumped in with them.
Back to respecting property rules. Now I suppose a particular park in your area is rich with ghost sightings, but the grounds are closed at night. Find out who owns the land and give them a call or send them an e-mail. They likely have had the request before and may give you permission to spend the night. Not everyone is going to be so accommodating so don't get discouraged!
One last thing to think about is reaching out to homeowners who believe that their house is haunted. This is very hit and miss; some people are happy to have you there and look forward to finding some evidence from an outside party that there is something spiritual happening in their home. Others, not so much. They may not be comfortable with strangers in their house, filming everything. Or they may not want to know if there is something to be found. In some cases, ignorance is bliss.
Alright, so you've got your equipment and a location picked out. Now comes the fun part. For this section, you are hypothetically in someone's house. They have told you that every night they hear the staircase creaking, sometimes the television will come on by itself, and occasionally the dog will stare at the wall or ceiling and start barking for no discernible reason. A simple enough case, so let's get started.
First, decide which phenomena to go after. Remember, this isn't an exact science so you can't really force the events to recreate themselves. You decide to check out the tv first. The best thing to do here is to keep the camera focused on the tv at all times, but still within reach should something else happen and you need to move quickly. In the meantime, call out to the supposed ghost, try to get them to turn the tv on. Theoretically, ghosts interact with objects such as the tv as a means of communication. So try to talk to it. You can be kind and encouraging about it or you can egg it on. Whatever approach you feel like doing is fine, it's part of what is going to define you as a ghost hunter.
Some time goes by and suddenly the tv turns on all by itself. Don't get too excited just yet, not every strange happening is the work of spirits. You want to try and come up with a reasonable explanation first. Did someone change positions and accidentally sit on the remote? Could there have been a power surge? Sometimes when the remote is just about to die, it can send some strange signals on its own that the tv might take as a sign to turn on. Try to disprove these things.
So, you're done with your first investigation. You've packed up any gear you have and went home for a well deserved rest. What comes next? Reviewing the evidence of course! Time to go back to all the pictures and video you took the previous night and start looking for abnormalities. For example, on one of my first investigations to an allegedly haunted park, one of my teammates had snapped a picture of me while we were walking. The interesting part was seeing the cloud of fog that was behind me, it was almost shaped like a person.
Basically, you're looking for things that look weird. An object moving slightly, a shadow with no discernible source, etc. If you brought an audio recorder, listen to for extra voices. Write down the times on the audio/video playbacks that these anomalies occurred and have someone else look over them. Then try to figure out ways that these could be explained. Were you with someone who was whispering when there should have been silence? Maybe someone accidentally nudged that rocking chair with their foot. You want to explore all possible avenues of explanation before saying "Yep, a ghost did it!"
If you went somewhere where the owners are interested in finding out if their place is haunted, share your results. Tell them what you found and what your thoughts are. If you went on a home investigation, find someone who performs blessings on houses and let the owners know that if they want a blessing, then you know how to get in contact with a priest or whoever. Even if you aren't the religious type, it's a good idea to let people know that they have the option. If nothing else, it gives them peace of mind.
Congratulations! You've completed your first investigation. If you enjoyed it, then get back out there and find another one to perform. If not, well, this hobby just isn't for you. There's nothing wrong with that, it's not a hobby for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to ghost hunt in their spare time, a little bit of mental madness doesn't hurt! For those that did enjoy it, just keep on trucking. Start at the beginning and do the whole thing over again and who knows, maybe you'll be the one to have some indisputable proof that there is something after death. You may want to find other ghost hunters or groups in your area or on the internet and compare notes and experiences. Just remember to have fun with it. Happy Hunting!