Ghost Hunting Tools – Practice!

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

To recognize what’s not normal, you must first know what’s normal.

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)
  • Refrigerators
  • 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.

Ghost Hunting – Look for What’s Weird

Ghost hunting can be a science.  We follow precise steps for the best results.

What do you do when you first arrive at a site that might be haunted?

If you’re smart — and you probably are — you get a sense of what’s where.  You do a full walk-through of the site, whether it’s outside or indoors.

At first, you’re getting your bearings and looking for any safety hazards, such as a low doorway,  a hidden hole in the ground, weak or damaged boards in a stairway or attic floor, or signs of vandalism.

After that, your next step is to look for what’s odd.  Don’t go “lights out” or begin working with your research equipment, yet.  First, see what doesn’t make sense.

In simple terms:  Look for what’s weird.

Of course, that’s is difficult to describe in a checklist.  However, here are a few examples.

  • At cemeteries, always look for graves outside the cemetery walls.  After all, people are supposed to be buried in the cemetery, right…?  Well, if you’ve read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, you know why those weird, “outsider” graves can be the most active.  (Those graves are one of two — or sometimes three — kinds of hyperactive locations just outside most cemetery walls.)
  • At the Franklin Historical Society (NH), a former home for the Sisters of the Holy Cross, one — and only one — interior doorway displayed a mezuzah.  That’s a Jewish symbol, most often seen at the front door of a home. According to research by EPNE, that’s one of the most active rooms in the building.
  • In Austin, Texas, one of the most haunted guest rooms in the Driskill Hotel was sealed for many years.  Why would one of Austin’s most elegant and popular hotels actually close off a lovely room?  For ghost hunters, that’s a red flag bringing attention to a room that’s rich with haunted history.
  • At the Spalding Inn‘s carriage house (Whitefield, NH), a disconnected phone kept blinking as if a message was waiting.  Even after that was fixed, an upstairs room attracted flies in winter… when the (uninsulated) carriage house is closed.  Many people believe that the carriage house is the most haunted part of that hotel.
  • Probably the most abundant example of “what’s weird” in a very haunted site is at California’s Winchester Mansion.  Almost everywhere you look, you’ll find stairways that lead nowhere, and doors that serve no purpose.

So, immediately after (or during) your orientation walk-through of any haunted site, note what’s weird.

Then you can begin your formal investigation.  For the best results, you’ll probably start with the areas that seem weirdest.

There’s always a reason — sometimes a paranormal one — why people allow (or create) something odd at a haunted location.  Maybe it’s their way of coping with ghostly energy.  Maybe it’s something else.

To find the most active locations at any haunted site, look for what’s weird.  It’s an anomaly, and it may lead you to other, ghostly anomalies, too.

Talking About Ghosts – Checklist

For many years, I’ve spoken to groups of all ages, kinds and sizes. It’s a delight to tell people about this field.

I’ve learned a lot about what to say (and what not to say) and when to say it.

I hope this checklist helps you when you’re asked to speak in public, too.

Remember: You don’t have to include everything from this list.  It’s a guideline to make presentations easier.

CHECKLIST

Giving a ghost hunting talk - checklist1. Introduction

  • Your name (or the name you use for this work) and where you are from.
  • How long you have been involved in paranormal research.
  • Why you began this research.
  • If you have a specialty, what it is and why it is important to this research.

2. About your team (if you are part of one)

  • Name of your team, where it is based, and the area you cover.
  • How long your team has been researching.
  • Introduce team members by name and specialties, if they are with you.
  • What services you provide to the public (investigations, training, talks like this one) and how much — if anything — you charge.

3. The tools you use

  • Hold up each tool and explain what it is called, what it does, and how often you use it in your work.
  • Describe what you have brought with you to demonstrate (such as how an EMF meter works) or what you will be presenting (audio, video, a walking tour, etc.).
  • Explain which tools can be used by anyone (hiking compass/EMF meter, flashlight for yes/no, etc.) and which are best for professionals (IR video cameras, Frank’s Box, and so on.)

