A Quick Question…

Social rules are changing and more of us are (finally!) able to get back to ghost hunting.

That’s one reason I want to share more insights with you, and I want to do that well.

But, after 20+ years online and participating in ghost hunting events, I’m not sure what to focus on next, in this community.

So, if I asked you what you feel is unique about what I say and do in the ghost hunting community – what my “superpower” is – what would you say? (I’m not fishing for compliments. Mostly, I want to know what to emphasize in future articles, books, podcasts, videos… etc., and what makes my work stand out – when it does – in a fairly crowded field.)

I hope you’ll leave a comment, below. (No one will see it except me… and you, of course.)

Halloween 2020 – Ghost Hunting Tips

2020…? Wow. What a challenging year we’ve had!

Yes, we’re dealing with a pandemic that prevents many of us from investigating our favorite haunts.

Despite that, with sensible precautions – masks, social distancing, and so on – this Halloween might provide better ghost hunting than past years.

Why? Mostly, it depends on how much you trust folklore.

I’m not sure I’d take this seriously, but it may be worth exploring, anyway.

According to folklore…

Halloween is one of the two most haunted nights of the year.

Halloween will be on Saturday. That’s one of the most convenient evenings for many of us, to get together for research.

In 2020, that’s also the night of the full moon, when folklore suggests that ghosts are more prevalent.

In addition, we’re in a Mercury Retrograde. That’s an astrological twist, and it’s famous (or infamous) for communications and mechanical problems… but – apparently – it’s also ideal for revisiting the past.

It’s that latter part – revisiting the past – which may improve your ghost hunting. (Even better: Mercury Retrogrades happen several times a year. Let me know if you seem to get better results during them.)

Also, if you’re familiar with farmers’ traditional beliefs and “planetary hours,” this Halloween – since it’s on a Saturday – may deliver an extra boost of paranormal energy shortly after sunset.

Of course, Covid-19 temporarily makes some sites off-limits for ghost hunting.

Personally, I’m avoiding indoor sites and crowds. (Even Salem, Massachusetts is asking tourists to stay away.)

But, with a very small team and being mindful of social distancing, some haunted cemeteries, battlefields, and other outdoor locations may be ideal for this year’s Halloween evening.

Happy Halloween!

You may also enjoy…


Ghost Hunting TV Shows – What’s Real, and Links for Aspiring Stars

Ghost hunting TV shows… what’s real? What’s fake? You may want to think about this.

In the early 2000s, ghost hunting TV shows helped many people learn more about paranormal research and haunted sites. That helped this field expand, almost overnight.

However, many viewers were disappointed when they went ghost hunting, themselves.

Ghost hunting wasn’t nearly as much fun as it had seemed on TV.

I’ve talked about this in the past, and – I’ll admit – ranted more than a little.

Here are my current thoughts (mid-2019) about ghost hunting TV shows.

If you’re busy and you’d like to listen to this instead of reading it, here’s the six-minute recording:

Ghost Hunting – Reality v. TV, revisited

In April 2019, with a new (and different) season of TV shows, Fiona revisited the topic of ghost hunting on television versus what happens in real life. Six-minute recording. Related article: Ghost Hunting TV Shows, Revisited

Recently, a news report confirmed what I’ve been saying… and more concisely (and perhaps with more authority) than I have.

The article is “5 Myths about Reality Television,” and it was in the Washington Post newspaper.

Here’s part of what the article said:

With very few notable exceptions (like “Big Brother”…), most reality television is shot first over a period of days or weeks, then edited. A month in the field could be whittled down to 44 or 22 minutes of action. That way, the audience sees reality stars only in essential moments… Almost nothing airs exactly as it fell into the lens, but the final product is usually more or less what happened.

That’s true about many (not all) ghost hunting TV shows. A typical one-hour episode might require three to five days of daily filming at the site.

Then there’s editing, to make the show compelling to watch, with cliffhangers immediately before each commercial break.

What viewers see are the highlights of an investigation. They don’t see time spent waiting while nothing happens… and that can most of what goes on, at many (perhaps most) investigations.

