A Fresh Approach to a Haunted Building’s History

This week, I was charmed by a CBS video about informal, modern-day archaeology.

Then I realized we could do this in many haunted locations, especially private homes and businesses, where the owners ask, “Who is that ghost?”

The video is less than three minutes long. I think it’s worth viewing if you’re actively involved in private investigations.

Though this kind of dig may not confirm anything, it might give you more clues about the history of the site. That could suggest a context for the haunting.

As I see it, this is a fresh research approach. It uses a little “informal archaeology” and it’s something almost anyone can do. You can include the site owners in this project, as well. (It might mean a lot to them, even more than it does to you.)

Since this kind of research is limited to areas like closets, it won’t disfigure the more visible parts of the home or business. That’s important.

(If you can’t watch that video, here’s a link to the related article: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/childrens-workshop-school-students-dig-up-treasures-from-closets-nyc/ )

Until I saw this video, I never realized how many historical clues could — literally — fall through the cracks.

If you try this (or have, in the past), I hope you’ll share results and insights. I’m very interested in whether this could be useful.

The site in the video is about 100 years old. So, this kind of dig — with permission, of course — could be useful at sites from the mid-20th century and earlier.

When to Go Ghost Hunting

Ghost hunting with a pocket watch.When is the best time to go ghost hunting?

Many researchers prefer to investigate after dark.

Are ghosts more active at night? I’m not sure. Maybe the darkness makes it easier for us to notice them. After all, in the dark, we have fewer visual distractions.

For me, it’s more important to investigate at anniversaries. They’re the dates when someone at that site died, or married, or something significant happened. (Birthdays can be surprisingly good days for ghost hunting, too.)

This video shares more about the best times — days and hours — for ghost hunting.

Of course, your results may be different. If you have suggestions, I hope you’ll share them with Hollow Hill readers. Leave your comments (and questions) at this site.


I’ve created a When to Go Ghost Hunting Worksheet, as well as an instruction sheet for using it.

The worksheet includes more than just times and days. I’ve also added lines for possible triggers that may improve your research results.

The worksheet instructions feature even more suggestions related to research, era cues, and other ways to enhance your investigations, specific to each location.

Here are the PDF links (on Google Drive):

When to Go Ghost Hunting – Worksheet / https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_HSWKNTnx8bFmS7r7lFNtAz9YJH9Izh0

When to Go Ghost Hunting – Worksheet Instructions / https://drive.google.com/open?id=111_cv7Xzo0CaH2TI2NEzYpvp9jMpPZfp

Halloween Ghost Hunting Tips and Checklist

Halloween ghost hunting - jack o' lanternHalloween ghost hunting is legendary. It’s the one night of the year when almost everyone expects ghosts.

Many of us want to prepare ahead of time, for the best ghost hunting experience, ever.

But then, between back-to-school, plus sporting events, and the change of seasons… well, it’s easy to wake up one day and realize it’s already Halloween.

Don’t panic. It’s not too late to organize your Halloween plans for ghost hunting success.

In the following video, Halloween Ghost Hunting Tips, I explain the steps my team and I follow to get the most from ghost hunting on Halloween.


Some of the most important points:

  • Plan ahead. Decide on at least one backup location, in case your first choice is closed or too crowded.
  • Verify each location ahead of time, in person.
  • Print maps, in case your GPS fails. (Especially during Halloween ghost investigations, never rely on anything electronic.)
  • Check the weather forecast, and dress accordingly… and bring any “just in case” items you might need.
  • Allow extra travel time for Halloween traffic and trick-or-treaters.
  • The night before Halloween, get a good night’s sleep. You may need it.
  • Expect surprises and (perhaps) more scares than usual. But, if the ghosts don’t cooperate at your Plan A location, it may be time for Plan B.
  • Also, you can read what happened to me in 1999, at a “not very haunted” cemetery: Ghostly Mischief on Halloween Night. I was glad I had a Plan B location in mind. And, after that, I learned to be prepared.

