Why do some ghost hunters lock themselves inside haunted places?

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.

stairs and windowBut, 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.

Fiona's adviceIf 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.

Why do ghost hunters turn off the lights to investigate?

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.

ghost hunting - turn off the lights?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.

Fiona's adviceMy 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.

Do TV shows give credibility to ghosts?

Do TV shows help give credibility to the spirit world?

For several years, I said yes. Now, it’s a little “yes” and far more “no.”

The “no” side is obvious. Many ghost-hunting TV shows became parodies of what we do as paranormal researchers. Extreme Paranormal was one of the first to leave serious investigators reeling in horror.

Fiona's adviceIf you want to compare a real ghost story with the TV version, see my article that explains the real ghostly history of Bonito City.

(That location was among the “investigations” featured on Extreme Paranormal.)

The Haunted Collector TV series wasn’t nearly as bad as Extreme Paranormal. But, at times, it still made respected researchers such as John Zaffis look… well, stupid. Even gullible. And, some thought he was downright criminal.

abandoned creepy houseIn real life, John and his team are among the most honest, ethical and open-minded researchers in this field.

I winced watching the show, seeing what I knew were contrived, uncharacteristic scenes.

But, yes. Maybe.

On the other hand, shows such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures increased interest in ghosts and ghost research. That’s been helpful.

The latter show has featured some preposterous scenes. I sigh and say, “It’s just TV.” I don’t know Zak and his crew, personally, so I’m not sure where the just plain silly things come from.

So, in general, I say yes, ghost hunting TV shows brought more credibility to the subject of ghosts.


People may joke about ghost-related TV shows, but they keep watching them.  Privately, I think most people want to believe in an afterlife. Many people want to believe in ghosts, too.

Ghost-related TV shows have given the field enough credibility to attract new researchers. We’re at least one step closer to finding real ghostly evidence.

I believe that shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures have moved paranormal research forward.  More people are looking for evidence, and we have more tools to document what we find.

While it lasted, Ghost Lab was another important TV show. The Klinge brothers were daring and honest. Ghost Lab impressed me as much as — and often more than — any other ghost hunting TV series.

If that’s all those shows did, they’ve still made a valuable contribution to the field. I think there’s been an uptick in belief since the shows aired.

Personal field research makes a bigger difference than TV shows.

But, to get people into the field for serious investigations, they have to be interested.

I think ghost-related TV shows were very helpful towards that end.

Have TV shows ever found real evidence of ghosts?

It’s not just a skeptical question. Plenty of people ask me why they’ve never seen a real ghost on TV. They want to know if ghost hunting TV shows ever found real evidence of ghosts.

TV shows — and paranormal researchers, in general — don’t find real evidence of ghosts because, so far, there is none.

We’ve found nothing convincing that we can show others. Skeptics like the (not so) “Amazing Randi” will always find flaws, shortcomings, or weaknesses in the recordings of all kinds.

Investigators can show that something odd is going on.

1839 photograph of R. CorneliusBy process of elimination, and with an open-minded witness on the scene, they can show that it had no obvious (normal) cause.

Despite that, no one can prove a ghost caused whatever happened.

Shows such as the Ghost Hunters franchise and Ghost Lab have impressed me.  They’ve shown the world fresh, effective research techniques and tools.

However, that’s not scientific (“real”) evidence of ghosts.

For now, I doubt that anyone will produce scientific evidence on ghost-related TV shows… or in real life.

I hope I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen the progress I’d hoped for.

What’s the worst TV show about ghosts?

Among shows I’ve seen, Extreme Paranormal was one of the worst TV shows about ghosts. The stars of that show can tell you why.

Many other, short-lived series — especially “fear” style shows — have been perfectly awful, too.

annoyed catDon’t blame the stars of those shows. Some are actual paranormal researchers, and good ones. (Sadly, you’d never guess it from the shows.)

Where do the problems come from? Usually, it’s how the shows are produced, written, directed, and edited.

From the few snippets I’ve seen, Dead Files is on my worst list… but only if people take the show seriously. What I saw looked like a parody of what researchers like me really do.