4. Present your information

  • If you are reporting on one or more investigations:
    • Give an overview first.
    • Explain where you researched, when and why.
    • Describe your experiences floor-by-floor and room-by-room.  (A floor plan or map may help them visualize each encounter.)
    • Tell the audience what “normal” would be, before each recording or demonstration.
    • Demonstrate the research technique or play the recording three times (if it is short) and then ask if anyone has a question about that evidence.
    • Take general questions and discuss specific situations at the end of the talk.
    • If you are telling “ghost stories,” tell people whether they are fictional or your true experiences.
    • Illustrate your stories with photos, recordings and/or drawings.
    • Remember that your audience wants to be entertained.  Use broad gestures, lots of variety in your voice, and so on.
    • If you are taking the group on a walking tour, talk about where you are going, safety concerns, and your general rules (such as when they can ask questions).  Then, lead the tour. (Optional: Organize them in teams of two, so no one gets lost or left behind.)

5. Close the talk

  • Tell them that you have completed your presentation.
  • Ask for questions or comments.  Be sure they understand that there are no firm answers to most questions, and that is why we are still conducting research.
  • Refer the audience to your website, books, events, workshops, etc., for more information.
  • Close with contact information, and distribute any handouts you brought with you.
  • Explain that you have to leave at a certain time (be specific and stick to that) but you are happy to talk with people privately — for a just a few moments — if they have questions.
  • Thank them for attending.
  • Smile when they applaud.
  • Before leaving, thank your host/s and give them a small gift. (A book, a CD of EVP or a general presentation, a “ghost photo” from the location, etc.)

[Thanks to Claudia of Parahunt.com for restoring this.]

Franklin NH – Historical Society’s Ghosts

Franklin Historical Society at Webster Place, Franklin, NHThe Franklin Historical Society is located at Webster Place in Franklin, New Hampshire.  The building is a Colonial-era home — once the residence of Daniel Webster — with a large Victorian addition.

After its years as an early American residence (owned by the Haddock and Webster families, among others), the home was used as an orphanage from 1871 through 1958.

Then, from 1960 through 2005, the site was the property of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

More recently, the building was acquired for the historical society.

In the photo at left, taken on 7 October 2010, you can see just part of the older side of the building. Most of the picture shows the 1860 Victorian addition.  (Yes, that is a large orb near one window on the middle floor.  Some photos of the front of the building included orbs; most didn’t.)

I was attending a talk by EPNE.  They described their experiences during a preliminary ghost investigation at the site, and shared some stories plus video and EVP recordings.

It was a relaxing evening, and a chance to see what’s going on in the field, in general.

After EPNE’s demonstration and a break for refreshments, I explored the building with friends (and fellow researchers) Sean Paradis and Lesley Marden.

Ground Floor: Warm Spot

Daniel WebsterFirst, we focused on a ground floor room with school desks stored in it.  (From the front entrance, the room is immediately on your left.)

This is part of the Victorian addition to the Haddock-Webster mansion.  The two-story addition was constructed in 1860 by Rufus L. Tay, who’d purchased the house and property from Daniel Webster’s son and heir.

(Daguerreotype at left shows Daniel Webster in 1847.)

One rocking chair seemed to have an odd warm spot while the chair next to it was as chilly as we expected, in that unheated room.

However, we hadn’t planned to investigate anything, so we didn’t have a thermometer to verify the effects.

Note: Some researchers believe that a cold spot indicates ghostly energy, but a warm spot suggests more dangerous energy.  I haven’t explored either from a good/bad viewpoint.

Nearby, all three of us felt that one spot in the room had unusual energy, but those were merely odd sensations. Those are difficult to document.  We detected no unusual EMF with a K-II meter or a hiking compass, at any part of that room.

Lesley and Sean checked the floor immediately upstairs, but the door to the room overhead — and all doors along that side of the house — were locked.  They appeared to be used as offices.

