Ghost Hunting Tools – Practice!

Ghost hunters often rely on their research tools. (See my article, Basic tools every ghost hunter must have.)

With enough experience, a professional researcher can walk into a room and accurately guess if it might be haunted.

(However, most true professionals will admit that their guesswork is not 100% accurate.  They’ll keep an open mind and see what evidence supports their guesses.)

Even when you’ve become that accustomed to the clues and cues of a haunted site — including what’s weird — you’ll confirm you “gut feelings” with scientific research and tools.

When you’re using research tools, you’re still looking for what’s odd, strange or downright weird… usually called anomalies.

The only way you’ll know what’s odd is by developing confidence.  That starts by practicing with your research methods and tools.

Practice at home

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

That may sound logical, but I’m amazed at the number of people who buy a K-II meter or dowsing rods, and the first place they try them is at a haunted site.

A few times, I’ve seen researchers reading their digital voice recorder’s instruction manual… in the middle of an investigation.

Practice with your tools at home, and at school or at work.

Know exactly how your equipment works, and what can go wrong.

It’s especially important to notice the things that aren’t clear problems, just little annoyances:  The switch that is difficult to click, the signs that your batteries are failing, or how level to hold the compass or it won’t work.

Those are the things that can distract you — the mental “background noise” — that uses just enough of your mental RAM that you miss an important visual, audio, or other sensory anomaly.

Types of at-home tests

If you’re using an EMF meter or a hiking compass, see what reactions occur when you hold it near any of these potentially “hot” items:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Microwave oven (when it’s on)
  • Refrigerators
  • Computer monitor (especially old-style box-y monitors)
  • Electric fans, heaters and a/c units
  • Fuse boxes
  • Pipes anywhere in the building, but especially in the basement
  • Outdoor faucets or spigots
  • Electrical poles outside your home

See how the EMF meter responds close to the object and as you walk away from it.  Study what happens when the appliance — such as a fan or microwave oven — is turned on and off.

Then, compare those readings with EMF sources in other locations.  Check friends’ or relatives’ homes where they have older or newer TV sets, refrigerators, electrical wiring, alarm clocks, etc.

It’s important to be familiar with every “false positive” with every tool you use during investigations.

With a voice recorder, see how close (or far away) the noise source must be.  Shout and whisper. Try pointing the mic toward and away from someone speaking several feet away.  If you have multiple settings (such as “lecture mode”), experiment with those, too.  Try recording from the TV or radio, and record passing cars as well as overhead planes.

Then, learn to recognize those sounds and the differences between them.  If you don’t know what’s normal and how it differs from probable EVP, you won’t be an effective investigator.

No matter what tools — if any — you use during ghost hunts, be completely familiar with them before you use them on an investigation.

Start with what’s normal.  Practice… a lot.

Know how to identify what’s in your ghost hunting kit, where the important control buttons & switches are, and how to replace batteries quickly, in the darkness.

If it’s a big problem for you, take your cues from people with limited sight.

  • Use bits of masking tape to mark buttons; you’ll be able to feel the texture difference.
  • Use plastic, embossed labels to mark tools and important switches, buttons and levers on them.
  • Cut a small notch or indentation to indicate other important touchpoints or controls.

When you can operate your equipment with your eyes closed — or in a completely dark room — you’re ready to try it in the field.

Until you’re at that level, it’s best to leave the research tools at home.  Your five (or six) senses will tell you more — and distract you less — than an unfamiliar EMF meter, voice recorder, or other research equipment.

Frank’s Box – Reviewed

Frank’s Box is a device optimized by Frank Sumption, sometimes described (but not by Mr. Sumption) as “the telephone to the dead.”

Is “Frank’s Box” a telephone to the dead?

Frank Sumption wasn’t the first to work with this concept, but results from his research have been among the most impressive so far.

Others have tried variations of the concept — a radio receiver that scans a wide range of stations, “grabbing” snippets of sounds and words, to form messages — with some success.

(The popular “Shack Hack” was one attempt, but – as some designed it – it lacked the clarity or durability of its higher-quality counterparts.)

Frank – now deceased – seemed to make these boxes, one at a time, and no two looked the same or produce identical results.  (The photo above is symbolic.  As far as I know, no Frank’s Box looks like an actual telephone.)

I read the EVP-ITC list online for several months, and I exchanged correspondence with Mr. Sumption, but — even — I’m uncertain of what was (and still is) going on.

I tend to take things at face value and… this seems to be a fairly complex subject with conflicting opinions.

(There’s been a lot of static on the EVP-ITC list, due to very vocal skeptics.  That said, I have heard recordings on that list that claim to be genuine and — if the recordings truly represent what a Frank’s Box can do — they’re groundbreaking.)