If you’d like to download a free Halloween ghost hunting checklist that includes all the points in the video, click here. (It’s a PDF at Google Drive.)

Also, if you’re a new ghost hunter, you’ll find additional Halloween insights at my Ghosts101.com article, Is Halloween the best time for ghost hunting?

Do you have additional tips for ghost hunting at Halloween? Share them in the comments section of this HollowHill.com article.

Photo credits:

  • DepositPhotos.com
  • Storyboards.com
  • FreeImages.com: Eric Nelson (Gettysburg), Daryl Chan (clouds), nvision88 (traffic), Title & credits page: old-manor-1231905

Vent Here: What’s frustrating about ghost hunting?

floating pumpkinsIt’s nearly Halloween. It’s when many people explore local haunts in search of real ghosts.

But, times have changed.

  • It’s not 1848, when the Fox sisters reported ghostly rapping noises at their upstate NY home. (A family who’d lived in that same home, earlier, had fled in fear. So, the Fox sisters weren’t the first to talk about that site’s ghosts.)
  • It’s not 1959, when paranormal encounters were popularized by an early TV series, “One Step Beyond,” and Shirley Jackson’s book, “The Haunting of Hill House,” was both a literary and commercial success.
  • It’s not 1977, when “The Amityville Horror” fascinated readers and – later – spawned a successful movie franchise.
  • It’s not 2004, when “Ghost Hunters” inspired viewers to explore haunted places for their own eerie encounters.

What I’d like to know is: what’s frustrating about ghost hunting, right now? What prevents you from enjoying truly haunted places?

I’m looking for things that can be changed or improved. I’m eager to find solutions to difficulties and challenges in ghost hunting.

But, I also want to hear about things that seem to have no answers. Anything ghost-related that makes you sigh (or sputter) and say, “Well, that’s not going to change.”

This is your chance to vent, in private. (Comments will not be made public. You’ll see only your own comments in your browser… no one else’s, and they won’t see yours, either.)

So, go ahead and vent. Rant and complain, if you want to. It doesn’t have to be tidy. It’s okay if it’s a “nobody can solve this” problem.

I’ll read everything, and take your comments seriously. If I can find an answer, or at least a way to help, I’ll do what I can. (Or, I’ll ask others who may have better insights, and see if we can pool our resources.)

Tell me what you don’t like, can’t seem to figure out, or outright hate about ghosts, ghost hunting, and haunted places. Tell me what isn’t working in ghost hunting.

Scroll down this HollowHill.com page to leave your comments. I’ll read every one of them.

Update: I’m enjoying every one of these comments, and nodding in agreement. I’m also brainstorming better solutions to some of these problems. (Except for stupidity. I’m not sure anyone has an answer to that. Yet.)

13 Ghost Hunting Truths

13It’s easy to list ghost hunting lies. I think it’s more important to remember some ghost hunting truths.

1. Anyone can be a ghost hunter.

You can be a ghost hunter, no matter what your background or education. You’re welcomed in this field whether you you start as a believer, skeptic, amateur, professional, child, or adult.

2. We know more than we did in the past, but we’re still looking for answers.

Many of us became ghost hunters because we had questions. We asked things like:

  • Are ghosts real?
  • Is this place really haunted?
  • What was that thing I encountered?
  • Is there really an afterlife?
  • What makes one place haunted, but another not?

Most of those answers will be personal. Our opinions may influence others, but — ultimately — each person will reach conclusions based on personal experience.

Thanks to tools developed by researchers like Bill Chappell, we’re able to say, “Yes, something odd and unexplained is going on, here.”

What we can’t prove (to others, anyway) is whether it’s a ghost, or even what a ghost is.

Haunted houseBut, it’s important that we can document the weird EMF spikes, temperature anomalies, visual quirks, voice (EVP) recordings, and synchronous replies we receive when we investigate haunted places.

Even the most dedicated skeptical critic can’t explain all of that evidence with normal answers.

