Ghost Hunting Guidelines

No one can enforce ghost hunting rules. Not for independent ghost hunters and ghost hunting teams, anyway.

Also, I cannot assume responsibility (or credit) for what happens during ghost hunts. Remember that ghosts aren’t as visible, dangerous and spectacular as the media portray them… but ghost hunting can be risky.

In my opinion, the small and subtle things can startle you the most. For example, it’s not always the eerie moaning noises that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck, but the fact that the surroundings are far too quiet.

Never use movies or TV shows as guidelines for paranormal research. Never expect them to show what really goes on during ghost hunts, and don’t rigidly copy what they do.

Here are my strongest recommendations:

1. Above all, use your common sense.

2. Never go ghost hunting alone. Investigate with at least one companion.

3. Verify location, accessibility, safety, and related issues ahead of time. Check each site during daytime hours to identify parking, paths, and hazards. Carry a working flashlight, even during daytime ghost hunts.

4. Be sure you’re comfortable.

  • Dress for the weather and the location. Wear suitable clothing, including sturdy footwear.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal immediately before ghost hunting, but don’t arrive hungry, either.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use recreational drugs before or during a ghost hunt.  (If you’re on medication that might impair your judgment, talk with your doctor about “hiking, after dark” and how risky that might be.)

5. Never trespass on private or posted property. Get clear and specific permission from the owners or authorities. If others have had problems with this, get permission in writing. (Bring your own form for the owner to sign. From my experience: it helps if you include a clause that frees them from all liabilities connected with your research.)

6. Leave immediately and cheerfully if the police or owners ask you to, even if the property is not posted. Provide photo ID if the police ask. Smiling helps.

7. If you become unreasonably frightened at any location — haunted or not — leave immediately. If you feel prompted to leave a site, always listen to your gut instinct.

8. Remember, you have more to fear from the living than from the dead. Many haunted sites are isolated. They’re attractive to people engaged in illegal activities. Use caution.

Also, since ghost hunting gained popularity, the field has occasionally attracted con artists. Be aware of the warning signs.

In addition, be aware of your personal space in dark settings. Rarely, a sexual predator takes advantage of the darkness to touch, fondle, slap, scratch, or behave inappropriately in other ways. If you suspect this is going on, step away from the person and speak up immediately.

9. As your mother taught you, never speak ill of the dead. Avoid sarcasm and jokes in haunted settings. Sometimes, angry spirits seem to “get even.”

10. Ghosts are not likely to follow you home. If you are frightened and leave a haunted location, the spirits generally do not go with you and they cannot affect your thoughts. (If something seems to follow you, it’s probably not a ghost.)

11. If you are troubled by unwanted thoughts after leaving a haunted location, relax. Eat some comfort food. Watch a happy movie or TV show. Put on some upbeat music and dance. Talk to a friend who understands ghost hunting. Spend some time in a church.

If the unwanted thoughts persist, see a professional for advice. (A minister or priest may be the best place to start.)

12. Ouija boards are not inherently evil. However, you don’t know who or what is directing the platen, and if the entity is lying.  In addition, Ouija boards and related devices have a high incidence of “opening a door” to unpleasant and dangerous entities. For those reasons, I recommend not using a Ouija board during investigations.

(In fact, don’t let anything “talk through” you. If you give it permission to use your body, you’re at risk.)

13. Never rely on mobile phones in haunted settings. Often, they won’t work. (Step across the street and the phone is likely to work again.)

14. Remember, you’re visiting a location that a ghost considers “home.” Be as polite as you would in someone else’s home.

15. Ghosts do not “possess” people without their consent. If someone or something seems to be taking control, tell it to stop. Put up your spiritual shields. Think rude thoughts at it, and generally picture yourself as a bigger bully than the spirit is. This does work in most cases.

However, if you – or someone you know – seems “possessed,” consult a member of the clergy, immediately. The problem may not be a ghost.

16. Generally, you cannot help a ghost. Most ghosts are tied to their earthly locations because they want to change something that happened in the past.

You can’t change the past, and most ghosts aren’t really interested in anything else. And frankly, some ghosts are like petulant children. They just like attention. Don’t take their ploys seriously.

If helping ghosts “cross over” is why you’re involved in ghost hunting, that’s a ministry. I admire people who do that. It can be a slow, time-consuming problem that tests your patience.

Be sure you’re working with a team that shares — or at least supports — your goals.

17. There are no documented cases of someone being seriously physically harmed by a ghost.

Minor injuries can happen. They’re more likely if you’re investigating sites that aren’t well maintained, or if you’re walking in the dark.

