How much should I budget for ghost hunting gear?

As a beginner, avoid investing in specialized ghost hunting equipment.

First, make sure this will be a long-term interest, hobby, or profession.

With experience, you’ll know what kind of ghost hunting you enjoy. And, you’ll have seen others’ equipment, and know what works best where you investigate.

But, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, never invest more money than you can afford to lose.

Here’s why..

trees and moonlight in haunted setting– People drop things when they’re startled.  In the dark, you might not find whatever-it-is.

(The problem becomes worse if you drop what you’re carrying, and run away in terror.)

– If you drop a sensitive $5k camera or a $2k heat sensing device, it can break the same as a $40 camera or a $15 digital thermometer.

If you didn’t buy a replacement warranty, or it doesn’t cover that kind of mistake, you may have wasted thousands of dollars.

– Electronic equipment can fail in extremely haunted settings. In fact, many of us use unexplained equipment failure as an indicator of paranormal activity.

Personally, I think EMF spikes are to blame. Most electrical devices, will glitch or fail when exposed to intense magnetic energy. That’s reasonable, unless it’s remarkably well shielded.

If your expensive camera or other device won’t work when you’re ghost hunting, you’ve wasted your money. Worse, it can be difficult to return that equipment if it shows any wear, or if you can’t demonstrate how it fails.

Instead, focus on just one aspect of ghost hunting.

If you like ghost photography, invest in photographic equipment.

If you like divinatory tools, buy or make specialized dowsing rods or pendulums.

If I were starting fresh, today, I’d probably budget $100 or less.

– I’d start with the camera in my phone. It’s good enough. I wouldn’t bother with a fancy ($$) after-market lens attachment, either.

For many investigations, that’s all you need.

If I were starting out and decided I really liked taking ghost photos, I might get a good camera.

I bought a couple of used, refurbished point-and-shoot digital cameras. They’re great… but they use specialized batteries.

So, I keep going back to my trusty Nikon Coolpix camera. (I talked about that in my article, What’s the best kind of equipment for a beginning ghost hunter.)

For photo-processing software, I’d use GIMP, or something else that’s free. (Today, I use Photoshop, but GIMP and other programs work well enough to tell if you’ve captured an anomaly.)

– I’d make dowsing rods from coat hangers. (If you’re not sure how, see my Homemade Dowsing Rods article at EncounterGhosts.com, for instructions.)

– I’d use the voice recorder on my phone, or buy an inexpensive one at an office supply store or warehouse. (Make sure the microphone is omni-directional, so it picks up sounds all around you, not just in one direction.)

– I’d buy an inexpensive flashlight with a metal case. I’d make sure the light bulb housing unscrews easily, to test yes/no responses when the housing is loosened.

– I’d get a good surgical-type mask that protects me from toxins, bacteria, and viruses around me. (Not vice versa. The free masks at doctors’ offices are designed to contain germs inside the mask… not keep bad things out.)

– I’d put all of that in a backpack with lots of pockets (to find things in complete darkness).

My backpack is the basic Amazon one. My cameras, Ovilus, etc., go in the big pocket. Maps, pen & a notebook, small first aid kit, etc., in the next largest. Spare batteries in the outside pocket. And so on.

I’d also add a small, inexpensive first aid kit.

Don’t spread yourself too thin, in terms of learning or financial investment. Set a firm spending limit and do not exceed that.

It’s easy to get carried away.  Keep your ghost hunting expenses low.

Don’t let ghost hunting jeopardize other aspects of your personal, professional, or family life.

When you’re a beginner, see how well you enjoy ghost hunting, before you spend much money.

Do ghost hunting apps work?

I’ve tried several different kinds of ghost hunting apps. Many of them rely on EMF anomalies to produce flashing lights and sometimes spoken words. Some show the direction the energy is coming from.

Initially, I dismissed ghost hunting apps as toys. After all, how could a 99-cent app work nearly as well as my $300+ tools?

The lunch that changed my mind

puzzle piecesThen, when I was a speaker at a Canadian ghost hunting event, a few of us went out to lunch.

Once we were seated in the restaurant, one of my companions took out her phone.

