It happens far too often: Someone suffers a tragic loss. Someone they cared deeply about is gone.
The person decides that, through ghost hunting, he (or she) might reconnect with the deceased.
I have never seen a positive outcome to that… not the kind that involves certain contact with the other (deceased) person, or full closure to their grief.
Worse, it puts the grieving person at risk. He (or she) may be so eager to communicate with the lost loved one, he becomes vulnerable to dark or malicious entities.
(Yes, some seem to masquerade as lost friends and benign entities.)
Or, she (or he) may be victimized by charlatans masquerading as ghost hunting professionals.
Online or in person, those sleazy people can steal the grieving person’s money, or even their identity.
In real life, they use the cover of darkness for unprofessional and criminal actions. (That’s especially true when the grieving person is female, and either a minor or in an unhappy marriage. Since about 2008, that problem has been rampant in ghost hunting.)
At the other extreme, when someone is involved in paranormal research with a single, self-serving goal, it’s easy for them to let down their team members.
For example, the person may wander off by his- or herself, thinking he saw something that reminded him of the person who died.
Then, the investigation has to be halted while everyone searches for the missing team member. In many cases, that adds up to a frustrating, wasted research session.
(This is why I recommend a careful interview before accepting anyone new on a critical investigation. Be sure you know the person’s motivation for ghost research.)
Finally, ghost hunting may prevent the person from completing the grieving process. They won’t let go of the past. They’re still trying to hold onto the person who’s gone.
At almost every ghost hunting event I’ve attended, by late in the evening, I’ve found someone sobbing in a corner, absolutely distraught.
In every case, the person was still mourning for a lost loved one. And, during that event, she (or he) has realized that ghost hunting wasn’t going to bring that person back.
Grief and ghost hunting don’t mix.
My advice is: Cherish the memories. Allow yourself to grieve. Give yourself as much time as you need. (I’ve always admired the Jewish tradition of “sitting shiva.” I think many of those traditions could help people of other faiths – including Atheists – as well.)
Seek professional counseling if you need it; don’t feel embarrassed to reach out to those who can help.
After that, if you’re still interested in ghost hunting – out of curiosity, or a spiritual or scientific interest – get involved.
Meanwhile, you put yourself at risk if you leap into ghost hunting with the goal of reconnecting with a lost loved one.
There are many great reasons to become a paranormal investigator and go on ghost hunts. Be honest with yourself – and your team mates – about why you’re there.
We need more bright, interested ghost researchers. I hope you are (or will be) one of them… but only when the time is right for you.
Your first ghost hunt should be fun. It should be exciting. And, it should be something memorable (in a good way) so you’ll participate in future ghost hunts.
But, some mistakes are easy to make, and they can spoil your experience. Here are a few you can avoid.
1) Expecting it to be as exciting as what you see on TV
On TV, it can look like something weird happens every 15 minutes or so. In real life, I consider an investigation successful if we encounter one really interesting anomaly during any two- or three-hour visit.
2) Expecting drama, just like on TV
Sometimes, dramatic things do happen during a ghost investigation.
Someone sees an apparition, or captures a shadow person in a photo.
Or, you record some astonishing, clear EVP, even if it’s just one word.
Or, someone is touched by invisible hands or (rarely) hit, slapped, or scratched. (Note: It’s important to be sure that’s real, and not some joker in your group, taking advantage of the dark setting.)
Or… a door slams while you’re watching it, and no one is nearby, or an object flies across the room with no human contact, and so on.
During most paranormal investigations, the subtle things are the ones that seem the most disturbing… and sometimes very personal.
For me, the eeriest was hearing my mother’s voice – her distinct tone, accent, and phrasing – say a single line through a “Frank’s Box.” Just that once. And, the person with the box was on a balcony about 20 feet away from me, and had no way of knowing that my mother had died about three weeks before that.
If I hadn’t been listening closely, I would have missed what she said, which was directed at me, personally.
The rest of the investigation was merely average. A few odd noises. A few orb photos. Something that might have been EVP, or it might not.
But for me, that one, strange moment made it a successful investigation.
I’m glad someone else was using a Frank’s Box. I’m also glad I wasn’t focused on any ghost hunting tools. All I was doing was listening and observing, and that’s why I heard that faint, distant message.
Since Mum didn’t use my name, the researcher wouldn’t have known the voice was speaking to me.