The Mezuzah Room

When we explored the rooms that were open upstairs, one room was odd. We’re fairly certain it’s the room where EPNE thought a flashlight had responded to yes/no questions.

What seemed especially strange in Franklin, NH — particularly since it was a home for nuns for 40 years — was the mezuzah at the doorway.

According to Wikipedia:

A mezuzah is affixed to the doorframe in Jewish homes to fulfill the mitzvah (Biblical commandment) to inscribe the words of the Shema “on the doorposts of your house” (Deuteronomy 6:9).

Some interpret Jewish law to require a mezuzah on every doorway in the home apart from bathrooms, and closets too small to qualify as rooms; others view it as necessary only to place one in the front doorway.

I’ve seen many homes that feature a mezuzah at the front door.  Others have additional mezuzahs throughout the home.

However, until last night, I’d never seen a home with a mezuzah placed at just one, interior doorway… and none anywhere else. There were no marks where other mezuzahs might have been, either.

So, why would a mezuzah mark the one, apparently most-haunted room in the building?  Was it an attempt to keep something out… or something in?

It’s possible that, when the building was divided into apartments or rooms, that room was the residence of someone Jewish, or someone who respected related traditions.

Further investigation might clarify whether or not that room is actually haunted, and why a mezuzah is at that doorframe and no other.

Nevertheless, in a town like Franklin — and particularly in a building where nuns lived — it’s odd.

After getting our general bearings at a site that we’re investigating, the first thing we look for is what’s odd.

The Attic

Among other, lesser architectural anomalies, the attic level stood out as a floor with dark and foreboding energy.

The glow-in-the-dark crucifix on one wall was charming.  The row of clothing hooks — at a height used by toddlers or small children — was a little disturbing.  I’m not sure what small children would be doing in the attic, particularly with the steep, semi-finished stairway leading to it.

A storage feature in the attic also seemed unusually repellent.  A further investigation of the site’s history might reveal more.

All in all, we concluded that the Franklin Historical Society has some odd features worth exploring.

However, it didn’t seem as if the society welcomed additional investigations; EPNE was allowed in as preparation for the historical society’s October presentation.

So, I can’t recommend the Franklin Historical Society’s building as a general research location.

The Window at the Front

After the event concluded, Sean, Lesley and I chatted outside the building.  We were startled because we thought we saw a curtain open for a moment at an attic window.

Then, when I was taking pictures, the flash highlighted the actual scene.  We realized that it was one of the windows that doesn’t have a curtain; it’s shuttered or otherwise blocked from the inside.

We’re not sure what we thought we saw, but each of us saw it, independently.

That’s the kind of anecdotal evidence that makes ghost hunting interesting, but, as scientific evidence, it has no merit.

The Window at the Back – Who Closed the Curtain?

Sean had parked his car at the back of the building, and Lesley and I felt that we should escort him to it.  I’m still not sure why.  At the time, it seemed kind of funny, both in an odd and in a ha-ha way.

As we studied the mixed architecture at the back of the building, all of us commented on another attic window.

Franklin Historical Society - back windowIt’s indicated by the red arrow in my photo at the right.  That side of the attic has curtains, and one was open.

As we chatted, I took a few photos.

Most of my pictures, like the one at the right, aren’t noteworthy.  It’s a typical New England house from the Victorian era.

However, as I studied the photos when I returned home, I kept looking at the window that troubled us.

Most of the pictures look like the following two.

(All of the following photos were adjusted to increase contrast and detail.)

I’ve included two of them, almost identical, so you can clearly see that the curtain is open.

(This is typical when I take photos.  I try to take two pictures in a row, without moving.  That way, if something is just a reflection or something normal, it’ll be in both photos.  If it’s an anomaly, it’s more likely to show up in just one of them.)

