Ghosts, Love, Provoking, and Triggers [Part 1]

Ghosts, love, provoking, and triggersIn ghost hunting, provoking works. It’s not very nice, but we’ve seen it work in our own investigations and on TV shows.

As a last-hope effort to see if a site is truly haunted – and help the homeowner – provoking can be justified.

Otherwise…? No. Saying it’s rude or mean would be an understatement.

It’s bullying, plain and simple. 

What if there was another way to trigger ghosts, or even help them find the peace they seek?

At the root of most hauntings, you’ll find stories of love and hate. Understanding them can radically improve your ghost hunting results.

Love and Hate at Haunted Places

Hate is useful for provoking, maybe we need to look deeper.

What so wounded the ghost that he or she became angry, resentful, or even hate-filled? Staying here – instead of crossing over – what situation is he trying to reverse?

By looking one layer deeper, you’ll probably find expectations and love – romantic love, greed (love of money), or trust (relying on someone the ghost trusted).

You might get better ghost hunting results if you appeal to the ghost’s true (or at least earlier), kinder nature.

In this article, you’ll learn a few ways to uncover clues to the full story behind the hauntings.

  • You can use those clues to establish rapport with the site’s ghosts.
  • Or, you might identify triggers (and trigger objects) that work better than provoking.

Both of those can make ghost hunting far more interesting and productive.

Start with the Stories

Every haunted site has a story. That might be an “everyone knows” tale, popular with teens and young adults. Or, you might hear it from a local historian or folklore expert.

Research everything. Some of the best historical resources weren’t available until the last few years. Older ghost stories might be more fiction than fact.

Look for flaws in those stories, such as:

  • Wrong time period. (If the ghost wears a modern tie, he’s probably not from the American Revolution.)
  • No records that fit the story. Let’s say people believe the ghost is John Doe, who built the house. Be sure someone named John Doe either lived in the house, was a local builder, or had a direct connection with the homeowners.
  • Urban legend. Some ghost stories show up dozens of times. Maybe more. Perhaps one of them is true, but raise an eyebrow if you can’t find any credible, first-person encounters, and similar stories show up on a site like

Tip: Sometimes a story is half-true. Don’t toss aside a local legend because one part of never happened. The name or date might be wrong. That’s okay. Even the most bizarre ghost stories can have a kernel of truth.

If there’s more than one tale, choose the one that makes the most sense to you. Choose the one that “feels right” after you visit the site. Your impressions matter. You don’t have to be psychic to sense the energy or emotional tone of the location.

Ghostly Clues: What’s There?

Many ghost hunters are so busy looking for ghostly noises or apparitions, or so focused on their ghost hunting equipment, they miss clues “hiding in plain sight.”

When you arrive at a haunted site, what’s there? What portraits are on the wall? Are any objects really old… and look a little odd in that setting?

If the homeowner or a historian shows you something that belonged to a previous owner, tenant, or visitor, why is it still there? What does it tell you about possible ghosts?

Sometimes, people keep an object – clothing, jewelry, furniture, artwork, books, and so on – that belonged to deceased friends or relatives. There’s usually a story behind it.  I’m not saying the object is haunted, though it might be.

Several times, I’ve noticed a shabby chair or an ugly painting in a home where the rest of their decor was ultra-modern and stylish.

When I’ve asked the homeowner why he or she kept it, the answer is – almost always – “I don’t know why. It just felt wrong to get rid of it… I can’t explain it.”

Usually, that object links to the haunting. It’s part of the ghost’s story.

Consider these possibilities:

  • Perhaps the object belonged to a lost love, or someone who died early in life.
  • Maybe it was a memento of a friend, relative, or lover who abruptly moved or ended the friendship with no explanation.
  • It might be something the ghost remains attached to… and doesn’t want to leave behind. (He or she refused to believe “you can’t take it with you.”)

Some clues are more obvious than others. For example, if you see a pin like the one in the next photo, study it closely.

Victorian mourning jewelry - woven hair
Photo courtesy Thayne Tuason [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
You might glance at that brooch on top of a dresser or sideboard and think it’s woven fabric or wire.

It’s not. It’s someone’s hair. And that person is dead now.

The ghost might be the person who owned that pin, or the person whose hair is woven in it.

(Search for “Victorian pictures made from hair.” You’ll see how commonplace this was in the 19th century. And yes, it’s kind of creepy.)

Check it for unusual EMF, and for nearby EVP or hot/cold spots.

In the past, almost every object kept by someone had significance. Remember, before the middle of the 20th century, the average person didn’t own many things.

So, sometimes, that jewelry, portrait, or man’s jacket hanging in a woman’s wardrobe tells an important story.

During an investigation, try asking – out loud – who’s in the painting or photo, or if the item had special meaning for the ghost.

See what reaction you get, if – to the ghost – it looks like you’re about to touch or move the object. (If it’s fragile or you don’t have permission, don’t actually touch it.)

Tip: If you see old portraits at a haunted site, and you’re not sure who they are, take photos. Then use something like Google Image Search to see if the portrait – especially a photo – is online with additional information.

