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Notes on What Are Ghosts Made Of?

What are ghosts made of?What are ghosts made of, and why do ghost hunters notice EMF surges at active, haunted places?

That’s the topic of a June 2018 article at Higgypop, What Are Ghosts Made Of?

It’s an unusually good article, though I heartily disagree with some claims in it. (I’ve written a general review at my author blog,

But, certain parts of the Higgypop article are worth repeating for ghost hunters.

The first is how the Higgypop writer distinguishes intelligent (active, sentient) hauntings from residual energy hauntings:

There’s a belief within the paranormal world that some ghosts are intelligent and capable of interacting with their surroundings, and then there’s residual hauntings which are said to be merely events from the past being replayed.

Residual hauntings are thought to be an imprint of energy that has been left behind by someone who suffered a tragic, traumatic, premature death, usually a murder, suicide or execution.

I agree with most of that, but I don’t believe all residual energy hauntings connect directly with someone’s death. (Update: See Higgypop’s clarification in the comments, below.)

In the past, I’ve recommended singing “Happy birthday to you” in dining rooms and kitchens, to see whether anything happens. You could try “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in front hallways, dining rooms, and immediately outside the front entry to an estate, too.

Neither of those have anything to do with death or even trauma. Both of those songs have triggered ghostly results at a surprising number of haunted sites.

The Higgypop article also shares an interesting insight related to residual energy hauntings:

The phenomenon is known as “stone tape theory” due to the belief that energy is captured and stored like a video recording in the surrounding bricks, woodwork, stone and possibly even the soil. When the conditions are right, these materials release this energy and you sense or see the event occur in exactly the same position as it did years ago.

But then, I disagree with the next part of that article:

As residual hauntings represent nothing more than a reflection of the past, you can’t communicate with them. The visions seen are not aware of their surroundings. They cannot interact with you and are not aware of your presence.

For me, “communication” means anything my team or I do, which results in a cause-and-effect reaction at the haunted site.

While residual energy hauntings don’t seem to interact with us as a sentient, “intelligent” ghost would, I believe that changes in the surroundings – an anniversary, a time of day, etc., as well as triggers used by  researchers – can create a cause-and-effect result.

Yes, maybe I’m delving too deeply into semantics.

Mostly, I don’t want new researchers to write off residual energy hauntings as something that are entirely hit-or-miss. Some of them are far more predictable than that. Triggers can work with residual energy hauntings.

Most of the next part of the article is good:

When it comes to intelligent hauntings it’s a little different. These types of hauntings are the classic “ghost”, they can reportedly move objects, push or touch people, slam doors and even throw objects across a room. So clearly when they manifest there is some kind of physical force behind them.

However, since some people seem to be able to move matter with their minds (psychokinesis), I balk at the idea that ghosts “clearly” have a physical force behind them.

Despite my ambivalence about some claims in this article, I agree with the conclusion:

Perhaps the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. While some ghost sightings can be written off as hoaxes, the majority of ghost sightings come from people who genuinely believe they have seen something supernatural. So whether ghosts are electromagnetic energy, a reflection of the past, or a trick of the mind, you can’t take the experience away from someone who has witnessed a ghost.

You can read the full higgypop article at:

Also, I’m interested in your thoughts about these topics, especially as they relate to ghost hunting.

Ghost Hunting? Leave Nothing!

Many ghost hunters routinely carry (and use) ghost hunting equipment. The following story explains why you should always double-check the site (and your backpacks) to be sure you’ve left nothing behind.

Ghost hunting? Leave nothing!Of course, this isn’t just about ghost hunting equipment.

The list could include food wrappers, muddy footprints, and anything else that wasn’t there when you arrived.

Just as when you’re at hiking trails and campsites, the rule should be “leave nothing behind.”

The following excerpt from a news story is a cautionary tale.

Basically: before leaving the investigation site, a team forgot to double-check their ghost hunting equipment. They left an EMF-related device behind.

Then, the police thought it was a bomb or a bomb triggering device. So, the police destroyed it with a water cannon.

Here’s part of the news story:

“Paranormal investigators in Windsor, Ontario, say they’re sorry for getting the bomb squad involved after leaving a ghost-hunting device lying “around.

“This week, police were called to Mackenzie Hall, a historic building in west Windsor, after people came across a suspicious black box with a blue light and a red wire sticking out.

