Ghost Hunting in the Daytime

alley-misty-veniceGhost hunters will get the best research results after dark. I’m not sure if it’s like radio stations that can be heard more clearly without interference from the sun.

Whatever the reason, after-dark ghost hunts are usually far more successful.

However, daytime ghost hunts aren’t always a waste of time. I’m reminded of Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH. The haunted/psychic energy builds there each day, starting around 11:30 or noon. Put your attention — perhaps your ‘psychic radar’ — on the woods in back of the cemetery. Even in broad daylight, you may sense (or even see) some very odd things.

By night, eerie lights seem to flicker in those same woods. Animals are “too quiet,” or suddenly seem to panic. A few people see a hooded figure with glowing eyes. Compasses and EMF meters go haywire. Strange things happen.

The energy is gone by dawn. Around noon the next day, the cycle starts all over again.

In Texas, I like downtown Houston’s La Carafe wine bar at 813 Congress Street. Though the bar is closed in the morning, people who work there report odd discoveries when they arrive to open for business.  It’s haunted enough to provide anomalies, 24/7.

Fiona Broome's adviceLook for locations with a long history of power struggles or violence.  Battlefields are a good example.  (Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH, was the site of multiple Native American wars, as well as violent clashes with colonists.)

Check your daily commute.  Look for roadside historical markers.  Many indicate sites of violent clashes and intense, emotion-rich meetings of powerful people.  Something important happened there. The question is why, and did it at least leave some residual energy?

Former hospitals, funeral homes, and politicians’ homes are also good sites for daytime paranormal research.

If your only research time is during daylight hours, don’t worry. Somewhere nearby, at least one site is haunted, day and night.

Ghosts don’t only come out at night.

You may need to investigate several sites to find one that’s active in daylight. With enough patience and persistence, you’ll find one.

Carpe diem! 

Noises That Are Not Ghosts

As I write this, it is December (2005), a time of year when many people start hearing “ghostly noises” in their homes.

In many cases, these will be ghosts.

However, there may be logical explanations, and those should be considered, first:

Temperature changes cause houses to moan, shift, and creak. Desert climates have the widest temperature swings between day and night, but even temperate climates have seasonal changes that can cause your house to shift slightly. And when a couple of floorboards rub against each other and echo in an attic, the noise can sound like someone in agony.

  • Settling houses make snaps, thuds, creaks, and groans. If your house is new, it may be settling. A hastily-poured foundation, or one poured at the wrong time of year, can produce outrageous noises for years after the house has been built.There are other reasons why a house can “settle.” If you’ve had an earthquake in your region, your house may now be settling back into place. If you’ve had unusually high rainfall, or a drought, the ground around your house will shift. A piano or waterbed moved in or out of a room can cause the whole house to readjust itself.
  • Critters in the walls or attic can sound bizarre. The scurrying noises alone can sound like little ghostly footsteps. A bushy tail of a squirrel or raccoon, rubbing on all sides of a narrow passageway inside a wall or alongside a chimney… Well, you’ll be convinced that a ghostly woman in a full Victorian skirt just passed you.If two animals decide to argue or chat within your walls, in your basement, or overhead in your attic, sometimes they sound like ghostly whispers, or a full-fledged argument in a strange dialect!
  • Check for even smaller critters, such as wood ants or termites. If they’re weakening the house’s structure, the house will moan and groan as it shifts its weight.
  • Is there construction going on near you? Perhaps rocks tumble from their recently-blasted niches, at a certain hour of the night when the temperature dips low enough to cause contractions and shifts. The roof of a new house can make astonishing noises, especially at night. Ask anyone who’s put a roof on a house, or repaired one, about the nails that pop out overnight.
  • If it happens at the same time every night, it’s not necessarily a ghostly hour. Temperatures and humidity change at night. When these natural effects reach a “critical mass” level, the house may shift. A loose shingle may pop up again. The mortar in your chimney may contract just enough to cause dust to echo as it tumbles to the ground or hearth. These kinds of things happen night after night. It’s part of the natural cycle of a house.This “critical mass” effect is usually at approximately the same time, each night. Seasonal changes and unseasonable variations can shift the hour back or forward, but it’s still within the same approximate time period.
  • Do you live near a commercial area? You may live far enough from a shopping center that you don’t hear the garbage collectors’ trucks. However, when they lift one of those huge containers of trash and empty it into the truck… wow! If that noise echoes off a neighbor’s siding or cement wall, it can seem as if something is crashing on your patio, or in an another room, particularly if the windows are open.

