Welcome to Hollow Hill

Fiona Broome is rebuilding Hollow Hill, her original ghost hunting website… but with a slightly different emphasis. Mostly, she’s focusing on patterns that connect, perhaps explain, and even predict odd and paranormal activity.

Eerie beam of light at Gilson Road Cemetery, Nashua, NH
Odd photo, Gilson Road Cemetery (Nashua, NH)

This website features

  • Fiona Broome’s most popular articles from the original (1999 – 2014) HollowHill.com ghost hunting website. (They’re in the Ghost Hunting category.)
  • Fiona’s best 2016 “Broome Theory” articles explaining some of her quirky, not-quite sci-fi theories. (They’re speculation. Even Fiona isn’t convinced this is real.)
  • New articles about paranormal research and cross-discipline theories.

What’s here, so far

  • Fiona’s most important Broome Theory posts.
  • A few classic HollowHill.com ghost hunting articles, lightly updated. (More arriving, regularly.)



Las Vegas Anomalies – Dec 2015

Las VegasSeveral odd things happened in Las Vegas in late December 2015. In a city where “odd” is a way of life, anything beyond their “normal” is especially interesting.

This is a good example of data points — a specific location, and closely connected events (times) — that may relate to my theory about alternate realities. At the moment, I’m speculating that something happened around that location… something we don’t understand, yet. And, whatever that was — a temporal distortion, perhaps — caused people to do things they’d never do in a normal setting.

Here’s what happened:

First Las Vegas Anomaly

First, a woman drove her car onto a crowded sidewalk, just outside the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Descriptions of the event varied, but many suggested that the driver slowed the car and then hit the accelerator a second time, mowing down nearly 40 people.

At the time, the woman said that she couldn’t explain what happened, and she’d lost control of the car.

  • Per ABC News: “KSNV-TV says the crash occurred in front of the Paris Hotel & Casino and Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino on South Las Vegas Boulevard, north of Harmon Avenue. The crash took place about 6 p.m. The Miss Universe pageant was being held at the Planet Hollywood at the time of the crash.”

Later, news reports said she’d tested positive for marijuana, but that’s odd, as well. Per the University of Washington, “Marijuana usually has a sedating effect on most users, making it much less likely to cause violence…” Nevertheless, she described being under stress, and that can be a factor in violent behavior.

Second Las Vegas Anomaly

Meanwhile, a few hundred yards away, the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino was hosting the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

In a baffling blunder, Steve Harvey, an experienced entertainer, crowned the wrong contestant. It’s still unclear whether he misread the card — truly odd for someone accustomed to reading from cards — or if the teleprompter script was wrong.

No matter what the explanation, Harvey crowned Miss Colombia… and then had to remove the crown and announce that Miss Philippines was the real winner.

Third Anomaly

Two nights later, Las Vegas was one of the most-reported viewing points for a bright light soaring through the night sky. Officials explained it as space debris from a Russian rocket.

That’s nothing baffling, but it is odd, since the Las Vegas sky is so well-lit by traffic and commercial signs, anything in the sky must be extraordinarily bright.

Mandela Effect Reports

Initially, readers alerted me to these “coincidences” at my Mandela Effect website. (Read the comments there; that site’s article is almost identical to this one.)

However, as the stories unfolded, I couldn’t see a clear connection to an alternate reality.

On the other hand, when I see an odd series of events like this — close in time and location — I note it as a data point to add to my Broome Theory research. I describe these as “blips” and I look for related, consistent paranormal reports that follow the same patterns.

Ghost Hunting Sites – Legal and Illegal

video camera warning to ghost hunters
photo courtesy of Jason Antony and FreeImages.com

When selecting ghost hunting sites, know the laws in your area, and how ferociously they’re enforced.

In the past, ghost hunters could discreetly slip into haunted sites that weren’t clearly open to the public. If it was public property — or abandoned — and it wasn’t posted, some investigators thought, “Why not?”

I’ve always advised against investigating sites that aren’t clearly open to the public for ghost research.

For example, in New England, Danvers (MA) State Hospital site has been notorious for trespassing, vandalism, and arrests of well-meaning ghost enthusiasts.

It’s one of many locations with eerie reputations, and vigilant security or police patrols.

Like many other locations in isolated spots, it’s easy for police to observe trespassers from a distance.

Ghost hunters are at risk as soon as they drive up the road or driveway, or turn on their flashlights. Quite literally, they shed light on their own crimes.

Today, surveillance cameras and other devices — similar to the tools we use in our research — make trespassing even more risky.

A Cautionary Tale

The following December 2015 story — from KUTV (Utah, USA) — is a good example of what can happen if you break the law.

