On only a few TV shows — like Ghost Adventures — ghost hunters lock themselves inside haunted places.
To me, it seems a little silly, but it can add to the tension. It’s another way to make ghost hunting look more exciting.
It also increases the likelihood that no one will wander into the location, and corrupt the investigation.
For example, if the team hear footsteps in another part of the site, they’ll want to be sure that no one else entered the building.
But, if anyone really wanted to leave the haunted site, they could open a window and climb out. Or leave through a back door or a basement door.
So, in real life, investigators rarely lock the doors. Not unless it’s a private residence or business, and the doors are always locked after dark.
Of course, being “locked in” is a common plot device in many stories, books, plays, and movies about haunted places.
It’s also used in some “scary haunted houses” created for Halloween.
On TV shows and in movies, I think it increases the tension.
(Does anyone else wonder if the producers provide a room with sofas and food? Or, in derelict sites with no electricity and running water, do they have a discreetly concealed porta-potty for the team’s use?)
Some Ghost Adventures locations look dangerous. That has nothing to do with ghosts.
During filming at those locations, I’d lock the doors, too — to keep vagrants and drug dealers out.
Making that part of the story line — as if they’re trapped inside the site, overnight — is an added bonus.
But, in general, you’ll never see ghost hunters lock themselves inside a haunted site.
If you’re in a dangerous area, or have real concerns about a stranger entering a derelict site while you’re there, invest in some inexpensive bells. They’re often sold as “jingle bells.”
You can string them on a ribbon, and place them on doorknobs or — with a pushpin — position them to make noise if a door is opened. (You can also buy pre-made versions, sold as “potty bells” to housetrain dogs.)
Otherwise, when ghost hunters lock themselves inside a haunted site, it’s because the doors would normally be locked at that hour. I can’t think of any other reason to do so.
I’m not sure why some ghost hunters (especially on TV shows) always turn off the lights before they investigate a haunted site.
Of course, darkness makes the show more dramatic. Night vision cameras always give an eerie look to the location and the people in it.
Normal EMF can be reduced by turning off as much electrical equipment as possible.
So, we may turn off lights, especially fluorescent lights, at least for a few minutes.
Reducing that electrical “background noise” makes it easier to detect anomalous EMF readings.
Also, researchers’ other senses can be heightened in the dark. They have to rely on sounds, smells, and so on.
In addition, some ghost photography is more effective in full darkness, with just a momentary flash of the camera’s light.
There may be other reasons to turn off the lights, but those are the ones that make the most sense, as a field investigator.
My advice: when you’re on an investigation, leave the lights on as much as possible. That’s for safety, so you can see where you’re walking, where stairs or openings are, and so on.
Once you’re more familiar with a location, it’s okay to turn the lights down, or even off. Night vision equipment can be an asset, but as long as everyone knows areas and objects to avoid, low-light conditions can be okay.
If you’re taking ghost photos, the best results seem to come from flash cameras in dark or low-light conditions. I’ve run extensive tests to understand why this helps, but — so far — it seems like an anomaly. (I’ve ruled out reflective surfaces, dust, insects, and so on.)
But, in general, it’s safer to keep the lights on. At the very least, don’t turn the lights out until everyone is familiar with the site. That’s for safety, and has nothing to do with the ghosts.
No, there are no grants for ghost hunting. Most paranormal research funds are intended for parapsychologists.
Many books and movies start with an aging, wealthy individual. He or she wants definitive proof of an afterlife. So, the rich recluse hires a team to spend the night in a haunted house. The team promise to return with proof — one way or the other — about life after death.
In most fiction like this, particularly movies, the investigators deal with unspeakable terror at the hands of the house’s ghosts. Usually, one or more of the researchers never leaves the house alive.
(Best of these movies include the original The Haunting, and The Haunting of Hell House. Though they’re dated, they have more authenticity than most films in that genre.)
A variation of this involves a large reward to any of the group who who stay (or survive) one night in the haunted house.
