Fake! In Ghost Hunting, Does It Matter?

Integrity is a researcher’s most valued asset. In paranormal research, it’s especially important.  However, since entertainment has become part of the paranormal scene, the lines have blurred between reality and showmanship.

Does it matter if some ghost hunters are fakes?“Fake!”

I hear that accusation far too often, and usually about the wrong people.

It’s true that there are fakes, frauds, and con men (and women) working in ghost-related professions.

More are sincere researchers, looking for answers to questions that have been around for centuries.

It’s important to know the difference.

Or, depending on your goals and interests, maybe it doesn’t matter.

What are your goals?


Many people enjoy ghost-related TV shows, ghost tours, dinner and stage presentations, and ghost-themed events.

If you’re looking for entertainment, keep your focus on the fun. Don’t worry how much of it is real or just a clever presentation.

In real life, ghost hunting is tedious.  The one-hour show you see on TV may have taken two to five days to film.  You’re seeing only the interesting moments.

If you’re at an event and just one or two people keep you entertained for an entire evening, as if it’s a show… maybe it is.

But, if you’re only there for the fun and an occasional “good scare,” does it really matter how much of it is real?

Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction isn’t “real.”  However, many ghost enthusiasts – including me – wait in line for an hour or longer to enter that attraction, because it’s great entertainment.

If you’re at an event or watching a show to be entertained, judge it by the fun, period.

You Have a Question

Many people have questions about ghosts.

  • You may want to know if there really is something after death.
  • You may have had a ghostly encounter, and want to know if it was real.
  • You may suspect that you’re psychic, but you’re not sure.
  • Or, a movie or TV show scared you, and you want to know if that kind of phenomena is real.

If that’s what draws you to paranormal research, get involved with a good research group, or start one yourself.

Some TV shows*, stage presentations, and events lean towards “entertainment.”   In other words, they may be faking some or all of what you see.

Unfortunately, people who want to believe in an afterlife can be among the most gullible.

If you’re looking for answers to spiritual questions, keep these two points in mind:

1. You may never find absolute proof of an afterlife or ghosts.  “Clear evidence” for one person may seem ridiculous to someone else.  Only you can decide if you’ve found answers you seek.

2. Many seekers are vulnerable.  Become a skeptic.  Don’t confuse performers with genuine researchers.  Learn to tell them apart.

After you find an answer to your questions – or decide that there is no answer – you may lose interest in paranormal studies.

It’s okay to walk away from ghost hunting if (and when) it stops being interesting.  Don’t keep watching TV shows, paying for events, or going on investigations if they’re disappointing you.

If asked, say, “I found the answer that I was looking for.  It’s personal.”

And then, change the subject.

Or, once you feel as if you found what you’re looking for, you may be more interested in paranormal research.

You’re with a Friend and…

Sometimes, people  join a friend (or friends) at a ghost tour or a ghost investigation.  Soon, they’re involved in paranormal research, too.

Or, they go to an entertainment-style event, find it intriguing, and become a fan.

Remember why you’re there, and – before taking anything seriously – use your critical thinking skills.  Get educated.  Listen to believers and skeptics alike.   Both provide important advice.

Power, Fame, and Money

stage-lightsWhen any subject is featured on several TV shows, some people get involved for fame and fortune.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone’s reasonably honest about it.

Most theatrical ghost tours and Halloween “haunted houses” are clearly fake.

As long as you remember it’s just a show, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it.

Now and then, an entertainer will mix reality and performance.  More than one genuine psychic has been tripped up that way, feeling obliged to put on a show when nothing was actually going on.

Would you be happier spending $150 for a ghost hunt in which nothing happened all evening… or if a few people exaggerated their experiences, to give attendees a chill?

My advice for fans:  Treat ghost hunting like any other form of entertainment.  Some shows will be more authentic and more fun than others. Decide your goals – and your spending limit – ahead of time.

Entertainer or Researcher… or Both?

Among ghost hunters, psychics, and paranormal “experts,” some people are entertainers.  They can be tremendous fun, on- and off-stage.

Some tell wonderful stories.  They may also be moderately psychic… or good at convincing you that they are.

Enjoy that for what it is:  Great fun.

Others are serious researchers.  I’m one of them.

Frankly, we can be geeky, boring people.

However, if you can keep from nodding off when we talk about our latest projects, you may glean some useful insights for your own research.

People like me were paranormal researchers long before TV shows made ghost hunting popular**.  We’ll be here long after the fad is eclipsed by the next popular trend, too.

