Updated: Feb 4
Ghost hunting is as popular as ever thanks to shows like Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Lockdown. People of all ages are attending overnight investigations - groups shuffling around in the dark, jumping at the slightest noise, screaming as they blindly bump into each other and playing back recordings on high volume, desperately listening for a vague disjointed voice.
Now this isn’t me mocking, I’ve been there myself.
I’ve attended ghost hunts with local paranormal groups, we weren’t professionals so fell into that usual TV show format – walking in groups, lights off (always a danger at venues you’ve never been to before) and different members maintaining assigned roles:
The Techy: Equipped with a video camera and other electrical readers that he swore were important but wouldn’t show anyone else how to use (only his wife was allowed to hold them when he couldn’t). He always walked slowly, ensuring that he could scan the room or zoom in on certain areas but also because he’s generally the first one to turn and run when something flashed or made a noise. Always managed to see something strange in his camera eye piece, yet it disappeared when we would all watch it on playback?
The Scientists: Although not official researchers, these two guys would generally be the calm ones and did a lot of reading up. They knew about EVPs, used technical terms and came prepared - a special torch for spirits to turn on, a bottle of Talcum powder, notebooks for scribbling down key information (which always amazed me in the dark) and, after an awkward first meeting, I was relieved to discover that one of them had a tennis ball in his pocket, apparently used by spirit children and dogs?
The Medium: We actually had two in our society but, quite sensibly they would split off and go with different groups for the walk arounds. One of them was a relaxed and sensible guy, (he owned a computer repair shop near me) and would generally pick up on feelings or echoes rather than active spirits. The other was a middle-aged woman who made me feel a little uncomfortable - she would comment on my aura without asking and sometimes burst into tears without warning. It was also concerning that she would be the first one to run and seemed to pick up on babies crying, usually when she stood near the Techy as he zoomed in and out with his camera… She also seemed to create more anxiety within the group, as the spirits she made contact with were always angry and disliked a certain member, particularly if that member questioned her validity.
The Historian: This post seemed to fall on me, even though I didn’t ask for the role.
I had studied ancient history and archaeology at university, so naturally I knew the history of random Victorian buildings in Norfolk. But my small amount of knowledge was good enough to point out that Catholic priests generally used priest holes instead of Jews and the chance of Queen Mary Tudor walking the corridors of a Georgian building were pretty slim.
Who said turn the lights off?
If you’re new to ghost hunting or have recently joined a paranormal group, DO NOT fall into the cliché of turning the lights off to investigate or perform vigils.
This one act will automatically show that you’re an amateur!
It originated through television trying to create tension and suspense in their paranormal programmes and no respectable investigator will ever say turn the lights off.
Did it help television investigators with their judgement to make sensible and rational decisions…No.
Did it make Yvette Fielding scream or run out of the room swearing, knocking over cameras and causing the others to follow her…as I say, entertaining.
If you’re still in doubt about the need to black out in your investigations, consider this:
1) Most ghost sightings actually take place during the daytime or in normal situations. Eyewitnesses are going about their business, able to see the room around them and if the experience takes place in the evening, they usually have a light on. Very few ghost accounts end with “and I turned around to run, knocked into a table and couldn’t see the doorknob to get out”.
2) The majority of people are either scared of the dark or uneasy being in situations where their senses are impaired. That’s why we don’t hold conversations next to pneumatic drills, jump into a bathtub without testing the water or cross the road with our eyes closed. During a paranormal investigation, you need to think clearly, be aware of your surroundings and use all of your senses to assess an experience logically.
3) The chances are, you’ll be unfamiliar with the layout and natural creaks or cold spots of the venue. Sight will help to eliminate some of this, you may notice the breeze on a vase of flowers and trace it back to a badly insulated window, recognize an ill fitted door or lock, or see an object on a table that could easily fall if knocked by a fat guy with a video camera…
4) Not all supernatural occurrences are sound related and glowing movements or shapes are more of a Hollywood thing. You could miss the movement of a lightweight object or mistake the silhouette next to you as a member of your team.
5) You will hear on countless paranormal shows about spirits draining batteries of equipment because they need the energy to manifest or move an object…
…It never occurred to the celebrity ghost hunters that they can provide that energy in abundance through electrical lighting??
No wonder they get scratched!