I haven’t worked with a Frank’s Box myself.  If and when I do, I’ll happily provide a review.  (The boxes are very difficult to find in the wild, and I’m not sure how or why Mr. Sumption decided to offer them to people. I know both genuine researchers and questionable personalities who own them.)

For now, I try to keep my critical thinking skills engaged, and remember that absolutely anyone can fake “results” to support or dispute what others are saying.  Particularly if money is exchanging hands… well, as the TV show used to say, “Be careful out there.”

However, it would be impossible to mention what’s popularly called “the Frank’s Box” without talking about Christopher Moon’s work.


Chris Moon is a paranormal researcher. He was the founder of the controversial magazine, Haunted Times.  I’m not sure it still exists; it was on hiatus after publishing at least one article that, to me, seemed entirely false and misrepresented professional ghost researchers.

But, when I first met Chris, I thought he was a funny and sincere guy. I still believe that he can achieve remarkable and authentic results with the Frank’s Boxes that he owns. I want to like him, but I have some significant, unresolved questions.

A historical note

I used to link to archives of Chris’s website, instead of his current sites. Then, even the archive sites (like the Wayback Machine) removed their links.

At the time, I said, “I can’t recommend that website. It could be dangerous to your computer.  It was a continuing problem, since I first wrote this article in 2010.  Here’s a screenshot from Google on 4 Nov 2013, showing Google’s warning.”

Haunted Times site - viruses?

So, given that history, I’m cautious about linking to, but my concerns could be unfounded. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Chris’s successes with the Frank’s Box brought the device to the attention of serious investigators.

Some people believe that much of that success is due to Chris’s own gifts as a medium, as opposed to the device he’s using.

At a 2010 conference, my own experiences left me with no doubt that something extraordinary is going on with Chris Moon or one of the Frank’s Boxes he owns, or both.

The box “said” things that no one could have known, except me. And, it “spoke” using words – and an accent – that Chris couldn’t have predicted, even from unguarded hints I might have given.


The credibility of Frank’s Boxes open doors even wider to problems we already have in this field: Charlatans and con artists.

People can be very vulnerable when they’ve lost someone dear to them, or have fears related to death.

After all, if you could pay a certain fee or fulfill a request, and you could talk directly with someone on the other side — via a “telephone to the dead” — well, I think most people would.

Would a Frank’s Box work in the hands of an unscrupulous medium?  I’m not sure.  I haven’t seen anyone except Chris Moon use one.  I don’t have enough experience to confidently endorse either Chris or the Frank’s Box.


Another high-profile researcher says she owns several actual Frank’s Boxes (acquired from Frank Sumption). I’m not sure if that’s true.

When I spoke with her, she insisted that Frank’s Boxes aren’t reliable for ghost research. She said that a Mini-Box is a better choice.

But, I can’t trust that information, either.

Here’s why I’m skeptical: She promised to return in two or three weeks, to demonstrate the Mini-Box. It was kind of a quid pro quo for information I gave her, for one of her next books.

She never honored that promise, and has avoided me, ever since.  (But, to be fair: she listed me in her book as one of her resources.)

Until I’m more confident about these kinds of devices, I recommend experimenting. Try every real-time communication device that you can. (Borrow them, or spend time with someone who owns one. Do not spend money you can’t afford to lose, on devices that may not work.)

Compare your results at home (or at any single, stable location) against results at “haunted” sites.  Frank Sumption seemed pretty adamant that the box works anywhere you have it. He’s said there’s no point in taking it to a “haunted” site.

So, from what I’ve seen, a Frank’s Box can be remarkable.

Is it always…? I have no idea.

I am 100% convinced that it can work in the hands of Chris Moon.

The voice I heard on it would have come through in any location.  The deceased had no connection with the location where Chris made contact via the Frank’s Box. As far as I know, during her lifetime, she’d never been within 100 miles of that site.

However, I can’t claim that Chris always uses integrity with the Frank’s Boxes. At the time I met him, and shortly afterwards, there were some very big red flags related to how he ran his business.

One was a message Chris said he heard through the Frank’s Box. Supposedly, the message was an extraordinary claim (prediction) that came from a famous, deceased scientist.

That claim was about me, personally. (A couple of days later, I learned that Chris had made the exact same claim to another woman at the event. I’m not sure it was a coincidence.)

To date, I’ve seen no evidence that the claim valid. That makes me uneasy. But, as you can see, everything I’ve seen in connection with Frank’s Boxes has been unsettling.

Are those boxes fraud magnets? Do they cause the owners to say things that aren’t trustworthy?

I haven’t a clue. Frank passed away some time ago, before he had time to give me one of his Frank’s Boxes.

If you’ve had experiences with a Frank’s Box, especially if you’ve used one yourself, I hope you’ll leave a comment below.

