How Much Should I Budget for Ghost Hunting Equipment?

Some bloggers will try to sell you expensive ghost hunting equipment, right away.

I won’t.

In fact, if you’re a beginner, save your money!

First, make sure this will be a long-term interest, hobby, or profession.

With experience, you’ll know what kind of ghost hunting you enjoy. Also, you’ll have seen others’ equipment, and know what works best where you investigate.

But, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, never invest more money than you can afford to lose.

Expensive Mistakes with Ghost Hunting Equipment

trees and moonlight in haunted settingAfter you’ve been investigating for a while, you’ll know the risks with expensive ghost hunting tools.

For example:

People drop things when they’re startled.  In the dark, you might not find what you dropped.

(The problem becomes worse if you drop what you’re carrying, and run away in terror.)

– If you drop a sensitive $5k camera or a $2k heat sensing device, it can break the same as a $40 camera or a $15 digital thermometer.

If you didn’t buy a replacement warranty, or it doesn’t cover that kind of mistake, you may have wasted thousands of dollars.

Electronic equipment can fail in extremely haunted settings. In fact, unexplained equipment failure can indicate intense paranormal activity.

I think EMF spikes are to blame. Most electrical devices will glitch or fail when exposed to intense magnetic energy. That’s reasonable, unless it’s remarkably well shielded.

If your expensive camera or other device won’t work when you’re ghost hunting, you’ve wasted your money. Worse, it can be difficult to return that equipment if it shows any wear, or if you can’t demonstrate how it fails.

Instead, focus on just one aspect of ghost hunting.

If you like ghost photography, invest in photographic equipment.

If you like divinatory tools, buy or make specialized dowsing rods or pendulums.

As a New Ghost Hunter on a Budget…

If I were starting fresh, today, I’d probably spend $100 or less. Maybe far less.

I’d use the camera in my phone. It’s good enough. I wouldn’t bother with a fancy ($$) after-market lens attachment, either.

For many investigations, that’s all you need.

Later, if I decided I really liked taking ghost photos, I might get a good camera.

Not long ago, I bought a couple of used, refurbished point-and-shoot digital cameras. They’re great… but they use specialized batteries.

So, I keep going back to my trusty Nikon Coolpix camera.

For photo-processing software, I’d use Photopea, GIMP, PhotoScape X, or something else that’s free. (Today, I default to Photoshop and Affinity, among other photo tools, but free programs work well enough to tell if you’ve captured an anomaly.)

I’d make dowsing rods from coat hangers. (If you’re not sure how, see my Homemade Dowsing Rods article, for instructions.) A pendulum is a fine alternative, if you’re intrigued by tools like this.

– I’d use the voice recorder on my phone, or buy an inexpensive one at an office supply store or warehouse. (Make sure the microphone is omni-directional, so it picks up sounds all around you, not just in one direction.)

– I’d buy an inexpensive flashlight with a metal case. I’d make sure the light bulb housing unscrews easily, to test yes/no responses when the housing is loosened.

– I’d get a set of good surgical-type masks that protect me from toxins, bacteria, and viruses around me. (Remember, some ghost hunters have died from exposure to toxic fumes, rat droppings, etc.)

Since Covid, you’ll find lots of good options. For ghost hunting, I like disposable masks, but be certain they’re actually good. (Many free masks at doctors’ offices are designed to contain germs inside the mask… not keep bad things out. Make sure your mask actually protects you.)

– I’d put all of that in a backpack with several pockets or dividers (to find things in complete darkness).

My own backpack is the basic Amazon one. My cameras, Ovilus, Ghost Meter Pro, etc., go in the big pocket. Maps, pen & a notebook, small first aid kit, etc., in the next largest. Spare batteries in the outside pocket. And so on.

I’d also add a small, inexpensive first aid kit.

Don’t spread yourself too thin, in terms of learning or financial investment. Set a firm spending limit and do not exceed that.

It’s easy to get carried away.  Keep your ghost hunting expenses low.

Don’t let ghost hunting jeopardize other aspects of your personal, professional, or family life.

When you’re a beginner, see how well you enjoy ghost hunting, before you spend much money.

