Ouija Boards and Ghost Hunting

Ouija boardOuija boards are a controversial topic, and not just among ghost hunters. Many people ask me about Ouija boards, and if I believe in them. Others warn me about demons and divination tools of all kinds, but especially Ouija boards.

If someone is having problems with demons, we refer him or her to John Zaffis. He’s the very best in the demonology field.

However, demons (or malicious entities, no matter what you call them) aren’t the only reason I don’t use or permit Ouija boards at my own investigations.

For me, credibility is a huge issue. If a research tool can’t be trusted, I prefer not to use it.

We know that spirits can lie and — with a Ouija board and many other divinatory tools — it’s difficult to sort the truth from very clever lies.

Also, when someone is using any device like a Ouija board (such as an upside-down glass on a table), it’s difficult to tell if someone is pushing the glass, platen, or indicator.  In most cases, the person influencing the motion doesn’t realize he (or she) is doing that. To an onlooker, the unintended manipulation can be far more obvious.

Independently, I’ve had convincing experiences with Ouija boards. I have no doubt that they can provide valid and predictive answers to questions.

However, people are vulnerable when they think they’re talking to a loved one or a lofty “spirit guide.” It’s too easy for a prankster (human or spirit) to have fun at the expense of a beginner.

In addition, I’ve seen researchers actually lose locational advantages by relying on divinatory tools during ghost hunts. It’s like using a mobile phone to talk to someone who’s standing next to you.  It’s silly, at best.

For a variety of reasons, including recent, increased reports about demonic attacks and malicious entities, I no longer recommend using Ouija boards during ghost investigations.

Here’s the late Father Andrew Calder explaining some of the issues. I knew Andy and still have the greatest respect for the work he did while he was among us. He had far more experience with demonic energy than most people I know.

In the following videos about the dangers of paranormal research — including Ouija boards — Father Andy’s advice is credible and something to pay attention to.

Need an exorcist? Help is on the way. Maybe.

One of the Catholic Church’s spokesmen, Father Gabriele Amorth, correctly summed up the exorcist shortage when he said that people have had to “hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.”

As of December 2007, that’s changed. Pope Benedict XVI ordered all Catholic bishops to set up “exorcism squads.” Every diocese will have trained priests who can perform exorcisms.

Technically, any priest can perform an exorcism. Canon Law established that in the early 12th century. However, finding a priest with the confidence to deal with demonic possession… that’s been a challenge.

Will this change be helpful to people living fearfully in haunted homes? I’m not so sure.

Father Amorth is the founder of the Association of Exorcists. He’s described as the Pope’s “caster out of demons” and “exorcist-in-charge.” By Fr. Amorth’s own count, he’s performed over 30,000 exorcisms, perhaps as many as 50,000. (However, he says that he’s witnessed only about a hundred actual demonic possessions. I’m wondering how he explains the other 29,900+ exorcisms that he’s conducted.)

The priest seems to cast a wide net. He’s said that Hitler, Stalin and all Nazis were possessed. On Vatican Radio, Father Amorth stated, “Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil.” The priest has also said, “When magic works, it is always the work of the demon.”

So, what about the presence of dark or confused spirits that attempt to inhabit the body of someone who’s alive?

In June 2002, Fr. Amorth said, “Evil spells are by far the most frequent causes of possessions,” and estimates that 90% of possessions can be traced back to “evil procured through the demon.”

Fr. Amorth described the only four situations in which demonic attacks can occur: “One can be subjected to the attacks of the demon in four cases. Either because it constitutes a blessing for the person and such is the case with many of the saints, or because of irreversible persistence in sin, or because one is the victim of a curse uttered in the name of the demon, or else when one gives oneself up to practices of occultism.”

In Fr. Amorth’s two books on exorcism, he lists reasons why someone might be under a demonic curse, including “membership in the Freemasonry.”

And, on page 30 of his book, An Exorcist Tells His Story, Father Amorth says that the concept of ghosts or a “wandering soul” is purely an invention of spiritists. He states “The souls of the dead who are present during seances … are none other than demons.”

Whether you agree with Father Amorth or not, it remains to be seen if his attitudes will filter down to parish priests.

While we applaud the increased availability of exorcists for those who need them, we’ll probably continue to refer people to John Zaffis. John is a personal friend and, though I was skeptical when I first met him, his level-headed approach and experience with hauntings changed my mind.