It’s why I so often insist that people use their five (or six) senses, primarily, and rely less on ghost hunting equipment. (Yes, it could be argued that the voice came through a Frank’s Box. But without that device, in that quiet setting, I think my mother would have found some other way to communicate with me, if she needed to. For me, the key element was: I was listening to every sound.)
3) Investigating without a plan
I understand that some ghost researchers prefer not to know anything about the site – and its ghosts – ahead of time. They feel as if the investigation is more credible when they start with no expectations. Then, the power of suggestion cannot be a factor.
I prefer to research everything about the site, its ghosts, and their history. That way, I know exactly where I’ll get the best results, and I’ll have a list of possible triggers to use, to prompt paranormal activity.
No matter which approach you choose, it’s always good to have some kind of plan. Here are some suggestions.
Who will be with you, and transportation arrangements. (Also know the best route to the site, where to park, when the site is open/closed, any fees, etc.)
Who’s bringing what kind of skills and ghost hunting equipment. You can specialize in one area (ghost photos, EVP, temperature anomalies, and so on), so you have multiple confirmations of anomalies. Or, you can be sure to cover every possible kind of phenomena, and see if there’s a correlation between, say, EVP and EMF surges.
A Plan B, similar to what I suggest when you’re planning your Halloween investigations.
And… One mistake beginners make after their first ghost hunt
Whether it was a good experience or a bad one, too many beginners decide that their one ghost hunt was “all it is.”
I strongly recommend either going on a second (and third) ghost hunt, or revisiting the first site to debunk what you encounter (or confirming that the place really is haunted).
If your only previous experiences have been watching ghost hunting on TV, and hearing others talk about their investigations, you may be ill-prepared for what really happens at haunted sites.
From my experience at ghost hunting events, here’s what I see among many first-time ghost hunters:
80% of first-time ghost hunters are looking for a “good scare.” (See my article about why a good scare is a bad idea.) If that’s their only interest, and they’re at actively haunted sites (or have vivid imaginations), there’s a good chance they’ll find the good scare they’re looking for.
20% of first-time ghost hunters are looking for something specific. The majority are sincerely interested in this kind of research. They want to know if ghosts are real, and if some sites really are haunted. Or, they’ve encountered something odd in the past, and they think it was a ghost. So, they want to compare that with other known, “real” hauntings, and see if whatever-it-was really was a ghost.
Within that 20%, a small percent of first-time ghost hunters are driven by the need to confirm something about a loved one who’s passed. That’s a topic for another article, but – for now – I can say that most don’t find the answers they’re looking for. The best, usual outcome is the realization that something continues after death. And, for a one-time experience on a single ghost investigation… maybe that’s all they needed.
Whatever your reason for giving ghost hunting a test-drive, I hope you’ll have an interesting time (if not a fun one), and become a serious researcher. We need more serious researchers, and more consistent results, to gain a better understanding of this strange – and sometimes baffling – field.
But, the idea of making paranormal research into a sort of game show – makes me uneasy.
On one hand, I’m thrilled to see another great, haunted location receive attention. This is the kind of site that should be investigated.
Here’s an short (5 minutes) video about Woodchester Mansion and its ghosts. It covers a lot of history.
And as usual, I’m hopeful that new media coverage will attract fresh researchers to this field. Of course, I’m glad to see Jason Hawes get another gig, as well.
But… (You knew that was coming, right?)
The first two-hour episode of Celebrity Haunted Mansion didn’t show enough of what I’m looking for. It wasn’t an actual investigation.
Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be. I’m trying to keep an open mind and be okay with Celebrity Haunted Mansion as entertainment (as opposed to real life).
I’ll admit it: Like many researchers in this field, it’s far too easy for me to take myself – and ghost hunting – too seriously. (That goes double when I’m putting in long hours, as I am now, working behind-the-scenes on the free ghost hunting course.)
Paranormal Prep School
Apparently, the cast learned about ghost hunting in a “paranormal prep school.” I ranted at the TV screen when they showed clips from that training. The staging seemed to mimic (parody?) Hogwarts, and the lessons made me even more uncomfortable.
Generally, ghosts do not follow anyone home. I felt that the instructors unnecessarily frightened the cast members, especially the two who’d already expressed concerns about that exact issue.
That’s when I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that it’s not a documentary. It’s a TV series. It’s entertainment.