Some Ghost Hunting Equipment

Any flashlight with a metal case. First aid kit. Reliable masks.
Still my favorite electronic device. Simple backpack. Optional: pendulum.

Elva Zona Heaster’s Ghostly Testimony – West Virginia

Greenbrier Ghost

Late October is a great time for ghost hunting… and not just on Halloween.

October 20th is also the wedding anniversary of Elva Zona Heaster and her murdering husband, “Trout” Shue.

If I were in West Virginia and could investigate her grave (or his), I’d be there on October 20th. Anniversaries usually trigger extra ghostly activity. And, when the wedding soon led to murder… well, that improves the odds of an eerie graveside investigation.

Elva Zona “Zonie” Heaster is one of the few documented, ghostly detectives.

According to her mother – and the jury at Trout’s trial – Elva solved her own murder.

elva zona heaster
Possible photo of Elva (may have been taken after her murder)

Elva was born in 1873 at Greenbrier, West Virginia (USA) to Jacob Hedges Heaster (1847 – 1917) and his wife, Mary Jane Robinson (1849 – 1916).

Elva was one of nine children in the family, and the elder of two girls. (Elva’s sister Lennie was born seven years after Elva.)

Elva was also one of the county’s most beautiful young women.

Her first boyfriend was Albert Carr. (He later married – twice – and named his daughters Elva and Zona. So, it seems like he never quite got over Elva Zona Heaster.)

Elva may have married George Woldridge. They had a baby boy in November 1895. The child may have died or been raised by someone else. The records aren’t clear about the baby’s fate, if George was Elva’s husband, or what happened to George.

A year later, Elva fell in love with Erasmus Stribbling “Trout” Shue, who’d been born in 1861 in Augusta, Virginia. (His parents were Jacob and Elizah Shue.)

elva and husband
Elva Zona Heaster and Trout Shue, in happier times

Evidence suggests that “Trout” was a heart breaker – and perhaps a wife-murderer – even before he arrived in town and courted Elva.

Trout had already been married to Allis (or Allie) Estilline Cutlip, Lucy A. Tritt, Ellen Estilline Cutlip, and Annie Williams. (Ellen and Allis may have been one person. Like many records of that time, spelling errors are commonplace.)

His first marriage (to Allis) ended in divorce, with cruelty cited.

His second wife (Lucy) died suddenly, hit on the head “by a falling brick.”

It seems as if most of Trout’s neighbors believed he’d killed Lucy, but they had no proof.

The other one or two wives… I haven’t found records for either of them, yet.

So, Elva was Trout’s fourth or fifth wife. (Apparently, his goal was to marry seven women.)

Trout was described as a drifter, and worked as a blacksmith near Elva’s home.

The couple married on October 20th, 1896, about a year after Elva’s baby (with George Woldridge) had been born.

From the start, it appears that Elva’s mother was uneasy about the ever-so-charming Mr. Shue.  In fact, some accounts say that Mrs. Heaster hated Trout on sight.

Then, on January 23rd, 1897 – shortly after the couple had been married just three months – Trout sent a boy to the Shue house on an errand. The boy found Elva, dead at the foot of the stairs.

By the time the doctor arrived, Trout had already brought Elva upstairs to her bed, wrapped her neck in a bright-colored scarf, and generally prepared the body for burial.

(The reference to the scarf, and the odd, flat appearance of Elva’s hair, face, and neck, suggest that the photo – near the top of this article – was taken after she’d died. Postmortem photos were common in some regions, as a memento of the deceased.)

Because Trout seemed so distraught at his wife’s death, the doctor did only a cursory examination. He decided that Elva had fainted and fallen down the stairs to her death.

(Only later were questions raised about the blood near her body, and the possibility that she was pregnant when she was killed.)

Elva was buried in an unmarked grave at Soule Chapel cemetery.

About a month after Elva’s death, over a period of four nights, her spirit appeared to her mother, Mrs. Heaster.

Elva’s mother said that Elva looked like she was “flesh and blood,” not a ghost.

