Ghost hunting: Top 5 potential pitfalls
Updated: May 1, 2022
Although a dozen people may be involved in an investigation group, they should always break up into smaller groups for vigils and walk arounds (ideally, no more than 4 people). The bigger the group, the greater the chance that it’s members will affect or contaminate the investigation area. Floorboards creaking from additional footfall, unintentional knocks into furniture or objects, a stomach groaning or even extra breathing can cause distraction or misinterpretation.
I was once investigating with another group and there were 8 of us sitting on a grand staircase, a known spot for the appearance of a woman in white.
Now, I had eaten Mexican food that night and by midnight, my bowels were regretting the decision. As we were all sitting there quietly, I had an urgent choice to make - fart or hold.
I had only met the other group that night, so decided on the latter, hoping that it would be the quieter and less embarrassing option...
My bowels groaned in private agony, much louder than I had expected…two of the group heard “The groan of a woman”, the guy sitting next to me “felt the floorboards move as if someone was walking by him, accompanied by a ghostly moan” and the lady at the end of the staircase heard someone call her name…did I own up and tell them that I just needed a crap? No.
It was noted on their official report as "major activity" and one of the main highlights of the evening…20 mins later, when we had our next break, I experienced my own major activity in the bathroom…
Involving mediums is always a dubious decision, as there are so many false or untrustworthy people out there. Yes, there are individuals with true psychic abilities but separating them from the charlatans isn’t an easy process.
Again, while I was working with another paranormal group, 8 out of the 10 members attending told me that they were mediums or psychic sensitives. The walk arounds became ridiculous, as virtually every member picked up on a different spirit, some even becoming possessed at various stages. The location, which originally had reports of two ghosts, shot up to 6 or 7 on the night plus one random baby whose cries were picked up every time the video camera zoomed in and out…It made a mockery of the investigation.
If you do decide to use a medium, do your best to keep the venue a secret to minimize the chances of them researching the history and activity before arrival. It’s also a good idea to keep them out of the vigils, as they may influence the others and cloud rational judgement. It’s best to restrict them to just walk arounds or an organised séance.
If they intend to stay the whole night, give them a separate job away from the other investigators.
Using equipment without running test readings/setting control measures:
This is an obvious one but there are still people falling into this trap.
Any equipment that measures readings needs a control/average read in place, otherwise the results are useless.
Before the investigation begins (preferably over a couple of nights), a member of the team should walk around the venue to take and record readings. It will also help to identify electrical conduits that may affect EMF levels.
Once you have average readings in place, you’ll then be able to identify unusual spikes on the night and have clear evidence to back it up. I would personally suggest noting areas of squeaky floorboards and draughts at the same time. Taking photos around the venue can also be helpful to cross check the layout.
Originally, a ghost hunter’s kit consisted of nothing more than a notepad & pencil, camera, torch, steal tape measure, tools to seal doors/windows (to eliminate draughts) and occasionally a recorder or dictaphone. Methodical investigators would add powder to their inventory or an object that might trigger a response, such as a music box, toy, or compass.
Nowadays, your average investigator has an array of gadgets, as ghost hunting equipment is big business.
New or amateur investigators may feel overwhelmed by the amount of equipment out there (let alone the cost) and feel that they need to heavily invest in the latest tech.
Rest assured, you don’t...
There are many gadgets advertised as essentials and I have seen investigators turn up to locations equipped like Batman, but the truth is, only a handful are worth the investment:
EMF Meter - If used correctly, this will pickup on Electromagnetic energy fluctuations which (in theory) is caused by the presence of a ghost. It’s worth noting that electromagnetic energy fluctuates all the time, so you’re looking for big jumps on the meter to indicate serious activity.
Thermometer – Like the EMF reader, temperature drops can also indicate the presence of a spirit. A reliable thermometer can be a useful tool and pinpoint the area of activity.
EVP Recorder – A handheld audio recorder with a decent microphone and storage capacity. EVPs are often faint, so a good quality model will pay off!
Headset camera or bodycam – Video cameras have become a must have for investigators, as they capture activity in real time and include audio coverage. A camera can be setup and left in an area of known activity or combined with an experiment to monitor the results.
