Tilton and Northfield, NH – Ghost Hunting in the Rain

In Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, I mentioned one eerie cemetery in Northfield-Tilton, New Hampshire.  (It’s actually in Northfield, but the boundary between the two towns isn’t always clear.  Technically, the river divides the towns, but the post office considers both towns as “Tilton.”)

Several graves in that cemetery indicate good activity.

rain-northfield-cem-nightLast night, we took photos of rain orbs for my book, Ghost Photography 101.

Though most of the orbs in this photo are certainly rain, at least one might be something paranormal.  I think you can see how different it is from the others, in the photo at right.

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to tell “real” orbs from rain orbs in photos, so I’m making no claims.  However, we’ve seen consistent orbs around this group of graves.

When we arrived, the cemetery was too quiet.  Even the rain seemed entirely silent, though we parked in a paved area.  Also, though the area is lit by streetlights and light from neighbors’ homes, the back half of the cemetery always seems darker than it should be… even in the daytime.

I like cemeteries that feel as if you’re stepping back in time.  This is one of them, and it always feels entirely separated from the buildings — and era — around it.  Some might describe it as “creepy,” but I find it very relaxing and peaceful, despite the activity at some of its graves.

Here’s a “sneak peak” into another area of this cemetery, to check for elevated EMF, orbs, EVP, and so on.

You may be able to use this tip when you investigate cemeteries in your area.

nfield-3fingersOther researchers and I describe one grave as the “three pointing fingers grave.”  You’ll know which one it is, as soon as you see it.  Jacob Webber and his two wives are in that plot, and the headstone is unusual, showing three pointing fingers.

A finger pointing up usually indicates that the person ascended to Heaven.  A finger pointing down usually suggests the hand of God, ending a life early… but it can mean something less attractive. (It doesn’t take much imagination to figure that out: Heaven: up. Hell: down.)

When we see an adult’s headstone with a downward pointing finger, we immediately add that plot to our list of graves to investigate.  Those graves have a higher likelihood of activity compared with other, unremarkable graves.

I’m still investigating the spirits at the “three fingers” grave.  I know the second wife feels that she had the “last word” with that gravestone, and her energy definitely lingers.  With enough attention, she’s the kind of woman who might appear as an apparition.

There are several other active locations in this rural cemetery, and some may be even more active than the “three pointing fingers” plot.  However, this cemetery – Arch Hill Cemetery in Northfield, NH – is near several homes, so it’s difficult to investigate without attracting attention.

The good news is, this cemetery seems to be active during the daytime as well as after dark.  I recommend EMF meters and either a psychic, a Frank’s Box, or an Ovilus for research in this graveyard.  You could also use a K-II (or K-III) meter for real-time dialogue with the spirits.

Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NHVisually, it’s a lovely location, but — so far — it’s been difficult to photograph reliable anomalies due to nearby lights.

If you’re interested in Arch Hill Cemetery, or you’re ghost hunting in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, some of my stories were included in Rue Cote’s book, Ghost Hunting in Tilton, New Hampshire.

Rue’s research and ghost stories include Tilton, Northfield, and Franklin, New Hampshire. She also lists several haunts that are within an hour or so of Tilton.

Fake! Does It Matter in Ghost Hunting?

Integrity is a researcher’s most valued asset. In this field, it’s especially important.  However, since entertainment has become part of the paranormal scene, the lines have blurred between reality and showmanship.

Now, a storm is brewing, and it’s time to examine our expectations and standards in the paranormal field.

crime-scene1“Fake!” is a charge I see far too often in this field… and usually with the wrong people.

I’m not sure if that’s ironic or missing the point.

It’s true that there are fakes, frauds, and con men (and women) working in ghost-related professions.

There are also sincere researchers who are looking for answers to questions that have been around for centuries.

It may be important to know the difference.  Or, depending on your goals and interests, maybe it doesn’t matter.

I can think of four major reasons why people are attracted to this field.

Knowing your goals — and others’ — can help you spot the fakes.  Or, it can help you shrug off the controversy and focus on your own interests.

Entertainment

Many people enjoy ghost-related TV shows, ghost tours, dinner and stage presentations, and ghost-themed events.