We have increased evidence of the paranormal. That’s a big improvement over ghost hunting as it was, as recently as 10 years ago.

3. We’ve discovered more haunted places.

Over the past dozen years, many people have admitted that their homes, hotels, and restaurants are haunted.

More abandoned hospitals and schools, and previously ignored battlefields have invited researchers to investigate. Some of those sites are terrifying.

Of course, a few locations aren’t as haunted as people once thought. Also, some “hauntings” have been exposed as hoaxes.

The result is: ghost hunters have far more reliable opportunities for important research.

4. Ghost hunting can be boring, but thrilling as well.

If I don’t prepare for an investigation, about 80% of my field research is likely to be boring. My team and I will spend hours standing around, waiting for something to happen.

This can happen for several nights. If we’re lucky, one startling and powerful moment will make all the waiting worthwhile.

So, if I’m invited to an investigation or vigil and don’t have time to prepare, I’ll join the group anyway.

Of course, many investigators prefer not to know anything about the site they’ll visit.

They’ll feel more confident if they encounter an apparition or cold spot, and later discover that many researchers had almost identical experiences, at the exact same location.

That’s a personal call.

I prefer to find out as much as I can, ahead of time. In my opinion, understanding a site’s history — with insights about those who’ve lived and died there — gives me more rapport with any spirits or residual energy.

Also, knowing the site’s history makes the waiting time less tedious.

When I investigated the Myrtles Plantation, nothing happened for hours.

During that time, I checked out the bathroom where a ghostly child was heard weeping.

Then, I closely examined the bedroom — especially the bed — to see if any devices could jolt me awake around midnight or 3 AM. (Those were the most reported times, among people who’d spent the night there.)

I went downstairs, and studied the portraits as well as the “haunted mirror” in the front hall. I tapped a few piano keys to see what they sounded like.

This was partly to debunk existing “ghost stories” of the Myrtles, but also to become more comfortable in the setting.

After thoroughly exploring the site, I felt more of a connection with the house and any ghosts that might linger there.

So, as I waited for weird things to happen, I was not bored.

And yes, truly weird things did happen, eventually.

Others may not approach ghost hunting the way that I do. But, for me, my research — before the investigation and upon arriving at the site — makes the waiting less boring.

Either way, exciting discoveries are what make ghost hunting worthwhile. And yes, even after decades of research, I’m still startled at (and fascinated by) haunted places.

5. Old-school ghost hunting still works.

From hiking compasses to homemade dowsing rods, and from automatic writing to circles in charcoal (or chalk) to mark the place of an object (to see if it moves), old-school techniques work.

Is his own videos and on the Haunted Collector TV series, Brian Cano has introduced modern audiences to many of these techniques. He’s one of several people who specialize in that area.

Currently, I’m revisiting vintage ghost hunting books to learn more about research methods 19th and early 20th century investigators. So far, they’re intriguing.

What’s most important is this: You don’t need to invest a lot of money in ghost hunting equipment. In addition, old-school techniques can be far less distracting. When you can focus on all five (or six) senses to detect ghosts, you can have a very rich experience.

6. Some ghosts don’t need help.

In many cases, especially “green lady” ghosts and others who protect family members, ghosts aren’t trapped here. They don’t need your help. They’re here to help others.

7. Some ghosts can’t be helped.

Many ghosts refuse to accept that they’ve died. They want to turn back time and have their “Heaven Can Wait” moment.

Others are so terrified of what awaits them on the other side, they won’t budge.

haunted cemeterySome — especially 18th and early 19th century ghosts — are convinced that, as some gravestones say, they must wait “until Jesus returns.” That refers to Job 14:12,So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.

In most cases, you’ll find those ghosts at cemeteries, churchyards, and family plots.

If you feel called (as a ministry) to help those spirits, that’s a noble effort. But, in many ways, it’s an adjunct to ghost hunting. It’s something people do after they’re sure a spirit lingers at a particular location.