Not all ghostly noises are this easily explained. However, consider the logical answers first. Perhaps your noise is a ghost, but you won’t know unless you use your critical thinking skills to explore the alternatives.

And, just because the noise could be faked, or caused by something logical… well, that doesn’t mean that it is.

Webmaster’s note: When I was a kid, I used to hear noises in the attic overhead, many nights. My parents dismissed my insistence that it was a ghost. “Squirrels in the attic,” they replied, and nodded sagely.

Well, we did have a lot of very friendly squirrels in our neighborhood, and a nest in our backyard. I tried to accept my parents’ logical explanation of the noises.

However, when we were selling our house and had it inspected, I mentioned the squirrels in the attic.

“No evidence of that,” the house inspector replied. “I’ll check again.”

And so he did. And he found no place where a squirrel could get into the attic, and no evidence that animals of any kind had been up there.

So, even when the answer seems logical, it might still be ghosts. I may never know if our house’s nightly noises had been a ghost, or something else.

If a Ghost Hunt Frightens You

Young woman, alone.After a particularly vivid ghost hunt, people sometimes get nervous about what they’ve just experienced.

A few people may become genuinely frightened.

Generally, there is nothing to be afraid of. Not from the dead, anyway. Here are a few facts to remember, from an article I wrote in 2005.  My opinions haven’t changed much since I wrote this.

  • Ghosts aren’t likely to follow you home. Ghosts haunt a location, particularly cemeteries, for a reason. If they felt like they could leave, they wouldn’t be at the cemetery (or house, or battlefield) in the first place.  Except for legends like The Flying Dutchman (a ghost ship) and the John Alford Tyng hauntings, few stories describe a ghost that moves from one location to another.
  • Ghosts cannot make you do things you don’t want to do. Ghosts are not hypnotists and they do not have powers beyond those that they had in life. Frankly, any spirit of the dead that’s tied to the earthly plane, has a specific reason for being here. Usually, their powers are significantly less than an average living person’s. If you’re having “unwanted thoughts” after encountering a ghost, get professional help. Ghosts are not the problem. Hollywood imagery can be fun, but it’s not real. Steering wheels don’t jerk out of your hand. Bed canopies don’t sprout spikes and fall on people. People are not “taken over” by ghosts unless they agree to accept the trance state, or unwittingly give permission for something to use their bodies. Usually, if someone is “possessed,” something else is going on. It’s not a ghost.  Get help right away.
  • Ghosts do not “curse” you. Ghosts are just people living in another dimension, or perhaps on another plane. They have no superhuman powers other than — perhaps — enhanced telepathy. They cannot curse you. They do not turn into “witches” when they die.
  • Ghosts cannot hurt you. Poltergeists are the only “ghosts” that ever harm people, and even then it’s usually nothing worse than bruising. People often ask why I  warn against ghost hunting alone. It’s not because of ghosts, it’s because you might turn an ankle in a neglected yard or cemetery, and need help. Or you might encounter a bunch of drunk teens or (animal) hunters who don’t want you around. I’m not afraid of ghosts, but I’m very wary of isolated sites.
  • Ghosts will not haunt your dreams, keep you awake at night, etc. Unless you’re deliberately sleeping in a haunted house or camping at a haunted battleground, ghosts do not usually travel from their earthly locations to bother you.
  • Most ghosts “move on,” eventually. Spirits of the dead remain on earth for a specific reason. Usually, they’re fighting reality and want to turn back the clock. They want to change an event from the past. In rare cases, they simply have a message to pass on, or a minor task to accomplish. We’ve only encountered this once in hundreds of hauntings . One notable exception is when a spirit returns to help a friend or family member, or just check to be sure you’re okay. Spirit guides, angels, and totems, are a different topic. They are not malicious, ever. Don’t worry about them. You never have to worry about a ghost following you forever. It simply doesn’t happen.
  • Spiritual energy is pretty much all the same to a casual observer. If you’re in a setting where there is poltergeist phenomena, you probably won’t be able to guess whether it’s from a spirit of the dead, or someone nearby with RSPK. (RSPK is Remote Spontaneous PsychoKinesis, or the ability to move things using your thoughts, consciously or not). Don’t assume that the dish that flew across the room was propelled by a spirit of the dead. It could be a prank by an ESP-gifted person who is very much alive, and near you.

I hope this puts your mind at rest. 

Young woman, anxious.Ghost hunting is fun. For people like me, it’s fascinating to encounter ghostly manifestations.  Haunted sites can have risks, but they’re usually physical (like frail floorboards in the attic, or uneven stairs). It’s nothing directly related to ghosts.

