Should You Avoid Ghost Hunting? Sometimes the Answer is Yes

When should you avoid ghost hunting? Why – at certain times – could your safety (and sanity) be at risk?

At almost every large ghost hunting event, I’ve seen someone put themselves in harm’s way.

I’m sympathetic, and though it’s understandable, the person isn’t thinking clearly.

They’ve suffered a tragic loss. Someone they cared deeply about is gone.

The person decides that, through ghost hunting, they 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. They may be so eager to communicate with the lost loved one, he becomes vulnerable to dark or malicious entities.

(Yes, some dangerous and demonic entities seem to masquerade as lost friends and family.)

Or, the person may be victimized by charlatans masquerading as ghost hunting professionals.

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

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

For example, the person may wander off by himself, 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.

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

In every case, the person was still mourning a lost loved one. And, during that event, the person realized that ghost hunting wasn’t going to bring back their loved one.

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 pursue ghost hunting. 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.

Psychics – Why Do We See What We See?

calendarWhy do psychics see what they see? That’s (mostly) a rhetorical question.

For a long time, I’ve wondered why we “see” things about ghosts when the ghosts seem to reject our help. Most seem to want us to roll back the clock, and we can’t do that. It’s frustrating. It’s why — in recent years — my focus has been on more tangible evidence related to hauntings: documented history, readings on measurement devices, and so on.

This week, the other side of that issue was on my mind. (No pun intended.)

I wondered why so many of us see the future, as well.  It seems equally pointless.

Almost exactly five years ago, I visited Gavin Cromwell at home. He was living in the United States at the time. On that day, he stumbled out from his bedroom, clearly under lingering effects of the medication he’d taken for an illness. So, I’m not sure he’ll remember the conversation we had.

On that day five years ago, he was distraught. He talked about a ferry that was going to capsize. He thought it was in Asia, and he was sure hundreds of young people were on board and would be lost. He described them traveling from the mainland to a small island, not vice versa. He talked about the ship turning onto its side for no apparent reason, and doing so, quickly. Gavin also mentioned the crew telling the young people to stay where they were because moving around could be unsafe. (At the time, I thought he’d borrowed that from a dramatization about the Titanic.)

Gavin kept asking why he was seeing something like that when he couldn’t do anything to prevent it. He asked me if I knew a way to prevent it, but I wasn’t picking up on that event at all. I had no answers.

Now, as the recent (April 2014) South Korean ferry disaster unfolds, every detail echoes exactly what Gavin said five years ago.  Not just what I listed, above, but far more details, as well.

The problem is: That information wasn’t specific enough to be helpful. Gavin “saw” more than most psychics (including me) might have sensed, but not enough to say, “In five years, on such-and-such a date, a South Korean ferry carrying hundreds of students, en route Jeju, will be involved in a disaster.”

The vision upset Gavin… a lot. He was extremely emotional about it, and almost frantic to prevent the tragedy.

But, even with as many details as he “saw,” there was nothing anyone could do. He didn’t have a specific date or location.

If he recalls that prediction — and I’m not sure that he would, since he was taking medication and was barely awake when he conveyed that vision — I’m sure it would upset him to see that it really happened.

What I’m pondering today is why psychics see what they do. It’s rare that we can help spirits. It’s unnecessarily traumatizing to see a tragedy that can’t be prevented.

What’s the point of that kind of “gift”?

Rhetorical question, sort of. I’m not sure anyone can answer this.

But, as I watch details emerge in the South Korean ferry story, I can’t help recalling the accuracy of Gavin’s prediction and wondering why psychics “see” things like that.

Psychics and Mediums – What’s the Difference?

Moon and Eta Aquarids
Image courtesy of Gabriella Fabbri,

In ghost hunting, many people use the words “psychic” and “medium” to mean the same thing.

The words are alike in popular use. However, they mean two very different things.


The word “psychic” comes from the Greek word meaning of the soul, or of life. (Paul uses it in the Bible, I Cor ii,14.)