If your focus is helping spirits find peace and “cross over,” be sure your fellow ghost hunters share your interests. The process can be lengthy, requiring hours or even multiple visits.

8. Hauntings are more than just “dead people.”

Some haunted sites seem to have ghosts. Others may be troubled by residual energy.

Ghost animals are more prevalent than you may realize.

Also, if you study the history of haunted objects, you’ll find some interesting trends. For example, in the 19th & 20th centuries, haunted chairs were practically commonplace.

(I’m reminded of the haunted chair in the upstairs hallway at Wunsche Brothers’ Cafe in Old Town Spring, Texas.)

So, keep an open mind. You may discovered eerie, paranormal activity where you least expect it.

9. Some “ghosts” aren’t ghosts.

Some paranormal phenomena clearly indicate ghosts. Others could be something else.

They could be faeries, aliens, crypto creatures, shadow people, or something dark or demonic.

In addition, some paranormal activity is actually the product of something normal (but odd).

This could range from symptoms of unshielded electrical wiring (high EMF) to carbon monoxide from car exhaust or a faulty furnace. Or, the explanation could be side effects of medication, or even infrasound.

It’s important to keep this in mind. Don’t assume anything until you’ve thoroughly investigated it.

10. Not all paranormal researchers are ghost hunters.

Some people who investigate haunted sites are looking for other phenomena. During your research, if you meet another team, ask what they’re looking for, and what they’ve found, so far.

Whether or not they’re looking for ghosts, you may learn useful tips from each other.

A surprising number of “haunted” sites are associated with UFO reports, cryptozoology, and other oddities.

Be prepared to meet people looking for anomalies other than ghosts. You may discover a related subject that’s equally fascinating.

11. Ghost hunting can be dangerous.

Remember that ghost hunting can be far more dangerous than what you’ve seen on TV or experienced at ghost hunting events.

Those locations are usually carefully examined ahead of time, to be sure there are no physical risks. That can be anything from a rickety stairway close to collapse, or bacteria lingering in an abandoned hospital, to a door that tends to close by itself and lock people in the basement.

When you explore local haunts, you may encounter hazards. That’s one reason I recommend a pre-investigation visit during daytime hours.

In addition to physical dangers, remember the spiritual risks. They include demonic activity and dark influences at “haunted” sites.  (Ghosts are not demons, but some demons pretend to be ghosts.)

The Catholic church reports increased exorcisms, and has made appropriate changes to reflect the growing need for them.

However, the church seems to interpret poltergeist activity as “demonic infestation.” (I’m more likely to categorize poltergeists as stress combined with volatile emotions plus a connection to PK, aka psychokinesis.)

You can encounter other dangers in dark, isolated places. More than once, the cover of darkness (and the thrill of ghost hunting) has attracted sexual predators. Some join ghost hunting groups and wait for fellow team members to drop their guard. This is rare, but it does happen.

12. Ghost hunting is fun.

Despite obvious risks, ghost hunting is still a fascinating hobby, and it can become a career.

But, above all, it should be interesting and — in most cases — fun.

If it’s not, maybe it’s time to do something else.

I’ve spent decades of standing around in uncomfortable abandoned buildings, and wandering through cold, damp cemeteries after dark.

I still look forward to every ghost hunting event, investigation, and vigil.

For me, ghost hunting means having eerie experiences at places with rich and unusual histories. And, I meet bright, wonderful researchers, too.

It’s a unique pastime, and one I’ve never regretted.

Most ghost hunters are likely to say something similar about their paranormal research, too.

13. We’re always on the brink of another discovery.

Almost every ghost investigation reveals something new about ghosts and haunted places.

At the very least, it confirms something we already suspected, or it raises new questions about “everyone knows” aspects of ghost hunting

The adventure of ghost hunting is its unpredictability. We never know what will happen next.

Every discovery (and every theory) can help us better understand ghosts and paranormal research.

I believe that’s part of its appeal, and I hope you’ll share what you’re learning as a ghost hunter.