‘Haunted’ Property Owner Asks Trespassers to Keep Out

(KUTV)In Northern Utah, authorities are looking to the public in help finding a few people they want to talk to after vandalism was discovered at a former Catholic retreat believed to be haunted. The pictures are clear, taken from surveillance video a new property owner installed in recent weeks… Despite multiple signs posted on the property – “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out”, threatening fines and jail time for violators, individuals are still coming through the area… In some publications and online sites, the area has been described as a good ghost hunting location, a fun place to take a date and get a thrill, but authorities say this is no laughing matter. (Emphasis added.)

[Click here to read the rest of the article at KUTV’s website.]

That particular location — St. Anne’s, in Logan Canyon — is mentioned at many websites, including credible YouTube videos, as a reliable place to find ghosts. You can even find St. Anne’s ghost story at otherwise-trustworthy websites like the Weird US site.

This is why you must investigate site accessibility, even before you decide if a location might be haunted enough to explore.

If you don’t, or if you choose to risk getting caught, the quality of surveillance footage — day or night — can be good enough to convict you.

Don’t expect to see warning signs.

Don’t waste your time looking for the cameras, either. They can be tiny or well-concealed in hollowed-out tree branches or fence posts.

Ghost hunting might not be as popular as it once was, but modern surveillance equipment has become inexpensive and easy to use. Many locations are using it to detect trespassers, and fine them for vandalism they might be responsible for.

In the case of the Utah ghost hunters, that’s a $10,000 door that someone had kicked in.

(Really, if you’re facing a jury and trying to explain that, yes, you did trespass, but no, you didn’t damage anything, do you expect them to believe you? Is ghost hunting worth that risk?)

Know Local Laws

Trespassing can be a felony in some American communities. Jail time can be as much as a year, and fines can be as high as $4,000 per person, at the discretion of the judge.

If you’re an American convicted of a felony, you can be denied your right to vote in the U.S. You can also be denied travel to some other countries, including Canada and parts of Europe. If an employer or landlord runs a background check on you, a felony conviction looks very bad.

Since my earliest articles at Yankee Haunts (mid-1990s) and HollowHill.com, I’ve always focused on haunted locations people can investigate, with permission. Nearly all sites I talk about — at websites, on TV and radio, and in books — are open to the public.

What happened to the kids who were caught in Utah could happen to anyone. Don’t take that chance.

What to Do

If you’re not sure whether a location is open to the public for ghost investigations:

  • Visit the location and look for signs, or ask the staff (if any) about restrictions.
  • Ask the reference librarian at the local public library, or check with the regional historical society.
  • Stop at the local visitors’ center or chamber of commerce, and verify the location and the hours it’s open to the public.

Of course, I always recommend visiting each haunted site during the daytime, to evaluate it for research and plan your investigation.

But, if that’s not possible, be sure to confirm when the location is open to the public for ghost hunting, and if any fees, rules, or limits apply.

Or, limit your ghost hunting to daytime hours, as well as ghost tours, public ghost hunting events, and ghost vigils.

[For more articles about ghost hunting, visit Fiona’s EncounterGhosts.com website.]

Tinnitus as a Marker – EMF or Alt Realities

photo courtesy of fabricio scaff and freeimages.com

Tinnitus could be another marker, signaling a time or location (or both) where the “veil between the worlds” is thinner,  or access points between realities are available. This could be a temporary opening or something more permanent.

I’m especially interested in whether changes in tinnitus — a persistent or irregular ringing in the ears, commonly affecting about 10% of the population — are just more indication of increase EMF, or distinct markers in themselves. We’ve discussed related topics in several Mandela Effect conversations.

However, I’m not the only person to question whether tinnitus and EMF might be related. For example, people have been discussing the connection at sites such as Tinnitus Talk.

In fact, I may be fairly late to this party, as I’ve found a study that concludes, “Our data indicate that tinnitus is associated with subjective electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”

Also, this very loosely connects with Mr. Stain’s cryptic warnings that included cell phone use. However, I can see another side to the cell phone warning: not that cell phones are causing society’s demise, but that they can trigger normal tinnitus (or numb us to its steady ringing) so we aren’t as aware of the times and places where between-worlds divisions are thinner.

Either way, I’m very interested in what people notice about tinnitus in relation to all kinds of EMF variations, and all kinds of paranormal activity.

This includes perceived volume, pitch, duration, whether it’s predominantly in one ear or the other, and if a compass direction is involved. I’m also looking for patterns in tinnitus changes, related to local time and sidereal time.

This isn’t about tinnitus cures, related medical symptoms, and so on. My interest is fairly narrow, and focusing on any patterns related to paranormal activity (including the Mandela Effect) and perceived tinnitus changes — before, during, or immediately after the event — or in relation to locations associated with sacred sites, ghosts, regular UFO sightings (I’m thinking of the Marfa Lights, etc.), and so on.

Alternate Realities, Portals, and EMF Surges

door opening - sinister or letting light in?EMF (or electromagnetic field/s) may be a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. That’s what Wikipedia says. That site also says “The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are gravitation, weak interaction and strong interaction).”

