Finding “Outsider” Haunts – Free Worksheet

If you’re ghost hunting and you’d like to investigate overlooked, extremely haunted sites, “outsider” locations are ideal.

They’re infamous, or they’re practically forgotten. Or both.

In most cases, ghosts connected to infamous people – such as Jack the Ripper – are already well-known.

Often, the places they haunt have been researched by so many people, the ghostly (or psychic) energy can seem diluted.*

In my opinion, the dilution occurs when recent residual energy – from the intense emotions of paranormal investigators – remains at the site.

That’s why I’m always more interested in lesser-known haunts, and unreported sites.

If you want to find fresh, intensely haunted sites, historical research can make a big difference.

One way to simplify your research: start with “outsiders” in history, and places connected to them.

An added bonus: These sites can be “hiding in plain sight.” You might drive past them – or signs pointing to them – daily.

To help you find these kinds of sites, I’ve created a simplified checklist. It summarizes the main steps I take when I’m looking for a haunted site with unreported (or under-reported) paranormal activity, for my own research or as a location scout for TV producers.

Here’s the link to the PDF on Google Drive: Click here to download a free copy of Finding Unexplored “Outsider” Haunts. (It’s okay to share that link with others.)

Related articles at this website:


*There are exceptions to the dilution concept. Here are a few:

  • Of course, Tudor World (Stratford-upon-Avon, England) comes to mind immediately. That site is so eerie and so haunted, it breaks all the rules. I’m sure the site has a secret history that’s not been revealed yet – possibly multiple reasons why its ghosts are the strangest I’ve ever encountered. They’ve been there for so many centuries, I don’t think they’ll fade… ever.
  • I love England, including London, but there’s not enough money in the world to entice me to spend a night in London’s Highgate Cemetery. It has so many layers of paranormal activity, thousands of investigators could stream through, daily, for a century or longer… and it’d remain one of the most chilling, haunted places on Earth.
  • Lizzie Borden’s house (Fall River, Massachusetts) is another weird site every ghost hunter should investigate. Its ghostly energy probably won’t diminish until the real murder story is told. And, oh yes, if you explore the basement, be sure your companions have nerves of steel. I’m not sure those ghosts have any direct connection to sweet-when-she’s-not-angry Lizzie.
  • The library at Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount (Lenox, Massachusetts), is a room with an extraordinary level of paranormal energy, no matter how many ghost hunters investigate it.  The rest of the house is charming and at least lightly haunted, but the library… it’s in a powerful class of its own.
  • And then there are hot-and-cold sites like the Hellfire Club (Montpelier Hill, Dublin, Ireland) which seems to fluctuate between being insanely haunted… and then not haunted at all. Nothing in-between, and I don’t think that has anything to do with how many people investigate it.

Ghost Hunting? Here’s How to Find Haunted “Outsider” Sites

You want to investigate a truly intense, chilling, haunted site, but you don’t know where to start.

I know how that feels. It seems like almost every place that’s been investigated – especially those featured on TV or a video site – is a big disappointment.

Or it’s okay, but you want more. Stranger phenomena. Weirder vibes. A genuine fright or two.

That’s my specialty, and I’m about to share one sneaky way to find haunts nobody else knows about.

Be prepared. This technique can lead you to locations that most people run from, in terror.

If you’re ready to try something different, and you’re especially brave – or foolhardy – here’s one of my favorite techniques.

It’s about “outsider” sites.

In a previous article, I talked about the importance of identifying your community’s  “outsiders” history, first.

That’s essential, if you’re looking for haunted places that no one else has explored.

First, identify who the outsiders – groups and individuals – were.

Then, research their lives and lifestyles.

Then, you’ll be ready to explore where they lived (and usually died).

Here’s what to look for.

Where Did ‘Outsiders’ Live… and Die?

Outsiders often lived in tight-knit neighborhoods of their own. Often, their homes – if they could be called that – weren’t very nice. Many were shabby tenements, slums, and hovels.

Of course, some of those neighborhoods have changed radically since then.

For example, much of Beacon Hill (Boston, MA) is luxury housing. But, if you take a walking tour of the area, you’ll learn about several waves of immigrants and other outsiders who once lived there.