The Haunted Collector show disappointed me more than most. I’ve know John Zaffis since we both spoke at paranormal conferences in the late 1990s or so.

John is a tremendous researcher, and an authoritative “walking encyclopedia” of paranormal insights and information.

The show’s producers never seemed to get that, or showcase his expertise. That was tragic.

But, in general, ghost hunting and TV shows are two very different things. When you watch a ghost hunting TV show or movie, remember that.

Personally, I’m interested in ghost research, not the TV shows.

The only reason I watch “extreme” ghost-related shows is to understand the context of the emails and comments I receive.

When something seems to come out of left field, it’s usually the result of a TV show.

I’ve been sorry to see producers and networks cancel good TV shows. However, the demise of the worst TV shows about ghosts… that’s been a relief.

Which ghost hunting TV show is (or was) the best?

Regularly, people ask me to rank ghost hunting TV shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and Paranormal State.

Old TV and remoteI think they’re establishing my attitudes towards ghost hunting. (If they’re looking for an argument, that’s a waste of time.)

Each ghost hunting TV show has taken a different approach to the subject.

If I had to name just one favorite ghost-related TV show, Ghost Lab wins. The Klinge brothers explored more innovative research techniques than most similar shows. In addition, I respect their integrity.

The big brands

I’ve liked episodes of Most Haunted, Ghost Adventures, and Ghost Hunters, each for different reasons.

Most Haunted visited locations with fascinating histories. (I only watched the UK version of that show.)

I’m not sure about the accuracy of the channeled information or the stories. But, if you don’t take ghost shows seriously, that was a fun TV series to watch. Great locations. Silly pranks. Fun cast members.

Ghost Adventures intrigued me for different reasons. Though I only saw a few episodes, I liked the details included in each episode. I don’t mean the narrative, but the filming of each episode. Their cameras captured more nooks and crannies at investigation sites. I’m always interested in that.

In addition, I think many viewers like seeing the stars of that show. During the few episodes I watched, the guys seemed genuinely interested in paranormal research.

Ghost Hunters is one of the most authoritative production among ghost hunting TV shows that launched at the start of the 21st century trend. I liked every series in the franchise.

I wish they’d allowed Barry Fitzgerald more input for the international episodes. He was one of the most challenging researchers, and — though I often disagree with him on fine points — his voice was important.

I liked how Steve and Dave were portrayed in the “academy” episodes; they’re both sincere, funny, caring guys. I felt that they deserved their own series.

Paranormal State started out with an interesting edge. Before long, my “gut feeling” was that someone connected with the show attracted unpleasant energy. So, for me, the show lost much of its credibility, early on.

Ghost-related episodes of Destination: Truth highlighted fascinating locations. Too many segments seemed rushed, but they brought something different to the niche. I haven’t seen newer, related series.

Older paranormal TV shows

Though it’s long gone and not a ghost hunting TV show, per se, I liked John Edward in Crossing Over.

Of course, I’m aware of the criticism of the show and take most of it with a grain of salt.

The reason I liked the show was its authenticity.

Genuine mediums have a certain way of talking. They trust “the other side” more than the people in front of them. Those mediums do their best to articulate the odd images and sensations that come through from the other side.

Sometimes, those translations are so subjective, the medium can’t get it right. That’s normal, and it can be worse under the pressure of “performing” for an audience, much less a TV crew.

Through his accurate readings and his shortfalls, John Edward helped me understand my own psychic gifts.

Among all the TV shows with a paranormal theme, I think I got the most from his shows, and watched more of them. I’m sorry that rumors, duplicity, and production quirks cost that show its ratings.

But, the same could be said of almost any ghost-related TV show.

Also, I’m still a fan of the really old TV b&w series, One Step Beyond. When I find episodes on “oldies” channels, I watch them.

The shows are dated and usually include very bad acting. However, most episodes are based on true stories, and can give you fresh locations to investigate, yourself.

What’s ahead for ghost hunting TV shows?

Regularly, producers contact me with plans for new ghost hunting TV shows. So far, it seems like they’re still reinventing Ghost Hunters. I’m not convinced they get what’s changed in this field — and the viewing audience — over the past few years.