“Psychic” can relate to the spirit or the mind, depending upon the context.

When someone is a psychic, he or she can perceive — and sometimes influence — things that are outside traditional physical laws and perceptions. For example, some psychics can bend spoons or make objects move without personal physical contact.

Moving objects at a distance can be called telekinesis or psychokinesis (PK). Tests for this usually include attempts to influence the roll of dice.

That can be amusing, but this proven ability has far wider implications.

For example, it may explain some poltergeist phenomena. There’s a pattern to many poltergeist incidents. They almost always happen in proximity to someone who is experiencing roller coaster emotions. Most often, this is a female adolescent, but there are exceptions.

Could someone unconsciously and remotely cause poltergeist activity? I believe that’s happening in some — but not all — cases.

During a ghost investigation, a psychic may be able to:

  • Tell you what others (including ghosts) are thinking.
  • Describe areas of residual energy.
  • Detect high EMF levels without a meter, and so on.

Psychic abilities can be tested and measured in many ways. Early in the movie, Ghostbusters, Bill Murray’s character holds up cards, one by one. Each card has a specific symbol on it. The test subject — who cannot see the face of the card — guesses the image on the card.

Some psychics’ correct guesses exceeds the odds of random chance.

A wider range of psychic abilities is shown in the Cyndi Lauper movie,Vibes. Her character communicates with a spirit guide. The guide transmits messages to her, sometimes from people on the other side. Other messages pertaining to locations, the character’s personal safety… and which horse will win the race.


The word “medium” indicates something thats in the middle. In terms of size, a medium is between a small and a large.

In ghost research, a medium is able to communicate between our world and the other side.

One early 21st century medium is John Edward of TV shows such as “Crossing Over” and “Cross Country.” He’s shared messages between people who’ve crossed over, and those who remain in this world.

Does he also receive communications from ghosts? Is there a difference? I don’t know. Some mediums have strong connections to one category of spirits but don’t communicate with other entities.

Technically speaking, most mediums are also psychics. They perceive things outside our usual physical laws.

However, not all psychics are mediums.

Some psychics can bend spoons or identify the owner of a key simply by touching it. The same psychic may not perceive anything ghostly at haunted locations.

Gifts, abilities and skills

Different people perceive psychic abilities in different ways.

Some people believe that these are spiritual gifts, as mentioned in the Bible and other Scriptural references.

Others are convinced that these are inherent abilities that some people have. Or, perhaps everyone has them but some don’t realize it yet.

Most agree that psychic sensitivity can improve with practice, so it can be described as a skill.

For some people, psychic gifts are part of their spirituality and/or religious beliefs.

In other words, these terms — psychic and medium — can mean different things to different people.  They may disagree based on their individual backgrounds and beliefs.

In ghost hunting groups, remain flexible about words like “medium” and “psychic.” It’s fine to explain the difference to someone who’s genuinely confused.

However, treat the subject lightly.  Instead, focus on our common interests.

Ghosts – Why Do Banishing Routines Work?

Earlier this week, a writer asked me why people use banishing techniques (sea salt, sage smudges, etc.) to get rid of ghosts.

Here’s part of reply to her:

Of course, people don’t actually “get rid of” ghosts.

The ghosts (or things that seem like a haunting) just stop bothering them so much.

In other words, I don’t think anyone kills or banishes a ghost… not completely.  (I don’t believe that a spirit can be completely destroyed or eliminated.  I think the energy continues in some form. Views vary among religions.)

Tools such as sea salt, smudging, rice, turned shoes, etc…?  I have no idea why these techniques work. Maybe we’ll figure it out once we better understand quantum mechanics.

For me, this subject is lumped into the same category as why “correspondences” seem to work.

In other words, I think something taps into quantum laws that transcend reality (and worlds) as we perceive them from our side.

My other theory regarding sea salt, smudging and — weirdly, using a loud vacuum cleaner — relates to filling the environment with a sensory experience that the spirit doesn’t like. Or, perhaps the sensory elements push the undesirable energy out…?