(You’ll find plenty of ghosts around Beacon Hill, but few residents will mention them. It could be bad for property values.)

Fiona Broome's advice

Sometimes, a local walking tour (like architectural tours, not necessarily ghost tours) will be your best resource.

Tour guides often know about today’s buildings, but they may also know what used to be on that land… and what happened there.

Also, gentrified neighborhoods can be pure gold for ghost hunters.

Old neighborhood
Photo courtesy Dids

To locate “gentrified” neighborhoods, ask your local historical society, or at the local library’s reference desk.

(Here are a couple of articles about recent gentrified areas: LA and the other top 10 most gentrified zip codes in the US and The 10 Most Gentrified Cities in the UK. Some of them might have the kind of history you’re looking for.)

Ask local historians about underground dwellings, such as the vaults in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Where did homeless people live during the Depression and other challenging financial times? Did they sleep rough? Or, did charities take them in, or what?

Those homes – even if they were temporary – may harbor residual energy, or even a few ghosts. Ask local residents if they’ve heard about haunted sites in the area.

Ghostly Workplaces

When we think of immigrants and brutal work conditions, most of us focus on factories. Without a doubt, the Industrial Revolution spawned tragedies that are the root of many of today’s hauntings.

Today, many of those empty factory buildings have been converted to loft apartments, condos, and offices. Some have credible ghost stories.

However, factories weren’t the only sites where terrible things happened. Even a casual study of local child labor practices can be chilling, and highlight places you might find lingering spirits.

Old sign on building
Photo courtesy Adam Lowly

(I’m not sure I’d want to research those sites. They could be profoundly sad.)

On a lighter note, take a fresh look at your community and study it for “ghost signs.” Sometimes they name the business that used to occupy that building. That’s a great starting point for your research.

Other “ghost signs” linger, advertising large, nearby businesses. Go to your public library or historical society and ask for “city directories.” (They’re like phone books, but from before phones were in every home and business.)

Find out where those large (but now defunct) businesses once operated.

Tip: While you’re browsing local city directories, look for addresses of funeral homes, too. The ones that served “outsiders” probably didn’t survive past the mid-20th century, and many of those sites are eerily haunted.

Research large-scale disasters – floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and so on – that happened nearby. Some may be well-known. Others may have been lost among bigger, more recent headlines.

Look for weird, out-of-the-blue disasters, such as the Boston Molasses Flood. I’ve often wondered about the lingering molasses odor some Bostonians describe, especially around the anniversary of the flood. Do remnants of the flood remain embedded in the streets, or is the odor paranormal?

Boston Molasses Flood | 100 Wonders | Atlas Obscura

In 1919 a wave of molasses traveling at 35mph destroyed an entire neighborhood – Subscribe for new videos every Wednesday http://bit.ly/1PcJ14b https://faceb…

Evidence of similar disasters and freak accidents may have vanished long ago, but ghosts, EVP, and residual energy can linger.

Also, don’t overlook past brothels, “red light districts,” opium dens, gambling houses, and other sites where people broke the law. A person desperate enough to frequent those places, might also be desperate enough to kill… and that increases the likelihood of ghosts.

I’m reminded of a ghostly area of Ogden, Utah, where brothels once lined the street, and – even today – people describe the sound of coins being tossed from upstairs windows. Long ago, prostitutes used them to attract customers’ attention.

By day, that area is ho-hum.

After dark, I’m sure something haunts it.

Haunted Gaols, Prisons, Hospitals, and More

Of course, in some cities and towns, your search might be simple.

Study old maps to find out where the jails (gaols) and prisons were, and where they buried their dead. Look for early workhouse and hospital sites, too.

The buildings may be gone, but the ghosts can remain.

Their graves may be unmarked, but the bodies are still there.

In fact, some “outsider” cemeteries are hiding in plain sight. Walk around clearly identified cemeteries. See if a lesser-known cemetery is in the weeds behind it, or off to one side. I’ve found several that way, from Massachusetts to Florida to California. Some are among my favorite haunts.

Wherever you find evidence of “outsiders,” you’re likely to find ghosts – or at least residual energy hauntings – as well.

