If a Ghost Hunt Frightens You

After a particularly vivid ghost hunt, people sometimes get nervous about what they’ve just experienced.

Some people feel genuinely frightened.

If you’re one of them, it’s okay to be worried.  Some ghost hunts are scary. Commercial events and tours can be designed to provide the “good scare” many guests expect.

Generally, there is nothing to be afraid of. Not from the dead, anyway. Here are a few facts to remember, from an article I wrote in 2005.  My opinions haven’t changed much since then.

  • If a ghost hunt frightens youGhosts aren’t likely to follow you home. Ghosts haunt a location, particularly cemeteries, for a reason. If they felt like they could leave, they wouldn’t be at the cemetery (or house, or battlefield) in the first place.  Except for legends like The Flying Dutchman (a ghost ship) and the John Alford Tyng hauntings, few stories describe a ghost that moves from one location to another.
  • Ghosts cannot make you do things you don’t want to do. Ghosts are not hypnotists and they do not have powers beyond those that they had in life. Frankly, any spirit of the dead that’s tied to the earthly plane, has a specific reason for being here. Usually, their powers are significantly less than an average living person’s.
  • If you’re having “unwanted thoughts” after encountering a ghost, seek professional advice. Ghosts are not the problem. Hollywood imagery can be fun, but it’s not real. Steering wheels don’t jerk out of your hand. Bed canopies don’t sprout spikes and fall on people. People are not “taken over” by ghosts unless they agree to accept the trance state, or unwittingly give permission for something to use their bodies. Usually, if someone is “possessed,” something else is going on. It’s not a ghost.  Get help right away.
  • Ghosts do not “curse” you. Ghosts are just people living in another dimension, or perhaps on another plane. They have no superhuman powers other than – perhaps – enhanced telepathy. They cannot curse you. They do not turn into “witches” when they die.
  • Ghosts cannot hurt you. Poltergeists are the only “ghosts” that ever harm people, and even then it’s usually nothing worse than bruising. People often ask why I  warn against ghost hunting alone. It’s not because of ghosts, it’s because you might turn an ankle in a neglected yard or cemetery, and need help. Or you might encounter a bunch of drunk teens or (animal) hunters who don’t want you around. I’m not afraid of ghosts, but I’m very wary of isolated sites.
  • Ghosts will not haunt your dreams, keep you awake at night, etc. Unless you’re deliberately sleeping in a haunted house or camping at a haunted battleground, ghosts do not usually travel from their earthly locations to bother you.
  • Most ghosts “move on,” eventually. Spirits of the dead remain on earth for a specific reason. Usually, they’re fighting reality and want to turn back the clock. They want to change an event from the past. In rare cases, they simply have a message to pass on, or a minor task to accomplish. I’ve only encountered this once in hundreds of hauntings. One notable exception is when a spirit returns to help a friend or family member, or just check to be sure you’re okay. Spirit guides, angels, and totems, are a different topic. They are not malicious, ever. Don’t worry about them. You never have to worry about a ghost following you forever. It simply doesn’t happen.
  • Spiritual energy is pretty much all the same to a casual observer. If you’re in a setting where there is poltergeist phenomena, you probably won’t be able to guess whether it’s from a spirit of the dead, or someone nearby with RSPK. (RSPK is Remote Spontaneous PsychoKinesis, or the ability to move things using your thoughts, consciously or not). Don’t assume that the dish that flew across the room was propelled by a spirit of the dead. It could be a prank – or unintentional movement – caused by an ESP-gifted person who is very much alive, and near you.

I hope this puts your mind at rest.

Young woman, anxious.Ghost hunting is fun. For people like me, it’s fascinating to encounter ghostly manifestations.

Haunted sites can have risks, but they’re usually physical (like frail floorboards in the attic, or uneven stairs).

It’s nothing directly related to ghosts.

Ghost hunting itself is not hazardous, and ghosts are not maliciously wandering the earth as portrayed in movies and novels.

Nothing bad is likely to happen to you if you go on a ghost tour or public ghost investigation and take proper precautions.

(For example, always take a friend with you to an event or tour.  If you’re on your own, watch your back and never treat the evening like speed dating.)

Frankly, most of your concerns should be about the living, not the spirits of the dead.

Consider another hobby if spirits and hauntings really frighten you.

It’s worth repeating:  If ghost hunting isn’t fun, find something else for your spare time.

The more you go ghost hunting, the more spirits and manifestations you’re likely to encounter. If you’re uncomfortably nervous now, things will only get more intense if you continue.

Houston, TX – False Evidence at Old Greenhouse Road

Hair that looks like ectoplasm - Houston, TXOld Greenhouse Road, on the outskirts of Houston (Texas), has numerous ghost stories.  Most of them repeat tropes I’ve heard before in multiple locations.

Are they urban legends? I’m not sure.

I investigated Old Greenhouse Road, anyway.