Interview – Jamie of Chicagoland Ghosts

Background: I’ve known Jamie for many years and respect his enthusiasm for ghost hunting, as well as his integrity as a researcher with a solid background in science. When we decided to add an interview section to this website, he was a logical choice for my first (2006)  interview.

His popular Chicagoland Ghosts website is in transition. Originally, it was hosted at GeoCities, http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shadowlands/2007/

How long have you been ghost hunting, and how do you describe what you do?

I’ve been involved with ghost hunting for about eight years now, and my specialty is the midwest, especially around Illinois. Mostly, I say that I’m a ghost hunter or paranormal researcher.

What’s your background for ghost hunting, and did you study to research this field, or did you fall into it naturally?

I have an AAS degree in E.E. (electrical/electronic engineering technology), but I just sort of fell into ghost hunting, or rather it found me.

What techniques and tools do you use the most? And, do you have tips for other researchers?

Mostly, I use cameras, and I measure EMF (electromagnetic fields). For photos, I mostly use digital cameras now. I have enough film photos but I did use 400 speed color film before I switched to digital. And, I get the best results with a flash.

Lately, I use digital despite the fact that it has no negative; if people aren’t going to believe it they aren’t going to believe it, regardless. Why should anyone waste countless rolls of film? Like most ghost hunters, I don’t have a lot of money to throw around, and digital works fine.

Wayne Dyer jokes that, in the old days if you asked a scientist if he believed in Deity, he’d say, “Of course not, I’m a scientist!” but today if you ask that same question, you’ll hear, “Of course, I’m a scientist!”

Similarly, many of us who begin as skeptics in this field, become believers. But, the question is… what are ghosts? What’s your opinion?

I have seen black things that walk at night. I have seen full apparitions, transparent and glowing. I’ve heard and felt many more things that science can’t explain yet.

I think they are probably spirits. Some seem to be lost, but others are able to travel at will between the planes of existence.

They are here for as many reasons as we are here: Some because they choose to be, others because they are lost or confused, and others are just visiting.

How do you select places to ghost hunt… what cues tell you that it’s a good place, or just an urban legend?

First, I check the history of a place. Then, sometimes it’s just a feeling, but many times my guesses are right. When I get to a good site, I usually get a feeling of heaviness, like the air is really thick. Cemeteries seem to be the best for my research right now. I’d really like a chance to investigate the catacombs under Paris.

Some locations get better the more you visit them, and others seem to deteriorate. It varies.

Have you ever felt a personal connection with a ghost?

Yes, when one called my name and nobody was around. I’ve posted a few of my favorite ghost stories at my Chicagoland Ghosts website.

Most of us remember at least one ghost hunt that was genuinely frightening. Have you ever been scared on a ghost hunt?

Yes, at a person’s home, in the basement. I was going to spend the night but I kept feeling like something was crawling all over me. I had to get out of there. It had me freaked out.

What do you like best about ghost hunting? Least?

The best is that it is a lot of fun. You get to see and experience things nobody else does.

Least favorite? Having to deal with rude skeptics and unbelievers. They can have a dampening effect. Sometimes, if you actually experience something, the skeptic automatically tries to rule out your experience without even considering the facts. People should use common courtesy, but some skeptics don’t.

How do you deal with skeptics?

I ignore them. They won’t last long, and they probably won’t come back.

Do you get better results at certain times of day or night? Is there more activity around certain times of year, such as Halloween?

It depends on the ghost. Generally, I can get results whether it is day or night.

Also, some show up at certain times of the year. Other hauntings seem to be random.

Describe your typical — or best — ghost hunts.

I like a small number of people. More than half a dozen is too many. I’m likely to stay anywhere from half an hour to an hour for an informal visit. Mostly I stay however long it takes to cover the area thourougly. I can keep researching for three or four hours on a more formal investigation. If I go back to a site–and I do revisit them, usually–I’ll usually stay just as long as I did the first time.

What would you tell someone who is interested in ghost hunting but doesn’t know where to start?

First, check the web sites and check my links. Read as much as you can, and dont expect anything to jump out at you. In fact, don’t expect to see anything at all. Stay away from “demonologists” or people that charge for investigations.

What else would you tell a beginner? What about websites, books, and other resources when you’re getting started in ghost hunting?

For reading, I like theShadowlands.net‘s Ghost Hunting 101, Troy Taylor’s The Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook, and whatever you can find on the web. The more sources the better. To find haunted places, check out the history of the area. See if there are any sources on the web for haunted locations. Check the historical society and newspaper archives, too.

