Halloween ghost hunting is legendary. It’s the one night of the year when almost everyone expects ghosts.
Many of us want to prepare ahead of time, for the best ghost hunting experience, ever.
But then, between back-to-school, plus sporting events, and the change of seasons… well, it’s easy to wake up one day and realize it’s already Halloween.
Don’t panic. It’s not too late to organize your Halloween plans for ghost hunting success.
In the following video, Halloween Ghost Hunting Tips, I explain the steps my team and I follow to get the most from ghost hunting on Halloween.
Some of the most important points:
Plan ahead. Decide on at least one backup location, in case your first choice is closed or too crowded.
Verify each location ahead of time, in person.
Print maps, in case your GPS fails. (Especially during Halloween ghost investigations, never rely on anything electronic.)
Check the weather forecast, and dress accordingly… and bring any “just in case” items you might need.
Allow extra travel time for Halloween traffic and trick-or-treaters.
The night before Halloween, get a good night’s sleep. You may need it.
Expect surprises and (perhaps) more scares than usual. But, if the ghosts don’t cooperate at your Plan A location, it may be time for Plan B.
Also, you can read what happened to me in 1999, at a “not very haunted” cemetery: Ghostly Mischief on Halloween Night. I was glad I had a Plan B location in mind. And, after that, I learned to be prepared.
If you’d like to download a free Halloween ghost hunting checklist that includes all the points in the video, click here. (It’s a PDF at Google Drive.)
In yesterday’s Hollow Hill article (about haunted Haverhill), I mentioned the Westford Knight. I’m not sure that Westford (Massachusetts) site is actually paranormal, though it might be worth checking out.
In my ley lines (for ghost hunting) research, I include the Westford Knight site because it has a weird (and credible) enough context.
Of course, between age, vandalism, and decades of acid rain, the artwork on the Westford Knight grave marker is barely visible now. (30 years ago, it was still fairly impressive. Today, it’s more likely to evoke a big yawn.)
So, here are references that may explain my enthusiasm when the Westford grave shows up on a ley line.
First, here’s a link to a lengthy history supporting the Westford Knight theories. (Illustrations aren’t so great.)
Whether or not you take the Westford Knight history seriously, it stands out as an anomaly. It’s something weird and incongruous in an otherwise typical, lovely New England town.
In the future, I’ll talk more about ley lines and how useful they are to ghost hunters. But, for now, the Westford Knight is a great example of a not-necessarily-ghostly point that increases the potential of any ley line that crosses it.
In any field of interest, whether it’s a hobby or a career, you’ll find lies.
Some are “little white lies.” Some are just popular misunderstandings, or they shade the truth. Others are simply outrageous.
Here some I’ve heard as a ghost hunter.
1. You might be the one person who finally proves that ghosts are real.
Are you planning to prove to the entire world that ghosts are real? Is this your main reason for getting involved in ghost hunting?
If so, think twice.
Sure, if you’re looking for evidence to convince yourself, one way or the other, you may find that.
But, if you’re hoping to be the next Zak Bagans, Yvette Fielding, Jason Hawes, or Grant Wilson… I won’t say that ship has sailed, but you’ll need something fresh & different to attract media interest.
Are you trying to convince others that ghosts exist? If you want to change skeptical critics’ minds — convince a particular skeptic who’s close to you) — that’s unlikely to happen.
Note: I say “skeptical critics” because I think it’s smart to be skeptical in any field of study.
The problem is when, from the start, the person plans to be a snarky critic. (Like most trolls, they’re usually bitter people looking for attention.)
Of course, I think critical thinking skills are essential for every ghost hunter. That’s different from going out of your way to be a detractor.
Over the past thousands of years, no one has proved that ghosts exist.
Through research, each of us can decide what we believe, and feel confident about it.
But, that’s different from proving to the world that ghosts are real.
2. Orbs are ghosts.
In the past, I believed that most orbs were dust or humidity or reflections. Then I spent a few years researching those theories with multiple cameras.
I’ve had to admit that I was wrong.
It’s true that some orbs are caused by normal things, like flying insects. (It’s easy to spot them, because they’re irregular shapes, not perfect circles.)