Note: The relationship between EMF and gravitation could be important, since physics studies have raised many questions about gravity, such as whether it’s leaking into our world or out of it.

If gravity can leak across supposed brane barriers, why not EMF, as well?

Until recently, I’d been focusing on anomalous (unexplained) EMF surges at apparently haunted locations. Specifically, I’ve been studying EMF spikes noted on sensitive detection devices, where the EMF may be fleeting, not repeated (at that precise location, for some time), and without apparent origin.

Many ghost hunters enthusiastically claim that the EMF represents spiritual energy, or a “ghost.” (Likewise, they point to photographic anomalies and happily believe they’re pictures of actual ghosts. If that makes sense to them, I’m happy to agree.)

For years, I’ve been a contrarian. I’m not convinced that all EMF anomalies at haunted settings are actually spirits. (I maintain that attitude about all anomalies — including “ghost photos” — recorded at sites that might be haunted. I believe in ghosts. I believe that consistent anomalies occur at sites with a history of ghostly phenomena. I’m simply not sure that all anomalies (even at profoundly haunted sites) are caused by actual ghosts.

Here’s how I look at anomalies at haunted places:

ghosts and anomalies with overlap


I believe some EMF spikes occur when a door between realities opens, and — like gravity — electromagnetic energy leaks into our world. (One of my 2008 articles on this topic: EMF Reality Check – Are EMF Really Ghosts?)

I don’t want to spoil anyone’s happy investigations, if he or she is content to believe that the EMF spike on a K-II meter, Ovilus, or Ghost Meter Pro is actually Great-Aunt Harriet. For all I know, that particular encounter might represent spiritual energy from the beloved aunt.

However, I think that some EMF is leaking through portals (or access points between realities), and that these same points are where ghosts, faeries, and possibly Bigfoot or even UFOs are entering and exiting our world.

I’m not an expert in the latter two fields, and haven’t made up my mind about them, but I don’t want to leave out anything that might fit this theory. From a somewhat sci-fi perspective, it’s possible other civilizations have mastered use of these portals, and use them to visit other worlds. For all I know, it might save fuel or time, or both.

The Hum, mysterious booming sounds, and even EVP (electronic voice phenomena, sometimes believed to be voices “from the other side”) might come through.

Here’s what that Venn diagram looks like, as I imagine it:

anomalies of all kinds, in a combination of realities


And, those same points might be available for human transference, resulting in what I’ve described as the Mandela Effect, or cross-reality travel that results in alternate memories (history that doesn’t match this reality).

It’s a highly speculative theory. I’m not sure how likely any of this is.

However, I think it’s as good an explanation as any, related to EMF at paranormal locations, and I think it opens many avenues (no pun intended) for research into a variety of odd and paranormal phenomena.

Salem’s Haunted Judges Line – Map

The Salem Judges Line shows that patterns can predict paranormal activity.

In general, patterns emerge when I study profoundly haunted areas. I believe those patterns identify good locations for paranormal research.

In my 2007 book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, I talked about two major patterns connecting almost all hauntings in downtown Austin. (One of them relates to Shoal Creek. The other is connected to the Austin Ripper, America’s first serial killer.)

In Salem, Massachusetts, I’ve found different kinds of patterns.

Ley Lines in Salem

One pattern follows intriguing lines. I was the first to discover these ghostly tracks across Salem and Boston’s North Shore. There are several.

In Salem, each line suggests connections between scenes of violence… and possibly ghostly energy.

I’ve called one of these lines “The Judges’ Line.” It seems to be a ley line.

Ghost bat Ley lines are lines or paths that connect sites with unusual energy. They could be major churches or temples, sites of violence and tragedy, or another anomalous connection.

Some speculate that energy flows along those paths. In other words, the energy was there before the church was built or the violence occurred.

That energy may magnify the emotions — or affect the thinking  — of people when they are on or near a ley line.

The Judge Connection

Oddly, when I map the significant homes and businesses related to the judicial side of the Salem Witch Trials, they follow a line.

Even stranger, that line also indicates where modern-day Salem judges have purchased homes.

The line extends directly to Gallows Hill Park, one of the most likely sites of the 1692 hangings during the Salem Witch Trials.

Here’s what this line looks like, related to the entire Salem, Massachusetts area:

Salem Judges Line - area map

In many cases, this line is ruler-straight, and it’s feet wide, not miles.

Here’s my preliminary, hand drawn map of the main locations on the Salem Judges Line:

Salem Judges Line map

The Salem Judges Line

All of the following points are related to the Salem Witch Trials.

  • Numbers represent sites related to accusers or the judicial system.
  • Letters are related to victims of the trials.

1. Chestnut Street (represented by a heavy black line) – Many judges and elected officials chose this street for their homes. Through the 21st century, they still do.