Ghost hunting itself is not hazardous, and ghosts are not maliciously wandering the earth as portrayed in movies and novels.

Nothing bad is likely to happen to you if you go on a ghost tour or public ghost investigation and take proper precautions. (For example, always take a friend with you to an event or tour.  If you’re on your own, watch your back and never treat the evening like speed dating.)

Frankly, most of your concerns should be about the living, not the spirits of the dead.

Consider another hobby if spirits and hauntings really frighten you.

It’s worth repeating:  If ghost hunting isn’t fun, find something else for your spare time.

The more you go ghost hunting, the more spirits and manifestations you’re likely to encounter. If you’re nervous now, things will only get more intense if you continue.

Using a Compass to Measure EMF

This article about EMF and hiking compasses
has been updated from my 2003 original.

compassCan an inexpensive hiking compass detect EMF as well as a $50+ EMF meter?

Until around 1999, I dismissed the idea of using a compass during ghost investigations. Instead, I relied on other ghost hunting equipment.

However, a series of tests with a sturdy $10 Coleman compass surprised me, and a $5 compasses worked nearly as well as my regular EMF meters.

Now, in some settings, I actually prefer to use a hiking compass when I first explore a haunted site.

And, unlike hi-tech equipment with batteries that can fail in haunted settings, the compass always works.

Here’s my background: For years, I was a Girl Scout leader. So, I know that hiking compasses work like gravity. They’re almost 100% reliable with no surprises, as long as you aren’t near something magnetic, a large electrical engine, or major power lines.

Late in 1999 when I was documenting a ghost hunt, I brought my compass to Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH. I had only intended to use it to get my bearings when making notes about which geographical corners had appeared the most spectrally active.

When our ghost hunting team arrived, I placed the compass on top of Hannah Robbins’ headstone at the northern end of the cemetery. Her stone appeared to be aligned in a NNE direction, looking towards the carved side of her headstone.

This was what I expected to see, so I didn’t think about it again.

However, while I was comparing anomaly photos with actual grave locations and other landmarks, another ghost hunter and team member, Alan (the one we call “ghostbait”), checked other parts of the cemetery with the compass.

North seemed to move.

In the southern half of the cemetery, the compass showed north in one direction. As Alan walked towards the northern half of the cemetery, the needle swung about 30 degrees and stayed there.

We tested this repeatedly, and the results were consistent.

At the time, this was a very rural location, before a housing development moved in across the street. In 1999, there were no nearby generators or significant power lines.

EMF should only increase in proximity to electrical activity. It has been reported during spectral activity. We don’t know if ghosts cause EMF surges, but at haunted sites, we often find higher EMF readings.

Since Gilson Road Cemetery is profoundly haunted, it should not surprise me that my sturdy, non-nonsense compass reacted to energy there. But it did.

On return visits and ghost hunts, day or night, we’ve seen anomalous compass readings at Gilson Road Cemetery and most other “haunted” locations.

Since then, we’ve used a compass on several Hollow Hill investigations. Now, we highly recommend a compass in your basic ghost hunting kit, for fun if nothing else.

Guidelines for compass use in “haunted” locations, and during ghost hunts:

  • Use only compasses with free-swinging needles. If the needle tends to get stuck pointing in one direction, it’s not helpful.
  • Before you start walking, line up North so the red part (or point) of the needle is over the arrow painted on the compass.
  • Learn to use the compass in a not haunted site, first. Your backyard is a good place, if there are no electrical wires nearby (underground and overhead, too).
  • The first time you try this, walk in as straight a line as possible, directly towards North or towards South.
  • Expect the needle to bob and bounce as you walk. This is normal. However, when you pause, it should always return to North.
  • Keep the compass as flat as possible. If you hold it an an angle, your reading may not be accurate or the needle may become stuck.
  • If North seems to move, pause. Check how you’re holding the compass. North NEVER changes direction!
  • Debunk odd readings if you can. Look for interference from magnetic deposits (a metal detector can help) and from electrical sources, including power lines. They will “attract” the compass’ needle.
  • This is worth repeating: North NEVER changes its location. Even a slight 10-degree shift is an anomaly, if you’ve eliminated all other influences. Profoundly haunted sites can show unexplained needle-swings of up to 90 degrees.
  • If you think you have an anomaly, retrace your steps. See if the compass anomaly repeats. Usually, it will… but only for awhile.
  • Check again on another day. Unfortunately for documentation purposes, a genuine haunting is unlikely to repeat the compass anomalies in the same places, day after day. (One that does repeat is more likely electrical or magnetic interference with the compass’ action.)