Ghost Orb Sightings – An Overview

Orb sightings occur every day.

Most “ghost orbs” appear in photographs or videos in haunted places. So few people see them floating in mid-air, some researcher speculate that they can only be seen by gifted, psychic people.

What are orbs?

orb-newburyport-illus“Orbs” usually refer to the round, usually translucent, round or ball-shaped images that we sometimes see in photographs.

They’re usually white, but sometimes appear in pastel colors.  Rarely, they manifest as deep, rich and intense colors.

If you look at them closely, a few orbs seem to have faces in them.  Some orbs seem to be made up of tiny facets.  Most orbs appear as milky circles or spheres.

People often call them “ghost orbs,” since they seem to indicate paranormal energy.

However, many orbs in photos can be explained naturally. You can see the pollen in the middle, or the insect. The shape is usually irregular.

It may take you awhile to be able to tell the difference between an orb formed by moisture, a reflection, an insect, etc., but — once you can tell the difference — you’re not likely to confuse them again.

Don’t accept the easy dismissal of all orbs as dust, moisture, etc.  See the photos in my 2013 article, What Is “Paranormal”?, if you think moisture or reflections always produce orbs.

I recommend trying to create fake orbs with your camera, before deciding what’s real and what isn’t.  You may be surprised.

Unexplained orbs… they’re the orb sightings that really interest ghost hunters and paranormal researchers.

Orb sightings and the spirit world

Many people speculate about orb sightings. Some explanations include:

  • Ghosts.
  • Angels.
  • Demons.
  • An energy field indicating a portal opening or closing. (This is still my favorite explanation.)
  • A friendly spirit, manifesting to say hello.
  • A glimpse of “the light” that people describe in near-death experiences.

How to see orbs

The best way to see orbs is to take lots of photos in haunted locations, or places where people have seen (or photographed) orbs in the past.

These may include:

  • Cemeteries
  • Battlegrounds
  • Theatres (or buildings that used to have stage performances)
  • Older hotels
  • Living history museums
  • Historic homes (especially pre-1890 and open to the public)

Take dozens of photos, if you can.  Study them closely for orbs.  Adjust the contrast or lightness of the photo, so you don’t miss anything.

Tips for orb photography

  • austin-orb-bookcoverDay or night, use your camera’s flash.  It is possible to photograph ghost orbs during the daytime (see the orb on my book cover for The Ghosts of Austin, Texas) , but a flash seems to improve results.
  • Always take two or three photos in a row, as quickly as possible and without changing position. See if the same orb or orbs are in all photos; if so, there may be a normal explanation.
  • Save all of your photos until you exactly what to look for: Different colors, sizes, levels of contrast.

Tips for orb sightings

If you’re one of the fortunate few who see orbs floating in mid-air, here are tips to help you see more of them.

  • Practice your orb-spotting skills. With a friend or two, visit known haunted locations.
  • Most people spot orbs around dusk or immediately after it.
  • When you see an orb, have friends take photos of the orb. If possible, also get photos of you with the orb to see if the locations are similar in most photos.
  • Measure the temperature and EMF levels around the orb, if you have the tools to do so.

Orb sightings are a controversial topic in ghost hunting.  However, if you’re fascinated by ghost orbs or find comfort in them, every orb sighting can be very important.

Ghost Orbs – The Overlooked Question

orb-tyngs1-contrast-75Ghost orbs are a controversial topic, even among believers.

Some orbs can be explained as refracted light from moisture, reflective surfaces, insects, pollen or dust.

But – and this is important – they’re not the big problem I used to claim they were.

So many ghost hunters took my early advice, I’m embarrassed when I hear someone dismiss a credible orb as “it’s just dust.

Usually, false “orb” shapes are irregular. In other cases, you can see the insect or dot of pollen in the center. It’s more solid-looking. Enlarge your photo and take a close look, to be sure.

When it’s a bug, the reflection is usually white. Pollen usually shows up as a solid (not translucent) yellow dot in the center of the orb.

Some of us believe that unexplained orbs —  described as photographic anomalies — indicate possible paranormal activity.

Critical skeptics fall back on the easy answer that every unexplained orb is just dust. Or insects. Or a reflection.

That’s a convenient excuse.

When I ask how much research they’ve done with their own cameras, trying to create fake orbs, they usually change the subject.

Or, they snap back, “I don’t have to. It’s obvious.”

But, overlooking that bravado, let’s say that those orbs are “just dust.”

There’s still an overlooked question.  In fact, it can be startling and obvious when you think about it.

Why do we see so many more orbs in photos taken at haunted places?

Why are there dozens of orbs in photos taken at a haunted cemetery, and hardly any orbs at a field just down the street from that cemetery?