2. Judge Corwin’s home, also known as “Witch House” since he condemned so many witches during the Salem Witch Trials. The house’s original location was closer to the line. Later residents moved it.

3. Judge Hathorne’s home, also associated with the Salem Witch Trials. (Nathaniel Hawthorne changed the spelling of his name to avoid any association with this ancestor.)

4. Sheriff George Corwin’s home – George Corwin was the son of the judge (#2) and benefited by seizing the property of convicted and admitted witches.

5. The home of Samuel Shattuck, whose testimony helped convict Bridget Bishop, one of the first Witch Trial victims.

6. The home of Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Governor Simon Bradstreet (1603 – 1697).

7. John Higginson Jr. lived here. He was the local magistrate. The Hawthorne Hotel was later built on this property.

8. Jacob Manning, a blacksmith, forged the shackles worn by many Witch Trial victims.

9. Thomas Beadle’s tavern, where Witch Trial inquests were held.

A. The home of Bridget Bishop, a Witch Trial victim who may be among the ghosts at the Lyceum Restaurant, now on that site.

B. Ann Pudeator, a Witch Trial victim whose specter was seen walking along Salem Common, even before her execution.

C. The home of John and Mary English, one of the wealthiest families in Colonial Salem. They were accused but escaped to New York.

D. Alice Parker’s home, owned by John and Mary English. Ms. Parker was accused of witchcraft and put to death.

Other Salem Sites on the Line

The slightly triangular area near 7 and B represents Salem Common.

Gallows Hill Park is indicated on the far left side of the map. The “Judges Line” — generally indicated in yellow — points directly to it.

The small green areas near points 6, 7 and 8 represent sites with paranormal activity or they are scenes of violence in the 19th and 20th century… or both.

As I continue my research, I’m finding even more sites that will be represented with red dots. Most of them are along the Salem Judges Line.

It’s a little chilling. I wonder why these people felt so drawn to this particular energy path.

More articles about haunted Salem, Massachusetts

For more articles about Salem’s haunted places, visit EncounterGhosts.com for my Ghosts of Salem, Massachusetts article

Carbon Monoxide and Unexplained Phenomena

Carbon monoxide can cause unusual indoor experiences. It’s also dangerous.

Tenants and homeowners can check for it, themselves. In some American states, carbon monoxide detectors are required in all apartments.

However, residents might not replace those detectors as often as necessary. Generally, carbon monoxide detectors last five to seven years. After that, they’re unreliable.

The following are typical complaints when people think their homes might be haunted.

  • Keep out -danger“In that part of the house, I get shaky, dizzy, and I feel weak all over.”
  • “I feel a tightness in my chest, and I can’t catch my breath. Do you suppose the ghost died of a heart attack?”
  • “I’m okay during the day, but at night — especially when it’s cold out — something floats into my room through the bedroom window, and I can’t breathe.”
  • “The baby gets fussy in that room. It’s like she’s looking at something invisible. Also, the dog won’t go in there, ever.”
  • “I’m fine all day, but when I go to bed, I get headaches. Sometimes I feel kind of sick. I have to get up and open the window, just to feel the breeze. About an hour or two later, around midnight, everything’s fine again.”

Every one of those phenomena can be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

In any house or building, carbon monoxide levels are among the first things to check.

This is especially true if reports started when the house was sealed up for the winter, or — in warm climates — for the summer.

The following is an edited excerpt from the book, Is Your House Haunted?, by Fiona Broome.

Before you do anything else…

Check the carbon monoxide levels at every site that might be haunted.

Carbon monoxide is nicknamed “the silent killer.” Pets and children often the first to react. Carbon monoxide (CO), also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. In large quantities, it is toxic to humans and animals. It can kill you.

Sources include gas appliances, wood stoves, car exhaust, blocked flues, and even cigarette smoke.

Don’t expect everyone to react to carbon monoxide at the same time. Some people may show symptoms before others do.

Any of the following symptoms may indicate high levels of carbon monoxide.

  • Headaches.
  • A tight sensation in the chest.
  • Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • A feeling of weakness.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Visual disturbances.
  • Fainting and seizures.
  • Flu symptoms.
  • Infants may be irritable.
  • Pets can avoid certain areas.

Carbon monoxide can affect the heart and central nervous system. It can raise blood pressure. Carbon monoxide poisoning can damage the fetus of a pregnant woman.

In the UK, the US, and Canada laws recommend (or require) carbon monoxide detectors in homes. New and long-time homeowners may not realize that.

Even if the homeowner has no fireplace or woodstove, and no gas appliances, check the levels anyway.

A neighbor may use a wood stove or work on his car in a nearby garage. If you sleep with your window open, elevated carbon monoxide could cause your nightly problems.

If you investigate haunted sites, be sure your home has very low levels of carbon monoxide, too. Once you’ve been sensitized to carbon monoxide, even low levels might trigger your symptoms. Rule this out, immediately.

