You probably know that I specialize in haunted places that others overlook, especially sites that are open to the public. I believe it’s important to put ghost research within everyone’s reach. The more data we have, the better we’ll understand what’s really going on at haunted sites.
But, I rarely talk about some of the more complex (and admittedly quirky) ways I identify sites likely to be haunted, and confirm that they’re probably haunted.
If you’re busy and prefer to listen to this article as a recording, here’s my 10-minute podcast.
In this 10-minute recording, you can learn how to use history to confirm and increase ghostly activity at haunted locations. Fiona shares some of her best-kept secrets, with tips for putting them to use in your own investigations. The related article – and helpful links – are at HollowHill.com
I’m revealing one of my “secret” techniques related to ghost hunting because an article mentioned renovation ghosts. While that’s a term I don’t use, the subject is important in both my personal research… and my professional work as a consultant for producers, etc.
So, what is this technique…?
In its simplest form, I’m using history (and other components) for synergy. “Synergy” is a word I’ll use often, so here’s its definition, from the Cambridge Dictionary:
Synergy: the combined power of a group of things that, when they are working together, is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately.
In other words, I identify multiple historical and geographical factors & influences that can contribute to hauntings… and then I put them to use.
(And no, I don’t mean “provoking,” although that is a somewhat crude version of what I’m describing.)
One reason I haven’t talked about using synergy in ghost hunting is.. well, it sounds utterly geeky.
But also – like most paranormal research – the success of this approach isn’t guaranteed, especially as a stand-alone method.
Perhaps most importantly, if synergy is handled badly, there can be consequences on many levels. They can include actual dangers that aren’t limited to what happens on-site.
But, when researchers understand synergy and use it in ghost hunting, the results can be spectacular. Literally.
History as a trigger
Today, many people talk about emotional triggers, and they’re part of the synergy I’m describing. Emotional triggers can range from inadvertently mentioning a sore subject, to outright bullying.
Here’s how author Martha Beck describes emotional triggers.
Emotional triggering is, at root, a survival response. Our brains create powerful associations between things that hurt us and whatever happened to be occurring when we got hurt.
That’s exactly what I’m describing: the interaction between historical references and ghosts, and how that manifests (sometimes literally) at haunted locations.
At its core, this technique is about history: the ghost’s personal history, and what churns up memories of intensely emotional moments in the ghost’s past.
Yes, this describes provoking, but – almost always – that’s a deliberate, very negative and forceful form of bullying. It can get a response. I believe it can also do deep damage to the spirit of the person who’s haunting the site.
Working with synergy, researchers have more and better options.
So, how does this work?
One of the first things to confirm at any location is: Is it really haunted? The best way to verify that is to do something that can magnify ghostly activity and manifestations.
Instead of taunting ghosts to evoke a reaction, we can use external and physical cues that invoke the ghost’s most vivid memories… and lead to a response we can detect, either on a personal level or with ghost hunting equipment, or both.
Those externals can include a wide range of factors, from archaeological research to reenactments to simple home renovations.
Let’s start with an everyday trigger: renovations.
When DIY gets scary
I’ve witnessed this first-hand, in a 19th-century California home my husband & I renovated.
It was only mildly haunted when we moved in.
Then, we started opening walls and ceilings to replace the electrical wiring, and poltergeist activity began. It was noisy, day and night. Sometimes, objects were moved and even broken.
We knew two ghosts were involved, because we could hear his heavy footsteps and her sobbing.
When the ghosts started influencing my behavior and my husband’s, we moved, almost overnight. At the time, it seemed the only answer. (Today, I’d handle things differently.)
But, I’ve seen this same pattern repeated among private clients, and – of course – many people are familiar with the Amityville Horror story, which is an extreme and iconic example.
In most cases, if the ghostly activity is merely unsettling or annoying, the homeowner can ignore it. Within about two or three weeks of the conclusion of the renovations, the activity will diminish.
But, if you’re investigating ghosts and hear of a story like this, it’s a site to visit as quickly as you can, to document what’s going on. (Of course, do this discreetly, to protect the homeowners’ privacy and peace of mind.)
Why this works
In many cases, ghosts don’t like changes. They specifically don’t like changes to their homes. (As far as they’re concerned, the new homeowners are just interlopers.)
In other cases, they’re worried that something you’re doing will cut them off from the past they’re trying to return to. Or, you may reveal a long-held secret; they’ve remained here to be sure that secret is never revealed.