Beginners can start with just a camera and a basic no-frills EMF meter, and maybe a tape recorder for EVP.

Can anyone/everyone be a successful ghost hunter?

No, most can but a lot of people lack the patience and open mindedness to actually succeed… It takes a certain individual. Some people get into ghost hunting for the wrong reasons. This includes anyone who is insincere, or thinks they can make a lot of money from it. Or, if you expect to see things jumping out at you, then you probably should just stay home and watch it on TV.

What precautions should people take before ghost hunting at a new location?

If you visit a site in the daytime, it could help you see more clearly what the area is like and eliminate a few obvious things. Don’t trespass; always get permission. Don’t smoke at a location. Pick up your trash. Use comon sense. Above all, don’t panic and run and hurt yourself, if you hear a noise.

Never go ghost hunting alone; let people know where you are.

You mentioned demonologists, but what about demons? Many of us have encountered things that aren’t ghosts, but we aren’t sure what they are. What’s your opinion?

I believe there are negative entities that feed on our fears and emotions but I do not believe in demons. There are certainly types of spirits that were never human; I call them elementals. They can be brought about by disturbing the land, or messing with forces that you shouldn’t mess with.

Negative entities are a hot subject in ghost hunting. How do you feel about people using Ouija boards while ghost hunting?

As with loaded guns, don’t mess with them unless you know what you are doing. Ouija boards are a tool and if you don’t respect a tool, you can get hurt. It’s not the tool’s fault, it’s your fault for not understanding what you are doing. Mostly, don’t use a Ouija board unless you intend to actually communicate with something, and don’t freak out and get all scared if it actually works.

Do you personally use ESP for ghost hunting? How do you feel about a psychic using his or her abilities on a ghost hunt?

I do use my intuition, but I don’t consider myself a psychic. They can be valuable but take it with a grain of salt. You don’t know how accurate a psychic is until you have some way to verify what they say.

Every community is different, but many of us get great support from the police when we’re ghost hunting. Is that true for you, too?

Yes, the police can be a great help if you cooperate with them and don’t disrespect the law. They might even be ghost hunters themselves.

Do you work with the press at Halloween?

No, I prefer to quietly do my own thing and not be bothered.

Do you accept clients? If so, do you charge for your time and expenses?

Occasionally I accept clients, but not lately. My work is always free but I will accept gas money. Generally, the site has to be nearby.

How can people get in touch with you, and stay current on ghost hunting in your area?

Visit my Yahoo!Group, Chicagoland Ghost Club.

Psychics: Maintaining Your Boundaries

Sometimes, psychics and mediums ask me about spiritual protection.  They know that I’m psychic, and have had served as a medium.

Note: A medium is someone who acts as the go-between.  You’re in the middle, acting as the conduit between the ghost world and ours.  Most mediums are psychic. Not all psychics are mediums.

In general, ghosts and spirits can’t take over a person without his/her permission. Even misguided ghosts aren’t that powerful. Really.

I’m not talking about demons or malicious spirits. That’s another topic. I’m seeing increased reports of demons and malicious entities, but it’s still a very small issue in ghost hunting.

When someone is dealing with a demon or possessions, I refer them to John Zaffis, Pete Haviland, or NEAR.  (Note: This article was written long before John Zaffis became a household name due to his Haunted Collector TV series.)

However, there are times when a medium — or someone developing his or her psychic gifts — feels an unwanted presence in her field of energy, or even in her mind. (I’ll use the feminine pronoun in this article, but this advice is for men and women alike.)

Whether or not you’re psychic, always know where your boundaries are… and when they’ve been crossed.

Start by recognizing how you feel without the influence of others, including spirits.

Start your day with a reality check

First, see how you feel when you start the day. I’ve talked about this in other articles, notably Baseline… Yourself, in my free Introduction to Ghost Hunting course, and in my podcast (plus free worksheet), Baseline Yourself for Ghost Hunting. (Podcast currently unavailable.)

Here’s a quick summary:

When you wake up each morning, pause before getting out of bed and do a reality check. I mean that literally:

  • Check your emotions. Are you cheerful or grumpy? Calm or anxious?
  • See how you feel, physically… healthy, allergies, etc. Do you feel energized, or is it especially difficult to get out of bed today?