Also, some older sites have mold, mildew, and other air quality issues. At least one researcher has died from this. Invest in some kind of breathing protection, and keep it available in your ghost hunting kit.

If you’re worried about your safety, choose a different hobby. Ghost hunting should be fun.

18. It is reasonable to pay a fee to participate in a ghost hunting event or conference. However, on private ghost hunts, if someone is charging you money as if they’re providing a show… perhaps they are. Caveat emptor.

If you disagree with these guidelines, we urge you to create your own website and offer alternative opinions.

My opinions are based on over 30 years of paranormal research, but I don’t claim to “know it all,” and I welcome others’ opinions.

13 thoughts on “Ghost Hunting Guidelines”

  1. I am very interested in paranormal activities. I am fascinated by the spiritual realm and can’t wait to put my talents to full use.

  2. I gree up in a 22 room home built in 1929. My mother opened an antique shop that eventually soread to 12 rooms of the house. On occasion we would get an item in that brought with it a spirit. Most of the time when the item was sold the spirit left with it. Once in a while. They would linger a bit but eventually leave. Some friends of mine moved in to an old farm house. I started babysitting fir them when i was 12. From the minute they moved in they had occurrences. There was a locked room upstairs that they were not allowed to enter. At first thete would be things like hearing footsteps come down the stairs andactually see the door knob twisting in the buffet miror. Then the children would talk abiut seeing a lady and a man. The mans presence createf a putrid sulfer like smell. The kady smelled of strong roses. I smelled them and would get an eerie feeling. One day jennifer who was 3 was pointing at the lady in the purple dress. I took her hand abd told her to show ke the lady. We took one step forward and suddenky she staryed gaspung fir air. She was not asthmatic and haf no prior breathing problems. Not knowinf what to do i picked her up and ran out to the porch. She immediately got her breath back. From then on i wouldn’t babysit thete alone. So its fron those experiences that i have the interest in the paranormal. I believe my childhoid experiences have made me sensitive and more open to spirits presences.

  3. You said never to rely on mobile phones…does that include ghost hunting apps? I actually have had one that I think works better than others. Another question..do you think the apps are phony or preprogrammed..at least most? Have you ever used any apps from your phone?

    1. Amanda, the issue isn’t whether mobile phones — and their apps — are worthwhile. It’s the problem of mobile phones and everything battery operated, failing. It’s common in haunted settings.

      So, if you’re in a large cemetery and plan to keep in touch with other team members — in other parts of the cemetery — by using text messages or anything else on your phone, don’t rely on it.

      Have a “Plan B” communications method. (Frankly, I like flashing light bracelets or necklaces. The ones with LED lights can usually be seen at a distance. And, though they, too, use batteries, they seem to fail less often than phones, cameras, voice recorders, and flashlights.)

      1. Just a comment on phone apps for ghost hunting for anyone that reads this in the future.

        The problem with ghost hunting apps is that unless you have the source code and can understand it, you don’t really know what the app is doing under the hood. Also, especially with Android, even an app with good intentions may not work properly due to the differences in phone hardware.

    2. I would like to know the answer to this question as well . Last month my spouse died after 15 yrs of being together , it left me heartbroken and desperate to hear from them , so I turned to a ghost hunting app that used white noise to see if you had shirts there with you . Desperate to see if he was with me I started recording sessions. And almost immediately a strange voices started speaking but, it wasn’t that of my partners. I remember hearing in church that this could be dangerous but , without knowing why , I’m unsure I can be warned properly

  4. is their any age issue to be paranormal investigator? do we have to get some degrees to become pro?
    thankyou for giving us usefull informtion. i am in 10th right now so most people say me to do parapsychology is it nesecceray?

    1. gurleen, I began investigating ghosts when I was in my early teens. A degree isn’t necessary, and the field of parapsychology can focus on debunking paranormal phenomena more than exploring it with an open mind. So, consider a college or university that offers interesting courses, whether or not they’re related to ghost hunting.

  5. For all i know there are people who can be dangerous to ghosts,and something on the lines of SPCA may be required.And as for companions,i’ve seen flicks where the companions turn out to be ghosts,scaring the shit out of hunters who become ducks without a hunt.I would suggest an led torch working on peltier effect and a radio with wind up clockwork mechanism for powering the device.

    1. Vivek, I’m chuckling over the SPCA idea. (Though, more seriously, I’ve no doubt that “provoking” can be abusive to spirits that feel trapped in this reality.)

      And, of course, a companion who turns out to be a ghost… that’s a great ghost story trope.

      I like the simplicity of a peltier effect sensor connected to something with signaling ability. I’m not sure how many of Bill Chappell’s devices (at DigitalDowsing.com) use a similar approach.

