Ghost Hunting – When Someone Gets Hurt

Ghost hunting in real life is far more risky than watching it on TV… and not just for paranormal reasons.  Now and then, someone gets hurt. This is why every team of ghost hunters should have a good first aid kit that includes:

  • Sterile wipes.
  • A treatment for cuts and bug bites.
  • Some bandages (like BandAids™ or plasters).
  • Fabric for a sling.
  • A stretch (Ace-style) bandage for sprains.  (If you need a splint, you can usually improvise).
  • An OTC painkiller like aspirin, and something other than aspirin. (Some people are allergic to aspirin and related medications.)
  • On a more serious health-related topic, be sure to read Ghost Hunting and Respiratory Risks.

It’s a good idea for someone on the team to take a first aid class.  Community centers often offer them, and some church and Scouting groups will, too.

However, it’s just as important to determine what caused the injury, and if that person — or others on your team — are at risk at that location… now or for repeat visits.

Obviously, if it’s a turned ankle, an insect bite, or something you could encounter at any location, routine warnings and precautions are a good idea.

But… what if it’s something unknown, invisible, or paranormal?  What if someone is pushed, shoved, slapped, or scratched during a paranormal investigation?

When the problem might be paranormal

If the haunted location has a reputation for possibly demonic activity, get out now.  Conduct off-site research to find out if rumors and stories have enough credibility to make it a “don’t go back there” location.  Look for moderate warnings in about 20% to 30% of credible reports, or reports of significant issues from a few teams that include experts you respect.

If one ghost hunting team keeps encountering dangerous physical phenomena at a variety of locations, I’d suspect one or more issues.  None of them should be taken lightly.

  • Someone on the team is either a prankster or deeply unhealthy, and is using the cover of darkness to hurt others.
  • Someone among the ghost hunters is attracting poltergeist activity.  Usually — but not always — you’re looking for a female coping with an emotional or hormonal roller-coaster.  If you think you’ve identified the person, ask that person not to participate in two or three investigations, and see if the issue continues.
  • The team are really good at finding and activating physical phenomena, wherever they investigate.  This can be an asset, if the team take safety precautions.

On the other hand, if it’s a rare event and at just one location, there are several explanations.

  • It’s a poltergeist linked to that location.  Advice: Take safety precautions, and stop investigating if the physical dangers increase.  If one person is the regular target, ask him or her not to return to that location for a month or so.  Then, proceed with caution.
  • The spirit was just playing a prank and it got out of hand. (That happened to me at the Myrtles Plantation.)  Advice:  Talk out loud to the spirit, tell it that you are okay, but that kind of prank is not acceptable while you’re investigating.
  • The spirit is still figuring out ways to communicate.  Advice: Explain to it, out loud, more appropriate ways to communicate.  Clearly, it can move things, so give it something to move, like a small ball, a feather, a set of marbles or ball bearings, etc.  Also explain how your EMF meter works, that voices can be recorded on your voice recorder, and so on.
  • Though it’s unlikely, double-check in case the injury (especially a scratch, a sprain, or a bruise) happened earlier and the person was so involved in research, he or she didn’t notice until it started to bleed, sting, or hurt.  That’s happened to me, but only a few times in 20+ years.  Usually, after the initial surprise, the victim will say, “Oh. Wait a minute. I might have scratched myself when we were passing that hedge.”
  • The activity might be malicious or demonic.  Advice: If there is any chance of this, leave immediately and do not go back.  (Well, not unless you’re also involved in demonology and know exactly what to do next.)  Research the site, compare notes with other investigators, and then decide if this is a real possibility.  Demonic attacks are very rare, but not impossible.

As long as the injury is minor and an isolated incident at that location and for that individual, I wouldn’t worry about it.  I’d make sure my first aid kit is well-stocked, I’d take sensible precautions in the future, and — just in case — I’d recommend normal spiritual protection like a brief prayer or circle before entering that site again.

The chances of the injury being paranormal depend on the people involved and the reputation of the site.  The likelihood of it being demonic are slim, but should never be lightly dismissed if anyone’s “gut feeling” indicates a problem.

A malicious or demonic attack usually includes most or all of the following:

  • A physical injury.
  • A sense that the injury was a warning or “just the beginning.”
  • Something that impinges on the awareness of the person… a feeling of evil or intended injury.
  • Uneasiness that lingers far longer than you’d expect after an encounter with a ghost, even one that makes physical contact.