Elva explained to her mother that Trout had killed her. To confirm that she spoke the truth, Elva told her mother several things that her mother could not have known at the time . And, to demonstrate that Trout had broken her neck, Elva (the ghost) rotated her head in a full circle.

Elva’s mother visited the sites Elva had named, and verified the details that Elva had shared. Everything confirmed that Elva’s spirit really had visited her mother.

So, Mrs. Heaster went to the county prosecutor and convinced him to open Elva’s grave for an autopsy.

As expected, it turned out that Elva’s neck was broken, but her windpipe had been crushed as well. She hadn’t been the victim of a fall.

Trout was charged with murder. On July 11th, 1897, he was sentenced to life in prison, where he died of an unknown epidemic on March 11th, 1900.

Elva’s mother’s story never wavered. She always insisted that her daughter’s ghost had appeared to her, and revealed the murder.

The story is so odd, I believe her.

Where is Trout Shue buried?

His body is in an unmarked grave near West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. (That retired prison is open for tours, as well as overnight investigations.)

If you’d like to investigate the prison cemetery, it’s part of Whitegate Cemetery. You’ll find it along Tom’s Run, about 3/4 of a mile from the main route into Moundsville on Fourth Street.

Where is Elva Zona Heaster Shue buried?

To investigate Zona’s grave, go to Soule Chapel Methodist Cemetery. It’s in Meadow Bluff, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, off the old Kanawha Turnpike. (I recommend checking other parts of that cemetery, as well. She’s probably in the family plot, but – since the grave was unmarked for more than 80 years – it’s not her guaranteed location.)

The Man Who Wanted Seven WivesMore reading and resources

For the full story, read The Man Who Wanted Seven Wives – The Greenbrier Ghost and the Famous Murder Mystery of 1897. That book presents the most thorough account of the entire story.

Haunted HomelandOr, if you’d like to read more about the Greenbrier Ghost and others, I recommend Haunted Homeland: A Definitive Collection of North American Ghost Stories.

The writing style is colorful and the stories are well-researched.

Winchester Mystery House – Another Room?

Winchester Mystery House - A Hidden Room?The headline says “New room found at San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House,” and the article explains, “The home’s preservation team recently opened the new room, which is an attic space that has been boarded up since Sarah Winchester died in 1922.”

But, as another article – Winchester Mystery House Pries Open Creepy Attic Room Boarded Up In 1922 – explains…

But notably, Sarah’s attic isn’t being presented in its original location — instead, its items have been spirited away to another location on the grounds. “We have relocated the ‘attic’ to the central courtyard,” a representative from the Mystery House wrote on Facebook. “

In a typical “haunted” house, if the furnishings aren’t in the original room, I’ve lost at least half my interest.

New room at Winchester Mystery HouseOh, I’m certain that objects can hold ghostly energy

But, my past investigations  suggested that an equal amount of energy (or more) is in the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room.

Maybe that energy was absorbed from the objects. I don’t know. But, I am sure that a sealed room with its objects is likely to be more haunted than just those objects, placed in a courtyard.

To be fair, the attic room may have been unsafe or impractical to open to the public. So, moving the objects might have been the best option.

And, it probably goes without saying: the Winchester house is far from a “typical” haunted house. Its history was bizarre from the beginning.

Looking at the photo, above… all I needed to see were the old portrait and the doll. Those are two typical signals that the room is likely to have anomalies.

(I’m assuming that doll is composition and was actually in the room when it was opened. Several “haunted” sites have added dolls as props, to seem creepier. Know your doll history, so you’ll spot dolls that don’t fit the time period.)

With or without the “new room,” the Winchester Mystery House is one of America’s most enduring – and important – haunts.

For years, psychics and mediums have been sure that some of the house’s most haunted rooms were still hidden, or at least sealed. That’s confirmed by a room like this.

The Winchester Mystery House also provided evidence supporting the idea that ghostly activity – particularly poltergeists – seem to correlate with the presence of water. I think Colin Wilson was one of the first to mention that.

For about 10 years, when I heard a poltergeist report, I asked about the proximity to water. In over 95% of credible reports, water was within three feet of the activity: bars, kitchens, or bathrooms. Usually, the distance was closer to one foot.