How to use this
Renovate an old home, or find someone who’s remodeling or renovating. Even better, talk with friends in the contracting, remodeling, or redecorating field. Ask them to tell you if one of their clients suddenly seems uneasy about the changes, and if that might be a ghost issue.
If you follow me on Twitter and have wondered why I regularly link to archaeology articles, especially in the UK, the answer is simple: When a dig uncovers something related to a noted ghost (royals like Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn), I receive anecdotal reports about that same ghost becoming active at other sites he or she was associated with.
That’s where synergy comes in. It’s not just the site experiencing physical changes (like an archaeological dig), but also related haunted sites, even hundreds of miles away.
So, if my UK & Irish followers see me link to a dig related to the Black Friars (such as the July/Aug 2019 digs in Ireland), they’re likely to make monk-related haunts a priority around that time, and shortly after it.
The dig in Ireland might well fuel ghostly energy at other former monasteries and monk-related sites. And anything haunted with the term “Blackfriars” in the name.
Why this works
Like renovations, archaeological digs churn up past history, dormant connections, ghosts’ memories, and – of course – the danger of a ghost’s secret being revealed.
How to use this
Stay current on important and relevant archaeological digs. Follow news from local universities with archaeology programs, and look for announcements about local digs, as well as digs with broad-scale connections, like the monk-related one I mentioned.
And that topic leads to a third kind of trigger, and related synergy. It starts with deliberately revitalizing ghostly energy… without provoking.
I’m talking about one of my favorite topics: historical reenactments.
For years, I’ve recommended costumed, historical reenactments. Anywhere near them, you’re likely to find ghosts. In fact, you may see apparitions and think they’re just people in costume.
Historian and paranormal researcher John Sabol has made use of this for his “ghost excavation methodology.” I’ve witnessed this at one of his performances in Canada, where he evoked ghosts haunting a theatre.
It was impressive.
While John draws heavily on his Hollywood acting career, and his innovative approach distinguishes what he does from reenactments, but the basic concept isn’t new: Researchers can use history and location to create a resonance with ghosts at haunted places.
Why this works
Ghosts, seeing people in familiar dress, or reenacting their own past, may feel as if they’re back in their own time again. That may be exactly what they’ve been waiting for, so they step out from the shadows and go about their normal routines from the past.
Or, perhaps they knows it’s a reenactment, and resent how the past is shown. Or, if the ghost is/was someone notable, they don’t like how the actor is portraying them.
How to use this
Search for “historical reenactments” or “living history events” in your area, and learn about local reenactment groups. (In the US, here’s a useful list: Top 29 Historical Reenactment Societies. Worldwide, Wikipedia has a short list, plus links.)
Join the fun, or be an observer, and watch for anomalies. (Tip: If you’re using ghost hunting equipment, be discreet. Some reenactors can be very uneasy about paranormal research.)
Of course, it’s not necessary to wait for a planned, costumed reenactment in your area. You can bring in reenactors, representing the ghosts or people who were part of the ghosts’ most intensely emotional experiences.
The most important thing is to find someone with a background in history… someone who brings authenticity to the role. If it’s just a bad parody, that’s likely to disappoint everyone.
For example, if you’re researching or filming at a haunted site related to Henry VIII, I can recommend Neil Bakewell. (He modestly describes himself as a storyteller.) He’s probably the UK’s best Henry VIII impersonator, as his historical research is impressive and – frankly – he looks the part.
That’s what you want: not just an actor who thinks he or she can play the part, but someone who’s immersed him- or herself in the life and history of the ghost.
In lieu of that, a historically accurate performance – such as one of Shakespeare’s plays, if your ghost might be a Henry, or Richard III – could be enough to attract and confirm ghostly energy.
After all, ghost hunters know that theaters are among the most reliably haunted locations, anywhere in the world.
Putting the pieces together
I’ll admit that this is just one piece of the puzzle. When I work as a consultant, especially for producers, I use history and resonance with other tools. They help me find haunted places and then confirm whether a site is haunted.
Some of those additional tools are speculative like ley lines and intuitive flares. Others are more predictive patterns of paranormal activity.
But, on its own, you can use historical references to create synergy and trigger ghostly activity that might otherwise remain dormant, or seem too subtle to notice.
And this can make a big difference in your investigation results.