We sit for an hour, and then something odd happens. We investigate it and debunk it, and then sit or walk around for another hour. And then something creepy happens, and it’s memorable. When we can’t debunk it, that’s what makes the wait worthwhile.

It starts with a good location.

Viewers don’t see the dozens of locations scouted by people like me. Location scouts know that most ghost stories turn out to be more fiction than fact.

(That’s typical in any community; if you’ve gone ghost hunting, I’m sure you’ve visited many places where absolutely nothing noteworthy happened. It can be discouraging.)

When a producer contacts me to identify good sites for filming, the majority of “haunted” sites either aren’t haunted or the owners (or tenants) prefer not to be featured in a TV show.

(The good news is, I almost always find some genuinely impressive haunted sites in the area, with owners willing to grant access to investigators and the camera crew.)

An encouraging trend

So, from my experience, most sites features on TV shows are actually haunted. Also, what viewers see is usually more or less what happened.

I’m seeing a shift – towards almost radical authenticity – in some ghost hunting TV shows.

Most Haunted remains one of the leaders in this trend. They test show ideas (and investigation techniques) before most do.

Also, Most Haunted producers suggested they may air shows featuring outtakes. That’s a fun idea. (See @OnlyMostHaunted at Twitter.)

While more authentic ghost hunting TV shows – like Most Haunted – aren’t the adrenaline fuel of their fast-paced, highly edited counterparts, I like this trend.

(2020 update: Yes, some shows are far better at showing what’s real. And others still go for sensational shrieks and chills.)

Problem: shows’ time limits

Ghost hunting shows are short – really short – compared with real-life investigations.

The only sites I’ve investigated for just 22 minutes (the length of a 30-minute TV show, sans commercial breaks) are those that seemed too dangerous for research.

Usually, that had nothing to do with ghosts; instead it was about creepy people in the area, or imminent lightning strikes.

My average time at a haunted home or large site? It’s probably around two to three hours.

Later, I may revisit that location multiple times, and each additional visit can last several hours.

Or, if I’m familiar with a site, I might investigate just 45 minutes (the content of a one-hour TV show).

That kind of brief investigation is probably a follow-up visit, to debunk (or confirm) anomalies we previously encountered.

Though the time problem isn’t exactly new news, I was glad to see mainstream media mention the reality behind many “reality” TV shows.

Your investigations will be different

If you’re new to ghost hunting, don’t expect something startling every five or ten minutes.

Instead, arrive at events and investigations with low expectations. Lots of waiting may be required.

That’s a good opportunity for you to do a thorough (and sometimes repeated) “baseline yourself” check, so you’re always aware when weird things start happening at a haunted site.

What you see on TV rarely represents everything that happened at the site. I’d describe it as “ghost hunting without the boring bits.” (That’s a nod to Horrible Histories and Ghosts. I love their humor.)

However, TV shows can reveal the wide range of phenomena you might encounter at an extraordinarily haunted site.

Shows that emphasize real ghost hunting experiences… they’re well worth your viewing time. You can learn a lot from them. And, with their insights, you might be better prepared when you encounter something chilling.

Related articles

And, if you want to be on a ghost hunting TV show, search related keywords at sites like AuditionsFree.comBackstage.com, and – for the UK – Starnow.co.nz, TheStage.co.uk, and similar sites. (There are many.)

What Some Ghost Enthusiasts Believe – Jan 2019

What do Hollow Hill visitors believe? That’s what I asked in a late January 2019 poll.

Here are the results:

Ghost hunting survey January 2019

The votes represent about 3% of the people who visited that webpage. So, I’m not sure these numbers are reliable.

Why so few votes? I’m pretty sure one reason is concerns over privacy, and what data might be collected during the voting process. I understand my readers’ and fans’ concerns, though – in this case – nothing more than vote numbers were recorded.

In order, here’s what they believe in:

Ghosts – Since this is a ghost hunting website, I’m not surprised that most people believe in ghosts.