But, at haunted sites, unexplained orbs are common. More than I ever expected.
We can’t say they’re ghosts.
Yes, they might represent energy that connects us with those who’ve passed on. If you’re certain the orb in the photo of your birthday cake is actually your great-grandmother’s ghost, you may be right.
Why I say that: You’ve probably studied the photo closely.
You probably have additional, deeply personal evidence.
Does your “gut feeling” tell you the orb is the spirit of a loved one? I rely on that more than anything else.
That doesn’t mean all anomalous orbs are ghosts. Paranormal research doesn’t support a clear explanation for orbs… yet.
3. All ghost hunting TV shows are fake.
Ghost hunting shows are only as good as each researchers’ skills, the evidence at the “haunted” site, and — most of all — how the show is edited.
One Ghost Hunters’ episode raised more questions than any I’ve been asked about, before or since. At the time (2008), I wrote an article about this: Ghost Hunters TV Show – Fake?
In general, I raise an eyebrow if I see too many kinds of phenomena at a haunted site.
For example, if investigators see apparitions and hear voices and witness poltergeist phenomena and there’s a gruesome odor in a room and they see glowing writing on a wall… something is probably fake.
(In fact, I’m skeptical of anything glowing. I question any “vibration” that could be a hidden, old-school pager, and any writing that appears on a wall, during filming.)
I also raise an eyebrow when an investigator (on TV or in real life) makes some broad-ranging generality, such as “All shadow people are dangerous and someone may die!”
(At this point, we have no idea what shadow people really are. I’ve read interesting theories, but no one has wholly convincing evidence yet.)
And, when a team engages in sensational investigation practices — such as invoking dark forces with black candles and pentacles — I stop watching.
No serious, experienced ghost hunter is likely to do something that dangerous, even to improve a show’s ratings.
Viewers can judge for themselves after seeing a few episodes of any particular series. The fakes become obvious as they keep ratcheting up the drama. And then those short-lived shows are cancelled.
Of course, all ghost hunting TV shows are not fake. Some of the best (including Ghost Lab, among my favorites) just weren’t compelling enough to remain on TV, as viewers’ interests — or sponsors’ budgets — changed.
4. Ghosts are always dead people who need help to cross over.
What we think are “ghosts” may be something else altogether. For me, the term usually describes a category of phenomena.
At this time, we can’t claim they’re all “dead people.”
Also, I dispute the idea that all of them “need help to cross over.” I believe that some spirits visit to make sure we’re okay.
Others linger to keep an eye on the family, or the house where they lived. (Green Lady ghosts are among them.)
I can’t think in terms of a Deity who’d say, “Sorry, you’re dead now. You’re not allowed to go back and see your family, no matter how much you love and miss them.”
In addition, my research suggests that some “ghosts” are people who are alive and well in their own time period. My best guess is: it’s a parallel reality on a different timetable than ours.
Those are a few reasons to avoid generalities about ghosts.
5. The best way to make money in ghost hunting is to get a TV show.
No. Many stars on ghost hunting TV shows earn less than they would at a fast food restaurant.
That’s not hyperbole. I heard — from multiple reliable sources — that one ensemble on a ghost hunting TV series was paid just $500 per episode.
That’s not per-person. The $500 had to be divided among all the team members.
(Of course, that was an extreme. The cast negotiated better pay for later seasons of that TV show.)
Even those who do earn a pretty good paycheck are subject to bad editing and abrupt cancellations. Like the show where the only way the stars learned their series was cancelled, was through email. (I wish I was making that up, but it’s true.)
I could tell you more behind-the-scenes horror stories from several ghost hunting TV shows, but I think I’ve made my point clear.
Ghost hunting TV shows are an unreliable way to earn a living. And, once you’ve been on TV, it’s very difficult to recover your personal privacy.
Yes, you might land your own TV series… but do you really want to?
6. Ghosts only appear at night.
No, I’ve seen apparitions in broad daylight, and poltergeist phenomena in the middle of the morning.
In Austin, Texas, I’ve witnessed (and even photographed) anomalies at dawn.