And, for good measure, they’re locked in the house. It’s similar to the staging used for the TV series, Ghost Adventures.
Ah, if only someone would present me with that kind of offer…
In real life, I don’t think that’s ever happened. Not like in the movies, anyway. No decrepit billionaires offering large sums of money for evidence of life after death.
You may find grants related to ESP and other areas of parapsychology.
However, corporate funding or individual grants for ghost hunting don’t exist.
As a result, some ghost hunters accept individual clients or conduct readings for a fee.
Some people say that’s preying on vulnerable people who want to contact lost loved ones.
Often, I agree.
I’m not sure where to draw the line. Is it more moral to take a day job in fast food than to work as a paid psychic medium? You’ll need to decide for yourself.
Charging a high fee just to investigate a private residence…? No. I won’t do that. I’ll find more honorable ways to earn a living, and still have time for paranormal research.
In other words, don’t expect grants to finance your ghost hunts. If any exist, I haven’t heard of them.
When someone asks me how ghosts communicated before modern ghost hunting tools, I laugh.
My reply is simple. “They did what the living did, before electricity. They used what was available.”
Ghosts can communicate without modern electrical devices. Sometimes, people are so focused on high-tech ghost hunting tools, they forget that ghost research flourished in the 19th century and earlier.
Low-tech ghost hunting tools
Time tested, non-electrical communications include:
– Dowsing rods.
– Table tipping and table tapping. (The first involves the table moving. The other means rapping sounds on the table. Both may occur at the same time.)
– Automatic writing.
– Ouija boards and spirit boards. (Some insist they’re very different devices. There are safety issues; be sure you’re aware of them before sitting down with this kind of tool.)
– And, one of my favorites: Direct requests to ghosts. In other words, just ask them to respond in specific ways, like moving an object or making a sound.
The problem is: non-electrical communications can be entertaining, but they’re not scientific evidence.
Worse, they’re very easy to fake. The more high-tech the faking methods, the more difficult they are to detect.
Most ghost hunters want more than easily debunked entertainment.
Some want ghosts that perform reliably on command, and give 100% accurate responses to questions, 100% of the time.
Even the living don’t do that. I’m not sure why we expect ghosts to.
Others want full-body apparitions in photos they take themselves.
We seem to be able to photograph orbs, and shadow people. We rarely see apparitions, much less capture them on film.
Some people want to hear ghostly voices on a recording.
Convincing apparitions and crystal-clear EVP are so rare, they still impress me… when they’re credible, that is.
The future of ghost hunting tools
Today, scientists and technicians are developing high tech, paranormal research tools.
They’re designing ghost hunting devices that might produce consistent results under laboratory conditions.
We’re getting closer, but it may be several years until we have ghost hunting tools that work consistently in haunted locations.
However, for an entertaining — and often convincing — display of ghostly activity, old-school methods can be a fine choice.
If it’s your research — meaning that you’re in full control — low-tech ghost hunting tools can be excellent. Perhaps even better than electronic ghost hunting devices.
If that’s what you’re looking for, follow the careers of two ghost hunters.
One is Brian Cano, who appeared on the “Haunted Collector” TV series. He’s familiar with many old-school ghost hunting tools & methods.
The other is researcher Sean Paradis. He’s been exploring very low-tech ghost investigation tools.
There is no scientific “proof” of ghosts or anything else.
“Proofs” come from mathematics and logic.
Science relies on evidence, and much of it is provisional.
Scientists are constantly improving techniques and research methods. Thanks to a steady supply of new discoveries, there is no final word in science. That makes it an exciting, evolving field.
So, there is no proof. If you want conclusive, scientific evidence of ghosts, it doesn’t exist yet. You may find an answer that makes sense to you. It might be all the evidence you need.
Scientific evidence is something else.
We can go to a haunted site and — often but not always — trigger unexplained phenomena. However, our results aren’t consistent.