“Investigation revealed that a suspicious item was left in a room within the building,” police said in a news release. (As of July 2018, that news release seems to have been removed.)

“Mackenzie Hall was built in the 1850s by Alexander Mackenzie, who later became the second prime minister of Canada. Though the building today serves as a cultural centre, it once functioned as a courthouse and jail where public executions took place.

“That made it the perfect place to go hunting for ghosts, according to Jen Parker, the assistant director of the Listowel Paranormal Society.

“Parker said she only realized what had happened after police called her to ask about the EMF sensor. She said police told her they evacuated the building, then destroyed the device when a bomb disposal robot blasted it with a water cannon.

“Parker said her group of seven ghost hunters is going to start using an equipment checklist on future investigations so as not to repeat the mistake.”

Read that full news article:

And here’s a related story. (I can’t imagine how embarrassed the ghost hunting team must be, to see so much negative publicity. They have my sympathy.)

Bomb Squad Scare Highlights Missteps of Modern Ghost Hunting


One Good Reason to Avoid Ghost Hunting

It happens far too often: Someone suffers a tragic loss. Someone they cared deeply about is gone.

One good reason to avoid ghost huntingThe person decides that, through ghost hunting, he (or she) might reconnect with the deceased.

I have never seen a positive outcome to that… not the kind that involves certain contact with the other (deceased) person, or full closure to their grief.

Worse, it puts the grieving person at risk. He (or she) may be so eager to communicate with the lost loved one, he becomes vulnerable to dark or malicious entities.

(Yes, some seem to masquerade as lost friends and benign entities.)

Or, she (or he) may be victimized by charlatans masquerading as ghost hunting professionals.

Online or in person, those sleazy people can steal the grieving person’s money, or even their identity.

In real life, they use the cover of darkness for unprofessional and criminal actions. (That’s especially true when the grieving person is female, and either a minor or in an unhappy marriage. Since about 2008, that problem has been rampant in ghost hunting.)

At the other extreme, when someone is involved in paranormal research with a single, self-serving goal, it’s easy for them to let down their team members.

For example, the person may wander off by his- or herself, thinking he saw something that reminded him of the person who died.

Then, the investigation has to be halted while everyone searches for the missing team member.  In many cases, that adds up to a frustrating, wasted research session.

(This is why I recommend a careful interview before accepting anyone new on a critical investigation. Be sure you know the person’s motivation for ghost research.)

Finally, ghost hunting may prevent the person from completing the grieving process. They won’t let go of the past. They’re still trying to hold onto the person who’s gone.

At almost every ghost hunting event I’ve attended, by late in the evening, I’ve found someone sobbing in a corner, absolutely distraught.

In every case, the person was still mourning for a lost loved one. And, during that event, she (or he) has realized that ghost hunting wasn’t going to bring that person back.

Grief and ghost hunting don’t mix.

My advice is: Cherish the memories. Allow yourself to grieve. Give yourself as much time as you need.  (I’ve always admired the Jewish tradition of “sitting shiva.” I think many of those traditions could help people of other faiths – including Atheists – as well.)

Seek professional counseling if you need it; don’t feel embarrassed to reach out to those who can help.

After that, if you’re still interested in ghost hunting – out of curiosity, or a spiritual or scientific interest – get involved.

Meanwhile, you put yourself at risk if you leap into ghost hunting with the goal of reconnecting with a lost loved one.

There are many great reasons to become a paranormal investigator and go on ghost hunts. Be honest with yourself – and your team mates – about why you’re there.

We need more bright, interested ghost researchers. I hope you are (or will be) one of them… but only when the time is right for you.

3 Easy Mistakes Beginners Make on Their First Ghost Hunt

Your first ghost hunt should be fun. It should be exciting. And, it should be something memorable (in a good way) so you’ll participate in future ghost hunts.

But, some mistakes are easy to make, and they can spoil your experience. Here are a few you can avoid.

3 easy ghost hunting mistakes1) Expecting it to be as exciting as what you see on TV

On TV, it can look like something weird happens every 15 minutes or so. In real life, I consider an investigation successful if we encounter one really interesting anomaly during any two- or three-hour visit.

2) Expecting drama, just like on TV

Sometimes, dramatic things do happen during a ghost investigation.

