Want to avoid big disappointments on your first ghost hunts? Know the biggest mistakes beginners can make.
From the start, lower your expectations, but also pay attention to everything. One of the biggest blunders any ghost hunter (new or experienced) can make, is to brush off something “odd” with what seems like a reasonable explanation.
Fact-check everything at the site.
For example, did the door really slam because of a breeze… or might that be a ghost? (Hold up a lit candle or a piece of tissue paper to detect a breeze.)
Was that voice a team member in a nearby room, or a disembodied spirit? (Call out to your team members to see if anyone was close enough, and talking when you heard whatever-it-was.)
The rules can be different at haunted places. Once you get used to that, ghost hunting can be even more thrilling than you expect.
Here’s what you need to know.
1) Ghost hunting won’t be as exciting as it looks on TV
On TV, it can look like something weird happens every 15 minutes or so.
In real life, I consider an investigation successful if we encounter even one really interesting anomaly during any two- or three-hour visit.
Be patient. Some ghost hunters suggest waiting 20 minutes before formally starting your investigation.
Walk around. Get familiar with the setting. Allow the ghosts (if there are any) to become comfortable with you.
That’s when the eerie moments can happen… but you may have to wait an hour or more for them to start.
2) Expect some drama, but not the kind you’ve seen on TV
Sometimes, dramatic things do happen during a ghost investigation.
- Someone sees an apparition, or captures a shadow person in a photo.
- Or, you record some astonishing, clear EVP, even if it’s just one word.
- Or, someone is touched by invisible hands or (rarely) hit, slapped, or scratched. (Note: It’s important to be sure that’s real, and not some joker in your group, taking advantage of the dark setting.)
- Or… a door slams while you’re watching it, and no one is nearby, or an object flies across the room with no human contact, and so on.
During most paranormal investigations, the subtle things are the ones that seem the most disturbing… and sometimes very personal.
For me, the eeriest was hearing my mother’s voice – her distinct tone, accent, and phrasing – say a single line through a “Frank’s Box.”
Just that once.
And, the person with the box was on a balcony about 20 feet away from me, and had no way of knowing that my mother had died about three weeks before that.
If I hadn’t been listening closely, I would have missed what she said, even though it was directed at me, personally.
The rest of the investigation was merely average. A few odd noises. A few orb photos. Something that might have been EVP, or it might not.
But for me, that one, strange moment made it a successful investigation.
I’m glad someone else was using a Frank’s Box. I’m also glad I wasn’t focused on any ghost hunting tools. All I was doing was listening and observing, and that’s why I heard that faint, distant message.
Since Mum didn’t use my name, the researcher wouldn’t have known the voice was speaking to me.
Yes, it could be argued that the voice came through a Frank’s Box. But without that device, in that quiet setting, I think my mother would have found some other way to communicate with me, if she needed to. For me, the key element was: I was listening to every sound.
3) Always start with a plan
Some ghost researchers prefer not to know anything about the site – and its ghosts – ahead of time. They feel as if the investigation is more credible when they start with no expectations. Then, the power of suggestion cannot be a factor.
That’s fine, but it’s not for everyone.
I prefer to research everything about the site, its ghosts, and their history. That way, I know exactly where I’ll get the best results, and I’ll have a list of possible triggers to use, to prompt paranormal activity.
No matter which approach you choose, it’s always good to have some kind of plan. Here are some suggestions.
- Who will be with you, and transportation arrangements. (Also know the best route to the site, where to park, when the site is open/closed, any fees, etc.)
- Who’s bringing what kind of skills and ghost hunting equipment. You can specialize in one area (ghost photos, EVP, temperature anomalies, and so on), so you have multiple confirmations of anomalies. Or, you can be sure to cover every possible kind of phenomena, and see if there’s a correlation between, say, EVP and EMF surges.
- A Plan B, similar to what I suggest when you’re planning your Halloween investigations.
Make the most of your ghost hunting at Halloween. Between weather, crowds, revelers, and police patrols, it’s best to plan ahead to avoid Halloween disappoin…
And… One mistake some beginners make after their first ghost hunt
Whether it was a good experience or a bad one, too many beginners decide that their one ghost hunt was “all it is.”
I strongly recommend going on a second (and third) ghost hunt.
At least return to the first site to debunk what you encounter (or confirming that the place really is haunted).
If your only previous experiences have been watching ghost hunting on TV, and hearing others talk about their investigations, you may be ill-prepared for what really happens at haunted sites.
From my experience at ghost hunting events, here’s what I see among many first-time ghost hunters:
- 80% of first-time ghost hunters are looking for a “good scare.” (See my article about why a good scare is a bad idea.) If that’s their only interest, and they’re at actively haunted sites (or have vivid imaginations), there’s a good chance they’ll find the good scare they’re looking for.
- 20% of first-time ghost hunters are looking for something specific. The majority are sincerely interested in this kind of research. They want to know if ghosts are real, and if some sites really are haunted. Or, they’ve encountered something odd in the past, and they think it was a ghost. So, they want to compare that with other known, “real” hauntings, and see if whatever-it-was really was a ghost.
- Within that 20%, a small percent of first-time ghost hunters are driven by the need to confirm something about a specific loved one who’s passed. That’s a topic for another article, but – for now – I can say that most don’t find the answers they’re looking for. The best, usual outcome is the realization that something continues after death. And, for a one-time experience on a single ghost investigation… maybe that’s all they needed.
Whatever your reason for giving ghost hunting a test-drive, I hope you’ll have an interesting time (if not a fun one), and become a serious researcher. We need more serious researchers, and more consistent results, to gain a better understanding of this strange – and sometimes baffling – field.