If they’re both equally dusty, shouldn’t we see an equal number of orbs in the photos?

Let’s backtrack for a moment.


Most ghost hunters point to physical evidence such as doors that slam without explanation.  Or, they’ll talk about lights, radios and televisions that turn on “by themselves.”

Similarly, I’ve heard a broken piano play music at The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana.

We’ve seen balls roll by themselves, pencils move across tables, and so on.

So, why is it so preposterous to think that a ghost might deliberately lift flecks of dust, to manifest as orbs in our photos?

Remember the movie, Ghost?  In one scene, Patrick Swayze — as a ghost — struggles to move physical objects.  Fortunately, another ghost shows him how it’s done.

But what about ghosts in cemeteries and other haunted locations?  Maybe no one has shown them how to move large and heavy objects.  Perhaps a particle of dust is all they can manage.

A ghost that gets our attention with a fleck of dust is no less real than a ghost that slaps someone, rolls a ball across the floor of a deserted hospital, or slams doors in an empty hall.


Many experienced ghost hunters dismiss orbs caused by obvious reflective objects, pollen, insects, and rain.

Those ghost hunters have viewed thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of orb photos. They know what to look for:

  • An irregular shape, not a nearly perfect circle
  • A solid-looking dot or shape at the center of the orb
  • A solid dot of yellow in or near the center of a pollen orb
  • A solid white shape inside an insect orb
  • A solid white or grey dot inside a dust orb
  • A brilliant white orb, usually an irregular shape, if it’s rain or moisture
  • A repeating series of circular orbs, usually in a line, if it’s a lens flare from the sun, the moon, or a reflective surface.

But, let’s take this question one step further. Let’s say the orb is from dust.

The next question should be: Is the dust an anomaly?

If you’re seeing unexplained orbs in photos taken at one location, take photos at a nearby location with similar levels of dust,  pollen, and so on.  Equal orbs indicate natural causes.

However, if you see orbs in photos at a haunted cemetery but not in photos at the Little League field next door, the real issue isn’t whether it’s dust.  Instead, ask why the orbs only show up in the haunted cemetery.

The answer might be ghosts.

Basic Tools Every Ghost Hunter Must Have

Trifield meterGhost hunting tools can be useful in any haunted setting.

Some researchers confirm anomalies using cameras, EVP recorders, digital thermometers, compasses and EMF detectors, etc.

Others focus on psychic readings with Tarot cards or other divinatory tools.

Some people use dowsing rods and pendulums, which some claim are psychic tools, while other point to their scientific support.

But, the question remains:

What tools must every beginner have for ghost hunting?

Here’s my answer: Nothing!

You need no special tools, not even a camera. You also don’t need special training.


If you’re a beginner or simply curious about ghost hunting, you should be able to show up at a place that’s haunted and sense the ghosts.

The more often you go on ghost hunts, the more sensitive you’ll become to ghosts and the paranormal. It’s that simple.


On a successful ghost hunt, you may experience an eerie feeling, a chill, or hair lifting on the back of your arms.

What tools do you need to be a ghost hunter?  Nothing.Some people will hear things, which can range from noises that everyone hears – tapping, for example – or strange sounds that the individual hears psychically.

Others will receive strong impressions, or see something flicker, off to one side. Or, they may detect a perfume or an aroma.

Any of the five senses can be involved, or it may be just a ‘sixth sense’ encounter with the other side.

But, you should never feel that you must own or use a particular tool. If your budget won’t even stretch to include a disposable film camera, don’t worry about it. Just go and enjoy the ghost hunt.


For 90% of beginners, as well as many researchers with experience, ghost hunting is practically a spectator sport.

You’ll see what others are encountering, and you may (or may not) sense some ‘odd’ things, yourself. That’s all that basic ghost hunting is, really.

When you’re ready to add research tools – and you never have to – go slowly. Experiment.

Borrow others’ equipment for a few minutes on a ghost hunt, and see if it works for you.

Some people never seem to get anything interesting on film. Others produce zero results with EMF detectors.

No two researchers are the same. Don’t invest in equipment unless you’re sure that it’s useful for you.

Others won’t use any divinatory tools, even dowsing rods, because they feel ‘uncomfortable’, or the researchers’ religious beliefs prohibit those practices. Don’t worry that you’re missing out on anything if you avoid the Tarot, etc.

Here at Ghosts 101, I try to inform researchers about what works (and what’s not reliable) in our my research.

But, I try never to pressure ghost hunters into using particular tools–scientific or divinatory–for ghost hunting.


There are no tools and there is no training that you absolutely must have to be a successful ghost hunter.

Sure, courses can help shorten the trial-and-error phase.  Teachers can point out things that may not occur to you otherwise.

However, I want to make this very clear: You need no tools at all to be a successful ghost hunter.