Then, I looked at one of the next pictures.  I’d walked a few feet to the right of where I stood for the previous photos.  This one was taken with a slower shutter setting.  It’s a little blurred, but the details remain fairly clear.  (I’m testing the idea that the additional image content might give the spirits something extra to work with.)

 

As you can see, the curtain is closed.

There would be nothing unusual about that, except that the building was empty. Everyone had left and locked up, at least 15 or 20 minutes earlier… before I started taking pictures.

In addition, the window had appeared open. If I’d analyzed my photos on the spot, we might have been able to verify that.  (Yes, we can see the vertical line.  That may be from a window, but it could be a screen support or something else.)

Could it be a very odd reflection?  It’s possible, but unlikely.  As you can see from the contrast in the previous photos — even the first one that wasn’t adjusted for clarity — the opening at the window looked very black.  I’m not certain that a reflection could completely offset that darkness.

Though I can’t recommend this exact location for investigations, it’s an interesting site in a town with many reminders of the past.

The Franklin Historical Society is at 21 Holy Cross Rd.  That street is off Route 3, about 3 miles south of the intersection of Routes 3 South/3A North/11 and Route 127.  Signs near the entrance indicate Webster Place Center and Webster Place Cemetery.

The cemetery is at the end of the road.  It’s on private land, but the owners give permission to visit the cemetery, under certain terms.  Please read the sign and follow their rules.

The road to the cemetery is a deeply rutted dirt road.  I recommend parking at the side of the paved road, to hike in to the cemetery.  It’s not a long distance, but cars with low clearance could sustain damage or get stuck, unless you drive very carefully on the dirt road.

Additional History

Webster Place Cemetery was previously known as Salisbury Cemetery, from an era before the town of Salisbury (NH) was incorporated as part of Franklin.

According to Wikipedia: While still part of Massachusetts, the town was granted as Baker’s Town after Captain Thomas Baker in 1736. After New Hampshire became a separate colony, the town was re-granted with the name Stevenstown. Additionally known as Gerrishtown and New Salisbury, the name Salisbury was taken when the town incorporated in 1768.

In 1746, this site was part of the northernmost fort of the Merrimack River, when Salisbury was called Stevenstown. The fort was built after the 1745 attack on the Call family, near the current location of the Franklin Historical Society.

The following excerpt is from The History of Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. It describes an attack by “savages in the interests of the French,” a band of about 30 Abenaki.

On the 15th day of August [1745], they made a successful attack on our frontier, on the house of Mr. Phillip Call, in Stevenstown. This town was subsequently known as Salisbury and the attack was made in that part of Salisbury, west of, and upon the Merrimack, now included in the town of, Franklin.

Mrs. Call [Sarah Trussell Call], her daughter-in-law, wife of Phillip Call, Jr. and an infant of the latter, were alone in the house, while the Calls, father and son, and Timothy Cook their hired man, were at work in the field.

Upon the approach of the Indians, Mrs. Call the elder, met them at the door, and was immediately killed with a blow from a tomahawk, her body falling near the door, and her blood drenching her own threashold! [sic]

The younger Mrs. Call, with her infant in her arms, crawled into a hole behind the chimney, where she succeeded in keeping her child quiet, and thus escaped from sure destruction.

The Calls, father and son, and Cook, saw the Indians, and attempted to get into the house before them, but could not succeed. They were so near the house, as to hear the blow with which Mrs. Call was killed.

Seeing however the number of the Indians, they fled to the woods and the Calls escaped.

Cook ran to the river and plunged in, but was pursued, shot in the water, and his scalp taken.

The Indians, some thirty in number, rifled the house, took Mrs. Call’s scalp, and then retreated up the river.

The Calls soon notified the garrison at Contoocook of the attack, and a party of eight men followed in pursuit.

The Indians waited in ambush for them, but showed themselves too soon, and the English party taking to the woods escaped, with the exception of Enos Bishop, who after firing upon the Indians several times was at length taken and carried to Canada as a captive. “

According to the Rich History of Webster Place, “…Many of his [Webster’s] family, together with members of the pioneering Call family, are buried in the cemetery east of the house.”