Will ghost hunting become trendy again in the near future? I haven’t a clue. However, these things tend to go in cycles, and I’ve seen some interesting spikes at search engines.

Whether future ghost hunting TV shows will be innovators or purely commercial trend followers probably depends more on the producers than anything else.

What are the best TV shows and movies about real ghosts?

“Best” is in the eye of the beholder. Also, ghost-related movies are usually different from ghost-related TV shows. So, I use different standards when I talk about them.

In general, when it comes to ghost videos on the big or small screen, I’m very opinionated about this topic.

My favorite ghost-related movies include the 1963 version of The Haunting.

So far, nothing else has measured up to that. Not even close.

Although the marsh scene and the ending spoiled the Daniel Radcliffe movie, The Woman in Black, I thought much of it was compelling.

I like many dramatizations of The Turn of the Screw.

The old Roddy McDowell move, The Legend of Hell House, can seem ridiculously dated and sensational. However, some elements in it are excellent.

It’s one of the more popular ghost-related movies that air on TV around Halloween. Expect some unintended laughs, keep your expectations low, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

My favorite ghost-related TV show was probably the Ghost Lab series by the Klinge Brothers. It seemed the most genuine, though I winced at much of the editing.

When I met them — and got past my starry-eyed fangirl moment — they seemed genuine and had some great ghost insights. (They’re the only ghost hunters I’ve gone fangirl over. So, that says a lot.)

Here are a couple of their investigations, from a YouTube video:

I’ve liked some episodes of Ghost Hunters, mostly because I’m dazzled by the locations they visit.

(Well, to be honest, I’m actually envious of the access they have to great, haunted sites. I just wouldn’t trade my privacy for that.)

In terms of the show itself, I know (and like) many of the cast members, so I am biased… and I’ve seen fewer than a dozen Ghost Hunters episodes.

I just can’t watch friends on TV shows, when they’re edited to look gullible, ignorant, belligerent, or… well, very different than they are in real life.

So, I’ve avoided watching Ghost Hunters.

Ghost hunting on YouTube

I like about 3% of ghost-related videos on YouTube. Maybe less.

The other 97% are so silly, hyped, or badly filmed, I can’t watch. Still, when a YouTube video is good, it can be great.

Entertainment v. reality

In general, most ghost-related movies don’t accurately represent hauntings.

Likewise, ghost-related TV shows are edited as entertainment. They don’t show everything that goes on at haunted places. They don’t realistically portray ghost hunting.

Often, the team’s research was genuine. Then, the footage was edited to amuse or entertain the viewing audience.

Remember: these shows aren’t documentaries. In recent years, instead of pretending they’re “reality” shows, producers call them “unscripted” shows.

If you want to know the truth about ghost-related TV series, look for interviews with former stars of Extreme Paranormal.

They’re no longer bound by the terms of their TV contracts, and they’re talking about what really goes on, behind the scenes. It’s more chilling than the ghosts they’ve encountered.

My answer to this question: The best way to identify good, ghost-related movies and TV shows, is to become a ghost hunter yourself. Soon, you’ll be able to spot what’s real and what’s fake.

What are good books about ghost hunting?

Any ghost-related books that resonates with you can be good ghost hunting books. My judgments are very subjective, based on my experiences in this field.

If you’re looking for ghost stories — fictional or true — that can be a matter of taste.


– For years, I’ve been an almost rabid fan of Colin Wilson’s books. Though I don’t always agree with him, I’m dazzled by his innovative ideas and research.

attic windowI like the ghost hunting books by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, because I know them.

So, I understand the context of what they’re describing with each story and case.

– Troy Taylor’s book, The Ghost Hunters Guidebook, is superb for beginners.

– I like the speculation in Marie Jones’ book, PSIence.

– Michelle Belanger may be my favorite authority on paranormal topics, but I’m biased. Michelle is a friend, and I’m always impressed when someone has read more books than I have. (I’m pretty sure she has.)

– I love the insights and humor provided by Lesley Marden’s book, Medium, Rare. And, I’m proud of my own books, including Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries: A How-To Guide.

