Ghost Hunting Toolkit
Conducting an Investigation
Tools of the Trade
uses a variety of methods and equipment to investigate a location. Digital cameras, audio recorders, digital thermometers,
and video recorders are all invaluable tools to have when conducting an investigation.
Digital or film cameras are perhaps
the most invaluable tool to have, and even weekend or "amateur" ghost hunters should have them. Solid, visual
evidence of the spirit world is often the most compelling evidence that can be obtained. However, it is also the most
scrutinized. When conducting an investigation, it is helpful to snap as many pictures as possible, not only of the target
area, but of everywhere. One never knows what will show up in any given picture. Digital cameras are especially
ideal in that they can hold dozens (or hundreds depending on the storage capacity) of pictures, the investigator can view
the pictures instantly, and the need to buy film and pay for film development is eliminated. It is best to use a digital
camera with a high resolution (5+ Mega-pixels. Anything over 3.2 mp is considered a higher resolution than
traditional film). iGHOST uses digital audio recorders to capture electronic voice phenomena (EVP). Often, EVP's may be the
only bit of evidence obtained on an investigation. We find a quiet spot and begin asking questions, such as "Who
are you?", "Why are you here?", "What is your name". If a spirit wants to communicate, you
may pick up a response on your recorder, even though you will most likely not hear it at the time. We use digital recorders
because it is easier to upload our audio to a computer and filter out background noise. Also, digital recorders have
no moving internal mechanisms that may interfere with the recording quality. If a more traditional cassette recorder
is used, it is wise to use an external microphone to help eliminate internal noise.
Electro-Magnetic Field Detectors (EMF) are useful in finding fluctuations in
energy, which may or may not detect the presence of spiritual activity. It is believed that when ghosts manifest themselves
they draw energy from their surroundings (i.e. batteries, the air, or even people themselves), which can explain why fresh
camera and flashlight batteries drain quickly at haunted locations and some investigators report feeling lightheaded
or develop headaches. EMF detectors can allow an investigator to follow the fluctuations, and, perhaps, follow the spirit.
Digital infrared thermometers are helpful in finding temperature changes
from one location to another, often only a few feet from each other. It is speculated that when ghosts draw energy,
they often leave pockets of "cold spots" in the air, which is another way to help detect the presence of spiritual
activity. One drawback with this type of thermometer, however, is that it measures the temperature of the object the laser
is targeting, therefore, the result is the temperature of an object, not necessarily the "space" where potential
paranormal phenomena may be. However it is usefull to read temperature changes on doors and walls where one
feels a presence may have recently passed. Digital ambient thermometers, such as the probe type, is useful in measuring
air temperature changes. Video cameras equipped with infrared illuminators are especially useful in documenting an investigation in dark locations, and is often the most expensive tool
in an investigator's arsenal. It is best to invest in a good video recorder, one that will last a long time and meet
your needs beyond just paranormal investigation. It is wise to use one that has a "night shot" feature for
filming in low light, as well as an attachable infrared emitter. Many types of video cameras are on the market today,
from the cassette type to the newer "mini dvd" cameras. iGHOST likes the mini dvd recorders; they tend to
have excellent features, are easily stored and carried, and have great resolution. However, the dvds do not have a lot
of storage space so it is necessary to carry several extra discs, as many will only hold 30 minutes of data. Newer cameras
use SD cards to record video, and is now preferred by iGHOST. Some paranormal investigators set up dedicated or static infrared camerasat specific low-light locations of a site in order to attempt
to capture video evidence of spiritual activity. These cameras record to a digital video recorder (DVR) and are an excellent
tool because they can be set up and left alone to record all night (depending on the DVR storage capacity). These can
be expensive, however, due to the amount of equipment needed, (cameras, transmitters, receivers, DVR's, monitors, etc...)
and are nice to have, but are not an absolute necessity to conduct a solid investigation.
Other useful pieces of equipment include:
Geiger Counters for measuring radioactive residue thought by some to be left by spiritual activity.