My husband and I parked our car just off the road, near the “haunted” bridge, to take photos.

Though the road is the site for the ghost stories, I felt drawn to the little path through the shrubs, just past where we parked our car.

That’s where I took several photos.

Those who know me in real life know that I’m very skeptical of anomalous photos. As often as I can, I return to the location – in daylight and at night – to see if I can debunk whatever’s in the picture.

Debunking the Ecto Photo

Initially, I couldn’t debunk this photo. Not at Old Greenhouse Road, anyway. We visited several times and none of the pictures looked like the one on the lower right, taken in 2005.

Those two photos were taken within seconds of each other using a film camera without a flash.

Digital photos might have looked the same.

It was dusk and the sun was directly behind us, highlighting the dirt path. About 50 feet ahead of us, the trees and shrubs were very dark.

Something there… it seemed very eerie. I hoped my photos would show something unusual. (In other words, I wasn’t 100% unbiased.)

Initially, I thought this might be an “ecto” (ectoplasm) photo.

At the time, that was intriguing. I rarely see convincing ectoplasm in photos. In fact, it’s usually smoke or someone’s breath.

But then…

Later experiments revealed the most likely cause of the red-orange line across the photo.

It was probably a strand of my own hair. (It’s auburn.)

Generally, I wear a scarf or otherwise pin my hair back, so it won’t get in front of the camera lens.

In this case, I’d forgotten.

Ghost Photo Tests with Hair

Though the following pictures aren’t exact matches, I think you’ll see why I’m at least 99% sure the “ecto” at the Houston site is my hair.

Here’s one photo of my hair in front of the camera lens, highlighted by the flash.

Fiona's hair highlighted in a fake "ecto" ghost photo.

And here are a few hairs, held in front of the camera. Once again, the flash highlighted them.

Hair that looks like ghostly ectoplasm.

Since those experiments, I’ve been very careful to keep my hair pulled back – preferably under a kerchief or scarf – when I’m taking photos at haunted sites.

Meanwhile, I can’t dismiss every story at Old Greenhouse Road in Houston. Frankly, it’s a difficult location to research. Speeding cars and sharp twists in the road increase the danger of investigating in low-light conditions. I won’t put myself – or my team – at risk, especially at a site that seems to match the “urban legend” profile.

But, for those who’d hoped my photo proved something ghostly at Old Greenhouse Road, I apologize. My initial assessment was wrong, and – even if it’s not a flash photo – hair can explain translucent streaks, when the color matches the haircolor of the photographer.


That doesn’t debunk the streak in the Gilson Road photo. I have never found an adequate explanation for that.

There are several differences. One of the main ones: I was the photographer. My hair was not purple. And, the texture in the original photo is significantly different. (Plus that, the purple streak photo was at Gilson Road Cemetery. We couldn’t debunk the majority of our photos taken at that very haunted site.)

New Orleans, LA – ‘Voodoo Queen’ Marie Laveau’s House?

These photos were taken during an April 2005 ghost tour of New Orleans’ French Quarter.  This was a time when the Quarter seemed especially spiritually active, a few months before Hurricane Katrina changed everything.

I can recall walking up to an artist just outside the cathedral, and telling her to be prepared to move on short notice.

I explained that I “saw” the image of her being in something like a washing machine, being agitated in the water, and needing to get out before the spin dry cycle.  I also told her that I felt certain she was going to be okay, but she’d have to get out.

At the time, I had no idea how prophetic that was.  Honestly…?  I thought the imagery was symbolic.

The night I took the following photos, we’d signed up for one of the many wonderful (and sometimes theatrical) ghost tours of the French Quarter.  On this residential street, the guide explained we were looking at a house that had belonged to the famous Voodoo (or Voudoun/Vodun) queen, Marie Laveau.

I took a few photos.  Arrows point to some of the orbs that seemed most credible to me, as I analyzed the pictures.



This photo was taken on a cool, dry evening in New Orleans  at about 9:30 at night.

The orbs could be humidity or a reflection, but I don’t think so.  There’s a certain feeling you get with some ghost photos… and this was one of them.

It had the look of an eerie home of a famous woman whose stories still provide New Orleans with color.  I can understand why the tour guide wanted us to believe it was Marie Laveau’s former residence.

The house may be haunted, but it’s probably not one of Marie Laveau’s homes.  I’ve researched the addresses associated with both Marie Laveau I and II, and I couldn’t find any connection to this house.

When you take any ghost tour (or vampire tour, etc.) in New Orleans, it’s important to keep your critical thinking skills engaged.  Some of the biggest legends — such as Marie Laveau and Madame Lalaurie — have become a little lost in the fictional tales built around them.

Nevertheless, this house is charming to look at, and it gave me a slight chill as if something paranormal could be associated with it.

Or, maybe the storytelling abilities of our guide were so good, I was looking for a “good scare” when what I really saw was a wonderful, historical home.