In every potentially haunted house, if any symptoms match the warning list, check carbon monoxide levels.

Monitors are important

Be sure the house has working carbon monoxide detectors installed. They should be in use for at least a week, before an investigation.

Also, many paranormal investigators carry a handheld monitor.

Note: Before buying a handheld carbon monoxide meter, be sure to read the reviews. If you’re investigating haunted homes and you can’t afford a good carbon monoxide detector, don’t bother with a cheap one.

At the very least, ask the local fire department to test the air for the homeowner. (They may refer you to a community office that does this, free of charge.)

A working carbon monoxide detector is important. An old one isn’t good enough. Worse, a cheap, unreliable detector could put you and your client at risk.

In any indoor paranormal investigation, check for carbon monoxide. Use a good detector or have the homeowner or someone else handle that part of the investigation.

For more information about ghosts and haunted houses, visit Fiona’s ghost hunting website, EncounterGhosts.com

Pendulums – How They Work and How To Use Them

What is a pendulum?

In popular use, a pendulum refers to any weighted object that can swing back and forth.

You’ve probably seen pendulums (or pendula) on old clocks. The pendulum is the round thing below the face of the clock, and the pendulum swings back and forth, rhythmically, keeping time.

If you pause the pendulum, the clock stops working.

Lava Rock pendulum by Sean Paradis for Sleeping Meadows
Lava rock pendulum, photo courtesy of Sean Paradis

In paranormal research, a pendulum is usually a small, heavy object — like a stone, a crystal, or even a piece of metal — suspended from a cord, ribbon, or chain. A necklace can be ideal for this.

Some pendulums are highly decorative. Some of them have been blessed.

Each one is unique and will respond differently.

A person holds the cord, ribbon, or chain so the heavy object can swing freely. Then, that person asks a question. The movement of the pendulum determines the answer.

Most of my pendulums come from Sean Paradis‘ company, Sleeping Meadows. In my tests, the ones he makes have been the most responsive.

I own a variety of stones and colors, and I use each for a different purpose. My selection is based on my “gut feeling” about the best pendulum for that location.

How to use a pendulum

The end of the string (cord or chain) is held between the forefinger and thumb so that the object can swing freely. Hold the string at very top, with your hand at an angle. Your fingers should be out of the way.

Or, you can drape the cord or chain over the middle of your index finger. Then, keep it from slipping by applying gentle pressure from your thumb onto the cord or chain, against your finger.


Fiona Broome's adviceTo experiment, you can make your own pendulum by tying any heavy bead or small pendant to a string or cord. The string should be about ten inches long.

Some people are naturally gifted at pendulum use. Others aren’t. Pendulums work (or don’t) for believer and skeptics alike.


Some people can use pendulums, but they internalize the energy.

That’s not a good idea.

If you can’t remain completely separate from the pendulum you’re using, stop immediately.

Do not allow outside energy to be channeled through your body to the pendulum. (And, if you can’t tell the difference, don’t use a pendulum. The risks are too great.)


Next, try some baseline readings. It’s important to verify these every time you use the pendulum.

Baseline readings

Start with the pendulum entirely still. Ask a question with a yes or no answer that you already know.

Then note the how the pendulum swings. It may swing from side to side or from front to back. Or, it may swing in a clockwise or counter-clockwise manner.

Now, ask a question with a different yes or no answer. Compare the results.

Repeat this several times until a clear pattern is established. (If no pattern emerges, it’s okay. Pendulums don’t work for everyone. It’s no reflection of the person’s psychic abilities.)

At haunted sites, you can ask, “Is this room haunted?” According to tradition, the more active the pendulum movement, the stronger the spiritual energy.

Even in the hands of skeptics, pendulums work. I’ve seen a pendulum swing so wildly, the weight snapped off a new chain. Then, it flew across the room.

Free Pendulum Charts

I’ve created two different pendulum charts.

To use them, hold the string so that the tip of the pendulum is about two inches above the center “dot” at the bottom of the half-circle.

Then, ask your question.

One chart is designed for simple, yes/no questions. You can draw this on a sheet of paper, and use it yourself. The pendulum should favor one direction/answer more than any other. If it doesn’t rephrase your question, or take a break and return to this later. (Click on the image to download a printable JPG of this chart for your own use.)

Pendulum chart - yes or noClick image to download a printable chart to use (JPG)

The next kind of chart can be used to ask anything with numbers, such as the ghosts age when he or she left physical form. (Or, if the ghost believes that he or she is still alive, ask what year it is now.)

Pendulum Chart 2 - numbers - illustrationClick here to print the numbers chart — it’s a JPG you can print.

You can create your own charts on paper, providing many other kinds of answers, too. They could include letters of the alphabet, people’s names, places, or things specific to the life of the ghost you’re contacting.