If you’re looking for entertainment, keep your focus on the fun. Don’t worry how much of it is real or just a clever presentation.

In real life, ghost hunting is tedious.  The one-hour show you see on TV may have taken two to five days to film.  You’re only seeing the interesting moments.

If you’re at an event and one or two people keep you entertained for an entire evening, as if it’s a show… maybe it is.

But, if you’re only there for the fun and an occasional “good scare,” does it really matter how much of it is real?

Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction isn’t “real.”  However, many ghost enthusiasts — including me — wait in line for an hour or longer to enter that attraction, because it’s great entertainment.

If you’re at an event or watching a show to be entertained, judge it by the fun, period.

You want a question answered

Many people have questions about ghosts.

  • You may want to know if there really is something after death.
  • You may have had a ghostly encounter, and want to know if it was real.
  • You may suspect that you’re psychic, but you’re not sure.
  • Or, a movie or TV show scared you, and you want to know if that kind of phenomena is real.

If that’s what draws you to paranormal research, get involved with a good research group, or start one yourself.

Some TV shows*, stage presentations, and events lean towards “entertainment.”   In other words, they may be faking some or all of what you see.

Unfortunately, people who want to believe in an afterlife can be among the most gullible.

If you’re looking for answers to spiritual questions, keep these two points in mind:

1. You may never find absolute proof of an afterlife or ghosts.  “Clear evidence” for one person may seem ridiculous to someone else.  Only you can decide if you’ve found answers you seek.

2. Many seekers are vulnerable.  Become a skeptic.  Don’t confuse performers with genuine researchers.  Learn to tell them apart.

After you find an answer to your questions — or decide that there is no answer — you may lose interest in paranormal studies.

It’s okay to walk away from ghost hunting if (and when) it stops being interesting.  Don’t keep watching TV shows, paying for events, or going on investigations if they’re disappointing you.

If others ask, it’s fine to say, “I found the answer that I was looking for.  It’s personal.”  And then, change the subject.

Or, once you feel as if you found what you’re looking for, you may be more interested in paranormal research.  If so, your help is encouraged!

You’re accompanying a friend who’s interested in ghosts

Sometimes, people  join a friend (or friends) at a ghost tour or a ghost investigation.  Soon, they’re involved in paranormal research, too.

Or, they go to an entertainment-style event, find it intriguing, and become a fan.

Remember why you’re there, and — before taking anything seriously — use your critical thinking skills.  Get educated.  Listen to believers and skeptics alike.   Both provide important advice.

Power, fame, money, applause and popularity

stage-lightsWhen any subject is featured on several TV shows, some people get involved for fame and fortune.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone’s reasonably honest about it.  Most theatrical ghost tours are clearly fake. As long as you remember it’s just a show, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it.Now and then, an entertainer will mix reality and performance.  More than one genuine psychic has been tripped up that way, feeling obliged to put on a show when nothing was actually going on.

Would you be happier spending $150 for a ghost hunt in which nothing happened all evening… or if a few people exaggerated their experiences, to give attendees a chill?

My advice for fans:  Treat ghost hunting like any other form of entertainment.  Some shows will be more authentic and more fun than others. Decide your goals — and your spending limit — and stick to it.

Entertainer or researcher… or both?

Among ghost hunters, psychics, and paranormal “experts,” some people are entertainers.  They can be tremendous fun, on- and off-stage.

Some tell wonderful stories.  They may also be moderately psychic… or good at convincing you that they are.

Enjoy that for what it is:  Great fun.

Others are serious researchers.  I’m one of them.  Frankly, we can be geeky, boring people.  However, if you can keep from nodding off when we talk about our latest projects, you may glean some useful insights for your own research.

People like me were paranormal researchers long before TV shows made ghost hunting popular**.  We’ll be here long after the fad is eclipsed by the next popular trend, too.

If you’re attending an event, listening to the radio or watching TV, ask yourself:

  • Is this person an entertaining speaker presenting  reliable information?
  • Is this improving your understanding of ghosts and ghost hunting?
  • Or, is he (or she) putting on a show?  If so, is it entertaining?

Houdini wasn’t a “fake.” He was a performer.