It had a ghost app on it. I’m pretty sure it was the Ghost Radar app.

She put the phone – with the app running – on the table where we were eating.

Another companion said that, if the app really worked, she’d like a message from her mother.

The app started “talking.” It said several words, none of which seemed significant to the woman who’d asked the question.

However, as I sat there, nearly every word the app said… it described the mural on the wall, next to us. (At the time, I felt like I was the only one who was putting the words together, and seeing a clear picture… no pun intended.)

My companions didn’t seem interested. They were talking about that night’s scheduled investigation, and how we should prepare for the chilly, windy weather ahead.

After several minutes, I finally interrupted them. I pointed to the mural since the words were a match.

Then I pointed to the signature on the mural, also indicated by the app. (I believe some of the words it said included “word,” “sign,” and “picture.”)

The woman who’d asked the question nearly lost it. The first name of the artist was the exact same, slightly unusual name as the her mother.

(I didn’t know that was her mother’s name when I pointed to it.)

Maybe it was a coincidence, but none of us thought that. Not with the clarity of the indication, once I pointed to the mural.

(To me, it had been obvious after the first three or four words. The app kept “talking” only until my dining companion finally paid attention to it. And, at least 80% of the words were clearly about the signature on the mural.)

So, that was my first experience with a ghost hunting app.

Even if that had been my only experience, it was powerful enough to change my mind in favor of ghost hunting apps.

A second, startling experiment

The second experience was a couple of years later. I was in a NH cemetery with psychics Lesley Marden and Sean Paradis.

We were testing equipment, collectively. That is, each of us was working with some kind of ghost hunting equipment. We wanted to see if the results correlated.

In addition, we drew on Lesley’s psychic skills, since her accuracy rate is high. (Sean’s is good as well, but different. Mine is not as sharp, around 85%.)

Sean was running the Ghost Radar app on his phone, and it indicated an energy form (or ghost) approaching us.

My Ghost Meter Pro was running in “seance” mode.

Lesley was chatting with us when she had the strong impression of a spirit named Jonathan.

Then, the Ghost Radar suggested that the ghostly energy was within 15 feet of us.

At the same time, my Ghost Meter Pro signaled the option of conversation with a spirit.

Lesley was sure the grave of that ghost was outside the enclosure where we were.

That seemed confirmed by both the Ghost Meter Pro (in yes/no terms, anyway) as well as the words “said” by the Ghost Radar.

So, we left that enclosure.

We followed directions given to us by dowsing rods, the Ghost Meter Pro, and the Ghost Radar, plus Lesley’s guidance.

We walked about 60 feet when the Ghost Radar shouted “Pennsylvania.”

We laughed because we were in Concord, New Hampshire, nowhere near Pennsylvania.

However, the Ghost Meter Pro also signaled something nearby. At the same time, the dowsing rods came to a halt, pointing at one very tall monument to the left of us.

When we got there, the grave belonged to a man named Jonathan. He’d been killed at Valley Forge. It’s in Pennsylvania.

There is no way that had been set up by any of us. It also confirmed that ghost hunting tools can work together to refine research results. Mostly, I was very impressed that the Ghost Radar app had been exactly right.

Everything it said was an exact match for the grave marker, in ways we didn’t have to contrive to fit.

So, I’m now a firm believer in the merits of ghost hunting apps.

Do apps like Ghost Radar perform better with certain investigators? Are some people “lightning rods” attracting psychic energy? Does it help if they’re psychic?

At other investigations, some ghost hunting tools have seemed worthless until the right person came along. Then, the devices went from near zero accuracy to at least 70%.

On its own, I’m not sure that the Ghost Radar app is as useful as other, dedicated ghost hunting tools.

Nevertheless, for the price and convenience, apps may be worth trying.

How does white noise help ghost EVP?

White noise is controversial.

White noise might provide spirits with sounds (“noise energy”). In theory, ghosts can manipulate white noise to form words on EVP recordings.

ear - sounds -EVPI’ve heard remarkable results. This theory might be credible.

It’s the same reason some investigators encourage people to talk normally during EVP sessions. Using software, they can filter out the researchers’ voices. They can highlight anomalous sounds and ghostly voices, too.