In other words, ghostly phenomena can’t be duplicated to lab standards. Never mind “scientific proof of ghosts.” We don’t even have reliable scientific evidence at this point.
If we could reliably duplicate what we encounter at haunted sites, we might find better answers to many ghost hunting questions.
Whole Brain Emulation (WBE) or “mind uploading” could open doors for ghost research. It’s the storage of intelligence — what’s in your brain — in digital format. Engineer Ray Kurzweil predicts that will be possible by the year 2045.
Let’s say we could routinely store memories for every human being. Let’s also assume we’ve refined communication with ghosts. Then, we could compare what the ghost tells us about his life, against his digitally stored (WBE) memories.
At the moment, that’s pure sci-fi. However, it’s one of many possibilities. If the data in the computer or avatar match what’s conveyed by the ghost, point for point, that could be compelling evidence.
But, it’s still not scientific proof of ghosts.
We’re also trying to refine EMF detection. Some orbs may result from EMF that accompanies a haunting. With better research tools, we may understand more about orbs, EMF, and ghosts.
However, people have been trying to understand ghosts for centuries.
We’re still far from turning this into a credible science.
For now, there’s no “proof.” We can’t convince skeptical critics that ghosts are real, either. Of course, there may never be enough evidence for that.
Many people believe what they want to believe. After all, some people still insist the world is flat, and nothing will persuade them otherwise.
I’d love to claim that there’s scientific proof of ghosts, but there isn’t and never will be. What we’re actually searching for is scientific evidence of ghosts. And, we’re making good progress there.
I’ve investigated with several MIT scientists, and several regional police officers, as well. It’s always been a positive experience.
They’re as interested in this topic as anyone else.
Stereotypes don’t apply to scientists.
Whether they believe or don’t believe in ghosts is a matter of personal opinion. That opinion is usually rooted in their personal experiences.
I believe that’s true of most ghost hunters. Unless they have another agenda, they’re looking for something that confirms (or debunks) ghosts, once and for all… at least for them.
That’s probably why you’re interested in ghost hunting, too.
Some scientists believe in ghosts. Others don’t.
If a scientist joins your research team, don’t assume he or she is going to be a skeptical critic. Avoid being on the defensive.
Adding a scientist to your ghost hunting team might be the very best thing you could do. He or she might bring tools and insights to your investigations. And, those tools might provide the breakthroughs we’re looking for.
In ghost hunting, pendulums are divinatory tools. Ghost hunting pendulums are usually made with a weighted object suspended from the medium’s hand by way of a chain, ribbon, or string.
They’re simple, everyday pendulums, used by some ghost hunters.
In other words, there’s nothing unique that makes a pendulum a “ghost hunting pendulum.”
It’s just a moderately heavy object on a chain, ribbon, or string. You’ll hold the pendulum in one hand, suspended by whatever is attached to it, so the weight can swing freely in response to questions.
If you’re going to buy one, look for handmade pendulums that attract you. Never buy a used pendulum, no matter how pretty it is. (But, if you just can’t resist it, be sure to clear residual energy off it. Submersing it in sea salt, overnight, is one option.)
For my own ghost hunting pendulums, I’ve trusted — and give my highest recommendations to — pendulums from Sleeping Meadows. (Not online as of Nov 2016.)
In real life, I’ve also bought ghost hunting pendulums in Salem (MA, USA) from “witch-y” shops like Hex and from shops on Pickering Wharf, including Artemisia Botanicals, Laurie Cabot’s shop (now online), and NuAeon.
If the subject of witchcraft — which (in non-religious terms) I believe is firmly rooted in quantum resonance — bothers you, don’t shop at a witch-related shop. Not for any reason.
You must feel 100% comfortable with the ghost hunting tools you use. In dangerous settings, even the slightest waver can open a channel you may not have intended.
I like all the pendulums I own, but — though I rarely use them — I keep going back to my pendulums from Sleeping Meadows. They seem less formal and more user-friendly. (It’s difficult to articulate why I like them, without sounding weird and, literally, incredible.)