Remember that any physical contact with a ghost (or other entity) is unexpected and often feels like a violation of personal space.  That’s a reasonable reaction.

When the person is still distressed long after you expected the whole thing to be shrugged off or even forgotten in other conversation, something else may be going on: Either something genuinely disturbing happened, or the person isn’t ready for intensely haunted locations.

In most cases, once the person gets past the initial surprise, you’ll recognize it as one of those weird, rare things that can happen during an investigation.

If you return to that same site, fairly confident that the injury was a fluke, take a few extra precautions for safety’s sake.

I wouldn’t avoid a location as long as all the following criteria are met.

  1. It was a one-time, minor injury.
  2. The victim is okay and didn’t feel any emotional or spiritual distress at the time of the incident.
  3. The site has no credible reputation for malicious or demonic activity.
  4. The team wants to return there.
  5. You take extra precautions the next few times you visit that site.
  6. Nothing risky happens during future visits.

If the physical issues continue with that person or someone else on the team, pause and consider other explanations, including non-paranormal ones.

Ghost Hunting: What Makes a Great Haunted Research Site

People often ask me to recommend great, haunted sites for investigations.

I’ve mentioned several at this website and in my podcasts.  However, here’s a summary of what I look for, with some examples.

Great first-person stories

Urban legends are fun, and generally worth checking out, just in case.  If I visit a local hangout — cafe, homemade ice cream shop, coffee shop — etc., and every person I talk with tells me about the same site, it usually has (at best) a 50% chance of being somewhat active.

However, when someone tells me about their own chilling encounter with a ghost, that gets my attention.  If several people tell me their own, unique stories about one site, I try to visit it immediately.

That’s how I found Gilson Road Cemetery, before anyone else had mentioned it online.

Lots of ghost-related stories, over a long period of time

Sometimes, locals don’t like to talk about their ghosts.  Too much media attention and visits by obnoxious thrill-seekers… well, that can annoy almost anyone.

However, when a location attracts consistent attention for many years, it’s worth investigating.  In my experience, only about 20 – 30% of those sites are actually haunted.  When one is actually haunted, it’s usually far more haunted than I expected.  The Myrtles Plantation is one of those sites.

If you’ve listened to my series of podcasts about The Myrtles Plantation, you know that I didn’t expect much when I arrived.  And, since nothing much happened (except an odd moment in the parking lot, and the eerie, swinging chandelier) until well after dark, I thought I’d get a good night’s sleep.

I didn’t.  It’s a truly weird place. When it’s active, it’s really active.

Look for ghost stories with 50+ years of haunted history.  A site that became “haunted” after 2003, when the Ghost Hunters TV series made hauntings popular, might be trying to cash in on a trend.

You might find some sites (with good, long-term histories) mentioned among contemporary listings, including the The Shadowlands site, and the past articles I’m adding at Hollow Hill’s Haunted Headlines.

However, if you have access to old newspapers for an area — especially 19th century records (even better if they’re indexed) — a trip to the public library might be worthwhile.  Save yourself time: First, ask the Reference Librarian if he or she knows of great, old haunts that almost everyone has forgotten.  Then get into the dusty volumes of old newspapers (especially Halloween issues) or the microfilms of them.

Odd settings

A popular restaurant in the middle of town might be haunted… or that might be marketing, to get more ghost enthusiasts to visit and buy a  meal.

A restaurant that’s in a prime downtown location, but nobody seems to go there… that’s a place worth investigating.  However, it might simply be bad service, high prices, or terrible food.  Specifically ask people around town why they don’t eat there.  If they pause and look away, and then come up with some thready excuse like “I don’t like the tablecloths,” or “The chairs aren’t comfortable,” it’s worth visiting the restaurant to see what’s really going on.  (Maybe the seating is awful, but you won’t know until you check it out.)

Likewise, look into any business that should be doing well — great location in a popular town — but it seems to change ownership every year or to.  In Salem, Massachusetts, there’s a two-story restaurant/club/pub that’s immediately in back of the The Burying Point (Charter Street cemetery, next to the Witch Trial Memorial).  It’s at the corner of Central Street and Derby Street, almost directly across the street from Brothers Deli, where I usually eat when I’m in town.