Ghosts might use, manipulate, or recycle ambient noise to communicate with us.

A few ghost hunters believe white noise might provide a wall or background. Against that, ghosts feel confident that their words can be heard.

To me, that seems unlikely, but I could be wrong. I’m just guessing. In this field, most of us are.

Sure, white noise and other audio input might your EVP recordings, but – as of late 2016 – scant scientific evidence exists. So, it’s best to test it yourself, and see if the results are worthwhile… and credible. (This applies to all real-time communications with spirits, recorded electronically.)

You can download white noise free (or at low cost) at sites like rain.SimplyNoise.com.

Other inexpensive apps can generate white noise to use during EVP sessions. You’ll probably find several for your phone or other devices.

Also, experiment with other “colors” of noise at http://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/whiteNoiseGenerator.php (Try noise calibrated with more brown or pink in it.)

You may prefer Coffitivity.com. It’s not white noise, but it could be a good background for your EVP sessions. Just be sure the Coffitivity voices aren’t saying anything you might confused with actual EVP.

If specialized noise makes a dramatic difference, use it.  If it doesn’t, don’t bother with it.

Note: Some team members are distracted by certain noises.  So, be sure to check with them before conducting too many tests.

What does EMF have to do with ghosts?

What do electromagnetic fields (EMF) have to do with ghosts?

Unusual levels of EMF can occur at haunted sites.  That’s practically routine.

In the mid 20th century, some researchers talked about bafflingly low levels of EMF at haunted sites.

Anomalous energy - EMF and ghostsIn the 21st century, we hear more reports of extraordinarily high surges of EMF. If they can’t be explained by faulty wiring or EMF-emitting devices, they’re paranormal.

High EMF can disorient people. High EMF can cause headaches, nausea, and even hallucinations.

So, a site with unhealthy EMF levels can seem ghostly, when the issue is a normal, electrical issue.

Professionals must rule out elevated EMF from electrical problems. That’s one reason we do a baseline sweep of each investigation site. We’re looking for normal issues that can produce paranormal-like phenomena.

Often, paranormal EMF spikes are fleeting.  Those are the anomalies that interest us… but what are they, really? We don’t know.

Some people believe that ghosts manifest electromagnetic energy.

Others, including me, suspect that the EMF spikes occur as a signal that ghostly energy might be entering the site.

Quantum Leap -AlI explain it in terms of the old TV show, Quantum Leap. In that TV series, one character (Al) regularly traveled through time. Then, he emerged through an energy doorway.

We don’t usually see that kind of doorway at haunted locations. However, energy transference – through time or between worlds — might manifest as EMF spikes.

Of course, that’s just a theory. I have no proof. My guess may be completely wrong, and – by the time you read this – I may have revised it.

(I try not to be dogmatic. At least 90% of what we think about ghosts is speculation, not fact. We’re a long way from having proof.)

Frankly, we don’t know what EMF levels have to do with ghosts. We only know that we observe more unexplained EMF spikes in haunted places.

For all we know, that may be a mere coincidence.

What’s the best kind of EMF detector?

Most EMF detectors are designed to help people measure unhealthy levels of EMF energy. You’d use one to check electrical equipment like computers, microwaves, and wiring in your basement.

Ghost hunters need specialized EMF devices.

K-II meters were among the first highly acclaimed EMF detectors used by ghost hunters. The K-II is still one of my favorites. It’s sensitive and easy to use. However, I’ve discovered inconsistencies among K-II meters. Big inconsistencies.

Two identical K-IIs can respond completely differently. I borrowed one from Grant Wilson (formerly on the “Ghost Hunters” TV series) and his worked great. It seemed to detect all kinds of subtle, anomalous energy.

Since then, I acquired another, identical K-II. After nearly two years of testing, it’s not sensitive enough.

Ghost Meter ProStarting in 2014, I’ve used a Ghost Meter Pro. (Don’t laugh. I’m serious.)

Yes, it comes in an “As Seen on TV!” package. That’s more than a little shady.

So, I can’t vouch for consistent quality. I might have an extraordinarily good one.