Angels – My readers tend to include many deeply spiritual people. So, faith in angels isn’t a surprise.

Also, there’s the matter of the words we use. The creepy entity lurking in the shadows at the haunted abandoned hospital may be a “ghost.” But, if a deceased relative visits you, to be sure you’re okay, she or he is often described as an “angel” or a “spirit.”

UFOs and Aliens – That number surprised me. Oh, I’ve seen flying objects that were either UFOs or really, really good experimental vehicles. And the latter had to be very well-kept secrets, as well. (In Northern California, two of us saw a huge object – big enough to nearly blot out the sky – about 100 feet overhead. And it was totally silent. But, an air base was nearby, so – for me – whether it was a test vehicle or a UFO… that’s a coin-flip.)

With the number of my readers who conduct research late at night, often in isolated places with little light pollution, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that they’ve seen weird things in the sky, too.

Demons – Again, this isn’t a surprise. I didn’t believe in demons until I met John Zaffis, over 20 years ago. (I was the opening speaker at a Massachusetts conference. He was the closing speaker that year.) His presentations showed compelling evidence for evil, malicious, demonic entities. Later, my friendship with Father Andy Calder added more reasons to believe in demonic risks at “haunted” sites.

Though I’m not sure where to draw the line between “angry ghosts” and “demons,” John’s experiences were enough to scare me. That’s why I don’t talk about demons very much; if an entity at a haunted site might be dangerous, I leave.

Mandela Effect – Another expected answer, due to the wide range of reports, and an overlap if parallel realities could explain some (not all) ghost encounters, and some (not all) Mandela Effect memories.

Shadow People – For me, this was predictable. I’m not sure what shadow people are, and if they’re a category of ghosts, or something else. But, having photographed one – and seen him, in real life – I’m sure they exist. And, they tend to appear at haunted places.

Cryptozoological Creatures (Bigfoot, etc.) –  Many use the term “cryptids,” and – though I’ve only had a couple of encounter with what might be a cryptid – I’ve heard enough first-person stories to take this topic seriously. It’s just not my field of study.

Faeries (fairies) and Banshees – This did surprise me, as I thought the Venn diagram of “ghost believers” and “faerie believers” didn’t have much overlap. I’m rather pleased to see more open minds than I’d expected. I believe paranormal researchers may need to expand how we explain – and think about – lifeforms and entities we encounter.

Thank you to everyone who participated. If you’d like to add your thoughts, I welcome comments about this poll and these topics, as they related to ghost hunting.

If You Think Ghost Hunting is “Weird”…

Have you met people who think ghost hunting is a “weird” hobby? Maybe you think it’s kind of weird, yourself? Well, imagine if your hobby was like this woman’s…

gravedigger woman - her hobby

It’s a 1944 photo from the (U.S.) Library of Congress.

Yes, it’s a little old woman, wearing a dress, a hat, and an apron.

And she’s a gravedigger.

The notes with this photo say, “Meet Mrs. Josephine Smith, aged 84, whose hobby is digging graves. She lives in Drouin, a typical little farming town (1100 people), in southern Australia, 60 miles out of the Victorian capital, Melbourne. …”

Maybe I’ve lived an insulated life, but in all my decades of trekking around haunted cemeteries, I’ve never met anyone digging a grave “for fun.”

Armchair Ghost Hunting… Innovative, or a Really Stupid Idea?

Staying home? Want to try some “armchair ghost hunting”?

I’ll admit it: This might be one of my stupider ideas. (A whole lot of ghost hunting involves testing wild & crazy ideas, just to see what happens. Now and then, one actually works.)


If this idea appeals to you, I invite you you to play along, as well.

Frankly, I need others’ input. Not just their results, but alternate ideas for related tests.

This is sort of like treating the TV (or your computer monitor) as if it’s haunted.

I have my doubts that this works, but – since I’m at home, anyway – I’m trying all kinds of remote ghost hunting ideas.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a comfy place to sit, a TV, a ghost hunting show on the TV – preferably a real-time ghost hunting (though those are infrequent on TV) – and some kind of ghost hunting equipment.