Reverse-Search to Find Outsider Sites

Sometimes, the fastest way to discover haunted, “outsider” sites is to look for what’s odd. And then explore that site’s history.

For example:

  • Any cemetery that – when it started – was in the middle of nowhere. (Gilson Road Cemetery comes to mind.) Why did they want those graves so far from the community?
  • Pay attention to the perfectly good building site that’s empty, or the prime real estate location that’s a parking lot. (I’m thinking of a parking lot in downtown Austin, Texas. I spent weeks conducting library research to discover its story: The city’s own “Jack the Ripper” had killed a woman there.)
  • Or, learn more about the apartment building or neighborhood that seems fine, but nobody wants to live there… so it’s abandoned. (I’m reminded of a lovely flat we lived in for a couple of years, and then discovered our building was on a powerful ley line of haunted sites. Today, it’s deserted, despite being in an ideal suburban location in a low-crime area.)

Almost any time you look at a site that seems truly out of place, research its history. Chances are, there’s a reason it stands out as “odd.”

That reason is likely to be a connection with a dark (and perhaps hidden) past.

That past can give you useful information for triggering ghost responses. And, exploring related history, you may uncover additional haunts connected with those same outsiders.

Some of the Creepiest Places…

From my research, some of the creepiest, haunted places are the ones no one has investigated yet.

That’s where the raw, ghostly energy is. In those overlooked places, distraught spirits may be frantic to tell their stories and find closure.

Of course, you’ll find memorable ghosts of famous people in elegant homes and well-manicured cemeteries. And, those may be the most reliable sites to research… but not always the most exciting.

Be mindful of personal safety. Don’t linger in bad or dangerous areas, even during the day. If your “gut feeling” tells you to leave any site, do so immediately. No ghost encounter is worth risking your own life.

However, in many communities, the “bad neighborhoods” of the past are among the most upscale areas now.

If you check history and then ask the right questions, you might discover a terrifyingly haunted site, right in front of you.

Why “Outsider” Sites Can Be Terrifying… and Haunted. Perfect for Ghost Hunting!

If you’re looking for hidden haunts, here’s a tip: Start with people. Dead people. They’re among the most overlooked resources in ghost hunting.

I don’t mean famous people from your community’s past. I mean outsiders. As a group, they’re far more likely to linger as ghosts than, say, a former mayor.

Who are the “outsiders”?  They’re people considered different, outcasts, or – for any reason – routinely shut out of everyday society.

Every associated location has the potential to be haunted.

Don’t be deceived into thinking ghosts are from just one era or just one community.

For example, don’t default to “it must have been a Native American burial ground,” without solid research to support that.

In many cases – such as the Amityville horror house – the Native American legend may be true, but it may be just a trope.

More recent outsider groups have left residual energy where they lived, worked, and died, too. Some spirits linger, haunting those sites.

Don’t overlook them.

Outsider Categories

To find outsider locations, explore the area’s history. Usually, you need only go back to the 19th century to discover a community’s secrets. Maybe not even that far.

But, in some areas, research earlier times, as well. You might strike gold by digging deeper. (No pun intended.)

Look for groups or individuals the community may have disdained, rejected, shunned, or locked up, such as:

  • Criminals
  • Mentally ill people
  • People with dangerous, contagious diseases in their era (plague, leprosy, tuberculosis)
  • Religious and ethnic minorities
  • Hobos and homeless or destitute people
  • Any group the community felt were a burden on their generosity, or worrisome, or a risk to citizens

If you look only for stereotypes, history may surprise you.

For example, in the U.S., during colonial times, Catholics were outcasts. Priests were thrown into prison and even executed, just for being Catholic priests. (Don’t expect to find their graves in hallowed ground. In fact, don’t expect to find their graves… period and full stop.)

Chinese immigrants were targeted in a horrific incident in Los Angeles in 1871. Twenty years later, one of America’s worst public lynchings involved Italian immigrants in New Orleans.

Those are the kinds of shameful incidents many communities omit from their public histories.

Study old newspapers to learn the truth… and find related haunted places. Sometimes victims’ spirits linger, waiting to be exonerated.

Outsider Locations

Powerful ghosts can linger at "outsider" locations.Once you’ve identified those labeled “outsiders,” start looking for locations associated with them.  If you can, focus on sites where dramatic events and tragedies occurred. Some may be well-known haunts.