For mobile use, a handheld camera can cause more problems in an investigation. Because the user is viewing everything through the lens/screen, they are restricting their own senses and limiting their attention to what’s in front of them. Therefore, you effectively lose a member of your team.
Because modern ghost hunts now take place in the dark, you also run the risk of the camera holder causing issues with their surrounding environment. Their restricted view can cause them to bump into things, unknowingly step, trip or knock objects beneath their feet or encroach into the personal space of others.
To minimize disruption and allow the member more freedom, camera headsets or bodycams are a great alternative. They can also be fitted on several (or all) of the team, raising the chances of capturing video evidence from alternative angles.
Paying to investigate:
This is a difficult one for me and I can’t help but think that there’s a bit of exploitation or profiteering going on with some of these...
I’ve seen prices range from £20-£180 in advertisements, but what does the cost actually cover?
A professionally run investigation won’t exceed 12 people, so going on those numbers the organisers are making:
£30 x 12 = £360
£85 x 12 = £1020
£100 x 12 = £1200
If the investigation includes dinner/refreshments or accommodation, I can understand the need to charge, but many don’t offer this?
Are you paying for training? If so, are you satisfied with the training provided?
Is it to cover the cost of the venue? Maybe…but then we have to question why the venue is charging so much? Did they invite the group or did the group invite themselves?
And who covers the public liability insurance? Does the venue provide this, or do they expect the paranormal group to cover it? And most importantly, is it valid for a group of strangers to walk around an unfamiliar property in the dark?
Never be afraid to ask questions before parting with your money!
In the dark investigations:
I’ve touched on this in previous articles and it’s a pet hate for me.
Thanks to television shows trying to create tension, atmosphere and cheap scares, most paranormal groups now follow the TV entertainment format of lights off.
As many ghost hunters are amateur enthusiasts, they look to television or celebrity ghost hunters for inspiration. Each to their own, we all grew up with Scooby-doo, so for many a place isn’t haunted without that dark and spooky atmosphere, but if you’re on the fence about blackout investigations, maybe I can sway you with this:
Contrary to popular belief, very few ghost sightings actually take place in the dark. Most witnesses see ghosts during the day or as they’re going about their businesses in the evening (lights on).
There is a strong belief that spirits use and drain electrical energy to manifest. Even the celebrity ghost hunters reinforce this belief in their shows. So, what do they immediately do afterwards – turn off the lights (a consistent power source that runs throughout the building). If the lights were left on, they would not only provide a power source for spirit manifestation but also provide an indicator of supernatural activity when the lights start to flicker. This will also benefit the investigators, as a separate stronger source may stop the spirit from draining their equipment batteries!
People fear the dark and naturally become nervous, scared, or agitated when they can’t see. When conducting an investigation, it’s imperative that you are calm, rational and able to use all of your senses. Your judgement will be impaired and with a reduced field of vision, your brain will fill in the blanks with false or exaggerated information.
For most, the venue isn’t their home or a place that they’re familiar with. At best, they may have a vague idea of the room layout, but will they actually know the positioning of all furniture, rugs, objects and windows as they enter in the dark? How many of you have tripped or bumped into things in your own home with the lights off?? And you know that layout better than anyone!
Falling objects or knocks could easily be caused by members of your own team as they fumble around the room, and they won’t even realise. Equipment users will often knock into nearby people or items and because the team can’t see, they will naturally huddle together in trepidation, causing them to overreact and panic others when they do hear or feel something.
Safety! If you’re not familiar with the layout and potential hazards of the venue, you don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark.
“Anyone seen Kim??”
“Yeah, she went to look for that old well…Kim?? …KIM?!!”
Night vision and dust particles – Nearly every report I read includes the presence of orbs and they’re a regular feature on night vision cameras and videos. Some may be caused by supernatural activity, but you have to remember that dust particles are floating around the environment all the time, especially in old or large venues. In the daylight, we rarely see them and when we do, they are easy to identify and dismiss. However, in the dark they often catch the light from the night vision camera, causing their slow graceful movements to glow or reflect light. Because the room is suddenly hosting a group of people, dust particles will be floating in the air, particularly if unfrequented areas of the room are explored or furniture is knocked. I am rarely impressed by orb images in the dark, but large or clear orbs seen by the naked eye in daylight or well-lit areas…now that’s worth a photo!
Happy hunting everyone!