It could be an Ovilus, or an app that “talks” at haunted sites. Or, you could use a pendulum (with a numeric chart) or even dice. I’ll suggest alternatives later in this article, but I encourage you to come up with your own ideas.

Of course, you’ll also need to take notes as you test this idea.

What I’m doing

armchair ghost hunting - via the TV?For the past couple of months, I’ve been watching ghost hunting shows – mostly old Ghost Adventures episodes, and the newest season of Most Haunted.

I’ve been watching both shows on Really, a British cable network. (Ghost Adventures is  available on Hulu and online, too, but I haven’t tried those resources, yet. )

I’ve watched TV with my Ovilus III next to me, set to dictionary mode. I’ve used a pen & paper to note the results.

I wanted to see if the Ovilus “said” anything, and if the words were a good match for whatever was happening on the TV.

Ordinarily, my home has few EMF spikes, so the Ovilus is not likely to react, even if I leave it on for an extended time.

The Ovilus III has a 2,048 word vocabulary, but I haven’t estimated the odds of a “close match” during a typical ghost hunting show. (I’m not sure it’s possible to calculate that.)

My results, so far

Watching Most Haunted, my results have been vastly better if I research the location, first.

That suggests a connection between my awareness and what the Ovilus says.

Since I haven’t looked ahead in the UKTV listings, to see which Ghost Adventures episodes were scheduled, I haven’t researched them at all.

But, in general, the Ovilus seems more chatty during Ghost Adventures than during Most Haunted. In fact, some Ghost Adventures episodes seem to send the Ovilus on a tirade.

At best, I’ve seen about 20% correlation between the Ovilus’ words and what was on the TV screen at that moment.

Until today, I wasn’t sure this experiment was worth an hour a day.

Ovilus III v. a “control” word list

Today, before turning on Ghost Adventures, I decide to try a “control” list of words. Would they match the TV show as closely as the Ovilus did?

To test this, I printed a list of 50 random words. (I used a random word generator.)*

Right away, I saw six (of 50) words that could match almost any Ghost Adventures episodes: hunt, ask, call, shivering, spooky, and terrify.

Then, it was time for Ghost Adventures. (In the U.S., Eastern time zone, it starts at noon on weekdays.) Today’s episode was from 2012, Horror Hotels and Deadliest Hospitals.

I kept the Ovilus running – and took notes – even through the commercial breaks.

As the Ovilus “spoke,” I noted it by the next sequential word on the random list. (That is, until the Ovilus spoke, I didn’t count the random word, even if it was a good match for the TV show. In addition, I followed the exact sequence of the random words list; I didn’t skip around.)

This is far from scientific, but it’s a start.

Today’s results

During the show and its commercials, the Ovilus spoke 45 times.

11 of the Ovilus’ words were a good match for the what was happening on the TV. (In general, the Ovilus seemed to speak about two to three seconds before the matching moment on the show. I didn’t stretch the window beyond that.)

Only five of the words on the random list were a good match at the same time. And, of the six that seemed likely to fit any Ghost Adventures scene, only one — the word “spooky” — correlated to what was going on, at the time.

Some of my decisions were admittedly biased. When Zak was talking about a skeptic, the Ovilus said “jerk.” That’s the word I would have used, myself, so I counted it.

When two voices spoke in EVP, almost simultaneously, a counted the random word “double” as a good match. (The Ovilus had said “yield” at that moment; clearly, that was not a match.)

As I said, this isn’t scientific at all, but it makes sense to me. It’s a starting point.

The most interesting part of today’s experiment was during the scenes at the Goldfield Hotel, where — as Zak and his team investigated — a brick had moved on its own.

As Zak showed what had happened, my Ovilus said a rapid sequence of words, none of which seemed relevant. (The words were: bones, short, outside, carrier, and eat.)

But, it was so different from the Ovilus’ behavior during the rest of the show — and during my other, similar experiments — it may be noteworthy.