Among the celebrity guests, I especially liked Simon Gregson(Coronation Street). He spoke honestly about seeing a ghost (in the past), while remaining rather skeptical about it. That’s a balance I like to see among team members. I hope he’ll be involved in other ghost-related TV shows. He seems like a level-headed, intelligent man. We need more researchers like him.
I was not expecting Katie Price (“Jordan”) to be an experienced ghost hunter. That impressed me. I liked how she described “the cobwebby feeling” at actively haunted locations. I hope she continues similar, serious research on the show. But, realistically, I’m expecting her to focus more on getting audience votes so she can stay on the show.
In general, I felt that the celebrity guests were a good balance of curious, skeptical, serious and humorous.
Mostly, today’s episode of Celebrity Haunted Mansion focused on introducing the cast and the location. Since this was a live broadcast, it was alternately amusing, interesting, and embarrassing to watch.
It’s difficult to broadcast a show like that. Ghosts don’t perform on cue. Filling the show with interesting content can be a challenge. I think the cast did a good job with the sparse material they had on hand.
Hosts Christine Lampard and Matt Richardson did a very good job of filling the time. I liked both of them.
Also during the show, Jack Osborne and Jason Hawes each made some good points about real paranormal research. I wanted to hear more from them, and see them working directly with their teams.
But, I felt as if they took a back seat to the celebrities, and that may be be planned. As I said, I’m not sure I get what this show is supposed to be, and perhaps it’s finding its own path, spontaneously. (Sometimes, the most interesting things are unplanned and unscripted.)
The Ghost Hunting Equipment
The cast seem to have some good, basic ghost hunting tools. I saw a K-II, an Ovilus, a Paranormal Puck 2, and a REM Pod.
I also heard reference to a Mel meter, and – in the “paranormal prep school” – the cast were shown a pendulum, with confirmation that it’s okay to use it in a stand. (Pendulums aren’t 100% risk-free, but they don’t present anything close to the dangers of Ouija boards.)
Most ghost hunters can afford some of those tools, especially if you find used ones at eBay, etc. And, from my experience, they’re all good tools. (I still prefer my Ghost Meter Pro to my Ovilus III, but that may be a personal quirk.)
Not Available in the US
The rest of the episodes will air on W, a UK network that isn’t available on the American UKTV app. So, I’m unlikely to see the rest of Celebrity Haunted Mansion. Not unless it appears on Hulu or Netflix or something, later.
Meanwhile, the location intrigues me enough to continue researching its past.
As time permits, I may continue researching Woodchester’s history and ghosts.
Here’s what I’d look for:
Contemporary reports from when the workmen “vanished” from the mansion. For that, I’d search old newspapers.
Anything odd about Spring Park. (There’s already a gruesome legend about the Wildcat of Woodchester and animal mutilations. So far, it looks like a wild panther more than, say, a Black Shuck. This link has the kinds of photos that I’d rather not see, and do not recommend.)
Whether there’s anything strange about the repeated building-demolition pattern at the site. For that, I’d dig deeper into the Historic England summary of Woodchester Mansion. Everything I’ve skimmed so far – including that history – seems to be studiously avoiding something. (Or maybe I’m reading too much between-the-lines.)
At that link, I read this:
“A park noted at Woodchester from 1311 which lay near the church and manor was abandoned soon after 1600 when George Huntley began to create a demesne, including a new deer park and warren, in the Inchbrook valley. This park, which was walled, included much of registered area, and was composed of what had previously been common and open-field land.” (Emphasis added.)
I’m wondering how much local residents protested the enclosure of commons that had been theirs to use for nearly 300 years. That’s the kind of history that can lead to residual energy, if not outright hauntings.
That’s as much as I have for you, today. If you pull any of these threads and find something interesting, I hope you’ll leave a comment.
Whether or not the Celebrity Haunted Mansion TV show is compelling (or at least fun), I think Woodchester sounds like an excellent site to investigate.
If you want to see what people are saying about the show, you can follow related Tweets at #CelebHaunted.
However, much of the Winchester house’s most compelling paranormal evidence isn’t obvious. It’s layered in history, mystical beliefs, and secrets.
They’re why I believe the Winchester Mystery House is haunted.
Here are a few videos to introduce you to the strange (and sometimes chilling) Winchester story.
The next video is a 7 1/2 minute visual tour of the Winchester Mystery House. The soundtrack is entirely music, no verbal descriptions.