Next week, the second (concluding) part of this article: Historical records, putting it all together, and how to use it.

Power, Passion, and Haunted Sites

Love, power, passion, and haunted places

Power, Passion, and Haunted Sites

If you’re tired of investigating the same old sites everyone visits, try a different approach. A little research can produce surprising results.

I know, because I’ve scouted haunted locations for TV producers.

I usually bypass well-known places where tragedies occurred. Many scenes of betrayal and murder have been over-investigated.

So, I look for other clues.

In this article, I’ll share some of my best tips for finding haunts.

They’re often “hiding in plain sight.”

Sometimes, you’ll start with locations connected to power – rich people, politicians, deceased local celebrities (famous and infamous), and battlegrounds.  Now and then, one hasn’t been investigated much… or at all.

But, even better – and often ignored – are places that associated with (or that triggered) passion. For example, in the “Wild West,” those are saloons and streets where gunfights occurred.  Some started over money or love. Others involved boasts and bravado. Either way, emotions ran high.

In some communities, specific parks were used for regular, clandestine duels over money or – more often – the love of a woman.

A few locations may come to mind right away. Start there.

Then, dig deeper for sites connected to love, jealousy, passion, awe, fascination… and the occasional movie or TV show.

Buildings Almost Demolished

Most of us have heard of haunted “ruins.” Old churches, hospitals, and orphanages are among them.

Look for buildings once scheduled for destruction. For example, in 1944, in Salem, Massachusetts (aka “Witch City”), Jonathan Corwin’s home just barely escaped the wrecking ball. The owners moved the house back on the property (partially over what had been a church cemetery), and today it’s known as “The Witch House.”

When people are passionate about preserving a site, it may be haunted as well. Something from the past seems to linger there, making it important. Local historical societies and preservation groups proudly list the locations they’ve saved from destruction. Visit those groups’ websites, or ask them for a list. (You don’t have to explain that you’re a ghost hunter. In fact, some may find that interest disturbing.)

Those lists may reveal great stories of love, hatred, and jealousy… and worthwhile haunts. 

Sites that Inspired Books, Art, and Music

Artists and writers often have a knack for spotting eerie places where ghosts linger. A local museum or playlist might provide surprising clues.

True stories and real, haunted places inspired many Gothic romances written in the late 19th century and the 1960s. Check biographies of the authors. See if they describe tales and locations that led to their creepier stories. (For examples, see 14 True Stories behind Stephen King Books.)

Music is only slightly easier to research. But, when you find a ghost connection, it’s usually reliable and like pure gold for ghost hunting.

In my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, I mentioned Concrete Blonde’s song, Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man. They wrote it about a popular ghost at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. (I lost count of all the ghosts supposed to haunt that hotel, and every story rang with authenticity.)

An anecdote claims Black Sabbath’s song, Black Sabbath, describes their bassist’s encounter with a ghost. (Does anyone know where it happened? That could be an interesting site to investigate.)

And then there’s art. That’s easier to research and identify.

Local museums, historical societies, and libraries may know about famous (and lesser-known) paintings of local sites.  (That’s different from haunted paintings.) If the conversation flows, you could try asking if about related, haunted sites. Be cautious if you’ll want to interview that source again, later; some historians don’t like ghost hunting, even if they tell ghost stories, themselves.

The art is the clue. Look for paintings that are stylish. Moody. Even eerie.

In general, when someone is so inspired and passionate about a place to create art about it, explore that site. What made the artist choose it, instead of a dozen similar, nearby locations?

Tip: Also look at what was behind the artist when he or she painted. Sometimes, the real haunt is the place he turned his back to.

Of course, it’s easier if the artists are still alive. Ask them what drew them to each location, and what seemed to resonate with them.

Often, the musician, painter, or writer can’t explain their fascination with the site or its story. They’ll say, “I don’t know, there was just something about it that haunted me.”

Bingo. You’ve found a site worth investigating.

Extraordinary Homes

Many – perhaps most – unusual homes were built by eccentric and wealthy individuals. Those homeowners and architects may still haunt those houses. Or, perhaps something about the location – the history of the land – is what sparked the person’s impulse to build something “different.”

Does a nearby community offers self-guided historical tours or architectural walking tours? You might find a few sites worth revisiting with some ghost hunting equipment.

Halloween Haunted Houses

Almost every area has some kind of “haunted” attraction at Halloween.  Ghostly energy remains at many of them, at least residual energy – the terror experienced by some visitors. Investigate those sites, if you have permission to visit after-hours.

Some sites may offer ghost tours immediate after Halloween, before they take down the decorations. (This includes creepy corn mazes.) Ask them if you can investigate for a small fee. Some sites might welcome a few more dollars from seasonal interests.

Film and TV Locations

Of course, people know about sites featured on Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and so on.

But what about locations used for movies and TV shows?

Start with locations of paranormal-themed productions. Sometimes, the actual haunted site wasn’t available, or it was considered “unsafe” by the producers’ insurance company.

So, they film elsewhere.