      Food for thought, as usual, Vivek. Thank you!

      Cheerfully, Fiona

  6. THANK YOU, THIS COURSE SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD BE VERY EDUCATIONAL. I WENT TO ONE GHOST HUNT, AND ONE OF THE SO CALLED INVESTIGATOR USE ONE OF THOSE E- CIGARETTES , IN HIS POCKET, TO PUT A SMELL IN THE AIR, SOME OF US SEEN THE RED LIGHT REFLECTED IN A PANE GLASS, AND SMOKE COMING OUT OF HIS POCKET.
    RIGHT THERE AND THEN, I WANTED TO STUDY THE GHOST HUNTING FOR MYSELF.

  7. Although I believe that there are real cases of paranormal activity, I also think there are a lot of assumptions. Other than possible visibility in the dark, why investigate at night? Humans often find the dark spooky, and a time when ghosts and demons come out. We tend to project this human fear onto spirits. Having died and left their bodies why would a spirit decide to haunt at night? Demons might take advantage of our fears and use the darkness to their advantage, but why spirits of the dead? Humans are more suggestible at night, and when in a strange setting tend to hear things and see things that simply are not there. We also assume that grudges, sorrow and humor are carried over from a person’s life to their spirit in death. Now, you can say the spirit is “stuck” because it harbors negative feelings, but in truth, we have no idea what life after death is like. The notion that a human can help the spirit move on is fairly egotistical. Again, we have no idea what or if the term moving on has any relevance in the after life. One line of thinking is that spirits no longer have a body, yet they cast a shadow, form orbs that disappear in the ceiling or the next room through the walls and sometimes show up in a transparent form of the body they inhabited in life. Here, we must all abide by the rules of nature such as gravity, one form of matter becoming another form such as a chemical reaction, and limited ability to pass through walls. That may change after death, but we tend to pick and choose the powers of spirits based on our needs. If the spirit is hanging onto their earthly life, fears and anger, appearing with a human outline, why then have the power to appear and disappear, or lack of power to escape the memory of someone who tormented them in life? That residual energy, both good and bad, exists in some places is not something I question. Whether or not we are extrapolating our own fears to the dead is something I do question. If “good spirits” are in a particular location, why would they appear in such a way as to startle or panic people in this life? It would make more sense that they would not want to cause fear. Do we actually cause more damage by continuously requesting spirits to communicate with the living? Does a steady flow of paranormal researchers through “haunted” locations disrupt whatever process spirits are going through? Until proven wrong, I will continue to believe that spirits do exist, but we need to question ourselves, our motives in communicating with them and our lack of understanding as to what happens to us after we die.

    1. Alexander, thank you for your thoughtful questions and insightful comments.

      I’ve discussed the “lights out” (darkness/night) issues in some previous articles, including Ghost Hunting in the Daytime. In When to Go Ghost Hunting, I describe my favorite times for ghost hunting. In general, I believe that – at some sites – daytime is nearly as good for ghost hunting as night. Gilson Road Cemetery comes to mind immediately.

      I’m not sure how ghost investigations affect the spirits. I’m certain that, at some locations, investigations seem to dilute the energy, or at least our ability to perceive it. My visit to Edinburgh’s underground vaults convinced me of that, when I “saw” modern people (or their energy) near the conclusion of that tour. I’m also reminded of John Sabol’s research; he told me a great story about recording EVP in a rarely researched Civil War site. When he played it back, the recording seemed to be Jason & Grant (from “Ghost Hunters” TV series) talking. They had investigated the site for a show.

      So, I believe the living leave impressions on a site. What we perceive may not always be ghosts, per se.

      I continue to bristle when people are ghost hunting for a “good scare.” I feel as if that resonates with the 18th century (and earlier) when people – as entertainment – used to tour facilities that housed mentally ill patients. (Then again, if one believes in anything like karma or penance, perhaps the ghosts of people who toured those sites are now the subject of gawking, etc., themselves.)

      Regarding the fear some experience while ghost hunting, I wonder how many of them arrive expecting (or even hoping for) a fright. With that mindset, and how often people are startled when – for example – someone quietly enters a room, and the person already there exclaims, “You startled me! I didn’t notice you until you were right next to me.”

      Personally, I’ve been startled by a few ghosts, but the only things that have frightened me had very little in common with what we describe as ghosts. And, I am very uneasy (understatement) when people “provoke” ghosts, and have discussed this in a couple of articles at this site.

      Ghost hunting can involve many topics we should consider, and revisit regularly. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and ask very good questions that all ghost hunters should consider.

      Sincerely, Fiona

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