Make your own
You can make your own ghost hunting pendulum, easily. A ribbon and a ring or even a metal washer can work fine. Generally, the ribbon (or chain, or string) should be around eight or ten inches long, or longer.
That’s one way to see if you are adept with a pendulum, and if you like using it.
In the right person’s hands, pendulums can answer simple yes or no questions.
Also, some investigators use them to determine the direction to move in, the same as others use dowsing rods to point the way.
Maps and charts
Several remote dowsers use pendulums over maps.
Some people use pendulums with with special charts. I’ve tried them, and I wasn’t very impressed. However, you may have better results.
Some charts strongly resemble the symbols and alphabet — plus yes and no — on a Ouija board.
You can create your own charts, too. All you need is a pen and a normal sheet of paper. On it, mark years, numbers, words, colors, or compass directions. Really, there’s no limit to to the kind of charts you can design for use with a pendulum.
Hold the pendulum over your chart. Once it’s still, ask a question. The pendulum may swing to indicate the best answer on the chart. (Usually, it keeps pointing at one — and only one — answer.)
Divinatory tools are not for everyone. Always direct the spiritual energy to the tool, not to or through your hand. Prayer or shielding is a good idea, before you being your work.
My field tests
In the field, I’ve tested pendulums with people who claimed no psychic gifts.
One test involved about 20 people at haunted Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua (NH, USA). The results were no better than a coin flip. (Keep in mind: I wanted to see if pendulums worked accurately for absolute beginners .)
In the right hands, dowsing rods can be useful ghost hunting tools.
First, you’ll use them to detect normal phenomena that can make a site seem haunted.
For example, dowsing rods can detect underground springs and streams.
Underground water can contribute to infrasound. Its low-level frequency disorients some people. They might think they’ve encountered a ghost when they haven’t.
Some ghost hunters use dowsing rods to identify active areas at a haunted site. For that, you may need skill and sensitivity.
You can learn the skill. I’m not sure everyone can develop the necessary sensitivity.
Dowsing rods can respond to yes-or-no questions, as well.
How to hold dowsing rods
Some people use just one rod. I use two, and hold one in each hand.
Hold the rods with a light grip. It should be loose enough so the rods can move without much resistance.
(The exception is dowsing rods that include a casing between your hands and the rods. Since your hand won’t influence the rods one way or the other, hold the casing as tightly as you like.)
Also, check the length of the rods and what they might hit — especially your face — if they start swinging wildly. (That’s happened to me a few times.)
Initially, hold the rods so they are parallel to the floor or ground.
Then, tilt your hands so the tips of the rods are at a slight downward angle… less than a 10-degree drop. This allows gravity a gentle influence on the rods. If the rods are able to swing wildly, they’re useless.
However, don’t let the rods point too far downward, or gravity will pin them in place.
Ideally, the rods move slightly against the pull of gravity.
Begin with some test questions.
I start by asking basic questions I can answer myself, such as, “Is my name Fiona Broome?” The movement of the rods tells me what the rods will do for a “yes” answer, if anything. The rods may swing in opposite directions. They might swing towards each other and cross. They might point to the right or to the left.
I try enough yes/no questions to detect a pattern.
After that, I put a coin on the floor or ground, and stand at least ten feet away. Then, I tell the rods to lead me to the coin. I do this aloud, saying something like, “Where is the coin? Point to it and lead me there.”
In most cases, both rods point in the direction of the coin. When I get there, they either return to resting position, or — more often — they’ll cross in front of me as if to prevent me from walking ahead.
After that, I’m ready to use them on that investigation. I know how to detect a yes, a no, and how to tell where the rods are leading me.
During the investigation, I might use them for yes/no answers. For example: “Is this ghost female?” “Is this ghost male?” “Is the ghost a child?” “Did this ghost live in the 17th century?” “… the 18th century?” “… the 19th century?” And so on.