For example, almost every community has a site that was once a burial ground for a jail/prison, workhouse (poorhouse), or hospital. Most people know about them, and – typically – those locations report paranormal activity. They’re always worth investigating, as long as you don’t expect much.

Fiona Broome's advice

Note: From my experience, well-known haunts can be disappointing. I believe ghostly energy – particularly residual energy hauntings – can (sometimes) be diluted when the site is visited by hundreds or thousands of ghost hunters and tourists.

For better investigations, cast a wider net and look deeper. Explore locations that others overlook.

In my next article in this series, I’ll go into more detail. For now, start learning more about the secret history of your community.

Maybe it was a red-light district. Perhaps, during Prohibition, your community had speakeasies. Or, part of town was “the wrong side of the tracks,” but it’s been so gentrified in recent times, most people have forgotten it… or choose to pretend it never existed.

The starting point is usually identifying the outsiders, as groups of people treated as outcasts.

Then, for each outcast or group, explore their everyday lives:

  • Where did they live?
  • Where did they work?
  • When criminal activity was involved, where did it happen?
  • Where were they buried?

You’ll start uncovering likely haunts. Almost every community has them, and – sometimes – they’re hiding in plain sight.

Next article in this series: How to Find Haunted “Outsider” Sites

Ghosts, Love, Provoking, and Triggers [Part 2]

In Part 1 of this article, you learned about:

  • The long-term effects of love and hate at a haunted site
  • Why stories are important (and how seriously to take them), and
  • “Hiding in plain sight” clues to the ghosts’ history.

Now, let’s talk about the extras that can make a difference, and how to put all of this information to good use.

 

Historical Records

You may find additional clues in historical records. Look for wills, diaries, court records, and newspaper stories – including obituaries – related to the site and the people who lived and died there.

You may need to research the locations and people, offline, at public libraries and county courthouses.

But, if you’re researching someone famous, online resources can be a goldmine. For example, many diaries are already online. (Some of the largest and oldest collections are at The Diary Junction and the British Library.)

Double-check and cross-reference everything. That’s especially true if you use genealogical records, newspaper articles, or 19th-century anthologies of biographies or histories.

The number of historical resources can be overwhelming. If you have the likely ghost’s full name and it was a real person, start by searching online for “genealogy [person’s name].”

Tip: Ancestry.com is great, but it requires a paid membership, and – even then – some submitted records can be really wrong. You’ll find many free alternatives, and can use them to piece together your ghost’s history.

Try Cyndi’s List: UK Resources / US Resources, and so on.

Near the haunted site, you may find many useful records. For example, visit local cemeteries. See the artwork and inscriptions on gravestones that might be related to the site’s ghost.

  • Two hands, clasped, may indicate romance… and possibly someone who died early in life. (Look at the cuffs. Men’s cuffs and ladies’ were very different.) Compare each death date with when the person married. (And see how soon the other person married again, after the death of his or her spouse.)
  • Before studying Victorian gravestones, learn the meaning of different flowers in that era. For example, if the headstone design features a rose in bloom (or a bud), it’s usually someone who died in the prime of his or her life.

This kind of research can be the most time-consuming, but also the most helpful if you want a successful ghost investigation.

Tip: If your ghost was a prominent person, check Find A Grave to locate where he or she is buried.

Assemble the Information, and Test It

Next, put all of the information together.

Understand your ghosts' histories

If you’re lucky, you may have a fuller picture of your ghost’s life, from birth to death. He (or she) may even remind you of someone you’ve met, or a ghost from another haunted site.

Or, your research might point to multiple ghosts at the site, or residual energy hauntings.

Now, you have names and events to work with. You can use them for real-time communications to establish rapport, or to trigger ghostly activity and interaction.

Test your theories

Maybe you’ve learned that the husband, Thomas, died young from “consumption.” (Usually tuberculosis.) You’ve also learned that he was engaged to Sarah, but he died about a month before the scheduled wedding.

You could ask:

  • Is your name Sarah? Is your name Thomas?
  • Are you looking for someone?
  • Sarah, is this your [object]? (Ask the same of Thomas.)
  • Are you someone else? Did you know Sarah or Thomas?