When You Don’t Get an Answer

No matter which chart you use, if the pendulum swings towards you, off the chart, try rephrasing your question.

No results? The ghost may want you to answer the question for yourself, first, and then have spirit confirm it with a yes or a no.

If you are adept with a pendulum, I recommend professional pendulums designed for ghost hunters and psychic mediums.

Try one. See how it works for you.

But if you did just as well (or better) with your homemade pendulums, keep using your homemade tools.

Some people achieve remarkable results with pendulums. Others don’t.

It’s not a measure of your paranormal research skills.

It’s more like singing or running… different people have different talents. Someone who can play the violin may be perfectly awful at the piano.

One of the great things about pendulums, besides their simplicity, is that you can try this on your own without spending a cent.

For more information about ghost research, visit Fiona’s ghost hunting website, EncounterGhosts.com.

Scams and Con Artists – What to Look for

Scams and con artists exist in many fields.

Unfortunately, ghost hunting is especially attractive to people whose primary interests are financial gain, celebrity status, or power. (As of 2017, the same is true in all fields of paranormal research.)

I’m not talking about people who mistakenly think they’re more skilled than they really are.

I mean the people who look you straight in the eye and tell you lies for personal or professional gain. They smile and they’re charming, but they’re not really your friends.

If you join a group with a self-styled guru, or a con artist works his (or her) way into your circle of friends, here’s what to look for.

The first rule is: Never give or loan money to anyone without getting a signed, dated receipt. (It’s a good idea to have a long-time, trusted friend as a witness, as well.)

I don’t care how nice the person seems. If it’s a loan, have the terms in writing before you give the person anything.

And, never give or loan money that you can’t afford to lose.

Keep your money safe. Then, look for other signs of a scam or a con artist.

Signs of a Con Artist

  • Con artists are charming.
    They’re usually fun to be with. They tell great stories, and seem to have lived the kind of life you’d like to live. They appear to be successful or they look like rising stars. Around them, you may feel like you have a connection with greatness.
  • Con artists collect friends as quickly as possible.
    This is partly because they’ll lose so many friends, as people become suspicious. But, the larger their apparent entourage or fan club, the more you’re likely to believe their extravagant claims. You won’t know that dozens (or hundreds) of friends and fans have been deceived, too.
  • Con artists seem to have dazzling credentials.
    Their friends are famous people. Their degrees (or titles) are impressive. They talk about their past experiences and celebrity connections, pending TV shows, and events they’re planning. Their claims are so extravagant, you think, “Who’d make this up?”
  • Con artists separate people so they don’t swap notes.
    A con artist leads you to believe that you’re one of the only people he likes and trusts. He says he doesn’t trust this person and then that one. Following his advice, you’ll stay away from them, even if you used to be good friends. The con artist knows that, if you all got together and exchanged stories, his lies might be exposed.

The con artists’ larger-than-life claims lead to their downfall. They simply can’t stop lying for very long… and they’re often lying on a grand scale.

Verify Their Claims

It’s vital to check the person’s claims and credentials.

Check all of them, not just the first few that he or she mentions. (In this article, I talk about the con artist as if the person is male. However, female con artists can be just as prevalent as male con artists.)

Types of claims

Let’s say that he claims a degree or a title, such as ‘doctor’ or ‘reverend’. Ask what kind of degree (or title) it is, and where it came from. Anyone can become a legally ordained minister, for little or no expense, through the Universal Life Church and similar organizations, such as http://www.themonastery.org/?destination=ordination

Some mainstream universities give honorary doctorates, etc., as well.

I’ve been awarded a few of those, myself. It’s flattering. (I mean, really, would you turn down that kind of recognition…?)

There’s nothing wrong with having that kind of title, and some do require actual work to achieve the degree.

However, when that kind of credential is represented as a formal, years-of-study degree… that can be a problem.

If it’s a degree from a university, check the university’s alumni records office. Ask if the person is a graduate of the school, college or program. (Many schools proudly post an online list of some of their former registered students and graduates. In some cases, you can also use classmates directories, online, for more information.)

Please note that many universities offer extension school courses, online study, and other legitimate educational opportunities that can lead to a degree.

However, to receive a degree from that institution, most (not all) students must be formally accepted to a degree program. If it’s a real degree, a paper trail exists.

But, it can be more difficult to verify a student’s participation in alternate study opportunities, if a degree has not yet been awarded.

If someone claims a British (or other) hereditary title, check Wikipedia. It lists the qualified holders of hereditary titles, including their actual surnames, and when the title was created.

People in the U.S. — and other countries where formal titles aren’t awarded — can be dazzled by claims to a real title. Always check the person’s credentials, no matter what their IDs say.

Fake IDs are available everywhere, and con artists know that a convincing fake ID is a smart investment.

So, if the person claims to have a title, look it up.