Note: Never start by asking when the ghost “died.” Many ghosts seem to reject the idea that they’re dead.
Or, use them silently.
More often, I simply hold the rods in the “ready” position, and walk around. I let them lead me to a “hot spot.”
If the rods indicate a “hot spot,” I usually walk around, testing different directions.
Dowsing rods can detect underground water, water pipes, and electrical wiring. So, I see if the rods indicate (or point to) a long, straight line. If they do, I know the reading isn’t paranormal.
I’ll check that same line with an EMF meter. I’m looking for normal (but elevated) EMF levels. If I find it, I’ll avoid that area as I continue my research.
If just one spot or a small area seems active, I set up my ghost hunting equipment. I’m looking for anomalous readings and responses.
You can ask dowsing rods to lead you to the “hot” areas of a haunt. There, you can use the rods, seance style, to ask — and receive answers to — questions about the ghost.
However, dowsing rods don’t work for everyone. So far, we don’t know why.
Practice makes perfect?
If dowsing rods work, but not as well as you’d like, you may need more practice. Place small objects around your living room. Then, ask the rods to lead you to a particular object. The more often you do this, the more skill you’ll have with dowsing rods, and the more confidence, too.
Warning: Do not expect ghostly energy to work “through” you. Maintain firm boundaries.
The ghostly energy works with the tools. You’re just propping them at the correct angle.
(This is why I prefer to use dowsing rods with casing-type holders. I make no direct contact with the actual rods.)
Never give a spirit permission to enter or use your body to communicate.
That may seem like a fine point, but with increasing dangers in ghost hunting, precautions are important.
Here’s an informal, 10-minute video that explains how to use dowsing rods for ghost hunting.
I’ve used their larger, custom rods (17- or 18-inch rods) with researchers who swear that dowsing rods don’t work. So far, they’ve had success with those rods 100% of the time. (But, I’m not sure if Joey’s company still offer such large rods. If they don’t, make them yourself. They’re that useful.)
I’ve also used Joey’s recommended portable (collapsible) rods with great results.
However, in my field tests, others had weaker (or no) results with smaller rods. So, start large. Over time, work down, if the big rods become too sensitive (swing too wildly) for your research.
Or, make your own dowsing rods.
You don’t need to buy dowsing rods. Make your own from wire coat hangers. Visit HollowHill.com for step-by-step instructions.
If you want to use a casing for handles, visit a DIY store (like Lowe’s or Home Depot). Ask them to cut two small lengths of narrow, straight PVC pipe or brass piping. You’ll slide your dowsing rod handles (the shorter sides of the bent coat hangers) into them. Then, your hands can’t influence the rods at all.
In my opinion, the more active my dowsing rods, the more active the haunting. If the rods barely move, not much is going on. If they respond vigorously, I’ll usually see EMF spikes, orbs in photos, and other phenomena.
In rare cases, my smallest dowsing rods have swung in complete circles, repeatedly. (It can look silly, like a tiny helicopter blade.) I’m pretty sure those were active, paranormal spots.
They occurred at:
– Cambridge (MA, USA): At the mass grave of Revolutionary soldiers, buried under a mound in the Old Burial Ground at Harvard Square.
– Also at the tree in front of Peet’s Coffee House, 100 Mt. Auburn Street, Harvard Square. (It’s the site of a “witch jail” during colonial times.)
– Methuen (MA, USA): Upstairs at Tenney Gate House, in one of the front rooms. Repeated several times before the anomaly ceased.
– Salem (MA): In the basement of 127 Essex Street. (The basement isn’t open to the public. But, excellent ghost tours leave from in front of that shop).
– Stratford-upon-Avon (England): One room in the Falcon Hotel, but only briefly. Several times at the Falstaff’s Experience (Tudor World), 40 Sheep Street.
– York (England): The Golden Fleece Pub, but only a few times, in odd spots near the entrance. Did not repeat during additional visits.