The same can be said for modern-day stage magicians.  The fun (and the challenge) is figuring out how he or she makes it seem real.

The excruciatingly boring speaker at a conference probably isn’t “fake.” He or she is sharing research results.  If you thrill to news about scientific breakthroughs, the fun is examining the evidence to see if it’s helpful.  The learning curve… maybe not so much fun.

In general, if you know what your goals are, use them to judge the merits of the TV show, event, investigation or personality.

Fake?  That’s an issue if you’re looking for answers and a genuine encounter with the paranormal world.

A better question is whether you’re disappointed, and if the show, event or person is worth your time.

This article is primarily about the differences between entertainers and researchers.  If you’re concerned that someone is a fraud, see my article, Scams and Con Artists.

*I’ve always defended Jason Hawes’ and Grant Wilson’s work on the Ghost Hunters TV show.  I don’t know if they were set up.

We all know that editing can dramatically change how something looks.

However, Grant or Jason faking something paranormal is as likely as a rabid Red Sox fan cheering for the Yankees when the teams are head-to-head.  It’s not likely to happen, ever.

**I began writing for FATE magazine in the early 1980s (via the Wayback Machine). My first Fate story with a byline (under the pen name Margaret Brighton) was the true California ghost story, “Boots,” published in February 1989.  This website — first as “Yankee Haunts” and then Hollow Hill — has been online since the mid-1990s.  In other words, I can prove how long I’ve been professional in this field.  I do my best to be an entertaining speaker, but first and foremost, I’m a very geeky ghost hunter.

Ghost Hunters TV Show – Fake?

“Is Ghost Hunters TV show a fake?” “Are the Ghost Hunters fake?” “Did TAPS fake their Halloween 2008 show?”

Grant's jacket tuggedStarting the first of November, 2008, the emails poured in. Each of them asked me questions like those.

I was going to ignore them, but similar emails continued to flood my in-box.

So, here’s my answer.

I’ve looked at the Ghost Hunters TV show footage on YouTube and studied it frame-by-frame.  I also listened closely to the audio, where a voice clearly says, “You’re not supposed to be here.”

Here’s my analysis.

“YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE”

That voice is alarmingly clear.  During my own ghost hunts, I’ve never heard anything that audibly crisp or like someone was right there, saying it.

Then again, I rarely hear things audibly when I’m conducting research.  I rarely capture any EVP, either.

Audio is not one of my stronger areas.

However, Jason and Grant have documented increasingly clear EVPs during their research.

In my experience, this seems to be a skill — perhaps related to rapport with the spirits — and most ghost researchers improve as they investigate a variety of sites.

So, while this was a very unusual and audible voice, I think it’s possible in a profoundly haunted setting… and that’s what they chose for their Halloween 2008 show.

Also, at Jason’s MySpace blog, he pointed out that the voice was so clear, he asked if someone had said anything.

(If anything irks me about Jason, it’s that he tends to be aggressively skeptical.  This show was no exception.)

Likewise, it looked to me as if Grant was asking the producers if they were in the wrong location… if they weren’t actually supposed to be where they were at that moment.

So, I don’t think that Jason, Grant or the TAPS team faked the voice.  I also trust the integrity of the SciFi channel.

There are other, natural explanations, but I don’t think that Jason, Grant or the SciFi channel set this up.

GRANT’S JACKET PULLED

The second controversial moment was the tug on Grant’s jacket… if it was that.

If you watch the video, frame by frame, you’ll see that the collar moves oddly just before Grant stumbles backwards.

However, the fishing line explanation doesn’t work.  I’d expect to see the line highlighted by the cameras, or a shadow on the wall when the cameras moved in.  It’s possible to do that on a recorded show, and use CGI to cover it.

However, on a live show, the production company couldn’t take that chance.

Here’s a bigger problem with the fishing line explanation: Grant’s jacket was open at the neck.  If line had pulled on his jacket enough to throw him off balance, it would have jerked the neck opening of the jacket as it pulled him backwards, slightly choking him.

In my opinion, Grant perceived it as just his jacket, but he was actually forced backwards by something else.  The only visual manifestation — besides Grant stumbling — was the movement at the collar a split second before he stepped backwards.