The alternative was unexplained water that appeared on surfaces, immediately following the activity. That’s been reported at the Winchester house, as well.

Here’s a 10-minute video about the Winchester Mystery House, filmed by the “Weird US” guys.

If you’re interested in the history of the Winchester house, I recommend the half-hour documentary narrated by actress Lilian Gish, Mrs. Winchester’s House. That 1963 film is very stylish and captures the eerie mood of the site.

I’m thousands of miles from the Winchester Mystery House, so – for now – I’m unlikely to investigate at the house. (I’m finding a lot of great, weird information in books, old newspapers, and others’ articles.)

If you visit the house and can report on the activity around the new attic-related display, let me know in comments, below.

Ghostly News and a CT Ley Line – 10 Oct 2016

October is here, and so are articles that show a profound misunderstanding of what ghost hunters do.

I’m rather irked reading the insults in “Study links poor understanding of the physical world to religious and paranormal beliefs.”

Tarring all religions and paranormal beliefs with the same brush, the article –  based on a study by Marjaana Lindeman and Annika Svedholm-Häkkinen of the University of Helsinki – claims:

“The results showed that religious and paranormal (supernatural) beliefs correlated with all variables that were included: low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena…”

That list continues, but I think you get the point.

And, I know quite a few highly educated priests and professors who’d disagree with that correlation.

Oh, I’m not disputing the study results, just the sampling they used or the methods, or both.

It’s typical of the bias we deal with as researchers.

But, for every annoying article like that one, I find several news stories that intrigue me.

I started with an article about a haunted site in Pennsylvania. Then, I found a news article about a Connecticut ghost investigation. After that, I started connecting the dots – literally. In the explanation that follows, you’ll see how I use news stories and maps to find even more interesting places to investigate.

ghostbat

theatre curtainFirst, there’s the Casino Theater in Vandergrift, PA (USA). It’s opening for an investigation. The site’s history sounds like it’s worth a visit.

I’m always interested in haunted theaters. An unusually high percentage of theaters have ghost stories, and very obliging ghosts.

I mention them in my article, What Makes a Great Haunted Research Site.

  • Theater ghosts often respond well to direction (just as actors do).
  • Backstage, almost every theatre has at least one haunted dressing room… with a juicy story.
  • And, almost every theater has a ghost that supposedly sits or stands in the dark, near the back of the theater. In some cases, a cigarette may be involved, as well as visible wisps of smoke, or a smoky aroma.

If you’re in the Vandergrift area, learn more at this article: Casino Theater paranormal investigation attracts believers, skeptics.

ghostbat

Then there’s the Dr. Ashbel Woodward House Museum in Franklin, Connecticut. It used to be the home of a medical practice. Today, it’s a historical site.

A news story describes a recent investigation at the site. I’m not sure it’s very haunted, but it has the features I look for in a historical site that’s likely to have ghosts of some kind.

If you’re near Connecticut, the article – no longer online – was in the Norwich Bulletin. You may find a copy of it locally: Ghost hunters look for paranormal activity at Franklin museum.

About 15 minutes away, a “My Ghost Story” episode was filmed at 3 Boswell Avenue in nearby Norwich (CT). Apparently, some ghosts still linger. (The segment was “The Grim Rapper” from “I Am Full of Madness” that aired 14 May 2011.)  In the Norwich Bulletin, in an article titled TV show will explore ‘haunted’ home that drove man from Norwich.

If you want to see that actual Norwich site, remember it’s a private residence. Be discreet and respectful of their privacy.

ghostbat

Exploring ley lines

The proximity of those two haunted locations makes it easy to draw a line between the two sites. In fact, any time I see two paranormal sites – especially haunted sites – near each other, I draw a line that connects them.

Then, I extend that line in both directions, and see where it leads me.

After reading about those two Connecticut haunts, I was eager to get to work. I’ve never been to Norwich, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but my “gut feeling” told me I’d find some great haunted places, nearby.

First, using Google Maps, I constructed a line from 3 Boswell Avenue to the Dr. Ashbell Woodward House Museum.

Then, I checked a few local landmarks that were on or near that line.