It’s just a guess, and far from anything scientific.

Those methods have been documented (some, for centuries) as effective, and I’ve seen some of them work in real life.

Use shoes to repel ghosts
Set your empty shoes, heel to toe.

Turning my shoes in opposite directions worked at The Myrtles Plantation. To me, that’s even weirder than its ghosts.

A lot of these getting-rid-of-ghosts practices are rooted in mythology. Perhaps these tried-and-true methods have been around long enough to appear in really ancient tales.

Note: They seem to work with ghosts, full stop.

As far as I know, salt and sage smudges won’t help with UFOs/abductions. Also, I’ve found no record suggesting that these methods banish good energy from spiritual sites or churches.

Logic..? I won’t pretend that any exists.  Proof…? Ditto.

All I know is that these things keep getting rave reviews from people who try them.

Salt photo credit: bruno sersocima, Brazil

Salt as Protection – Ghost Hunting

In the past, I’ve talked about the power of salt to repel or block angry and malicious spirits.

I’ve only used salt a couple of times. I think it’s an extreme remedy.  However, I know people who rely on it regularly.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “sow the ground with salt.”

The origins of that phrase seem mixed.  In the past — according to Wikipedia, anyway –  salt was supposed to curse the location.

When I was growing up, I heard that salt was used to bless the ground.

So, those are opposite views of salt.

Salt as spiritual protectionAccording to folklore from my childhood — explained by people I trusted — evil spirits can’t cross a line of salt.

When psychics and paranormal researchers use salt, that’s usually the intent: To create draw a line – a physical barrier – between the entity and the people it’s affecting.

(I don’t think salt is strong enough to block something at the demon level, or I’m sure more exorcists would use it.)

In addition, I’ve recommended placing a bowl of salt near a bed where ghosts have been troublesome.

According to feedback from my readers over the past 15+ years, that’s been 100% successful.

In my research, I see many salt references in the Bible.

And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.

2 Kings 2:21 (KJV)

That’s clearly a healing reference, not a curse.  Similarly, the Bible describes a covenant of salt in 2 Chron 13:5 (KJV).

I’ve read other, very spiritual connections between salt and blessings:

There are frequent allusions to this practice (Jer 34:18). Such alliances were called “covenants of salt” (Num 18:19; 2Ch 13:5), salt being the symbol of perpetuity.—Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary

Salt was used when a baby was born, as well:

As soon as a child was born it was washed, and rubbed with salt (Ezek 16:4) —Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary

In other words, the connections between salt and spirituality are ancient, and most of them seem to indicate a blessed use for salt.  However, older records may emerge and shed a different light on this topic.

Which salt to use?

According to tradition, sea salt will work better than plain table salt.  Don’t feel as if you have to run out and buy sea salt.

In fact, from readers’ reports, table salt can be good enough for use in a haunted bedroom.

I’ve never compared the effectiveness of different salts.  Generally, I prefer to carry sea salt. It’s what I use in cooking, so it’s convenient.

For extreme cases, blessed salt is supposed to be more powerful than salt that’s simply bought at the store and used immediately.

However, if I needed salt in a hurry during an investigation, I’d use any salt that I could get my hands on, quickly.  Later, I might go back with blessed salt.

Blessed salt

Salt can be blessed in different ways, depending on your spirituality.

Start with salt you’ve bought at the grocery store.

If you’re working with a Christian context, you can bless the salt yourself.  Most people seem to gesture in the sign of the cross and use words that announce that they’re blessing the salt in the name of Deity. (Using holy water during the blessing is optional. )

You could also have the salt blessed by a priest or minister.  This usually takes about 30 seconds. A token donation for the blessing is nice but rarely required.  I usually donate between $5 and $15.

Not Christian? I’d still ask a priest or minister to bless the salt.

Are you working with an earth-based spiritual context?  Place a bowl of salt in the window so the light of the full moon shines on it for three consecutive nights.

If your beliefs are related to Voodoo, Vodun, or Yoruba-based spirituality, you may also add a small amount of black salt.