After completing that “baseline” check, it’s time to look ahead.  I like the phrase, “pave the road.”  That is, visualize how your day is likely to go, and how you’ll feel as you accomplish items (specific items) that you intend to complete.

During the day, pause regularly to see if you’ve accepted energy or emotions from people or the environment around you.

During each ghost hunt, pause regularly. See if you’ve been gradually accepting impressions from spirits. It’s best to notice this before it becomes a problem.

If you’re feeling imposed upon by spirits, re-center yourself.

  • Use your morning feelings and emotions as your reference point. (My free baseline instructions and worksheet can help.)
  • Remember how you felt then, and do your best to re-experience those feelings.

Creative visualizations

Some psychics use creative visualizations to protect their personal space. Here’s one way to do that.

  • Imagine a real, physical room in the “psychic space” where spirits contact you.
    1. Create a visual sense of boundaries… physical walls with windows and a door. Imagine your perfect room in your perfect house, with perfect views out windows on at least three sides of the room.
    2. Make this very clear and very specific. Write it down, if that helps. Or, use a photo from a decorating magazine, or a place where you’ve lived or visited.
    3. Decide that you are the only person who can enter the room through the door. Perhaps its similar to a door in Star Trek, and only responds to your voice. The door always works. You can always leave the room and return to your own world easily and immediately.
    4. As a psychic, imagine that you’re opening only one of those windows (with a screen) to talk with the spirits. If, at any point, you want to close the window, you can. Or, you can turn your back on that window, and look out at least two other windows with happier views.Spirits cannot enter this room, but only communicate through the window. Make the screen electrically charged, if that helps. Imagine a line of salt along the window ledge, since–in folklore–ghosts generally can’t cross salt.
    5. Make sure the room seems real to you. It’s your spiritual haven in a “between-worlds” space. Mentally visit it every morning, and remind yourself of its decor, and how restful and safe it feels.
    6. Use this imagery whenever you are preparing to contact (or open to) spirits. Treat it very seriously; this space is as real as you make it. It is

Rely on spiritual protection, if you need it.

As long as you’re dealing with ghosts — not demons — the following methods have been successful.

  • Use tried-and-true spiritual protections, including crosses, pentacles, stars of David, holy water, sage smudges, and so on… they work.
  • Sea salt seems to work well, too. According to stories, it’s a line that ghosts can’t cross. (Interestingly, some people report take kelp daily to reduce or prevent anxiety attacks. I use it myself when I’m stressed. Kelp’s composition is similar to salt’s.)
  • If you say to a spirit, “I banish you from my presence in the name of [deity],” they usually go away.

But, you need to repeat whatever you’re using regularly until the spirit/s get the point. Like persistent suitors who won’t take no for an answer, some spirits need to be told steadily and firmly that they are not welcomed.

When you’re dealing with ghosts, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Keep in mind that, along with psychic gifts, people are also given psychic protection. It’s mostly a matter of activating it.

Whether you choose a spiritual protection from your religion, or use creative visualization to keep spirits from intruding, there is little to fear as long as you remain alert and keep your boundaries in place.

Ghosts can be bullies, but ghosts aren’t dangerous. (Other entities can be, but that’s not what I’m talking about, here.)

Most spirits respond to what you say, out loud. As silly as it may seem, it’s helpful to say “Leave me alone,” or “Step back, you’re intruding in my space,” if you need to. Say it loudly and clearly, and be firm about it.

Most ghosts do not follow anyone home from ghost hunts. If they could leave the location that they’re haunting… well, they’d have left it long ago.  Something is holding them there, and it’s usually a self-imposed limit.

Daily “reality checks” will help you discern how you feel, and more quickly recognize external influences from the spirits.

Remember, if you reassert your personal boundaries when the problem is small, it’s easy to keep spirits from intruding where they shouldn’t go.

Psychic Preparations for a Ghost Hunt

Wild flowers at a NH cemeteryPsychic skills and sensitivity can be useful during ghost investigations, if the psychic is skilled, understands the risks involved, and maintains appropriate boundaries.

But, simply being psychic — and I believe that most people are psychic — isn’t enough.You need to maintain your psychic boundaries, as well.

It’s easy to be “too psychic” on ghost hunts. If you’re picking up energy from other researchers as well as the ghosts, it can feel like a dozen radios are blaring at once.

That’s where boundaries come in.  They protect you and your team, and can be helpful to the spirits, as well.