And so on.

If all else fails, ask, “Can I help you?”

Try saying it two different ways. First, ask it the same as a clerk in a store might say it. Let it roll off your tongue, like you say it a hundred times a day. Weirdly, that can elicit the most immediate response.

If that doesn’t work, try a second, more consoling tone of voice. Lean forward and look interested, in case the ghost can see you; body language matters.

That simple question can be enough to start a dialogue with the ghost.

Be sympathetic rather than provoking. Kindness works.

Trigger Objects

Trigger objects – including everyday household items from the ghost’s era – may be useful.

People often think about bringing flowers to a grave, or a toy when the ghost is a child.

These can be useful in some settings.

During the 19th century, and sometimes earlier, many homes had a Bible. The ghost may respond to it. If you bring a Bible with you, make sure it doesn’t look modern. Black or brown covers were typical, and – when a family could afford an embossed Bible – the letters were usually gold.

Tip: If you read from it, your safest choice is a King James Bible, not a recent translation. (Prior to James I, only wealthy families and clergy owned Bibles. And, until 1782, the King James Bible was under a form of copyright, so some families didn’t – or wouldn’t – own them.)

But this is important: If you’re investigating an early American home, the Geneva Bible or Luther’s German Bible may trigger better responses.  In fact, ghosts of Pilgrims may feel uneasy if you read from the King James Bible.

Think about the class level of the ghost, and what kind of objects they might love to see again. Something beloved by a “downstairs” maid might be very different from an object that will trigger responses from the lady of the house.

However, think twice before bringing the ghost what he or she might think is a gift.  When you reveal it to the ghost, explain that it’s yours and you’ll be taking it home. You just wanted him/her to enjoy it for a short time.

Otherwise, the ghost may feel further betrayed. You gave him (or her) something… and then you took it away, for no reason.

Two things to consider before bringing/leaving gifts for ghosts:

  1. Will the object continue to “look nice”? Fresh flowers can wilt and look ugly in a short time. Plush toys will get soggy and mildew after a storm. If you leave anything, return in a few days (during the daytime) to remove it. And – just in case the ghost is listening – explain (out loud) why you’re taking it away.
  2. Don’t bring gifts to a ghost if those objects might further “hold” the ghost in this realm. For example, toys that a child’s ghost might not want to leave behind. (The sentiment is lovely, but don’t give ghosts an additional reason to linger here.)

If you’ve already left something you feel that you shouldn’t have, contact the owner or managers of the site. Ask them to remove it, with a kindly explanation – out loud – to the ghost. (If you left something at a cemetery, contact a team that tours it regularly. In most cases, cemetery staff routinely dispose of perishable items every few weeks, anyway.)

Love, Hate, Provoking, and Triggers

Provoking can be useful in extreme situations.

Instead, with more research and closer observation, you might learn enough about the ghost to establish rapport.

Understand who your ghost probably was, and reasons why he or she might remain at the site.

It’s easy to say “unfinished business,” as a catch-all reason. But, with a few hours’ research, you can dig deeper. You may find a personal connection.

That could lead to more productive EVPs, or other communications. As they say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Also, personalized, real-time communications might help you learn even more about the ghost, to help him or her let go of the past… and move on. It could be a real, productive conversation.

Of course, if the ghost is rather mad and stuck in the past, he or she might respond with anger, once his/her name is known. The ghost might have secrets and fear you’ll expose them. (Perhaps the only reason ghost remains here is to keep his or her secrets concealed.)

Tread carefully if the atmosphere changes and you sense hostility. It may be best to leave, evaluate the evidence and team members’ reports. And then decide you next, best plan for that site.

Summary

Smart ghost hunters get better results when they go beyond the “everyone knows” stories, and learn more about the ghosts.

Behind almost every haunting is a story of disappointment. If you know that story, the ghosts are almost certain to respond more quickly and clearly.

Dig into history. Look closely at everything “old” at the site. Ask why it’s there. Is there a story behind it?

Listen to your intuition and pay attention to the mood – the emotional energy – at the site. It can be your biggest clue.

Old records – family histories, newspaper articles, obituaries, court records, and even cemetery inscriptions – can help you understand the real stories behind hauntings.