For example, here’s one page at Wikipedia, listing people who hold the British title of Marquess: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_marquessates_in_the_peerages_of_the_British_Isles

If the person’s title is vague but you know their legal surname, David Beamish maintains a list of members of the United Kingdom peerage from 1801 to the present day, and he has indexed it.

It’s online at http://website.lineone.net/~david.beamish/peerages_az.htm and other pages at that website. You’ll also want to check Wikipedia’s list of the Peerage of England.

You’ll find similar lists if you search using phrases like “list of [country] nobility.” Here are a few: French nobilityLists of French noble families (in French)Lists of nobility (at Wikipedia)

Also, even on a real ID card, you may see a fake title. The person may have changed his name, legally, to “Lord ______” or “Duke ______.”

So, check public records. Real titles are recorded, not just as a name, but with the honours bestowed.

If the person claims to have worked with or for a celebrity, confirm that. Find the official website of the celebrity, and contact the person’s manager or press agent. Ask if the celebrity has worked with the person who’s making the claim.

If the person claims to have been a paranormal investigator for many years, there should be clear evidence of that, online. Even if the person didn’t have his own website, other people will have mentioned the person, at least in reference to a case, a “ghost story,” or an investigation.

You can see how long ago they registered their domain name by using a WhoIs lookup.

(I’m not being critical of people who are new to the field; many are excellent researchers. This article is about lies that reveal a con artist.)

If someone suggests that they’ve been on a TV or radio show, or appeared on stage, check that online. Go to the show’s official website and search for the person’s name.

(Remember that anyone can add a comment after an article or in a forum, making it appear that someone was in a show. You’re looking for official cast lists and official lists of guest stars.)

A claim may seem harder to verify if the show was cancelled years ago. It’s not that difficult. In most cases, show information remains online for years, even decades after the show is all but forgotten.

The following are a few older ghost-related TV shows sometimes used as references. This kind of “reality” show became so popular, a complete list would be very long.

Some con artists prefer to claim they were on shows so old, it’s difficult to find a reliable list of cast, crew, and guest stars. The following links may help, and some shows include full cast lists at IMDb.

Every major ghost-related TV show and movie is represented by at least one webpage or website. If all else fails, check IMdB and Wikipedia, or contact the original production company.

The truth will set you (and maybe a few other people) free.

These are just a few claims that people make, seeking a shortcut to fame or fortune… or plain old control over others, aka a “power trip.”

Thanks to the Internet, almost any person’s claims and credentials can be verified using independent sources.

Don’t assume that the person is “too nice” to lie to you, or their friends are too bright to be conned. The more impressive the person’s stories and claims, and the more convincingly they tell them… the more you must verify them, independently.

If the person is a con artist, it’s better to find out early. Thankfully, scams and con artists are a tiny minority. (To quote the movie, Grease, “They’re amoebas on fleas on rats.”)

Avoid them when you can.

Though it’s important to be watchful for scams and con artists, it’s also important to keep things in perspective.

The vast majority of people who work in paranormal fields are like you. They’re kind, sincere and genuine. You’ll meet many of them at events, investigations, and in the field. They deserve your friendship and admiration, and they make ghost hunting even more personally rewarding.

This article is part of my free, four-part course, Introduction to Ghost Hunting.

And yes, I was conned. I wrote the original version of this article in 2009. It was shortly after some painful truths came to light.

It was fun-fun-fun working with an apparently gifted psychic… until I started questioning some of his team’s claims.

To my absolute dismay, I learned that at least two of the guys were lying. (I’m still not sure how many people were involved.)

It was a clever ruse, and I fell for it. At the time, their claims were so extravagant — about money, celebrity connections, TV appearances, and more — I thought no one would make that up.

Then, one of them went too far.

He took one outrageous story to the next level. As soon as he made the comment, I knew it wasn’t true. I quizzed him further, expecting him to correct the obvious error.

He didn’t. In fact, he doubled-down. He dug himself in, even deeper. That’s when I began looking into his other claims… and everything unraveled.

I’m still sad about what happened. I had to speak up.

The team members’ reputations were destroyed, and those of us who’d trusted them… we looked foolish.

As time went on, I learned that a few others in their circle had shady backgrounds. (One of them was the person who delivered the most damning evidence against the guys who’d been lying… and then that guy turned out to be a con artist and cheat, as well.)

Along the way, many good people had been deceived. Some had lost thousands of dollars. Charges were filed against the con artists.

The tragedy is, the highest-profile member of the team was truly gifted. He didn’t have to fake anything, to impress me with his psychic abilities. He made poor business choices, and that brought him down.

Since then, I’ve learned about convicted sex offenders and other criminals in the ghost hunting field.

(Sex offenders can take advantage in dark locations, even if you’re part of a team or tour. If you’re touched inappropriately, or someone seems predatory, speak up immediately.)