I also have an Ovilus III. Likewise, it’s a good meter, but it cost me about five times as much as the Ghost Meter Pro.

(The Ovilus also does about five times more things. It senses temperature variations, and “talks” from a dictionary or using phonetic sounds. It does other things, as well.)

I keep going back to the Ghost Meter Pro because it’s so easy to use. Sometimes, the simplest tools are the best ones.

The best EMF meter is the one you use with confidence. It’s any EMF meter that produces good results for you.

You have many choices. Some EMF meters make noise, others have colored lights, and some have both. Many EMF meters have a dial so you can see the precise level of EMF you’re encountering.

For ghost hunting, make sure your EMF meter has at least one setting that is extremely sensitive.

Remember, a standard EMF meter from the hardware store may be great for seeing if your microwave oven is leaking energy. It probably won’t be sensitive enough for ghost research.

Read reviews and recommendations by other ghost hunters. Ask friends and team members if you can try their EMF meters.  See what you like, and what works well for you.

Above all, avoid EMF meters that you have to watch all the time.  The meter should be a tool, not a distraction.

You may find gently-used EMF equipment online at a reasonable price. Check sites like eBay for good, used equipment with a money-back guarantee.

Who sells the best high tech equipment?

“Where do I find the best high tech equipment for ghost hunting?”

If you’re asking this question, I hope you’ve been involved in ghost hunting for many months.

Until you’re sure ghost hunting is for you, don’t invest in specialized equipment.

This is important: Don’t try to impress others with fancy equipment. Instead, learn to use basic tools well. That impresses fellow researchers.

Sometimes it’s the equipment. Sometimes, it’s the investigator.

shack hack
A “hacked” Radio Shack radio, used for ghost hunting.

I used to raise an eyebrow at “Shack Hacks,” until I saw John Zaffis talk to one. Suddenly, it talked back, clearly and in context.

It wasn’t his Shack Hack, and it was at least a dozen feet away from him. It just responded to him, as if it recognized him.

(Since then — around 2009, long before he became a TV star — I’ve never seen anyone achieve the same results with a Shack Hack. Maybe I just haven’t seen others as skilled as him. I don’t know.)

Where to shop – online and off.

Where you find ghost hunting equipment will depend on how specialized the devices are.

For example, cameras and voice recorders can be purchased at any electronics store or online. Amazon and Overstock offer low prices for basic and backup-level equipment. Other retailers do, too.

Ovilus or real-time EVP devices require an equally specialized shop or online retailer.

It’s important to feel confident about your purchase. You may need to discuss your options with a store clerk or seller who’s familiar with ghost research.

It’s equally important to check reviews by professionals who’ve tried that equipment. It helps if they’re also experienced paranormal investigators.

Some electronics wizards specialize in dedicated equipment for paranormal researchers. Digital Dowsing — the website featuring Bill Chappell’s custom-designed equipment — is one of the best-known.

Others keep a lower profile. You’ll see their equipment at ghost-related events, but not in stores and rarely online.

To find them, go to events, especially off-the-beaten-path events where high-profile investigators get together. That’s where you’ll find the most experimental tools… devices you may see on TV shows, several months later.

Spend with caution.

Investing in experimental devices can be risky. Generally, they have a 50/50 chance of working as well as hoped. Some will work great for a short time, and then break. (Most designers/manufacturers will replace the item.)

Never spend money you can’t afford to lose if the seller turns out to be completely clueless about this field. (However, I rarely run into that.)

In many cases, the best, specialized equipment is made in small batches, as few as two or three at a time. Expect to sign up for a waiting list. It may take months to receive the high-tech tools you want.

Like the “high rollers” tables in Vegas, this is a risky area for beginners.

How do video cameras show ghosts?

Videos can show the same kinds of anomalies we see in ghost photos.

The difference is, those anomalies move in most ghost videos.

The most popular — and reliable — anomalous images in ghost videos are orbs and shadow people.

Apparitions are highly suspect in ghost photos or videos. They’re so rare, you’re more likely to win the lottery than capture one in a picture.

Apparitions

Apparitions are ghosts that look like people. They might seem solid or translucent.