Communications may improve, including EVP and real-time responses through ghost hunting tools.

In most cases, kindness will evoke a far better response – and outcome – than provoking. Given a choice, I think most ghosts would prefer love and understanding rather than antagonism and taunts.

Let me know if you have questions, and also what happens when you try these methods.

Ghosts, Love, Provoking, and Triggers [Part 1]

In ghost hunting, provoking works. It’s not very nice, but we’ve seen it work in our own investigations and on TV shows.

As a last-hope effort to see if a site is truly haunted – and help the homeowner – provoking can be justified.

Otherwise…? No. Saying it’s rude or mean would be an understatement.

It’s bullying, plain and simple. 

What if there was another way to trigger ghosts, or even help them find the peace they seek?

At the root of most hauntings, you’ll find stories of love and hate. Understanding them can radically improve your ghost hunting results.

Love and Hate at Haunted Places

Hate is useful for provoking, maybe we need to look deeper.

What so wounded the ghost that he or she became angry, resentful, or even hate-filled? Staying here – instead of crossing over – what situation is he trying to reverse?

By looking one layer deeper, you’ll probably find expectations and love – romantic love, greed (love of money), or trust (relying on someone the ghost trusted).

You might get better ghost hunting results if you appeal to the ghost’s true (or at least earlier), kinder nature.

In this article, you’ll learn a few ways to uncover clues to the full story behind the hauntings.

  • You can use those clues to establish rapport with the site’s ghosts.
  • Or, you might identify triggers (and trigger objects) that work better than provoking.

Both of those can make ghost hunting far more interesting and productive.

Start with the Stories

Every haunted site has a story. That might be an “everyone knows” tale, popular with teens and young adults. Or, you might hear it from a local historian or folklore expert.

Research everything. Some of the best historical resources weren’t available until the last few years. Older ghost stories might be more fiction than fact.

Look for flaws in those stories, such as:

  • Wrong time period. (If the ghost wears a modern tie, he’s probably not from the American Revolution.)
  • No records that fit the story. Let’s say people believe the ghost is John Doe, who built the house. Be sure someone named John Doe either lived in the house, was a local builder, or had a direct connection with the homeowners.
  • Urban legend. Some ghost stories show up dozens of times. Maybe more. Perhaps one of them is true, but raise an eyebrow if you can’t find any credible, first-person encounters, and similar stories show up on a site like TVTropes.org.

Tip: Sometimes a story is half-true. Don’t toss aside a local legend because one part of never happened. The name or date might be wrong. That’s okay. Even the most bizarre ghost stories can have a kernel of truth.

If there’s more than one tale, choose the one that makes the most sense to you. Choose the one that “feels right” after you visit the site. Your impressions matter. You don’t have to be psychic to sense the energy or emotional tone of the location.

Ghostly Clues: What’s There?

Many ghost hunters are so busy looking for ghostly noises or apparitions, or so focused on their ghost hunting equipment, they miss clues “hiding in plain sight.”

When you arrive at a haunted site, what’s there? What portraits are on the wall? Are any objects really old… and look a little odd in that setting?

If the homeowner or a historian shows you something that belonged to a previous owner, tenant, or visitor, why is it still there? What does it tell you about possible ghosts?

Sometimes, people keep an object – clothing, jewelry, furniture, artwork, books, and so on – that belonged to deceased friends or relatives. There’s usually a story behind it.  I’m not saying the object is haunted, though it might be.

Several times, I’ve noticed a shabby chair or an ugly painting in a home where the rest of their decor was ultra-modern and stylish.

When I’ve asked the homeowner why he or she kept it, the answer is – almost always – “I don’t know why. It just felt wrong to get rid of it… I can’t explain it.”

Usually, that object links to the haunting. It’s part of the ghost’s story.

Consider these possibilities:

  • Perhaps the object belonged to a lost love, or someone who died early in life.
  • Maybe it was a memento of a friend, relative, or lover who abruptly moved or ended the friendship with no explanation.
  • It might be something the ghost remains attached to… and doesn’t want to leave behind. (He or she refused to believe “you can’t take it with you.”)

Some clues are more obvious than others. For example, if you see a pin like the one in the next photo, study it closely.