At most other haunted sites, you’ll be lucky if anything unexplained happens even half the time.
During most ghost hunting events, investigations, and vigils, you’ll spend hours waiting for something to happen.
You’ll be bored. You may get cold. You may be thoroughly annoyed and want to provoke the ghosts.
Then, when you least expect it, something astonishing will happen. Though it may have lasted less than a minute, it’s made the hours of waiting worthwhile.
Or, when it’s time to go home, you may have nothing but a vague feeling that “something wasn’t right” at the site. Or, you may have felt a fleeting chill… that could have been from an open window you didn’t notice.
Before visiting a site that may be haunted, I research its history. I’m very selective about the locations I investigate. That improves my chances of encountering something paranormal.
My advice to ghost hunters is: Hope for the best but keep your expectations realistic. Then, you won’t be disappointed.
11. All psychics are fake (or all psychics are legit).
I believe that most people have some psychic skills or sensitivities. During investigations, I’ve witnessed things that can’t be explained, except that the researcher is psychic.
In fact, some people discover they’re psychic during ghost investigations.
It’s true that some people pretend to be psychic, to impress people. Also, some psychics pretend to be more psychic than they are. (I learned that the hard way.)
In addition, I believe that some people are telepathic, and they’re “picking up” information from others’ thoughts.
If someone in the room (like a tour guide or local historian) knows a lot about the location’s history, the telepath might sense that person’s thoughts or memories.
When someone is psychic, it can be difficult to tell where the information comes from.
If your entire ghost hunting experience is based on what a psychic is telling you, be wary.
Most of what we encounter at haunted places is available to everyone.
One person may “hear” unexplained things, and another might see a ghostly shadow or light. Someone else may be great at setting up triggers (like a ball for a ghostly child to move).
The experience of psychics can be astonishing. It can make an investigation far richer.
But, if that’s all that’s going on, it may not be real.
12. All ghosts are demons in disguise.
No, we haven’t a clue what all ghosts are.
When the phenomena are genuine, some “ghosts” may be the spirits of those who’ve passed on.
Others could be residual energy imprinted on the site.
But, there are other possibilities. Few are demonic.
For example, we don’t fully understand the influence of shadow people, and whether faerie phenomena (and UFOs, space aliens, or crypto critters) are real in some settings.
Those labels may not be accurate, either.
Yes, demons and malicious entities seem to be a problem at some haunted sites. Don’t take them lightly, and do not antagonize them with amateur exorcisms.
But, anyone who insists that all ghosts are demons, is speaking from a theological place of fear.
In serious paranormal research, we avoid those kinds of generalities.
13. Haunted objects don’t exist. It was just hype for a TV show.
Believe that at your peril.
Most people have seen at least one object at a historical museum — such as the British Museum in London, or Harvard’s Peabody Museum — that looked normal enough, but had a creepy “vibe” to it.
The story of the Hope Diamond and other “cursed” objects suggest that some things are haunted, if not downright evil.
If you believe in residual energy hauntings — where intense energy seems imprinted on a location — there’s no reason the same energy won’t attach to objects, as well.
In fact, two psychic friends — Lesley Marden and Sean Paradis — and I enjoy browsing antiques shops, detecting energy on some of the objects displayed. (They’re rarely as dramatic as items portrayed in the Haunted Collector TV series.)
I firmly believe in haunted objects. Some may not hold much energy, but others can be just as powerful as whatever rises outside the Myrtles Plantation windows, and looks inside at guests.
Avoid hype, lies, hoaxes, and popular misunderstandings.
In ghost hunting, it’s important to use your critical thinking skills.
Question everything. (Politely, of course.) Look for compelling evidence that couldn’t be faked.
Research every haunted site. See if its history supports a haunting. (Some wildly haunted sites don’t have a violent history, but most do.)
Decide your own goals — fun, entertainment, scientific research, or simple curiosity — before each ghost investigation.
If you know why you’re ghost hunting, you’re less likely to be disappointed by hype, and enjoy each investigation for what you’ll learn.
And, if you happen to encounter a truly astonishing haunting, that’s even better.