If you’re researching the Call family and their graves, note that the Call surname was sometimes spelled Cole.

As you can see, a colorful history makes this general area worth investigating.

Recommended

Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NHIf you’re researching haunts in this part of New Hampshire, stay at the 1875 Inn in Tilton, New Hampshire.  It was featured on the Ghost Hunters TV show, Season Six, Episode 13 (aired 8 Sep 2010).  It’s about 20 minutes from the Franklin Historical Society, on Route 3 in downtown Tilton.

Also, you may enjoy reading Ghost Hunting in Tilton, New Hampshire by Rue Cote. Lesley and I contributed stories to that book, and Rue’s research covers many other local haunts, as well.

References

The Rich History of Webster Place

Franklin Historical Society, Franklin, NH

Daniel Webster’s farm, SeacoastNH.com

The History of Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire

The History of Salisbury, New Hampshire

Koasek Traditional Abenaki Band – Timeline (from the Wayback Machine)

Phillip Call of Franklin, NH (genealogy notes)

Wikipedia: Salisbury, New Hampshire

The old families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts

Halloween Costume Parties – Ghost Hunting Opportunities

Halloween costume parties can be opportunities to see ghosts.

I’m not kidding.

Of course, most ghost hunters will be at haunted sites on Halloween.

However, if you’re at a potentially haunted site and you’re attending a Halloween costume party, remain very alert.  It’s not just a fun social gathering… it’s an opportunity to encounter ghosts.

This possibility never crossed my mind until it actually happened to me.

In recent years, I’ve been one of the celebrity guests at the Official Salem Witches’ Ball in Salem, Massachusetts.  That popular Halloween costume party is usually held at the haunted Hawthorne Hotel in downtown Salem. More than half the partygoers wear costumes.

That hotel is at point #7 on my haunted Judges’ Line map.  If you’re spending the night, ask for room 325 or room 628… or any room on the sixth floor. According to reports, those are the most haunted sleeping rooms.

During the evening, I looked up from the ballroom floor to see figures standing at the mezzanine windows that overlooked the party.  Generally, they were people in the kinds of costumes you might see at Mardi Gras or any non-Halloween costume party  Now and then, the person would be in classic Colonial garb.

Usually, the person (or a couple of people) would sip their drinks while watching the party below.  Then, they’d stroll off and be replaced by others who wanted a “bird’s eye” view of the party.

However, a couple of times, I saw someone at one of those windows fade away into mid-air. The person didn’t walk away or duck down… they actually seemed to evaporate.

Generally, those people (or ghosts) were wearing fairly ornate Colonial clothing.  They didn’t stand out from the others at the party, except that their costumes looked a little more well-worn than others’ and sometimes they fit differently.  (Men’s jackets were more snug across the shoulders.  Women’s clothes were less form-fitting.)

It wasn’t until the figure faded from view that I realized I’d been looking at something ghostly.

If you’re at a party where you might see ghosts, here are some basics to remember:

1. You must be alert and in-focus.  This means no alcohol or anything that might dull your senses and alter your perceptions.

Likewise, be sure you’re well-rested before you arrive.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and eat a hearty lunch.  (Ordering a full, rich dinner might make you sleepy… eat just a light meal before the party.)

2. Watch the perimeter of the party, and glance regularly at doorways and windows.  Ghosts seem to prefer to watch the party from slightly outside it.  (However, I might have been elbow-to-elbow with a ghost and didn’t realize it.  That’s always a possibility.)

3. Blend in. Wear a costume, perhaps an authentic one from the time period of any expected ghosts.  You’ll want to catch the ghosts’ attention… but not because you’re in everyday clothing, holding a camera, a voice recorder and a K-II!

There’s no reason to choose between ghost hunting and Halloween festivities.  If you attend a Halloween costume party at a site that might be haunted, you may have the best of both worlds… no pun intended.