Laser grid generators to determine if an unseen force interferes with the lasers
Natural Field EMF detectors are similar to digital EMF detectors, but more sensitive. These generally must be placed
in a location and monitored for spikes, as just moving them around will create false positives.
Evidence gathering is the aspect of the investigation that most people associate with traditional ghost hunting:
walking around a dark house, snapping photos, recording audio and video, conducting EVP sessions, etc. It is just as important
knowing where to gather evidence as it is knowing how to gather evidence. This can be tricky, however, because it's impossible
to know just where paranormal phenomena will occur, but solid research and sharp instincts honed from experience can lead
to more promising spots than others. Many investigators will seek out the paranormal "hot-spots" in a location,
based on where occupants and other witnesses have experienced paranormal phenomena. While it is important not neglect
the areas, it can be easy to fall into the trap of only concentrating on these spots. If a homeowner claims to experience
phenomena in their master bedroom, of course the investigators should spend time and effort there, but at the same time, other
locations need to be investigated as well. It would be a shame to miss out on some great experiences because the investigation is too narrow.
is also important to gather base readings throughout the entire location. These should be taken early in the investigation,
preferably when it is quiet and there are not many people moving about.
Base readings should be EMF and temperature readings, at the very least. Some may also take barometric readings, etc.. as well. Base readings can then be compared to readings taken
later, and any spikes that may occur should be noted. Spikes alone are not indicative of paranormal phenomena, but if and when coupled with a personal experience, the entire episode lends
itself to greater credibility.
EVP sessions should be
conducted in absolute quiet. The location, the investigators present, and the time should be noted as well. Any
noises or voices coming from investigators should be noted, either in a
journal or into the the recording device itself. Also, at least two recorders should be running concurrently. This way if one recorder picks up unusual audio, the other recorder may as well,
lending more credibility to the EVP. This can also work to debunk
an EVP. If a questionable EVP is heard on one recorder, perhaps the second recorder will show that the suspected EVP was in
fact a normal noise or the voice of an investigator.
Many photographs should be taken during an investigation. Most investigators use
digital cameras, so it is not an issue to snap off several hundred pictures during
the investigation. It is ideal that at least a few people take pictures for optimal coverage. Although rare, sometimes
truly unexplainable phenomena can be captured on camera, even if several
hundred or several thousand pictures have to be taken and examined. It only takes one for the entire investigation to be a success. You never know what you might capture. The same holds true
for video. The "Holy Grail" of paranormal research is the capture
of a full body apparition on camera. It can be very tedious to examine hours of footage, but the reward can be immeasurable
if a ghost is actually captured on film. For this reason, several static
as well as hand-held cameras (with night vision or infrared illuminators) should be utilized throughout the investigation. The most important thing to consider regarding evidence gathering is to document
as much as possible with cameras, audio recorders, etc... A lot of it is
just common sense, however it will be all for nothing if proper evidence review is not conducted. For every picture
taken, there is a picture to be reviewed. For every hour of video
or audio recorded, there is an hour of review. It is important not to cut corners in evidence review as paranormal phenomena
has been missed by some investigators during review only to be discovered
by others during a subsequent review of the same evidence.
evidence is captured and possible phenomena discovered, it is important to conduct a detailed and unbiased analysis.
It can be tempting to accept any questionable piece of unexplained data
as proof positive evidence, but the group's reputation is now put on the line if sloppy work is conducted. Everything should be questioned, everything should be examined and re-examined, statements
should be taken from all investigators involved with a piece of evidence
(everyone present during an EVP session for example), opinions from other colleagues should be solicited if possible, evidence
should be attempted to be recreated, etc., and when all possible explanations
for a piece of data have been exhausted, the group can then decide if what has been captured can truly be labeled as "paranormal". This may seem a daunting process, but in this field there
are too many fraudulent (intentional or otherwise) pieces of "evidence"
out there that the field has a whole has suffered from bad publicity and many established researchers are not take seriously
because of the sloppy evidence gathering, analysis, and presentation of
some groups. One of the most important ways to interpret and analyze evidence is through the act of "debunking".