The only sure sign that a house is haunted is if it has confirmed, paranormal activity.
(But, be sure to verify the thoroughness of past investigations. Even the best teams make mistakes, now & then.)
Without a reliable confirmation, a ghost story could be an urban legend or total fiction.
If you have no trustworthy reports about a location, or you’re among the first teams to visit the site, clues can suggest a house that’s worth investigating.
Look for the following. More than three or four of these could indicate an active haunting.
Even one could be enough, if the site’s history or location is extreme.
1. It has a history of drama, violence, and conflicts between powerful (or highly emotional) people.
If the owners were very wealthy or subject to dire, life-threatening poverty, that’s enough to suspect drama.
But, in many haunted houses, even casual research will turn up a sinister history. (The local cemetery may hold clues.)
2. The house has been sold (or rented) often, and the price seems too low.
Use real estate sites like Zillow.com to see how recently the house has sold, for how much (compared to nearby houses), and how frequently it’s been on the market.
Look at past years’ records, too. See if there’s a pattern of unusually low prices, frequent sales, or other anomalies.
If everything looks normal, take note of “too low” prices or “too frequent” sales of nearby homes. The story you heard might be about a nearby home, and the report got the address wrong.
3. Residents’ personalities start to change (stress or due to the ghost’s influence).
If you suspect that a house is haunted, ask the owners or tenants. Especially if they’ve just moved in, they may be delighted to share what they’ve heard about their ghosts. (For them, this may still seem like fun.)
Or, they may react with hostility if too many ghost hunters have contacted them, or if friends & family have voiced concerns about the house.
Several times, I’ve investigated homes where the wife confided that her husband hadn’t been sleeping right since they moved into their new home. Or, the husband reported that his wife “wasn’t herself,” lately.
Of course, just the act of moving into a new home can be stressful. Respect people’s privacy.
Always listen to your “gut feeling.” If it tells you something isn’t right, leave your name & contact info with the current residents.
Tell them to contact you if anything seems amiss in their new home. Be sure they know you don’t charge anything to investigate, and they can trust you to keep their concerns in confidence.
Then, leave them alone. There are plenty of other unexplored haunted houses.
Keep looking. You’ll find one.
4. The house is in a steep valley or gorge.
In folklore, it’s an evil omen when a house already “buried” between tall hills or cliffs. At the very least, it can give a sinister impression.
From my experience, many haunted houses are at extreme ends of the happy-to-ominous spectrum.
Either the location is sunny and cheerful and the house seems at odds with the setting, or you take one look at the area and say, “Wow, what a great, dismal place for a haunted house!”
Oil City, Pennsylvania comes to mind immediately. I’d love to go back there and explore its older homes. Don’t let the cheerful photos fool you. I spent just one sleepless night in Oil City, but that was enough. I’m convinced it’s one of America’s most-overlooked haunted communities.
5. The house is on a peak.
This may seem the opposite of the folklore, above. In this case, it’s about history and burial traditions.
In some cultures, including several Native American societies, the ideal place for a burial is as close to the sky (heaven) as you can find.
Also, powerful communities and land owners chose home (and fort) locations where they could look down on approaching enemies.
This kind of history is prime for power struggles that led to hauntings.
(New York’s Morris-Jumel Mansion is a typical “peak” mansion, overlooking the Harlem River. It’s Manhattan’s oldest house and it has a haunted history.)
6. Electrical equipment fails.
One of the surest signs of a haunting is when electrical devices fail or batteries drain for no apparent reason.
During an investigation, if you find AA batteries in random places, those were probably left behind by previous investigators. It’s a good sign that the site is haunted.
(If you find others’ abandoned batteries, pick them up and dispose of them responsibly. Ghost hunters earn a bad reputation when they leave litter behind.)
Here’s what to do if, during an investigation, your ghost hunting equipment fails because the batteries go flat.
7. People see lights or figures in the windows, when no one is there.
Yes, this can be a made-up story. It’s a common urban legend.
But, if the homeowner (or a neighbor) insists that figures are seen in the windows when no one is home, that’s enough reason to investigate.