Consider these preparations to enhance your psychic ghost hunting skills.

Clear your mind.

Before a ghost investigation, jot down anything that you can think of that you need to do.

Whether you need to remember that tomorrow is trash day, or if you have a book to return to the library, if that thought keeps swimming around your brain, write it down.

Just a few notes may be enough. The point is to reduce the self-talk in your head.

Eat well, but not too much.

Before every ghost hunt, eat a light meal. Include some protein, since it digests more slowly than carbs and will prevent hunger pangs during your research. Never overeat. Whether you get heartburn or just a heavy feeling, too much in your stomach can be a distraction. Likewise, avoid spicy foods if your digestion is sensitive.

Skip dessert. Carbohydrates can contribute to drowsiness or anxiety during investigations.

Of course, avoid alcohol, too much caffeine, and unnecessary drugs.

  • Alcohol can distort your perceptions more than you realize at the time.
  • Caffeine “jitters” can compound your anxieties during a scary ghost hunt.
  • Unnecessary and/or recreational drugs can also alter your perceptions and impair your psychic abilities.

However, if you are under a doctor’s care and should take medications… take them.  Just make sure your team leader knows about this, in case the occasional side effect or a food interaction could affect your investigating.

Also, caffeinated beverages can have a place in your backpack.  After an exhausting investigation, some researchers rely on caffeine to be sure they’re sharp enough for the commute home.  (On the other hand, many teams gather in a nearby coffee shop after an investigation.  They can exchange notes and eat a light meal that refreshes them enough to drive home, safely.)

Note: If you make spirit contact through a ritual of any kind, especially one that uses substances that put you in more direct contact with spirits, make sure your team leader knows about this, ahead of time.

Generally, ritual contact and the use of some substances should be kept separate from general ghost investigations.  In fact, I usually recommend two separate investigations:  One to determine what’s at the site.  Later, a second investigation by those who will make psychic or spiritual contact, to help the spirit communicate and cross over.

“Wash off” the day’s energy, if that helps.

Before an investigation, make a clean break with the energy of that day.

  • Some people take a drive with the windows open.
  • Others like a hot shower or bath.
  • For some, the answer is a few minutes in a comfortable chair with classical music playing, or binaural beats that refresh them.
  • Light exercise or a few minutes of dancing can “shake loose” any negative energy you’ve picked up.
  • Or, you may enjoy watching part of a TV show or movie that helps you disengage from the day’s activities.

If you need an activity that marks the closure of the workday or school day, be sure to include that, no matter how rushed you are.

Have a partner or coach at your elbow.

Even the best of psychics can become vulnerable.   Always designate a team member to check on you regularly and make sure you’re okay.

  • Clearly explain what you need.  Checking on you should not become a distraction for either of you.  Often, a visual check — just a glance to see how you look — is enough. Or, it could be a simple exchange once an hour, along the lines of: “Everything okay?” “Yes, everything’s fine.” “Good. I’ll check again in an hour.”
  • The person should know what’s normal for you when you’re working as a psychic.
  • The team member should be very clear about what’s not okay.
  • If you get into trouble, your partner or coach should be confident enough to act quickly to get help, no matter what you say.
  • Your partner should know exactly what kind of help you might need, and how to get that help for you, right away.

Know the risks.

Demon-like Photo by Michal Zacharzewski, Poland - SXCIn recent years, many psychics has been deceived by entities that did a really good job of pretending to be ghosts.

As a result, I’ve almost completely reversed my previous policies related to divinatory tools and trance mediums.

It’s not that I’m phobic about Ouija boards, and I won’t flee from the site if someone goes into a trance.  I’ve simply developed a healthy respect for what can go wrong on an investigation.

In recent years, we’ve seen far more frightening things than we did in the 1980s and 1990s.

I’m not talking about angry, territorial ghosts. They’re simply annoying.  Either get away from them or imagine yourself far larger than they are, and tell them to back off.

I’m concerned about dangerous and malicious entities. Whatever those are, they’re not part of ghost research.  So, due to the increasing number of reports like this, I’ve established new rules and recommendations for working in this field.

If you’re going to work as a psychic in a haunted setting, make sure you’re not alone.  Make sure a team member checks on  you, regularly.  And, if things make sure someone is watching you — not taking photos or using an EMF meter or ghost-related app — to be sure you’re safe.

Photo credit: Michal Zacharzewski, Poland