When reviewing evidence obtained from an investigation, iGHOST
is careful to scrutinize every piece and not jump to conclusions. We make every attempt to find rational answers to
puzzling pieces of evidence, and when we cannot, we leave the piece of evidence as open for interpretation by the viewer.
iGHOST does not claim that everything we capture and post
on this site is proof of paranormal activity, merely that the piece of evidence is unusual, defies all logical attempts
to debunk, and warrants a closer examination. We invite all guests of this site to form their own opinions
on collected evidence. iGHOST exists to continually
seek answers and discover solid evidence of paranormal activity.
There are two major phenomena associated with paranormal
evidence that we would like to discuss, and caution people about: pareidolia and orbs.
Pareidolia, is also referred to as "anthropomorphizing" or "matrixing".
Basically, this means that the human brain tends to shape seemingly jumbled patterns into a coherent and familiar image; often
people claim to "see" a human form or face in a complex pattern. Think of it as finding faces in the clouds,
or seeing The Virgin Mary in an oil stain on the driveway. Click here for more information on this phenomenon.
investigators must be careful not to fall into the trap of pareidolia and must be sure that their evidence can stand up to
scrutiny before revealing it as solid, irrefutable evidence of spiritual activity. See an example of pareidolia and how it
was discovered below.
This "face in the tree" is a prime example of pareidolia:
The second phenomena we would like to examine
are orbs. Many people fall into the trap of capturing on film what appear to be small balls of light and believing
they are evidence of spiritual activity, when often (if not most of the time) they are merely specs of dust or water vapor
reflecting off of a camera's flash, or lit up by a video camera's light.
Legitimate orbs are collections of energy, and they occur naturally
(after all, energy is all around us). True orbs will be visible to the naked eye (as opposed to only being
seen when lit by a camera's flash), emit their own light, and have noticeable flight paths. While it is possible
that some orbs do indeed represent paranormal activity, it is important to note that:
IN AND OF THEMSELVES, ARE NOT NECESSARILY EVIDENCE OF A HAUNTING OR SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY!
Below are some examples of "orb" activity. Please don't
fall into the trap of believing that every little speck of light captured on film is a paranormal anomaly (as so many amateur
ghost hunters and even some established paranormal groups do). Below are images of dust and water vapor we have captured
to illustrate how easy it can be to fall into the trap. The following pictures ARE NOT PARANORMAL!
Attempting to find natural causes for paranormal activity
Debunking is the act of trying to disprove a claim of paranormal activity,
but it has a very negative connotation. It is not to say that the client should not be believed, and that the group
is trying to catch the witness in a lie, but that the evidence must be subjected to the closest scrutiny possible.
This can work to both dismiss a claim if a more plausible and logical explanations exist, as well as strengthen
a claim if no other explanation can be found. It is simply a way to analyze a claim or piece of evidence to the fullest
in order to find its true explanation, whether paranormal or otherwise. Analyzing
and critiquing evidence can include: recreation of events, checking the structure of a site for other explanations of
noises, moving objects, opening and closing doors, etc., checking for faulty wiring and plumbing, carbon monoxide, interviewing
witnesses, checking ambient noises, light sources, etc. Depending on the nature of the investigation and claims, researchers
may have to be more creative in their debunking process.
should not be thought of as a negative aspect of the investigation or disrespectful or suspicious of the client's claims,
but instead as “playing devil’s advocate” while looking for other explanations. It does no good to
gather evidence and witness statements if such evidence cannot stand up to scrutiny by others. Not only would the evidence
have to be immediately dismissed, but the group’s reputation is compromised. It is always much better that the paranormal
group themselves performs such scrutiny on their own data, dismiss what is too questionable, and submit rock solid evidence.
Remember: the quality of evidence is always more important than quantity of evidence.