I can’t explain what happened.  I have no idea, and can’t even guess.

Strange things occur in haunted places.  That’s one reason we keep investigating them: We’re looking for explanations, but we often leave with more (and new) questions than answers.

The jacket tug baffles me.

NOT ENOUGH REACTION?

Several people have claimed that Grant’s body language, tone of voice, or other cues “give away” that he was faking the whole thing.

That’s not very good evidence of a hoax.

Anyone who has been on real ghost hunts knows that we get used to odd things happening. The “usual” anomalies stop surprising us after awhile. (This may be another reason why the manifestations become increasingly dramatic around experienced ghost hunters.)

But, if you’ve been with me on ghost hunts that turn dramatic — for example, with doors slamming repeatedly, or windows opening and closing on their own — you’ve seen me sigh and mutter, “I wish they wouldn’t do that.  It’s really annoying.”

Things that scare other people don’t even surprise experienced ghost hunters, after we’ve encountered the phenomena enough times.

So, it’s a mistake to judge the authenticity of phenomena because an experienced ghost hunter doesn’t seem startled enough.

We just don’t startle as easily as someone with less ghost hunting experience.

Grant’s reaction (or lack of it) doesn’t prove anything.

A MATTER OF INTEGRITY

Jason and Grant are my friends.  I’ve spent a lot of time with them. We’ve chatted over breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and at events and parties.  We used to exchange emails when something was of mutual concern.

In general, Grant is very honest. Usually, he looks you straight in the eye when he talks with you.

But, I have to qualify that, because I feel that Grant deliberately misled me during one conversation.

It was not an outright lie. It was something personal and had nothing to do with ghost hunting. It was about a part of the country where we’d both lived, briefly, and how he described why he was there.

A year or so later, when the truth became obvious, I asked him about it. So far, he hasn’t replied.

No, I never expected a detailed explanation. I just wanted him to admit he’d misled me, so I could say, “Sure, I get it. Just don’t do that again, okay?”

We haven’t spoken since then. I’m sad about that, because I admire him tremendously as a researcher and as a talented artist.

But, in terms of ghost hunting, I have no reason to question Grant’s integrity.

I like Jason, but he can seems an almost incorrigible skeptic.  If anything, he’s likely to trivialize evidence that the rest of us point to as proof of a haunting.

It seems absurd to think that he’d be part of a hoax. That’d be completely out of character. During an investigation – in real life – he’s the first person to be skeptical and often the loudest.

Sure, Jason has a very dry wit, but he would never compromise his own integrity as a ghost hunter, the integrity of the TAPS team, or the Ghost Hunters TV show.  That’s not his style.

If you’ve met him in real life or listened to him talk at any conference, you know that he’s rock-solid honest.

If the show’s production company said, “We want you to fake this,” Jason would reply, “I’d quit rather than do that.”

And, he would.

On the show, I can’t think of any reason for Grant and Jason to compromise their integrity.  None whatsoever.

DID IT HAPPEN?

It’s true.  Some very odd things seemed to happen during the Ghost Hunters TV show on Halloween 2008.

Could they have been faked?

Yes, the voice might have come from a very well hidden microphone.  But — if that voice was part of a hoax — I’m confident that Jason, Grant and the SciFi channel weren’t aware of it.

I wasn’t there to know what direction the voice came from, and what it was like. All I can evaluate is what I saw on the Ghost Hunters TV show… and frankly, that’s not enough information for me to judge.

I’ve said it often: It’s a mistake to judge what is (and isn’t) a real haunting, a real ghost photo or real EVP  unless you were there.

The incident with Grant’s jacket is another issue altogether.  It couldn’t have been faked without Grant’s knowledge.

All in all, I trust Jason and Grant.  They say that they didn’t fake anything on the show, and I believe them.

But, I’m also aware that many people like a “good scare” on Halloween, and — starting the very next morning — they want to assure themselves that the whole thing wasn’t real, and scary things don’t wait for them in the darkness.

I think they’re the loudest detractors of the Halloween 2008 Ghost Hunters TV show.

I have nothing to prove, one way or the other. My opinion is: I saw no evidence of a hoax in that TV series.