The club (or pub, or restaurant… it keeps changing) at Central & Derby Streets is a location with several ghost stories (one is so grisly, it seems unlikely). I don’t bother to put the name of it in my articles because it’s changed hands so frequently.  I think one previous owner even tried to play up the haunted angle… and the place still failed.  So, that’s a site I’d love to investigate, but it’s always been closed (between owners) when I’ve been looking for new Salem sites to explore.

If I were investigating haunts around Salem, MA, today, I’d also skip the places everyone visits and focus on sites connected with the Great Salem Fire of 1914.  That includes sites around The Burying Point (Charter St. cemetery) since the original Salem Hospital — occupying several buildings at and near 31 Charter Street — burned to the ground in that fire.  Any former hospital site is often spiritually charged.  Add a tragic fire and the ambient energy of Salem, aka “Witch City,” and you have a winning combination for possible ghosts (or at least residual energy).

Abandoned and neglected sites

While places like downtown Salem are so small, most real estate is occupied, other towns, cities, and communities may have haunted locations.  Those were once popular and bustling, but now they’re deserted.  Look for the cafe on the edge of town, where traffic was heavy until the new highway went in.  At the very least, those are sites of broken dreams.  Residual energy is likely there, if not ghosts of past patrons and owners.

And, while you’re in that area, look for nearby, neglected city or church cemeteries.

Speaking of cemeteries, remember that early towns often put their cemeteries on what was the edge of town.  They didn’t want reminders of death in plain sight.   That’s especially true of non-religious cemeteries where “paupers” and criminals may have been buried.

Depending on how the town or city sprawled, you can find good, haunted cemeteries in the middle of town… or in an area long abandoned as the population moved in a different direction.

Of course, deserted areas are always risky.  Take sensible precautions.  Explore those sites with a group, never alone or with just one other person, especially at dusk or after dark.

Forgotten historic sites

I’ve mentioned that hospital sites — now abandoned or replaced with something else (like the condos in Danvers, MA, not far from the Salem) — can be very creepy and worthwhile investigation sites… with permission.

Those aren’t the only locations that are usually haunted, if only with residual energy.  (Remember: We’re not sure if residual energy is responsible for some EVP.  So, don’t overlook residual energy sites for interesting results.)

Former sites of jails, housing for 19th-century factories and mills, funeral homes, and estates that were destroyed (for any reason) can be surprisingly good. If you can find an old theatre (for stage performances or even an early movie house), that’s usually reliable, as well.

You’re always looking for locations connected with one or more of these “hot” topics for hauntings:

  • Money
  • Power struggles
  • Drama
  • Tragedy

Money can be about control, greed, or poverty.  (Extremes usually add power struggles, drama, and tragedy, almost by default.) It can also be where the will was read, and rich old Aunt Hazel left every cent to her favorite chihuahua.  So, never overlook where lawyers’ offices used to be.

Power struggles may have occurred at the main office (or in the yard) at 19th-century factories.

If you’re looking for drama, find out where banks had been located… the ones that collapsed in the Great Depression.  Also find out where soup kitchens were in that era.

Sometimes, the “tragedy” aspect is a fire, a shifting population, the complete failure of a business (manufacturers of hooks for high-button shoes, for example), and so on.  At other times, the tragedy occurred at home.  In the 19th century and earlier, suicides often occurred in carriage houses and other outbuildings.  In strict families where the younger daughters couldn’t marry until the oldest daughter did, you might find residual energy (or ghosts) in their former homes.  (You’re also looking for broken hearts — and people who remained single — because they weren’t allowed to marry across social, religious, or ethnic boundaries.  That’s not just the 19th century and earlier… it wasn’t unusual through the middle of the 20th century.)

In general, start with popular (and forgotten) “ghost stories” and then look into local history for sites that match the profiles listed above.   Most communities have at least two or three overlooked haunts.  They might be obscure, or hiding in plain sights.

Ghost Hunting, Archaeology, and tDAR

Ghost hunting and archaeologyExperienced ghost hunters routinely check the history of the areas where they’re investigating.  When it’s a new house that’s haunted,  I look for what was there before the house was built.

In the Americas, when it’s a truly weird haunting — a candidate for another Amityville horror story — we look for really early history, usually Native, early Colonial, battleground, or pioneer records.

If the home has a geographically advantageous placement — such as a hill or a site with panoramic views — the history is likely to include a Native community or a burial gound.  More recently, I may find that an early American fort or outpost was there.  In the Americas, an early community or a fort can connect with one or more incidents of broad-scale violence at or near the site.