If you’re looking for ghost stories or history, you may want to skip ahead to the “Winchester Mystery House – Secrets of the Mansion” series, further down this page. That series delivers a tour of the house plus details of Sarah Winchester’s life, and how the house was built.
I recommend the following four short (4-5 minutes, each) videos in a series, “Winchester Mystery House – Secrets of the Mansion.”
The sound quality is okay, but not great. Despite that, if you want a good overview of the history – including some ghostly legends – this series is worth your time. You’ll gain a far better understanding of why the Winchester story is so compelling.
My next link to a Winchester Mystery House video starts around the 3:20 mark, and includes an interesting paranormal story. It resonates with similar stories I’ve heard in other haunted locations. To me, it seems credible.
(After she finishes telling her story, fast-forward to the 7:46 point. There, another tour guide describes her own eerie experience. After the 8:19 mark, the video shows a little more of the house, but no additional stories.)
YouTube videos I did not include:
Ghost Adventures S05E04 Winchester Mystery House – a YouTube video posted by Perdue Adrian. It’s probably the full episode (or more), but it’s in a skewed screen-in-screen image. If you want to see that episode, as of January 2018 it’s at Daily Motion.com.
Ghost Adventures S12E11 Return to Winchester Mystery House 1080p HDTV x264 tNe – another skewed screen image, with a link to another website “to see in full HD.” I don’t click on links like that. Instead, I recommend watching the full episode on Hulu. (That link was current in Jan 2018.)
If you’re looking for the Ghost Hunters episode (Season 2, Ep. 11) that includes the Winchester Mansion, it’s at Daily Motion, too.
Winchester Mansion: The House That Spirits Built – It Is Written. It explains why God warns us about seances and believing in ghosts, and uses the Winchester Mystery House as an example. (If you don’t believe in ghosts and you’re looking for a fairly high-quality Christian video, that’s probably the best relevant YouTube option. The video references: Job 7:9-10, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Leviticus 19:31, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, and so on.)
But, if you’re a fan of the Winchester story, be sure to see the stylish, old-school (1963) video about the mansion, narrated by Lillian Gish,Mrs. Winchester’s House. For me, it was 30 minutes well spent.
In general, I think the Winchester house is one of America’s more enigmatic haunts. Its eerie legends and quirky history raises many questions. Some may only be answered by the ghosts.
Clearly, some people feel that way. I’m not happy when long-time researchers – who take this field seriously – are upset by those who take ghost hunting lightly.
I’m also sensitive when people ridicule paranormal research, as if we’re stupid, gullible, and prone to an over-active imagination.
Unfortunately, ghost hunting lost considerable credibility over the past few years. A lot of that can be blamed on the editing of ghost hunting TV shows. They were so sensationalized and so preposterous, they started looking like self-parodies.
That was sad.
It’s also a natural decay that happens to most fads and pop trends. I try to be realistic about these things.
On the positive side, I’m seeing a new generation of ghost hunters enter this field. That’s exciting. We need their challenging questions, and their unorthodox viewpoints.
With those fresh viewpoints, I’m also seeing a kind-of-snarky, kind-of-hipster humor. It’s self-deprecating, in a way.
It’s like they’re saying, “Yes, this subject is kind of ridiculous. It interests me anyway. I want to know the truth about ghosts.”
As long as people take the research seriously, I’m okay with the humor, even when it shows up as tee-shirts. If sarcastic humor keeps new researchers from running out the door in terror… that’s fine with me.
I might buy one of these tee-shirts, myself. It could spark an interesting conversation at the grocery store.
Every story I hear and every question I’m asked can be a very good thing.
Questions are good. They keep us looking in fresh directions.
First-person stories are even better. The more data points we collect, the clearer our understanding of what’s going on at haunted places, including Gilson Road Cemetery.
So yes, my first impulse is to get one of these shirts and wear it, just to see what happens.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to offend people. I know that, at times, my humor can be a bit raw and unconventional.
I’d like to know whether this kind of tee-shirt is sad, amusing, or in really poor taste.
Update: One reader gently reminded me that the tee-shirt audience isn’t entirely that “new generation” of ghost hungers.
As she said, a certain generation created the expression, “Been there. Done that. Got the tee-shirt.” And, for her, it’s still a thrill to have a tee-shirt as a memento of an adventure, or a series of adventures.
She’s right. I should have remembered this when I wrote my original article. Also, I know that many of my friends and fans have been part of the Hollow Hill community since the 1990s. I dashed off this article too quickly. I apologize.