If you’re attending an event, listening to the radio or watching TV, ask yourself:

  • Is this person an entertaining speaker presenting  reliable information?
  • Is this improving your understanding of ghosts and ghost hunting?
  • Or, is he (or she) putting on a show?  If so, is it entertaining?

Houdini wasn’t a “fake.” He was a performer.

The same can be said for modern-day stage magicians.  The fun (and the challenge) is figuring out how he or she makes it seem real.

The excruciatingly boring speaker at a conference probably isn’t “fake.” He or she is sharing research results.  If you thrill to news about scientific breakthroughs, the fun is examining the evidence to see if it’s helpful.  The learning curve… maybe not so much fun.

In general, if you know what your goals are, use them to judge the merits of the TV show, event, investigation or personality.

Fake?  That’s an issue if you’re looking for answers and a genuine encounter with the paranormal world.

A better question is whether you’re disappointed, and if the show, event or person is worth your time.


If you’re concerned that someone is a fraud, see my article, Scams and Con Artists.

*For many years, I defended Jason Hawes’ and Grant Wilson’s work on the Ghost Hunters TV show.

Today… I don’t know if they were set up, if they knew, and how much their contracts prevented them from admitting to it.

Editing can dramatically change how something looks.

**I began writing for FATE magazine in the 1980s (via the Wayback Machine). My first Fate story with a byline (under the pen name Margaret Brighton) was the true California ghost story, “Boots,” published in February 1989.

This website – first as Yankee Haunts and then Hollow Hill – has been online since the mid-1990s.

In other words, I can prove how long I’ve been professional in this field. My integrity – and legacy – are important to me. And frankly, I’m terrible at lying.

Ghosts of the Spalding Inn, Whitefield, NH

Ghosts of the Spalding InnThe Spalding Inn in Whitefield, New Hampshire is the kind of location that every ghost hunter dreams of.

For several years, the hotel was owned by ghost hunters Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson (famous for TAPS and the Ghost Hunters TV show) and their families.

In addition, parts of the hotel are delightfully haunted.

I’ve visited the Spalding Inn several times. During those visits, I concluded that it’s similar to Louisiana’s Myrtles Plantation… but perhaps differently haunted.

Similar to the Myrtles Plantation, the Spalding Inn seems to transform after dark.

nh-spalding-ch2The carriage house at the Spalding Inn

From my investigations, the Spalding Inn’s most active area is the carriage house, shown in the photo at left.

It’s not heated, so that part of the hotel is opened seasonally.

Each guest room in that building has its own odd energy.

Upstairs may be more haunted than the ground floor.  Room 17 is especially active, but Rooms 15 and 16 are also interesting for ghost hunters.

(I detected intense male energy in Room 16, and later discovered that my uncle and his wife had stayed in that room in 1978.  So, I might have been hypersensitive to his residual energy.)

Even when the building is empty, apparitions and odd shadow figures have been seen in the upstairs windows… in broad daylight.

After seeing the shadowy figure of a woman in one of the carriage house windows, I commented that all I could see clearly were the pearls in her necklace.  They seemed to catch the light, though the rest of the figure was a vague shadow.  I later learned that a former owner of the Spalding Inn – who may haunt Room 17 – always wore pearls.

To encounter something paranormal, spend the night in the carriage house.   The rooms are very comfortable, and vintage decor adds to their charm.  Each room is “en suite” (has its own bathroom) and offers a view of the hotel, the surrounding mountains, or both.

If you stay in the carriage house, be sure to ask about the haunted telephone and the ghostly message that seems lost between the worlds.

The main building

If the carriage house isn’t open, or if all of its rooms are full, you can still encounter spirits in the Spalding Inn’s main building.

Several (but not all) guest rooms are haunted.  One of them is Room 33 where other guests have described eerie activity that woke them up.

I’ve spent the night there and enjoyed the room.  Perhaps it was the clean, mountain air or the luxurious bed, but I slept very soundly and woke refreshed in the morning.

In fact, Room 33 is my favorite, since it’s far from any noise around the lobby and it adjoins a sitting area with its own ghostly energy.

The sitting area

At the west end of the main building you’ll find a group of comfortable chairs, and windows on three sides.

Spend some time sitting there, quietly, after dark.  Watch the corridor that leads to it.  Several of us noted visual anomalies.  One was similar to the distortions above pavement on a hot day, or the mostly-invisible creature in the Predator movies.

It’s an unusual phenomenon.  I’ve seen it before, in just a few locations such as the upstairs hallway at Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Ghosts… and faeries?

While most of the paranormal energy at the Spalding Inn seems to be residual, some of what I encountered may not be ghostly.

In the first floor corridor of the main building – where the sleeping rooms are – I saw an odd, hunched figure moving slowly across the floor.  It reminded me of Caliban, a character in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.

