This is a podcast by Fiona Broome, created to accompany the Ghosts101.com article, Are Shadow People Dangerous? In this 11-minute podcast, Fiona discusses shadow people, “Hat Man,” and protection for ghost hunters and other paranormal researchers.
In the past, ghost hunters could discreetly slip into haunted sites that weren’t clearly open to the public. If it was public property — or abandoned — and it wasn’t posted, some investigators thought, “Why not?”
I’ve always advised against investigating sites that aren’t clearly open to the public for ghost research.
For example, in New England, Danvers (MA) State Hospital site has been notorious for trespassing, vandalism, and arrests of well-meaning ghost enthusiasts.
It’s one of many locations with eerie reputations, and vigilant security or police patrols.
Like many other locations in isolated spots, it’s easy for police to observe trespassers from a distance. Ghost hunters are at risk as soon as they drive up the road or driveway, or turn on their flashlights. Quite literally, they shed light on their own crimes.
Today, surveillance cameras and other devices — similar to the tools we use in our research — make trespassing even more risky.
The following December 2015 story — from KUTV (Utah, USA) — is a good example of what can happen if you break the law.
(KUTV)In Northern Utah, authorities are looking to the public in help finding a few people they want to talk to after vandalism was discovered at a former Catholic retreat believed to be haunted. The pictures are clear, taken from surveillance video a new property owner installed in recent weeks… Despite multiple signs posted on the property – “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out”, threatening fines and jail time for violators, individuals are still coming through the area… In some publications and online sites, the area has been described as a good ghost hunting location, a fun place to take a date and get a thrill, but authorities say this is no laughing matter. (Emphasis added.)
That particular location — St. Anne’s, in Logan Canyon — is mentioned at many websites, including credible YouTube videos, as a reliable place to find ghosts. You can even find St. Anne’s ghost story at otherwise-trustworthy websites like the Weird US site.
This is why you must investigate site accessibility, even before you decide if a location might be haunted enough to explore.
If you don’t, or if you choose to risk getting caught, the quality of surveillance footage — day or night — can be good enough to convict you.
Don’t expect to see warning signs.
Don’t waste your time looking for the cameras, either. They can be tiny or well-concealed in hollowed-out tree branches or fence posts.
Ghost hunting might not be as popular as it once was, but modern surveillance equipment has become inexpensive and easy to use. Many locations are using it to detect trespassers, and fine them for vandalism they might be responsible for.
In the case of the Utah ghost hunters, that’s a $10,000 door that someone had kicked in.
(Really, if you’re facing a jury and trying to explain that, yes, you did trespass, but no, you didn’t damage anything, do you expect them to believe you? Is ghost hunting worth that risk?)
Trespassing can be a felony in some American communities. Jail time can be as much as a year, and fines can be as high as $4,000 per person, at the discretion of the judge.
If you’re an American convicted of a felony, you can be denied your right to vote in the U.S. You can also be denied travel to some other countries, including Canada and parts of Europe. If an employer or landlord runs a background check on you, a felony conviction looks very bad.
Since my earliest articles at Yankee Haunts (mid-1990s) and HollowHill.com, I’ve always focused on haunted locations people can investigate, with permission. Nearly all sites I talk about — at websites, on TV and radio, and in books — are open to the public.
What happened to the kids who were caught in Utah could happen to anyone. Don’t take that chance.
If you’re not sure whether a location is open to the public for ghost investigations:
Visit the location and look for signs, or ask the staff (if any) about restrictions.
Ask the reference librarian at the local public library, or check with the regional historical society.
Stop at the local visitors’ center or chamber of commerce, and verify the location and the hours it’s open to the public.
Of course, I always recommend visiting each haunted site during the daytime, to evaluate it for research and plan your investigation.
But, if that’s not possible, be sure to confirm when the location is open to the public for ghost hunting, and if any fees, rules, or limits apply.
Or, limit your ghost hunting to daytime hours, as well as ghost tours, public ghost hunting events, and ghost vigils.
What does carbon monoxide have to do with a haunted house?
When people contact me about a haunted house, they often say things like:
“Sometimes, when I’m in that part of the house, I get shaky, dizzy, and I feel weak all over.”
“I get a tightness in my chest, and I can’t catch my breath. Do you suppose the ghost died of a heart attack?”
“I’m okay during the day, but at night — especially when it’s cold out — it’s like something floats into my room through the bedroom window, and I can’t breathe.”
“The baby gets fussy in that room and seems to be looking at something that I don’t see, and the dog won’t go in there, ever.”
“I’m fine all day, but at night, when we close up the house and go to bed, I get headaches, it feels really stuffy in the room, and sometimes I feel kind of sick. I always have to get up and open the window, just to feel the breeze. About an hour or two later, around midnight, everything’s fine again.”
Well, those “symptoms” of a haunting can be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s why carbon monoxide is now the first thing to check in a house that might be haunted. This is especially true if the ghosts started to be a problem when the house was sealed up for the winter, or — in warm climates — for the summer.
The following is an edited excerpt from the book, Is Your House Haunted?, by Fiona Broome.
Before you do anything else…
Check the carbon monoxide levels at the possibly-haunted site.
Carbon monoxide is nicknamed “the silent killer.” Pets and children often react to it first. Carbon monoxide (CO), also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities. It can come from a variety of sources, including gas appliances, woodstoves, car exhaust, blocked flues, and even cigarette smoke.
Some people are more sensitive to carbon monoxide, and may show symptoms before others do.
Any of the following symptoms may indicate high levels of carbon monoxide.
A tight sensation in the chest.
Shortness of breath.
A feeling of weakness.
Confusion or disorientation.
Fainting and seizures.
Infants may be irritable.
Pets can avoid certain areas.
Carbon monoxide can also affect the heart and central nervous system, and raise blood pressure. Carbon monoxide poisoning can damage the fetus of a pregnant woman. Many areas in the UK, the US, and Canada have laws recommending (or even requiring) the use of carbon monoxide detectors in homes. Older homeowners may not realize that. Even if the homeowner has no fireplace or woodstove, and no gas appliances, check the levels anyway.
For example, if a nearby neighbor has a wood stove and you (or the client) sleep with your window open, elevated carbon monoxide could explain some “symptoms” of a haunting.
If you regularly investigate haunted sites, be sure your home has very low levels of carbon monoxide, too. If you’ve been sensitized to the gas, even low levels might trigger your symptoms at a “haunted” site. It could happen. Rule this out, immediately.
When you’re investigating a potentially haunted house and any symptoms match the warning list, carbon monoxide levels must be checked first.
If the homeowner does not have a carbon monoxide detector installed, and you don’t have a handheld monitor, call the fire department for advice.
Note: Before buying a handheld carbon monoxide meter, be sure to read the reviews.
If you’re investigating haunted homes and you can’t afford a good carbon monoxide detector, don’t bother with a cheap one. Either have the homeowner install carbon monoxide detectors in several places in the home — and use them for at least a week before you investigate — or ask the fire department if someone in the community can test the air for the homeowner.
A carbon monoxide meter that works is important. A cheap one that’s not reliable could put you and your client at risk.
So, either use a good detector or have the homeowner or someone else handle that part of the investigation.