Ghost Hunting for Beginners
With the recent release of movies like "White Noise" and television shows such as "Ghost Hunters" on SciFi, the field of ghost hunting is receiving a great deal of recognition and has become more popular than ever. A lot of ghost hunting guides will tell you that the way to produce optimum results is to visit a notoriously haunted location after midnight with a fancy camera and a state-of-the-art recording device. However, in the five years my mother and I have been visiting haunted locales in search of paranormal activity, we've found that there are many other, more affordable ways of capturing the unknown.
All you really need to get started is a camera and a audio recorder. It doesn't matter if the camera is a disposable purchased from Wal-Mart for $12.99 or a digital 35mm purchased for $600--if something paranormal is present, you're going to pick it up regardless. Ghosts don't discriminate. Digital cameras are better in the sense that if you think you caught something, you don't have to wait for the film to get developed to see if you're correct, you can review the pictures right then and there. You can pick up an audio recorder like the Olympus VN-2100 model seen here at your local Radio Shack for $39.99. Just make sure it's a digital recorder because you won't have to worry about picking up the sound of gears turning and creating a distraction during playback. An external microphone is also a good investment because it records the faintest of sounds, an absolute necessity if you're looking to capture some clear EVPs (electronic voice phenomenons).
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
If you've ever watched the show "Ghost Hunters" on the SciFi channel, you'll know that their organization only investigates the most haunted places in America and only overnight. Although most notoriously haunted buildings will open up their doors to ghost hunting expeditions, it's usually for a steep price and you often have to have a minimum number of people coming with you to participate. Where does this leave the two best friends who are just starting out in the field? The mother-daughter teams that don't belong to a gaggle of ghost hunters? Not to mention those who have an interest in the paranormal but are raising children and keeping full-time jobs, those to whom sneaking away for an overnight investigation would be impossible?
Cemeteries. Odds are there's at least one cemetery within five miles of your home. Cemeteries are usually public domain as long as you are there within normal visiting hours. There's no need to sneak in after midnight and risk getting caught trespassing: instead, set out an hour before dusk begins to fall to give yourself time to explore the grounds in daylight and familiarize yourself with the terrain. I find the oldest sections of the cemetery to be the most intriguing as well as the most active. Back then, when medicine was a fairly unknown science, mortality rates were much higher. Entire families could be swept out by influenze or tuberculosis, mothers lost children in childbirth or died themselves. If you live on the East Coast, try to find a cemetery that was built on or near a battlefield as that area will be ripe with energy left over from an intense period in history. It isn't necessary to stay forever. Walking around for a good two or three hours, through dusk into twilight, and leaving just after it gets fully dark should be plenty of time.
If you happen to live in an old house and aren't afraid of your ghost hunting hitting so close to home, it can even be interesting to leave your recorder running overnight in an empty room to see if you get anything. Take some pictures around the perimeter of your property, too. My mom caught an eerie photo of a ghost-like figure standing outside our home near a telephone pole, completely by accident!
TIPS & TRICKS
As I said before, avoid crowds and background noise at all costs. Later, when you're reviewing your audio recording, the more noise you've recorded the harder it will be to pick out a ghostly voice. It's okay for you and your ghost hunting buddy to talk amongst yourselves -- try reading the names on the headstones out loud, or discussing the sordid history of the building you're in; empathize, imagine aloud what it must have been like to live during that time period. This tends to attract any energies that may be lingering around. Don't whisper. Sometimes the voice of a spirit only comes through very faintly on the audio recording. If you're whispering, it's easy to mistake your own voice for that of a ghost.
Speak directly, as though the ghost were right there in front of you and you were having a conversation with him. Ask open-ended questions like, "Is anyone here?" "Could you please talk to me?" "Can I take your picture?" and location appropriate queries such as "What was it like fight against your own country in the Civil War?" Photograph everything, don't just focus on the obvious. Snap pictures of empty windows, closed doors, walkways, empty fields, the sky just above a row of trees, etc. You never know when and where an anomaly is going to appear. Keep your camera lens clean--dust particles can be mistaken for orbs. Always have extra batteries on hand. Being in the presence of a spirit or energy can drain your batteries quickly. It helps to charge your camera before beginning your investigation, but even a fully charged battery can go from full to empty in an instance if a presence is around. This has happened to us more times than I can count.
No smoking. Cigarette smoke wafting in the wind can look like ghostly mist or ectoplasm. Keep long hair and camera straps tied back to eliminate any false positive pictures. And most importantly, trust your instincts. Let yourself wander in whichever direction you feel pulled. If a little voice inside you says to take 50 pictures of the same thing, do it. On the other hand, if you get a bad feeling about a place (this happens from time to time) get out of there.
Always bring at least one other person with you on every hunt, and NEVER go alone. Before you leave, make sure you let someone know where you're going to be and for approximately how long. Bring a flashlight and keep your cell phone on you at all times and, if possible, park your car in a well-lit area where it'll be easy to find once you're finished. Carry a photo ID with you as well. It's also important to be aware of your surroundings: are there any "No Tresspassing" signs? Does the cemetery/park/monument close at a certain time? Are you parked in a permit-parking only zone?
Last but not least, don't be afraid. Contrary to what you've seen in Hollywood, ghosts cannot hurt you. They are simply energies left over from a bygone time, operating and existing on a level that we cannot usually see with our own eyes. They are nothing to be afraid of. However, whenever you have finished an investigation and are ready to leave, it doesn't hurt to say a prayer (depending on your religious beliefs). My mother and I usually close out a hunt by saying something like this: Thank you for letting us come here today and allowing us to photograph you. In the name of Jesus Christ and all of the angels and saints, you are not to follow us home. You must remain here in your final resting place. Amen.
Ghost hunting can be an exciting hobby if done carefully and with regard to the law. There's nothing like getting home from an investigation, reviewing your pictures and audio recording and discovering that you've captured something unbelievable! To check out the EVPs and photographs that we've caught over the years, click the link below.