  • Someone sees an apparition, or captures a shadow person in a photo.
  • Or, you record some astonishing, clear EVP, even if it’s just one word.
  • Or, someone is touched by invisible hands or (rarely) hit, slapped, or scratched. (Note: It’s important to be sure that’s real, and not some joker in your group, taking advantage of the dark setting.)
  • Or… a door slams while you’re watching it, and no one is nearby, or an object flies across the room with no human contact, and so on.

During most paranormal investigations, the subtle things are the ones that seem the most disturbing… and sometimes very personal.

For me, the eeriest was hearing my mother’s voice – her distinct tone, accent, and phrasing – say a single line through a “Frank’s Box.” Just that once. And, the person with the box was on a balcony about 20 feet away from me, and had no way of knowing that my mother had died about three weeks before that.

If I hadn’t been listening closely, I would have missed what she said, which was directed at me, personally.

The rest of the investigation was merely average. A few odd noises. A few orb photos. Something that might have been EVP, or it might not.

But for me, that one, strange moment made it a successful investigation.

I’m glad someone else was using a Frank’s Box. I’m also glad I wasn’t focused on any ghost hunting tools. All I was doing was listening and observing, and that’s why I heard that faint, distant message.

Since Mum didn’t use my name, the researcher wouldn’t have known the voice was speaking to me.

It’s why I so often insist that people use their five (or six) senses, primarily, and rely less on ghost hunting equipment. (Yes, it could be argued that the voice came through a Frank’s Box. But without that device, in that quiet setting, I think my mother would have found some other way to communicate with me, if she needed to. For me, the key element was: I was listening to every sound.)

3) Investigating without a plan

I understand that some ghost researchers prefer not to know anything about the site – and its ghosts – ahead of time. They feel as if the investigation is more credible when they start with no expectations. Then, the power of suggestion cannot be a factor.

I prefer to research everything about the site, its ghosts, and their history. That way, I know exactly where I’ll get the best results, and I’ll have a list of possible triggers to use, to prompt paranormal activity.

No matter which approach you choose, it’s always good to have some kind of plan. Here are some suggestions.

  • Who will be with you, and transportation arrangements. (Also know the best route to the site, where to park, when the site is open/closed, any fees, etc.)
  • Who’s bringing what kind of skills and ghost hunting equipment. You can specialize in one area (ghost photos, EVP, temperature anomalies, and so on), so you have multiple confirmations of anomalies. Or, you can be sure to cover every possible kind of phenomena, and see if there’s a correlation between, say, EVP and EMF surges.
  • A Plan B, similar to what I suggest when you’re planning your Halloween investigations.

And… One mistake beginners make after their first ghost hunt

Whether it was a good experience or a bad one, too many beginners decide that their one ghost hunt was “all it is.”

I strongly recommend either going on a second (and third) ghost hunt, or revisiting the first site to debunk what you encounter (or confirming that the place really is haunted).

If your only previous experiences have been watching ghost hunting on TV, and hearing others talk about their investigations, you may be ill-prepared for what really happens at haunted sites.

From my experience at ghost hunting events, here’s what I see among many first-time ghost hunters:

  • 80% of first-time ghost hunters are looking for a “good scare.” (See my article about why a good scare is a bad idea.) If that’s their only interest, and they’re at actively haunted sites (or have vivid imaginations), there’s a good chance they’ll find the good scare they’re looking for.
  • 20% of first-time ghost hunters are looking for something specific. The majority are sincerely interested in this kind of research. They want to know if ghosts are real, and if some sites really are haunted. Or, they’ve encountered something odd in the past, and they think it was a ghost. So, they want to compare that with other known, “real” hauntings, and see if whatever-it-was really was a ghost.
  • Within that 20%, a small percent of first-time ghost hunters are driven by the need to confirm something about a loved one who’s passed. That’s a topic for another article, but – for now – I can say that most don’t find the answers they’re looking for. The best, usual outcome is the realization that something continues after death. And, for a one-time experience on a single ghost investigation… maybe that’s all they needed.

Whatever your reason for giving ghost hunting a test-drive, I hope you’ll have an interesting time (if not a fun one), and become a serious researcher. We need more serious researchers, and more consistent results, to gain a better understanding of this strange – and sometimes baffling – field.