Types of Hauntings
Traditionally, there are three widely
acknowledged types of hauntings: Intelligent, Residual, and Poltergeist hauntings.
Intelligent hauntings are perhaps the most often type of haunting reported. In this circumstance, the
entity is aware of itself, and aware of the living. The entity remains in a location for whatever reason, and continues
to dwell perhaps as it did in life. Sometimes the entity manifests itself and even tries to communicate with the living.
Residual haunting are often reported in locations marked by large-scale violence
and tragedy (such as battlefields or mass genocide sites). A residual haunt can be thought of as a video set on repeat.
An entity manifests at a particular location at a particular time and consistently repeats its actions. In this style
of haunt, it is believed that the entity is unaware of itself or its surroundings, it is merely a form of energy that remains
in a given location, bound by its location and circumstance of death. The energy that makes up its manifestation is
residual; there is no consciousness attached to the apparition. Many people report witnessing the replaying of battles
with ghostly manifestations. It is merely the leftover energy in the location playing itself over and over again.
the most compelling type of haunt (especially where Hollywood is concerned) is poltergeist activity. While rare, dozens,
if not hundreds, of incidents have been reported around the globe. Poltergeist haunts could be considered a subgroup
of intelligent haunting in that the entity is certainly physically interacting with its environment, usually quite violently,
and is therefore certainly aware of itself and the living. Objects are moved and often thrown, people are attacked,
slapped, scratched, bitten, or assaulted in some other manner. It is believed that most poltergeist activity centers
not necessarily around a location, but often around a living individual. Many reports have been made of families fleeing
their homes due to such hostile activity, only to be confronted again with the same activity in a new location. While
more rare than pure intelligent or residual haunts, poltergeist haunts are perhaps the most compelling of all haunts, as pure
interaction between the spiritual world and the living is at play.
It should be noted, however, that many researchers
attribute "poltergeist activity" to increased psychic "flare-ups", often brought on by changing and increasing hormones
in pre-adolescent people (women are more common centers of activity than men).
Classifications of EVP
iGHOST recognizes and uses the "Estep Classification" of EVP analysis.
Developed by Sarah Estep, founder of the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena in 1982, EVP quality falls into 1 of 3 categories:
A clear and precise voice. When heard by several persons,
all are in agreement of what is being said with no prompting from another. Class "A" EVP do not require amplification,
noise reduction, or headphones to be clearly heard and understood. Class "A" EVP is the highest quality, but
also the most rare classifiction of EVP.
A definite voice, however not as clear and precise as Class "A".
Everyone listening agrees that something is being said, however not all are immediately in agreement on the content of the
EVP. This EVP may require amplification and/or noise reduction with sound editing software. Class "B" is the most
common EVP captured.
This is the lowest quality EVP. Often Class "C" EVP are just mumbles or whispers,
void of any structure or meaning. Usually requiring heavy amplification and noise reduction to be heard, most people
still are unable to decipher any context from the EVP. It is still considered an EVP, however, because it has been recorded
in a silent environment and there is no other explanation for it to have been recorded.
Tips and Tools For a Successful Investigation Experience
- Never investigate alone. Even at a site with a group of investigators,
make every effort not to wander off alone. Not only can this be dangerous in an unfamiliar or structurally unsound location,
but if a paranormal event is experienced, it is always best to have more than one witness to corroborate the phenomena.
- Never trespass on private property. Not only is this illegal and potentially dangerous,
it gives the paranormal community as a whole a bad reputation, can be prohibitive in securing future investigations in a given
community, and is just plain bad etiquette. Always respect people’s property and privacy. If not given permission
to investigate a site, do not become belligerent, combative, rude, or argumentative. The potential always remains for a future
investigation if decorum is established and maintained. Above all, always remain professional. There will always
be more investigations and perhaps as time goes by and a group’s reputation builds, that elusive investigation will
be granted in the future.
