13 Ghost Hunting Lies

13In 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.

Toulouse Street, New Orleans.
Bright lights. Shiny objects. High humidity. Some bugs… but no orbs.

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.

(And if they do, they usually speak out about it, as soon as they can.)

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.”

haunted houseAlso, 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.

Ghosts may be easier to detect at night because we’re less distracted in the darkness.

But, some of the most reliably haunted locations are haunted day and night. It’s why I recommend starting investigations at dusk or earlier.

7. New homes can’t have ghosts.

This is one of the biggest and most dangerous misunderstandings in ghost hunting.

Yes, the idea of Native American burial grounds has been trotted out far too many times to explain hauntings.

But, some new homes were built over them. It may take a lot of research to confirm this. (The local historical society is a good place to start that research.)

More often, a truly haunted new home was built where something violent or tragic happened in the past.

It may have been the site of a mental hospital, a jail, or a slaughterhouse. Perhaps a family cemetery used to be there, and a few bodies remain there, even now, in unmarked graves.

Never dismiss evidence of a haunting just because “the house is too new.”

If the homeowner or tenant is troubled by unexplained phenomena, investigate it.

8. You need fancy (and expensive) tools to be sure it’s a ghost.

No, you don’t need anything more than patience and good observational skills.

See my articles about this, especially Basic Tools Every Ghost Hunter Must Have.

Also, though I mentioned this earlier: We use the word “ghost” to describe phenomena. At this time, we can’t always be certain the activity comes from a deceased person.

9. Ouija boards are always dangerous.

I don’t allow Ouija boards on my investigations. They are risky.

But, I believe that other divinatory tools can be equally dangerous.

It’s not the device. It’s the person using it.

As soon as you open yourself to allow something to speak through you, you’re at risk.

That’s as true of dowsing rods and pendulums as it is with Ouija boards. (You can read more at those linked articles.)

10. You’ll always encounter a ghost at ______.

In a perfect world, ghosts would appear on cue every time we visit a haunted site.

ghostly scene with trees and a moonThat’s not how it works. Not in real life, anyway.

Some sites — including the Myrtles Plantation, Tudor World (Falstaff Experience), and Gilson Road Cemetery — are far more reliable than others.

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.

Creepy figureFor 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.

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