However, only do this if you are completely aware of what black salt does. (That’s imperative.)

If you’re not sure, leave black salt out of the mix.  (Frankly, if that’s your spiritual foundation, several floor washes may provide better protection than the salt, anyway.)

Remember, most of these beliefs about salt are based in folklore and in spiritual traditions.  I can’t promise that salt will work.

I keep salt in my investigation kit but rarely use it.

Even if all it does is act as a placebo — making me feel a little safer around something that troubles me — it’s worth having on hand.

Demon-Free Paranormal Research?

scared personMany people email me and ask, “I’d like to become a ghost hunter, but I’m afraid of demons.  What can I do?”

If I could answer that, I’d ask them, “What’s a demon?”

The answer is important.

According to my copy of the Oxford Universal Dictionary, the word “demon” comes from the Greek term for evil spirit. Since 1706, that’s what it’s meant in English, too:  Evil spirit.

Any malicious entity or spirit could be called a demon.  That could be an alien or a faerie or something we can’t yet define.  My dictionary also says those spirits could be the souls of deceased persons.

In recent and popular use, the word “demon” has been used in a religious context, particularly the Christian beliefs indicating the (singular) Devil or Satan, or — more rarely — one of the evil entities under his command.

A ghost is not a demon. No matter what your theology, they’re different kinds of entities.

So, are you worried about ghosts and spirits?  Or, are you anxious about a dangerous entity described in the New Testament?

If you’re afraid of unhappy, angry and aggressive ghosts — that is, spirits of the deceased — don’t get involved in paranormal research.  Many ghosts seem unhappy. Some of them vent their anger in aggressive ways.

There’s no way to be involved in this work without dealing with unattractive and threatening spirits of the dead.  Sooner or later — usually sooner — you’ll encounter something startling.

On the other hand, if you want to learn ghost hunting in an setting that’s relatively free of any dangers from the religious (usually Christian) concept of a demon, start with “hallowed ground.”

That is, develop your skills in haunted cemeteries, preferably church-related cemeteries.  In most cases, they’ve been blessed to keep Satan (or the Devil) out.

But, this is important: Cemeteries (and churches) can become unhallowed and unsanctified. That’s a separate topic, too complex to discuss in this article.

In other words, don’t drop your guard in a church or related burial ground. It may not be as spiritually protected as you think.

If you want to understand more about demons, a Long Island Paranormal Investigators’ article, Demonology 101, covers the topic in depth.

I also recommend a 2007 Coast-to-Coast AM interview with John Zaffis and the late Father Andrew Calder, Demonic Forces & the Paranormal.

I spent considerable time with each of them, and learned a lot about the dangers of ghost hunting. On the topic of demons, their advice was always 100% reliable.

That doesn’t mean that cemeteries are entirely safe. I’ve mentioned severe problems at Vale End Cemetery in Wilton, NH.

Those were extremely rare encounters, and what we encountered wasn’t a ghost.  I’m not certain it was a demon, either.

Either way, it was unique among hundreds (perhaps thousands) of sites I’ve investigated.

In my opinion, you have more to fear from the living than from the dead (or other entities), whether you’re in a cemetery or any other “haunted” location.

If you focus on relatively benign haunted cemeteries, especially if they’re in hallowed grounds, you’re as safe as possible from demons (no matter how you define them).

That doesn’t mean you’re 100% safe.  No one can guarantee that, no matter where you are or who you’re with.

If you’re frightened by any aspect of ghost hunting or paranormal research, don’t get involved in this field. 

Sooner or later — often when you least expect it — you’re going to encounter something terrifying.

It might be a ghost. It might be something malicious.  It might just be some guy you trusted, but he’s a sexual predator.

If you’re fascinated by ghosts and haunted places, and you’re willing to take risks despite the many potential dangers, this can be a thrilling field to research.

If you’re uneasy about ghost hunting, even before you’ve explored it… stop now. Find some other hobby or interest. Ghost hunting isn’t safe, and it’s probably not for you.