Folklore and Fiction

– Since childhood, my favorite ghost stories have been those by Edward Rowe Snow. He specialized in eerie folklore of New England. Many of those tales are being updated by Jeremy D’Entremont, who has a commitment to authentic stories.

– Nick Redfern isn’t a ghost researcher, per se, but many of his books touch on related topics.

I believe we need to look outside the ghost hunting field to maintain a healthy perspective on some of the truly weird things we encounter.

Nick Redfern talks about very strange topics. When he publishes a new book, my work is put “on hold.” My husband can count on take-away dinners and store-bought pizzas until I’ve finished reading. I’m that enthusiastic about Redfern’s work.

– In fiction, I still like The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson.

Do ghost hunters ever become ghosts?

I’ve never heard of a ghost who — during his or her lifetime — was a ghost hunter or paranormal investigator.

In fact, those who’ve left this world intending to convey a message from the other side – such as Harry Houdini – have yet to make a credible connection.

If you’re asking if any famous ghost hunters returned as ghosts… I have no idea.

Famous ghost hunters… are any of them ghosts?

If any readers have heard about ghosts of the following famous ghost hunters — or people like them — let me know. (I’m not asking if anyone has contacted them via psychics or divination. I mean an actual ghostly appearance — something that’s happened in front of enough witnesses to be credible.)

Can ghost hunters become spirits who visit this world? Maybe. That answer depends on your theology.

My spirituality is somewhat eclectic. I can’t imagine any benevolent Deity who’d refuse to let people return here to check on the well-being of friends and family.

So, whether you call the entity a “ghost” or a “spirit,” I think it’s normal for people to visit us after they’ve crossed over. That includes ghost hunters, your great-grandmother, and maybe your favorite teacher from “way back when.”

Can a ghost hunter choose to “test drive” the experience from the other side?

Maybe you’re asking: Is a ghost hunter likely to remain in this world, not cross over, and stay here to haunt a location?

I suppose that’s possible. It seems unlikely. Most of us have cajoled and argued with dozens (even hundreds) of spirits stuck here. Repeatedly, we’ve told them to go to the light or find Grandma.

So, I think we’d know what to do if we felt constrained here.

It’s possible that a ghost hunter – like any other spirit — might choose to be a ghost and haunt some location in spectacular fashion, just for fun.

It sounds pretty silly to me, but I think we all have free will. I believe anyone could choose to stay here.

Has a ghost ever been reincarnated?

This is one of the stranger questions I’ve been asked. It seems odd to me, but several people have asked about it. Maybe I don’t understand, because I’m not sure how anyone would know if a ghost reincarnated, in the first place.

If you believe in reincarnation or past lives, how might that look? Here’s one way to think about it:

First, perhaps someone lived on earth, and at the end of a normal (or even unusual) life, he died.

Next, he became a ghost for awhile, by choice or by default. Maybe he was waiting for something specific to happen. Or, maybe he had unfinished business on the earthly plane.

Then, after some time, the ghost decided to re-enter this plane for another life experience.  (That’s a plot device in some paranormal romance novels and movies.)

He’d be a ghost, reincarnated.

Possible…? Maybe. I can’t rule it out.

So, that raises several questions.

Taking this question to an extreme

  • person alone in a crowd If people reincarnate — or have multiple past lives — can the ghost reincarnate as the ghost of any of those past identities? (That is, can the deceased choose which past life to represent, as a ghost?)
  • If a person can choose between reincarnation and becoming a ghost, why become a ghost? (That may be a rhetorical question. If there’s unfinished business, the new incarnation might take 18 or more years to be able to finish whatever-it-is. Maybe the person thinks he or she can accomplish more, sooner, in spirit form.)
  • If doppelgangers exist, could a person encounter himself (or herself) as a ghost?

To me, it seems like those concepts wander far out on a limb. I’m not sure any of them are worth serious consideration.

Can a ghost reincarnate? If you believe in reincarnation, it’s possible that anyone deceased — even if they’re having a short-term adventure as a ghost — could be born into this reality again, in a new identity.

But, if it happened often, I think more people would remember past experiences as a ghost.

To date, no one has shared that kind of memory with me. If you have, let me know.