In photos, most “apparitions” are people who stepped into the frame when no one noticed. Enlarging the frame usually helps the team identify who it was.

If possible, one team member should take a photo of everyone at every investigation. That includes staff members, visitors, and so on. Each should be a full-length photo. That way, you have a reference if someone’s arm, leg, or foot shows up in the frame.

Orbs

“Floating orbs” are among the most common and controversial images.

To rule out normal dust, experiment with your video camera in dusty attics and basements. Also film outdoors in fields and dirt roads.

orb at Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NHDust, dirt, insects, and pollen may be easy to detect. Gravity causes them to sink slowly towards the floor or ground. The exception is when a fan or ventilation duct creates an updraft. That keeps the dust (etc.) to continue bobbing along in mid-air.

Sometimes, orbs float in a steady line, or even seem to climb or bob up and down. If the activity can’t be explained, those videos are some of the most interesting evidence we have.

Shadow People

Shadow people are unexplained, shadowy figures. Usually, we see them moving. Sometimes, they show up in our photos and videos.

If you want to study those unexplained shadows, video footage is much better than still photos.

When we see an unexplained shadow in a regular (still) ghost photo, we must return to the site. We have to see what might have cast that shadow.

When a video camera captures a moving, shadowy figure, it’s far more compelling evidence of paranormal activity.

Other Anomalies

Learn what’s normal (but sometimes weird-looking) for your video camera.  Just like regular cameras, it’s important to experiment with video cameras, too.

Test them with dust, pollen, dirt, and in locations with lots of insects.

bug in ghost photo
Two photos taken seconds apart. The lower one shows an insect, not a ghost orb.

Moths and mosquitoes are the leading culprits when you see an orb in your photos or video recordings.

They’re also the easiest to identify, once you know what to look for.

After dark, take lots of photos and video footage of different insects.

Learn the irregularities that separate highlighted bugs from anomalous orbs.

Usually, I try to take two photos in a row. I don’t move between photos. I try not to breathe. My goal is to capture two nearly identical photos.

Comparing the two photos, I can usually see if an orb was a flying insect.

Tip: If you’re not sure if the site has a lot of bugs, wait until dusk or slightly after it. Then, look up at nearby streetlights. Usually, if insects are nearby, you’ll see them highlighted by the streetlight.

If you think you’ve filmed a ghostly anomaly, run tests. Try to recreate the effect.

If there’s no normal explanation for what you photographed, then — by definition — it’s paranormal.

What do ghosts look like in real ghost photos?

First, in my opinion, we’re not sure what ghost photos really are.

They’re anomalies. They’re baffling.

But, the images may not represent actual spirits or ghostly energy.

We call them “ghost photos” because we take them in haunted places, and weird images show up.  We’re not sure they’re actually ghosts.

Most ghost photos contain unexplained orbs and baffling columns of light.

It is extremely rare to photograph an apparition. Most “apparition” photos have been debunked. Often, it was disappointingly easy.

Ghost Photo Apps

Remember, you can download a “ghost photo” app.

When those were first in the marketplace, I received dozens of faked photos. The effect can be attractive and eerie, but if you know what to look for, you won’t be fooled.

Here’s a screenshot of one ad, including the typo in the description:

One ghost photo app

Here’s another ad, showing images I’ve seen in far more fake photos.

Another ghost photo app

This problem returns in cycles. As of late 2016, I’m seeing more of those fake photos.

I guess people forgot about the old apps used to create them, or a new generation of ghost hunters never knew about these apps in the first place.

If someone shows you a ghost photo that looks like an apparition, a Google image search might be a good idea.

Shadow People

shadow person - ghost photoShadow people seem to be easier to photograph. I’m not sure why.

This is important: We’re still trying to understand what shadow people are.

They may be ghosts.

They may be something else.

I’ve photographed a shadow person and the image was clear. One of those pictures is shown, on the right.

I’ve never photographed an apparition that looked like a solid or translucent full-body figure with features.

What’s the best kind of video camera for ghost hunting?

You should be comfortable with any camera you use.

For beginners, the best video camera is the one you’ll really use. If that’s your mobile phone, it’s fine for now.