Be cautious, even when the individual or team seem bright, fun, and on the brink of becoming celebrities.

Getting Permission to Ghost Hunt

bw-pantheon-150hAlways get permission to ghost hunt before you explore an apparently empty building.

What can you do when an empty home or building seems haunted?

Ghost hunters should never trespass. But, not everyone knows how to get permission to ghost hunt at an empty site, and what to ask for.

Here’s what to do.


If a home is empty, it may be owned by a ‘snowbird’. That’s slang for people who spend chilly winter months in their second homes, usually in warm locations.

Or, the home may be for sale.

If it’s been on the market for a long time, it may be neglected by the owner. Often, the owner lives out of state and doesn’t realize how dilapidated the house is.

It might be a repossessed home, owned by a bank that hasn’t listed the property yet.

Look for a bank’s or realtor’s sign somewhere around the property.  If you don’t see one, call any local realtor and see if the house is listed by anyone.

The house may be owned by someone elderly living in a retirement community. He may be unable to maintain the home. That’s a frequent explanation, especially if the house had been in the family for generations.

So, how you you get permission to ghost hunt in an empty house?

Where to begin – empty houses

1. Ask the neighbors. They probably know who owns the house. A neighbor may even have contact information and a key to the house, to check on it regularly.

2. Ask the homeowners’ association. If the home is in a subdivision, there is probably a homeowners’ association with a list of the houses… and their owners. Most homeowners’ associations maintain complete contact information for each owner, too.

3. Ask the police.  Many ghost hunters feel intimidated by the police. This is generally a needless worry.

In fact, many of my favorite haunted locations were recommended by police. They’d been called to those sites repeatedly… but couldn’t figure out what caused the noises, lights, or other signs of ghosts.

If a home has been empty for awhile, the police probably know about it… and its history.

They may be able to tell you who owns it, or suggest someone likely to have that info.

4. Ask the reference librarian at the nearest public library.  He or she may know all about it.  Reference librarians are wonderful resources.


If a store or commercial building looks empty, look for a realtor’s sign. Search online for the exact street address; it may reveal who was there last. Check for their current address and phone number. They may provide contact information about the landlord or the new owner of their old building.

If that doesn’t work, the research process is about the same as for an empty house.

1. Ask nearby businesses. In some cases, landlords are waiting for all of the tenants’ leases to expire, so that they can tear down the building and replace it with something better or larger.

2. Ask the Chamber of Commerce, or Convention & Visitors’ Bureau. They often know every neighborhood in commercial districts, and who owns which blocks.

3. Ask the police. Empty storefronts can be targets of vandals, and homeless people can try to use them as temporary shelters. So, the police may have information about the owners.


Sometimes, no one has a clue. I’ve never encountered that kind of problem, in over 30 years of research.

If a site is that difficult to research, find somewhere else to ghost hunt. Trespassing is never an acceptable alternative.

But, if you’re absolutely fascinated with an empty home or business, start with old, published “reverse” directories. They will probably turn up someone who was in the building in the past, and they may have information for you.

You can also go to the courthouse and research civil records, including tax histories, liens, and probate records. (In some areas, recent records are closed to the public unless you can prove a specific and compelling reason to access that information.)

Some courthouses charge a fee for this, some have indexed records, and some require you to contact them by mail (not email) and wait for a reply.  Call ahead. You’ll probably reach a recording telling you how to access their records.


In most cases, you’ll want the homeowner or landlord to let you into the building and remain there while you do your research. That prevents lawsuits, especially if the site has been vandalized while it was empty.

Never risk being blamed for damage that you didn’t do.

If the owner simply hands you the key, have them sign a brief permission form, along with the date and time.

The permission form should list the address being investigated, the names of the researchers who are allowed into the premises, and the date and exact hours that you are allowed to be there. The owner should sign and date this form, and you should carry it with you.

When you return the key to the owner, have him or her sign the permission form again, noting that the key was returned, and when. It’s just a receipt, in case questions are asked, later.

Never make a copy of the key. Never let another team member borrow it.

Use the key for your investigation, and — if possible — return it that same day, in person.  Don’t just drop it into the mailbox at the owner’s home.

(If the owner isn’t available when you want to leave the key, take the key to the nearest police station and ask if they’ll hold it for the owner.  Do not mention ghost hunting. Say you were “interested in the building.”  They’ll assume you were looking at renting or buying it.)

Is it worth it?

There are many liabilities connected with researching in empty buildings. Physical dangers may be your biggest concern.

Generally, I advise against visiting abandoned homes and buildings. There are plenty of other, more accessible sites for investigations.

But, when I’ve decided to investigate an empty home or building, I’ve never run into a stone wall . Usually, the neighbors are the best resource. If you knock on enough doors and talk to enough people, you’ll generally get the answers that you need.

Be sure you have permission to ghost hunt at any site before entering it.