And then that location seems haunted, too.

How to Find Haunted Sets

A search for “haunted movie sets” will point you to some of the more famous haunted locations used in films and TV shows.

(If you search for “haunted TV sets,” you’ll find weird TVs sold on eBay. And if you search for “haunted TV locations,” the listings are for Most Haunted show sites, and so on.)

When you’re traveling, ask at your hotel’s front desk, or the local tourism/visitors’ center. Many of them have lists of filming locations, but you may have to ask.

For example, Houmas House is one of Louisiana’s most vividly haunted mansions. Until a New Orleans tourism official told me about it, I had no idea that Houmas House was used for filming Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. (That’s a dark story of passion and jealousy.)

I’ve investigated Houmas House and can vouch for its apparitions, even one by the gate. I saw it in broad daylight.

In your community, ask at the public library and any newspaper offices. Tell them you’re looking for places where movies, commercials, and TV shows were filmed.

Back issues of newspapers – if they’re indexed – might point you to some unexpected haunts, too. Some may be online.

Great Lovers and “The Other Woman”

Sites of passionate love affairs might be the most overlooked haunts. Those stories might explain ghosts at hotels where nothing violent ever happened. (I’m thinking of hotels like the Sise Inn, in Portsmouth, NH.)

If someone in your community was famous – perhaps a dashing hero or tragic poet – find out if he or she had a secret (or not-so-secret) lover.

Skip the hero’s house. Go directly to where the secret lover lived. That’s where the passion was. And the arguments. And the drama. (I’ve heard so many related ghost stories, I’m tempted to paraphrase a popular saying, “behind every famous man… was a woman, scorned, and still angry about it.”)

You’ll find examples at the following link. They may help you understand what to look for, close to your home: Tales of Ghostly Lovers and Spooky Soul Mates

Ghosts and Passion

Among overlooked haunts, my favorite discoveries have had a running theme. It’s all about passion – love, fascination, overwhelming desires – and sometimes romance.

Many other ghost hunters focus on places where deaths occurred. Those locations can be intensely, frighteningly haunted.

Don’t limit yourself to places of violence. Look for sites where emotions ran high, and ghosts may return to relive their most passionate moments.

And I hope you’ll leave a comment when you find a site like that.



Ghost Hunting – 5 1/2 Pre-Investigation Steps

Ghost Hunting - 5 1/2 pre-investigation steps to take at home.The best place to start ghost hunting is at home.

No, that’s not because your home may be haunted.

It’s because you can learn so much that will be useful later, when you investigate the site.

And, nearly all of this research can be done at home – or even during your lunch break – with Internet access.

In my recent article series about haunted Eden Camp and the ghosts of Malton, England, I explained what I look for, with examples from those locations.

Here’s exactly what I do…

5 1/2 Pre-Investigation Steps

First, I look for ghost stories. (This is the half-step. If I’m investigating a private home, their may be no ghost stories at all.)

If I find some, I check them against history. Do historical events and people match the stories?

A bogus story can diminish the likelihood of the site being haunted, but I won’t dismiss it altogether.

Maybe King Henry VIII or George Washington didn’t spend the night in that haunted castle or home. A similar-looking ghost – a different man in royal robes or a Revolutionary war uniform – might haunt the sites.

Then, I check for ley lines. I’m looking for nearby haunts and reported anomalies, or places that usually have ghosts.

Those include:

  • Cemeteries and rumored “ancient burial grounds.”
  • Battlefields or where skirmishes occurred.
  • Significant historical monuments.
  • Current or former sites of institutions such as hospitals, orphanages, and prisons.

I want to “connect the dots” with a straight line between the site I’m investigating and at least two other haunted/anomalous/weird locations.

After that, I look for other patterns… things that connect the investigation site to other, similar haunts.

For example, in Austin (Texas), I discovered ghosts at nearly every site related to Abner Cook and bricks from haunted Shoal Creek.

So, I look at geography, history, related sites (nearby or in other areas), etc.

Next, I dig into ancient history.  In Britain, that’s usually related to the Celts, Vikings, and Romans. In the US and Canada, I research Native American history, and which locations were considered “sacred” or “forbidden.”

The last online (and library) research step involves recent history. 

I’m not just looking for ghost stories. I’m also looking for extraordinary people and events – and related secrets – that can indicate a haunting.

Crime reports and court cases (reported in local newspapers) can provide some of the best insights.

The final step is to ask, “What’s weird?”

That is, what leaps out as different? What location or person or moment in history seems to linger in my mind, as something odd?

In a series of “odd” things – like the Salem Witch Trials – whatever stands out is usually connected to the darkest history of the area. 

I keep notes from those five research sessions: ghost stories, ley lines, other patterns, ancient history, recent history, and “what’s weird?”

Those give me a context – and possibly credible support – for whatever we’ll find during the on-site investigation.

And, with those clues, the investigation can be more focused. We can find the “hot spots” of ghostly phenomena – EVP, cold spots, apparitions, shadow people, and so on – faster than if we’re just… well… working in the dark.