In the UK, the history of haunted location may be surprising, as well.  The Falstaff’s Experience at Tudor World — one of England’s most haunted sites, and the strangest I’ve investigated in the UK — is in a building with a colorful history involving blood, death, and more than one tragedy that spread across England.  However, the land beneath it (and nearby) has an even older history, with additional reasons why Falstaff’s is home to myriad phenomena. (If you think Stratford-upon-Avon is just about Shakespeare… you haven’t visited the Falstaff’s Experience after dark.)

Until recently, the ghost hunters’ challenge has been finding documentation of that kind of history.  Urban legends aren’t enough, even when there’s supporting anecdotal evidence.

Professional researchers like me want more solid, factual information. That’s where archaeology enters the ghost hunting picture.

John Sabol, a professional archaeologist, and Mary Becker have been impressing many of us with their startling results in ghost excavation research. (If you have an opportunity to watch them work, don’t miss it.)

However, many of us don’t have the advantages of a degree in archaeology, as John has.  We need access to archaeological information… at least enough to give us a guess as to what might have been at the location, and what we can rule out.

That’s when the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) can be among ghost hunters’ most useful resources. However, I’ll warn you: If you’re not a geek about this, and academic research puts you to sleep, that site may disappoint you.  For the rest of us — an admittedly small group — it’ll make your pulse race.

At tDAR, you can search for the history of your target location and its surroundings.  At a glance, you can see what time periods have been explored with archaeological digs, what they were looking for and what they found.  The map feature shows you whether the reference is related to your location or not, and you can focus your database search with exact GPS coordinates.

Though the actual records may not be at the tDAR site, you’ll know exactly what to look for at public and university libraries.  In many cases, those libraries have online catalogues, with notations about whether that book or report is in the library, or if it’s been checked out.

Thus is a huge step forward for aggressive and conscientious ghost investigators.

Over the past 20+ years, my paranormal investigations moved from “ooh, what’s that noise?” to in-depth research with historical documentation and geographical references.  Today, before I even visit a site, I’ve spent a full day with databases and maps, plus two or more days taking notes from dusty history books.  Stories and uncertain spectral encounters aren’t enough for me.

tDAR is the kind of tool you’ll use if you delve deeply into paranormal research.  As ghost hunters, we need historical resources that take our reports beyond “well, it might be….” to “here’s solid evidence to explain the history of what’s going on here.”

The majority of ghost hunters investigate to confirm activity at a site.  Many homeowners only need to hear, “No, you’re not imagining things.  Strange things really are going on, here.”  They’re happy to hear that, and the research team has enough other cases to deal with.  They don’t have the time or interest to dig deeply into why the house is haunted.  If the homeowner says something about someone dying there, a century ago, or a cemetery that used to be across the street… that’s good enough.  You don’t need to conduct more research at or about that site.

On the other hand, if you remain in this field long enough to want far more from ghost hunting and paranormal research, tDAR may be the academic and historical tool you need.

Ovilus – Hell-Fire Caves – UK

“The Ovilus – Ghostfinder Paranormal Society” is a demonstration of the Ovilus in Britain’s Hell-Fire Caves is impressive but not necessarily scary.  It shows exactly what the Ovilus can say, though this video may only impress those who understand the way it works.

The word selection is random, similar to the results of a random number generator equipped with numbers from 1 to 512.  (The Ovilus, in dictionary mode, comes pre-programmed with at least 512 words.)  In other words, your chances of hearing the same word twice are, at best, 1:512, if the device is working on random chance.  Unless you feel that something else (like a ghost) influences the Ovilus, it’s statistically unlikely that you’ll hear the same word repeated within several minutes, and extremely unlikely that it will say the same thing twice in a row.

So, hearing the words repeated in this video, I was impressed.

My own experiences with the original Ovilus (the one that had just 512 words) were startling.  It said my full name at a Salem, Massachusetts, location.  I can understand that “broom” might be in the dictionary, but not “Fiona.”  I’ve heard the Ovilus say other people’s names — not in the dictionary — as well.

After my previous review of an interesting Ghostfinder Paranormal Society video, I looked for more videos by this group.  That’s how I found this Ovilus video, and I recommend other videos by this British group, assuming that many of their videos will have the same credibility.