(This is when the police can be tremendously helpful. They know which houses are reported with unexplained lights, inside, but — when the police get there — they never find evidence. Shepherdstown is among the most famous.)
8. When people live there, they keep the curtains closed all the time.
Closed curtains can indicate a home where people are frightened. But, it might be a sign of someone with an offbeat sleep schedule. Ask about this.
Frightened people hope their uneasiness comes from outside the home. So, they close the blinds, shades, and curtains to shut out the danger.
It may be an unconscious reaction.
They may have an excuse, but it’ll sound hollow. They’ll say things like, “Oh, that’s to keep street noise out,” though the street is obviously a quiet one.
At residential hauntings, when many curtains are always closed, I know someone – or everyone – in the house may be unreasonably frightened.
9. The house still has most of its original/previous residents’ belongings in it.
The Amityville Horror house is a good example of this. At least two families bought the house when it was still furnished by the previous tenants.
After the DeFeo murders, I suppose the furniture was simply left there. There wasn’t anyone to claim it.
But, when the Lutz family left everything behind as well, that was practically a flashing neon sign: Something was deeply wrong at that house.
It’s normal to find a small bookcase or broken chair in a basement. Small piles of dirt or discarded items are routine, as well.
However, when people abandon large items that are expensive to replace, either they’re moving a long distance or fleeing the house.
10. The house holds your attention (or repulses you)
More than any other sign, a place that seems odd (or even creepy) and you can’t explain why, is worth investigating.
(That’s how I stumbled upon Austin’s “Jack the Ripper” connection. Until I researched what they had in common, I couldn’t explain — even to myself — why I felt drawn to certain Austin locations, over & over again.)
I’m not sure that, all by itself, that one factor is enough to say, “That’s haunted.” But, it greatly increases the likelihood of paranormal activity.
11. There’s a graveyard (or a rumor of one) on the property.
This is especially likely at older home sites, when family cemeteries were routinely placed near the house.
You may need to research the site using very old maps and property descriptions. (When a property was sold to a new owner, the land and features on it may have been detailed in the deed.)
You may hear that, in the 19th or 20th century, the graves were moved to a community cemetery.
What people are less likely to tell you: Even today, coffins, bodies, and even body parts are sometimes left behind. Without ground-penetrating radar and detailed records, it was easy to overlook graves.
If the graves were really old and the wooden (or cardboard) coffins rotted in the ground, finding all of them may have been impossible. (I’m reminded of the New Hampshire home where the owner insisted on carrying a shotgun when she went out to the backyard, after dusk.)
Also, unmarked graves are normal at any cemetery, large or small.
A forgotten grave could explain a haunting. Nobody wants to be forgotten.
12. It has hidden rooms, or rumors of them.
If you know that a house had a secret passageway, a hidden room, or something like a “priest hole,” investigate it.
If you’re not sure, measure the rooms and compare them with the dimensions of the house. A digital (laser) measuring device can save the most time.
A jag in a wall could indicate a chimney or where pipes are routed through the house.
Or, if it’s large enough, you may have stumbled onto a hidden room or boarded-up closet. That site probably has a credible ghost story.
Tavern 27 (Laconia, NH) has several great ghost stories. When I investigated it, several years ago, the owners still hadn’t found the legendary hidden passage from the attic to the basement.
13. It was part of the Underground Railroad.
In the United States, starting in the 1700s, the Underground Railroad was a network of “safe houses” for runaway slaves. A similar 17th century escape route led from the American colonies to Spanish territories.
In some cases, the locations included hidden rooms. They’re surprisingly tiny.
Also, some of those rooms — once hidden — were later converted to root cellars or other storage areas. If the cellar seems odd or divided, ask if the homeowners know its history.
When a home was used as an Underground Railroad site, intense fear — both the slaves’ and the homeowners’ — could explain a residual energy haunting.
(If you investigate an old cellar or hidden room, be sure to take precautions in case the air isn’t safe.)
Many other features suggest a house that may be haunted. These are the top 13 that came to mind, when I wrote this article.
If you can suggest other “red flags” that indicate a haunted house, I hope you’ll leave a comment about it.