Or, yes… it may be a coincidence.

Want to be part of this experiment?

Today’s test may have been a fluke. My previous experiments weren’t consistent enough (or dramatic enough) to decide anything… yet. I’d like others’ input.

If you want to try some “armchair ghost hunting,” it’s easy.

All you need is any device that seems to respond to ghostly energy. (Even a homemade pendulum might work.) It doesn’t have to be as fancy as an Ovilus.

If you’re using an electronic ghost hunting device, turn it on while you’re watching a ghost-related TV show, movie, or documentary.

For lower-tech tools, just set them up as if you’re in a haunted location.

With dice or a pendulum (and numeric chart), you might start with a numbered list of random words. Roll the dice regularly throughout the show, and jot down the word that corresponds to that number. See if it “makes sense” in the context of what’s happening on the TV.

Or, use your phone and a random word generator. (There are lots of apps for this.) Regularly click to generate a word. Does it fit what’s going on – at that moment – in the ghost hunting show?

Basically, I’m looking for anything that connects with the ghostly energy you’re witnessing on the TV show. Even though there’s a major time-space gap.

Note the results.

If you test this, I hope you’ll share your results (and opinions) at this HollowHill.com article.

For now, I think this could be interesting, but there may be a lot of trial-and-error to fine-tune this. So, your input (and results, even you say this is a really stupid idea) could be very helpful.


*Since posting this, I’ve improved the control option. I copied the Ovilus III word list and numbered it. (That link – updated so it prints on just 13 pages – is a PDF at Google Drive.)

Then, I’m using a random number generator (selecting 50 numbers among 1 through 2048) to choose enough words (20 – 50 seem good) for a typical Ghost Adventures episode.

After that, I’m using the numbers to create a sequential list of Ovilus words, based on what the random number generator selected. (Same order, but listing the corresponding words from the Ovilus III list. I hope that makes sense; this is easier than it probably sounds.)

In theory, this should tell me whether the Ovilus’ choice of words is more accurate than a wholly random selection from the same collection of words.


Update: Thursday, 26 Jun 2017

Using the Ovilus III word list is a big improvement. I think it’s a more specialized list than the Random Word Generator list I’d tried, earlier.

In other words (no pun intended), the RWG list included words that were more generic and could fit a wider range of events. So, it seemed to match more moments on the TV.

Today, I tried two different word lists. Both were randomized from the Ovilus III list. After watching the King’s Tavern episode of Ghost Adventures, I was astonished.

During Ghost Adventures, out of 41 times the Ovilus was triggered, 12 words “said” by the Ovilus were a good match, and one more was close (but not quite right).

That’s about 30% accuracy.

Is that significant?

Maybe, but maybe not.

Usually, the randomized words weren’t even close. One of the lists matched twice (with a so-so third match). The other list had no matches at all.

This suggests that the Ovilus really is doing more than just spitting out random words from its dictionary.

Of course, I’ll continue these experiments. It’s too soon to reach any conclusions.

Update: Monday, 13 Nov 2017

I’m still testing this, and have expanded my viewing to include other ghost hunting TV shows.

The more I work with this idea, the better it looks. In the past week, there’s been an increase in exact match, topical words said by the Ovilus, seconds before someone on the TV says the same words.

So, yes, it looks like this works.


It could be coincidence. That’s why I need some second (and third, and fourth…) opinions.

I’m not convinced the percentage of accurate responses is worth the time & effort.

And, I still need to compare my TV research with on-site research at the same site.

Update: December 2020

Re-reading this now, I’m not convinced these tests proved anything… except the lengths I’ll go to, to find some new approach to ghost hunting.

My 30% accuracy rate – with the Ovilus – may have been a fluke. And really, is 30% accuracy significant?

Maybe there’s some variation of this that might work, so I’m leaving this online for others to morph and test.

You might have a breakthrough. If so, let me know. I’ll happily set aside time to see if I can replicate your results, on my own.

And, worst case, you’ll have had a good excuse to sit and watch ghost hunting TV shows.