For anyone wondering what a ghost would say, this video gives you a good idea… if you believe that ghosts are speaking through devices such as the Ovilus.

Assuming that the Ovilus really does speak for ghosts, I’m rating this video with the usual 2 1/2 stars for average originality, and 4 stars for credibility.  The video represents a typical, good Ovilus investigation.  This may not be a scary ghost video, but it’s the real thing.  (This video might be a little more chilling if you research the history of the Hell-fire Club and its reputation for immoral acts.)





Guildford Investigation – UK

In “Guildford ghost hunt” (video below), two members of the Ghostfinder Paranormal Society and a media team investigate a Guildford location related to an interesting — and potentially paranormal — photograph.  In this 7-minute video, they identify enough odd activity to make this a location worth further research.  The historical location makes this site especially intriguing.

Fort Worden ghost photo - Man in blueA few things stand out in that video.  Initially, I was intrigued by the Guildford photo because it reminds me of my 2003 “man in blue”  photo from near Seattle, Washington (USA).   That’s it, on the right.

A second, similar Guildford photo — seen later in the video — raises more questions about the British pictures as well as the site.

However, I was ready to dismiss this ghost video as too amateurish when I saw the K-II meter spike while the non-contact thermometer was nearby. The spikes occurred again when some other equipment, perhaps a voice recorder, seemed very close to the K-II.

I know how easy it is to be so fixated on the K-II (or any other research tool) that you don’t notice the nearby objects that — because they contain batteries and use electricity — can cause EMF spikes.  It’s pretty embarrassing when that confusion occurs in front of media representatives.

The camera angle made it difficult to be sure how close the equipment was, but it was enough to raise an eyebrow.

But then, at the 5:17 mark, we see the K-II meter propped next to the voice recorder… and the K-II isn’t reacting to the recorder.  So, that may debunk my theory that the K-II spikes were caused by nearby devices.

Another point in favor of the site being active is: The video camera lost all power, though the batteries had been fully charged before the filming.  That’s not normal.  Though it’s not conclusively paranormal on its own, batteries losing power can indicate a haunted site.

Finally, this video seems authentic because most of the activity appeared to be at a location distant from where the photos were taken.  If the researchers had been too suggestible, they’d have discovered “ghostly activity” at or near the photo location.  After all, that would have been great TV.

Instead, the activity was in another spot.  Was it related to the photo they were investigating?  The figure moved from one location to another in the two photos displayed, so the K-II readings and cold sensations could be related to whatever caused those photo images.

Or, it could be something else altogether.

This isn’t a truly unique video, though I liked the suggestion of a noose at the possible “hanging tree.”  So, it ranks low in that category.  (That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  When people get too original with their videos, it sets off the skeptic alarms.  Credibility, not creativity, is most important to ghost hunters.)

And, though I was ready to give this a single star for credibility (due to the proximity of the K-II and other handheld devices), the later shot of the K-II (next to the voice recorder) increased the credibility significantly.






Orb Moves Along Corridor Floor – FL

About “Real Ghost Security Cam Footage – Florida Condo” (above): This video could be real, not faked. How seriously you take it may depend on whether or not you believe orbs represent ghosts.

The video was filmed in a Florida condo. Other than that, we have no information.

One person commented that it’s a spider walking across the camera lens.  That’s possible, but it’d be a very odd coincidence because the orb seems to bump against the left wall, near the conclusion of the reprocessed portion of the video.

Likewise, the explanations that it’s a dog or a rat are possible, but the image is so blurry and apparently translucent, I’m not convinced it’s the explanation.  I can’t rule it out, because the orb does seem to run into — and bounce off – the left wall.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an orb do anything like that, in a video.

A fleck of dust is a possibility, as is the idea that the whole thing is a fake by someone skilled with video effects.

The person who posted this at YouTube gets points for not using cheesy music or stupid sound effects.  On the other hand… well, it’s yet another orb video.  It’s not a typical orb video, and that can tilt opinion in its favor or against it.

When I’m looking at orb videos, I look for things that don’t make sense.  For example, I want to see dust that defies gravity in a setting where it’s clear that no breezes were likely.  I’m not seeing anything impressive in this video.

Is it an orb?  Maybe.  Does that mean it’s a ghost?  Not necessarily.

The presentation leans in the direction of credibility (as opposed to something deliberately faked).  However, I’d need far more evidence to believe that site has repeated paranormal activity.