Victorian mourning jewelry - woven hair
Photo courtesy Thayne Tuason [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
You might glance at that brooch on top of a dresser or sideboard and think it’s woven fabric or wire.

It’s not. It’s someone’s hair. And that person is dead now.

The ghost might be the person who owned that pin, or the person whose hair is woven in it.

(Search for “Victorian pictures made from hair.” You’ll see how commonplace this was in the 19th century. And yes, it’s kind of creepy.)

Check it for unusual EMF, and for nearby EVP or hot/cold spots.

In the past, almost every object kept by someone had significance. Remember, before the middle of the 20th century, the average person didn’t own many things.

So, sometimes, that jewelry, portrait, or man’s jacket hanging in a woman’s wardrobe tells an important story.

During an investigation, try asking – out loud – who’s in the painting or photo, or if the item had special meaning for the ghost.

See what reaction you get, if – to the ghost – it looks like you’re about to touch or move the object. (If it’s fragile or you don’t have permission, don’t actually touch it.)

Tip: If you see old portraits at a haunted site, and you’re not sure who they are, take photos. Then use something like Google Image Search to see if the portrait – especially a photo – is online with additional information.

Next week, the second (concluding) part of this article: Historical records, putting it all together, and how to use it.

Power, Passion, and Haunted Sites

Are you tired of investigating the same old sites everyone visits? Maybe it’s time to try a different approach. A little research can produce surprising results.

I know, because I’ve scouted haunted locations for TV producers.

I usually bypass well-known places where tragedies occurred. Many scenes of betrayal and murder have been over-investigated.

So, I look for other clues.

In this article, I’ll share some of my best tips for finding haunts.

They’re often “hiding in plain sight.”

Sometimes, you’ll start with locations connected to power – rich people, politicians, deceased local celebrities (famous and infamous), and battlegrounds.  Now and then, one hasn’t been investigated much… or at all.

But, even better – and often ignored – are places that associated with (or that triggered) passion. For example, in the “Wild West,” those are saloons and streets where gunfights occurred.  Some started over money or love. Others involved boasts and bravado. Either way, emotions ran high.

In some communities, specific parks were used for regular, clandestine duels over money or – more often – the love of a woman.

A few locations may come to mind right away. Start there.

Then, dig deeper for sites connected to love, jealousy, passion, awe, fascination… and the occasional movie or TV show.

Buildings Almost Demolished

Most of us have heard of haunted “ruins.” Old churches, hospitals, and orphanages are among them.

Look for buildings once scheduled for destruction. For example, in 1944, in Salem, Massachusetts (aka “Witch City”), Jonathan Corwin’s home just barely escaped the wrecking ball. The owners moved the house back on the property (partially over what had been a church cemetery), and today it’s known as “The Witch House.”

When people are passionate about preserving a site, it may be haunted as well. Something from the past seems to linger there, making it important. Local historical societies and preservation groups proudly list the locations they’ve saved from destruction. Visit those groups’ websites, or ask them for a list. (You don’t have to explain that you’re a ghost hunter. In fact, some may find that interest disturbing.)

Those lists may reveal great stories of love, hatred, and jealousy… and worthwhile haunts. 

Sites that Inspired Books, Art, and Music

Artists and writers often have a knack for spotting eerie places where ghosts linger. A local museum or playlist might provide surprising clues.

True stories and real, haunted places inspired many Gothic romances written in the late 19th century and the 1960s. Check biographies of the authors. See if they describe tales and locations that led to their creepier stories. (For examples, see 14 True Stories behind Stephen King Books.)

Music is only slightly easier to research. But, when you find a ghost connection, it’s usually reliable and like pure gold for ghost hunting.

In my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, I mentioned Concrete Blonde’s song, Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man. They wrote it about a popular ghost at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. (I lost count of all the ghosts supposed to haunt that hotel, and every story rang with authenticity.)

An anecdote claims Black Sabbath’s song, Black Sabbath, describes their bassist’s encounter with a ghost. (Does anyone know where it happened? That could be an interesting site to investigate.)

And then there’s art. That’s easier to research and identify.