It was there… and then it wasn’t.  It didn’t look like a ghost.

I’ve discussed this with a few other paranormal researchers, some of whom have been to the Spalding Inn.  They agree that I may have seen one of the traditional faeries; they’re larger entities (and sometimes very dark beings) recorded in early folklore and legends.

It’s too early to say if the Spalding Inn is a good location for studying fae entities and ghosts, but that may explain some of the unusual energy at the hotel.

A bonus

If you’re interested in – or at least amused by – a wide range of paranormal mysteries, be sure to stop at Exit 33 (off Route 93) on your way to or from the Spalding Inn.

Fill your gas tank or buy some munchies at the Irving gas station and convenience store, close to Route 93.  While you’re there, visit their rest room.

You’ll see one of the most impressive displays of information about America’s first documented alien abduction, the Betty and Barney Hill story.  Apparently, the abduction took place just a few hundred yards from the gas station.

So, when you stay at the Spalding Inn, don’t just look for ghosts… look for spaceships, too.

In general, the Spalding Inn is a wonderful hotel whether you’re there for a good night’s sleep… or a “good scare.”

Since it’s under new ownership, the hotel’s name may change. If it does, ask anyone in Whitefield; they’re sure to know what you’re talking about, and how to get to the hotel.

Ghost Orb Sightings – An Overview

Orb sightings occur every day.

Most “ghost orbs” appear in photographs or videos in haunted places. So few people see them floating in mid-air, some researcher speculate that they can only be seen by gifted, psychic people.

What are orbs?

orb-newburyport-illus“Orbs” usually refer to the round, usually translucent, round or ball-shaped images that we sometimes see in photographs.

They’re usually white, but sometimes appear in pastel colors.  Rarely, they manifest as deep, rich and intense colors.

If you look at them closely, a few orbs seem to have faces in them.  Some orbs seem to be made up of tiny facets.  Most orbs appear as milky circles or spheres.

People often call them “ghost orbs,” since they seem to indicate paranormal energy.

However, many orbs in photos can be explained naturally. You can see the pollen in the middle, or the insect. The shape is usually irregular.

It may take you awhile to be able to tell the difference between an orb formed by moisture, a reflection, an insect, etc., but — once you can tell the difference — you’re not likely to confuse them again.

Don’t accept the easy dismissal of all orbs as dust, moisture, etc.  See the photos in my 2013 article, What Is “Paranormal”?, if you think moisture or reflections always produce orbs.

I recommend trying to create fake orbs with your camera, before deciding what’s real and what isn’t.  You may be surprised.

Unexplained orbs… they’re the orb sightings that really interest ghost hunters and paranormal researchers.

Orb sightings and the spirit world

Many people speculate about orb sightings. Some explanations include:

  • Ghosts.
  • Angels.
  • Demons.
  • An energy field indicating a portal opening or closing. (This is still my favorite explanation.)
  • A friendly spirit, manifesting to say hello.
  • A glimpse of “the light” that people describe in near-death experiences.

How to see orbs

The best way to see orbs is to take lots of photos in haunted locations, or places where people have seen (or photographed) orbs in the past.

These may include:

  • Cemeteries
  • Battlegrounds
  • Theatres (or buildings that used to have stage performances)
  • Older hotels
  • Living history museums
  • Historic homes (especially pre-1890 and open to the public)

Take dozens of photos, if you can.  Study them closely for orbs.  Adjust the contrast or lightness of the photo, so you don’t miss anything.

Tips for orb photography

  • austin-orb-bookcoverDay or night, use your camera’s flash.  It is possible to photograph ghost orbs during the daytime (see the orb on my book cover for The Ghosts of Austin, Texas) , but a flash seems to improve results.
  • Always take two or three photos in a row, as quickly as possible and without changing position. See if the same orb or orbs are in all photos; if so, there may be a normal explanation.
  • Save all of your photos until you exactly what to look for: Different colors, sizes, levels of contrast.

Tips for orb sightings

If you’re one of the fortunate few who see orbs floating in mid-air, here are tips to help you see more of them.

  • Practice your orb-spotting skills. With a friend or two, visit known haunted locations.
  • Most people spot orbs around dusk or immediately after it.
  • When you see an orb, have friends take photos of the orb. If possible, also get photos of you with the orb to see if the locations are similar in most photos.
  • Measure the temperature and EMF levels around the orb, if you have the tools to do so.

Orb sightings are a controversial topic in ghost hunting.  However, if you’re fascinated by ghost orbs or find comfort in them, every orb sighting can be very important.