Later, choose a dedicated video camera for your ghost investigations. It doesn’t need to be very expensive.

Your video camera should include:

– A good lens. Glass lenses are better than plastic lenses.  Even if the video camera seems expensive, ask if the lens is glass or plastic.

– A stabilizer to steady the image if your hands are shaking. Today, that’s a normal feature in video equipment.

– The ability to film in low light conditions.

– Also, make sure you can secure your video camera to a tripod, so you can set it up and leave it running.  (If it wobbles, that can affect video integrity.)

Are you good at capturing ghosts on video?  Explore specialized video cameras. Some can produce extraordinary results.

Any equipment I’d recommend in this book might be “old” and replaced by better options by the time you read this.

I recommend watching ghost-related TV shows to see what equipment they’re using. (Sometimes, they get access to specialized tools before the public does.)

Also go to public ghost hunting events, and ask professional ghost hunters which brands and models they prefer. Ask them which video camera features (what bells & whistles) are most useful. They’ll probably point you in the direction of high-end equipment… but maybe not.

Always ask, “Can you suggest a good video camera for someone on a budget?”  Most professional ghost hunters started out with limited budgets. They know what’s worth buying, and what isn’t.

Keep in mind: Some professional ghost hunters don’t really understand their equipment. Always get a second and third opinion. In some cases, the extraordinary results from a certain camera may be more about the person using it than the camera itself.

That’s true of all ghost hunting equipment.

Compare results, and compare users

For example, I know two high-profile paranormal researchers who own “Frank’s Boxes.” Those boxes were made by Frank Sumption, and seem to use radio waves (and snippets of sounds) to form words that “speak” for ghosts.

Franks box
Frank’s Box, opened. Photo courtesy Coast-to-Coast AM.

I’ve seen Researcher A use a Frank’s Box with astonishing accuracy. He has complete faith in the box.

Unfortunately, some of Researcher A’s business practices damaged his reputation.

(That’s tragic, because he really is a gifted researcher.)

Researcher B has a better professional reputation, but flits from one tool or theory to the next.

That researcher swears that, after a while, Frank’s Boxes stop working.

After watching Researcher B at various paranormal events, I concluded that Researcher B is bright and clever… but hasn’t the same ghost hunting skills as Researcher A. (I’m not even sure Researcher B believes that paranormal experiences are real.)

Also, I believe that Researcher A gets better results because he maintains faith in the box. (He’s also convinced that Frank had a unique, mystical gift that transformed each box.)

I believe ghost hunting tools work best when people are confident about the results. That means believing that the tools work, and believing that paranormal encounters are possible.

Get and use equipment that you feel good about. That includes video cameras.

What are the best camera settings for ghost hunting?

Most people set their cameras to about 400 ISO (formerly called 400 ASA) in low light conditions. At that setting, your camera will be sensitive enough to capture subtle light anomalies.

Settings lower than 400 ISO don’t detect much in low light conditions.

Some ghost photographers recommend a setting of at least 1000 ISO to detect the maximum number of anomalies. I disagree, but it depends on the camera.

In low-light conditions (like at night), anything higher than 400 ISO can produce images so grainy, it’s difficult to figure out what I’m looking at.

Don’t take my word for it. Test ISO levels for each camera you intend to use. See what works best for your research.

In addition, I generally set my camera so the flash will always be triggered. If you’re taking photos of ghostly anomalies, you’ll usually get better results with a flash.

breath - not a ghost photo
This photo shows my breath, not a ghost… as far as I know, anyway.

Unfortunately, the light from the flash can reflect your own breath. This is especially risky when the weather is chilly or the dew point is high.

Experiment so you know what your own breath looks like in photographs.
I believe that breath is the number one cause of false anomalies in ghost photos.

Be sure you know what it looks like with each of your cameras. Test that in a variety of weather and light conditions.

This is important: Your breath can show up in photos on warm summer evenings as well as on icy, bone-numbing winter nights.

Once you’re comfortable with ghost photography, experiment with other camera settings. I’ve seen interesting results in low light conditions when I’ve left the lens open for an extended period of time. I’m sure there are other settings you can test to see if they improve your results.

Test everything!