Immediately, I was drawn to Norwich’s Colonial Cemetery. That cemetery is closed, but the information online looks fascinating.

With three interesting haunts along one line, I knew I’d find more. So, I kept researching odd places close to the line.

Almost instantly, I found Norwich State Psychiatric Hospital, aka, Norwich State Hospital for the Insane. Several ghost hunters reported it as a terrifying place to investigate… when they could visit it.

As of 2016, this dangerous site – with demolished buildings and collapsed tunnels – is strictly off-limits and unsafe.





In addition, Norwich State Hospital looks like it’s over a mile away from the line.

Many researchers limit their ley lines widths to 12 feet. Others talk about lines as wide as 15 miles.

A few researchers insist that extreme weather, emerging fault lines, and other natural issues suggest that ley lines may be expanding, too.

Personally, I vary the width of the line with the location. That’s part common sense and part “gut feeling.”

In New Orleans’ French Quarter, the lines can be just a few feet wide. In other areas, I’ll expand them a few miles at the very most. My goal is to keep my lines as narrow and focused as possible.

So, I’m iffy about including Norwich State Hospital. If I had more time, I’d look for more ghost reports on or near the line. I’d judge the line width based on how many sites are nearby.

I might try some line variations, using the hospital as a starting point. That site’s ghost stories are certainly lurid.

But, at the moment, I’m not sure. And, I’m working on my next book. So, I’ll leave this ley line for others to explore and refine.

Nevertheless, this shows you how I use news stories and maps – plus some online research – to find and evaluate other sites that could be haunted.

Introduction to Ghost Hunting – Start Here

This following is a copy of the first page of my Introduction to Ghost Hunting course, at Hallowfields.com.

Visit that website for the course. Be sure to start with the Academy News page. It explains what’s new (and what’s arriving soon) at Hallowfields Ghost Hunting Academy.

ghostbat

Welcome to your free, four-part course, Introduction to Ghost Hunting.

You’ll get the most out of this course if you allow at least a week to complete each lesson.

Also, the videos, handouts, and links in each lesson are optional. However, the more you learn about ghost hunting – especially the topics that most interest you – the more you’ll enjoy visiting haunted place.

Full moon illustrationsHere are the lessons:

1. Ghost Hunting Preparations – Getting the most from ghost hunting and this course.

2. Find a Haunted Place – How to find haunted places to explore, and people who share your interests.

3. Take Your Next Step – Now that you have some experience, learn some professional techniques.

4. Join or Start a Ghost Hunting Team – Get more involved in paranormal research.

This checklist may be helpful as you progress through your lessons: Introduction to Ghost Hunting – Actions List.

 

 

What is the main reason why ghosts haunt houses?

If we take folklore seriously, most ghosts have a story to tell, a wrong to correct, or unfinished business.

eastern state penitentiaryWhen ghost hunters investigate a haunted site, most ghosts seem to fit that profile.

In almost every case:

– The ghost wants something specific to happen before crossing over. Or, the ghost is afraid to cross over for other reasons.

– In some cases, the ghost refuses to believe that he or she is dead. Ask them what year it is, and you’ll usually get the year the person died.

– It may be an energy imprint, not a ghost (or spirit) lingering at the site.

A few tales — such as the “green lady” stories of Scotland — offer other explanations. Green ladies remain in homes that they loved. Those are benevolent spirits. They protect the building and the people who live in it. Each “green lady” ghost isn’t trapped in the house. She could leave whenever she wants to. She’s happy to stay there.

Green lady ghosts are like the spirits of relatives. They visit us to check on our safety and happiness.

I’m not sure that I’d call that a ghost. The spirit isn’t trapped in our plane of existence.

By contrast, a banshee may also be a relative of the family it guards. Is the banshee trapped here? Is it a ghost, or — as much folklore suggests — part of the faerie realm? It’s difficult to establish boundaries and precise definitions.

Until we’re sure that ghosts exist, and what they really are, we can’t be sure why they haunt houses… or any other location.


Did you like this article? You can read answers to 100 more ghost hunting questions at another of my websites: Ghosts101.com.