Ghost hunters often rely on their research tools. (See my article, Basic tools every ghost hunter must have.)
With enough experience, a professional researcher can walk into a room and accurately guess if it might be haunted.
(However, most true professionals will admit that their guesswork is not 100% accurate. They’ll keep an open mind and see what evidence supports their guesses.)
Even when you’ve become that accustomed to the clues and cues of a haunted site — including what’s weird — you’ll confirm you “gut feelings” with scientific research and tools.
When you’re using research tools, you’re still looking for what’s odd, strange or downright weird… usually called anomalies.
The only way you’ll know what’s odd is by developing confidence. That starts by practicing with your research methods and tools.
Practice at home
That may sound logical, but I’m amazed at the number of people who buy a K-II meter or dowsing rods, and the first place they try them is at a haunted site.
A few times, I’ve seen researchers reading their digital voice recorder’s instruction manual… in the middle of an investigation.
Practice with your tools at home, and at school or at work.
Know exactly how your equipment works, and what can go wrong.
It’s especially important to notice the things that aren’t clear problems, just little annoyances: The switch that is difficult to click, the signs that your batteries are failing, or how level to hold the compass or it won’t work.
Those are the things that can distract you — the mental “background noise” — that uses just enough of your mental RAM that you miss an important visual, audio, or other sensory anomaly.
Types of at-home tests
If you’re using an EMF meter or a hiking compass, see what reactions occur when you hold it near any of these potentially “hot” items:
- Electrical outlets
- Microwave oven (when it’s on)
- Computer monitor (especially old-style box-y monitors)
- Electric fans, heaters and a/c units
- Fuse boxes
- Pipes anywhere in the building, but especially in the basement
- Outdoor faucets or spigots
- Electrical poles outside your home
See how the EMF meter responds close to the object and as you walk away from it. Study what happens when the appliance — such as a fan or microwave oven — is turned on and off.
Then, compare those readings with EMF sources in other locations. Check friends’ or relatives’ homes where they have older or newer TV sets, refrigerators, electrical wiring, alarm clocks, etc.
It’s important to be familiar with every “false positive” with every tool you use during investigations.
With a voice recorder, see how close (or far away) the noise source must be. Shout and whisper. Try pointing the mic toward and away from someone speaking several feet away. If you have multiple settings (such as “lecture mode”), experiment with those, too. Try recording from the TV or radio, and record passing cars as well as overhead planes.
Then, learn to recognize those sounds and the differences between them. If you don’t know what’s normal and how it differs from probable EVP, you won’t be an effective investigator.
No matter what tools — if any — you use during ghost hunts, be completely familiar with them before you use them on an investigation.
Start with what’s normal. Practice… a lot.
Know how to identify what’s in your ghost hunting kit, where the important control buttons & switches are, and how to replace batteries quickly, in the darkness.
If it’s a big problem for you, take your cues from people with limited sight.
- Use bits of masking tape to mark buttons; you’ll be able to feel the texture difference.
- Use plastic, embossed labels to mark tools and important switches, buttons and levers on them.
- Cut a small notch or indentation to indicate other important touchpoints or controls.
When you can operate your equipment with your eyes closed — or in a completely dark room — you’re ready to try it in the field.
Until you’re at that level, it’s best to leave the research tools at home. Your five (or six) senses will tell you more — and distract you less — than an unfamiliar EMF meter, voice recorder, or other research equipment.