Local museums, historical societies, and libraries may know about famous (and lesser-known) paintings of local sites.  (That’s different from haunted paintings.) If the conversation flows, you could try asking if about related, haunted sites. Be cautious if you’ll want to interview that source again, later; some historians don’t like ghost hunting, even if they tell ghost stories, themselves.

The art is the clue. Look for paintings that are stylish. Moody. Even eerie.

In general, when someone is so inspired and passionate about a place to create art about it, explore that site. What made the artist choose it, instead of a dozen similar, nearby locations?

Tip: Also look at what was behind the artist when he or she painted. Sometimes, the real haunt is the place he turned his back to.

Of course, it’s easier if the artists are still alive. Ask them what drew them to each location, and what seemed to resonate with them.

Often, the musician, painter, or writer can’t explain their fascination with the site or its story. They’ll say, “I don’t know, there was just something about it that haunted me.”

Bingo. You’ve found a site worth investigating.

Extraordinary Homes

Many – perhaps most – unusual homes were built by eccentric and wealthy individuals. Those homeowners and architects may still haunt those houses. Or, perhaps something about the location – the history of the land – is what sparked the person’s impulse to build something “different.”

Does a nearby community offers self-guided historical tours or architectural walking tours? You might find a few sites worth revisiting with some ghost hunting equipment.

Halloween Haunted Houses

Almost every area has some kind of “haunted” attraction at Halloween.  Ghostly energy remains at many of them, at least residual energy – the terror experienced by some visitors. Investigate those sites, if you have permission to visit after-hours.

Some sites may offer ghost tours immediate after Halloween, before they take down the decorations. (This includes creepy corn mazes.) Ask them if you can investigate for a small fee. Some sites might welcome a few more dollars from seasonal interests.

Film and TV Locations

Of course, people know about sites featured on Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and so on.

But what about locations used for movies and TV shows?

Start with locations of paranormal-themed productions. Sometimes, the actual haunted site wasn’t available, or it was considered “unsafe” by the producers’ insurance company.

So, they film elsewhere.

And then that location seems haunted, too.

How to Find Haunted Sets

A search for “haunted movie sets” will point you to some of the more famous haunted locations used in films and TV shows.

(If you search for “haunted TV sets,” you’ll find weird TVs sold on eBay. And if you search for “haunted TV locations,” the listings are for Most Haunted show sites, and so on.)

When you’re traveling, ask at your hotel’s front desk, or the local tourism/visitors’ center. Many of them have lists of filming locations, but you may have to ask.

For example, Houmas House is one of Louisiana’s most vividly haunted mansions. Until a New Orleans tourism official told me about it, I had no idea that Houmas House was used for filming Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. (That’s a dark story of passion and jealousy.)

I’ve investigated Houmas House and can vouch for its apparitions, even one by the gate. I saw it in broad daylight.

In your community, ask at the public library and any newspaper offices. Tell them you’re looking for places where movies, commercials, and TV shows were filmed.

Back issues of newspapers – if they’re indexed – might point you to some unexpected haunts, too. Some may be online.

Great Lovers and “The Other Woman”

Sites of passionate love affairs might be the most overlooked haunts. Those stories might explain ghosts at hotels where nothing violent ever happened. (I’m thinking of hotels like the Sise Inn, in Portsmouth, NH.)

If someone in your community was famous – perhaps a dashing hero or tragic poet – find out if he or she had a secret (or not-so-secret) lover.

Skip the hero’s house. Go directly to where the secret lover lived. That’s where the passion was. And the arguments. And the drama. (I’ve heard so many related ghost stories, I’m tempted to paraphrase a popular saying, “behind every famous man… was a woman, scorned, and still angry about it.”)

You’ll find examples at the following link. They may help you understand what to look for, close to your home: Tales of Ghostly Lovers and Spooky Soul Mates

Ghosts and Passion

Among overlooked haunts, my favorite discoveries have had a running theme. It’s all about passion – love, fascination, overwhelming desires – and sometimes romance.

Many other ghost hunters focus on places where deaths occurred. Those locations can be intensely, frighteningly haunted.

Don’t limit yourself to places of violence. Look for sites where emotions ran high, and ghosts may return to relive their most passionate moments.

And I hope you’ll leave a comment when you find a site like that.