- Always document the investigation with
various start and stop times, equipment used and their placement, baseline readings, personal experiences, or whatever other
pertinent information is warranted. It is a good idea to keep a detailed photographic journal of the site as well.
Note hotspots, camera placements, personnel placements, etc. If practical, it is often necessary to assign one investigator
on each investigation to document all pertinent information and write up a case report for the client as well as the group’s
own records. The more detailed an investigation is, the better and more efficient the group can become. Documentation
is a trial and error process, and each group will discover what works best for their needs. However, any and all paranormal
phenomena need to be well documented. After all, that’s the whole point of the field: to gather strong evidence
of the paranormal.
- Assign team members specific duties based on
their strengths and interests. If a group is small or just starting out, often it is necessary for all members to assist
in all phases of the team’s procedures. Larger groups often have the need to appoint such positions as researcher,
case manager, technical or equipment manager, treasurer, etc. In the case of iGHOST, members take on roles such as these,
but their primary role will always be investigator. Paranormal research truly is a group effort. There are many roles that
need to be filled, and below are some descriptions of the more common roles in a paranormal investigation group.
•Lead Investigator: Every investigation
needs someone to take charge of the investigation, assign duties, work with the Technical Manager on camera or other equipment
placement etc., This is the investigator the client will come to with questions and concerns. Usually the Lead Investigator
is the founder of the group, and sometimes there are more than one.
•Case Manager: This member is responsible for scheduling investigations, fielding investigation
requests, contacting potential clients, interviewing potential clients, bringing new cases before the group, etc. The Case
Manager is often the first point of contact for a new client. He or she will gather all information about a location
and pass it on to the Researcher for a detailed search of pertinent information regarding the known history of a potential
•Researcher: The researcher
is the group’s historian. He or she will attempt to gather as much historical or anecdotal information about a
site before, during, or even after an investigation. Such information can be invaluable when determining the paranormal
potential of a given site. Such information that is important to find is age of a site, former owners, deaths or other
tragedies that may have occurred at or near the site, etc.
•Technical Manager: The Technical Manager is responsible for maintaining, transporting, and setting up
the group’s heavy equipment, such as static night vision cameras and dvr systems, monitors, or other group equipment,
such as EMF detectors, thermometers, motion detectors, etc. Most digital cameras and audio recorders are owned and maintained
by individual group members. The Technical Manager consults the Lead Investigator on equipment placement at the site.
•Treasurer: The Treasurer is responsible for collecting group member’s
dues, paying bills, ordering equipment, reserving lodging, and maintaining the group’s overall financial records. The
Treasurer acts as the financial officer and strives to continually increase the group’s funds, through fundraising,
merchandise sales, dues collections, etc. It is expensive to run a paranormal group and the role of the treasurer is invaluable.
Other roles that many groups often utilize may include: webmaster, who maintains
the group’s website; sensitive, who uses their talents to locate paranormal hotspots at a site; public
relations officer, who is charged with maintaining and improving the group’s image, building networks with other
paranormal groups, designing promotional literature or merchandise; or any other specialized role such as journalist,
demonologist, clergy, etc…).
Documentation is critical in the field of paranormal research.
Not only can it be useful in gathering information and constructing case reports, proper documentation can go a long way in
protecting the research group as well as the client from unwanted legal issues.
It is also advisable that a group create
rules and regulations for all members to adhere to. That way every team member will know what is expected of them, be
aware of the group’s philosophies and methods regarding paranormal research, dues structure, group roles, etc.
It is a useful tool when screening new applicants or settling disputes among group members.
Also provided below are some forms and releases that iGHOST uses. Visitors are welcome to
download and use them, get ideas for creating their own forms, or make changes to customize for their own purposes.
The forms provided below are in PDF format. Click the button
below to download Adobe Reader®
iGHOST Case Report Template
iGHOST Interview Questionaire
iGHOST Investigation Process: A Guide for Clients
iGHOST Confidentiality Agreement
iGHOST Release for Access to a Site
iGHOST Terms of Service
iGHOST Data Collection Form