Ghosts and flashlights… they’re an interesting mix. Can ghosts really communicate by turning your flashlight on & off?
Here’s my answer.
Ghosts don’t actually turn the flashlight on and off. Not with a switch or lever, anyway.
The effect comes from a loose contact between the batteries and the light bulb.
A ghost might be able to move the flashlight just enough to make the light blink on for a split second.
Or, ghosts might generate EMF energy. That’s a popular theory. If it’s true, a small amount of energy might reconnect the battery and the light bulb.
Either way, some ghosts and flashlights seem to have a connection (no pun intended). Ghosts might be able to communicate through a loosened flashlight. That’s how it’s looked in tests on TV and in the field.
Use the kind of flashlight that turns on and off with a gentle twist of the flashlight case. The Mag lite brand is the most popular.
But, inexpensive clones can work just as well, as long a the flashlight has a metal case, not plastic or resin.
Note: I’ve talked with the staff at Mag lite. They were baffled by my questions. They wouldn’t tell me which metals are in their flashlight cases are proprietary. Still, they insisted that conductivity wasn’t likely.
So, any flashlight may work equally well.
How to get the best results with ghosts and flashlights
Here are steps to use a flashlight to communicate with ghosts.
Turn the flashlight on.
Twist the case just enough so the flashlight is off.
Gently shake the flashlight. If the light flickers on and off, the setting is right. (If it won’t flicker easily, adjust the case until it does.)
Place the flashlight on a level surface.
Then, instruct the ghost to reply to questions by briefly turning the light on if the answer is yes. (Or whatever directions you want to give to the ghost. It might be “signal once with the light for yes, and twice for no.”)
This kind of real-time communication can be exciting and produce remarkable results.
Sadly, there’s at least one big problem: This is far from actual, scientific evidence.
Heavy footsteps, a passing truck, a nearby train, or music with a heavy base can be enough to make the flashlight flicker.
In other words, a blinking flashlight isn’t proof of anything, even if it seems eerily accurate and consistent.
How I begin each flashlight session
Generally, I ask questions with known answers: “Is my name Fiona Broome? Flash the light once for yes.”
Then, “Flash the light once if I’m male, twice if I’m female.”
(I mix things up. I want to be sure the flashlight isn’t responding to footsteps in a nearby room, or infrasound from trucks or an underground stream.)
I’ll continue questioning the ghost for several minutes. (You could think of it as “establishing rapport” rather than commanding the ghost to perform.)
“Are we in [name of location]? Flash once for yes.”
“Did George Washington (or some other impossible name, like Queen Elizabeth II) live here? Flash once for yes, twice for no.”
If the answers aren’t at least 75% accurate, I don’t bother with a flashlight “seance.” The controlled responses must be more accurate than a coin toss.
If the flashlight responds accurately enough, I set up my equipment nearby.
Confirming flashlight responses
My usual tools include EMF detectors, real-time ghost communication devices, and EVP recorders. We set them up and resume our investigation.
We continue to ask questions, and check our other tools for anomalies that happen at the same time as the ghost seems to flicker the flashlight.
Flashlight communication with spirits can be exciting. However, I believe you need more evidence, collected at the same time.
After our investigation, I look for documented history that supports or refutes what the ghost seemed to tell us via the flashlight.
Unless historical evidence exists, the rest is speculation. It might seem reliable, but I’m looking for more than just a consensus from a loosened flashlight and a few other tools.
I want something on paper that’s independent of any ghost investigations. That means census records, vital records (birth, marriage, or death records), court documents, and so on.
This article wandered far from the flashlight topic. However, “talking” flashlights are such unreliable evidence, they shouldn’t be your only focus in an investigation.
Besides… if the ghost really is that communicative, you might miss other investigative opportunities, like EVP and ghost photos or video.
But yes, flashlight communications can work. And, as part of a pre-investigation visit – or during your regular research – the answers can help you identify your ghost and why he or she haunts.