The Layman’s Guide to Ghost Hunting

Spooky season is the time when a lot of people consider ghost hunting, whether as a special outing or as a full out hobby.  As someone who has learned many things about the field, I wanted to share some tips and tricks for any budding paranormal investigators out there…things I learned the hard way. 

Before many of our investigations, particularly those that are larger properties, we arrange a preliminary investigation with our clients, to meet them face to face and establish an effective equipment layout.  On one of these occasions, I had just gotten a brand-new pair of heeled boots, and decided that I would wear them to the prelim.  Little did I know that I would end up struggling to climb an attic ladder, and be walking across a large stretch of gravel road to explore the full property.  Heeled boots may not have been the best idea.  Whenever you’re heading out, always be sure to check the weather and wear comfortable shoes.  If you are distracted by improper dress, you may be missing out on pertinent evidence.  Also, avoid wearing anything highly scented such as perfume, lotion, or cologne.  Many times, spiritual presences can be detected by unexplainable scents like florals and musks. 

When you’re in a rush to get the investigation going, there are many flat surfaces that may seem like a great spot for an audio recorder.  However, in order to minimize contamination, ask yourself what really might be going on there that night.  I investigated a residential case once where the client had graciously set out a table with various snacks and water bottles.  (We never ask clients for anything, but if they choose to offer, we are appreciative.)  I thought this might be a prime and open place to set my recorder in the living room.  Instead, I spent 3 ½ hours listening to all of our investigators chew popcorn and glug beverages.  It didn’t make for any great paranormal audio, but I did briefly consider making a mix and putting it to a beat, just for shits and giggles.

The prospect of catching an apparition is something that every budding investigator finds titillating.  However, I can tell you from experience that this rarely actually happens.  More often than not, you will find yourself staring at endless hours of empty, actionless rooms, and glean nothing for it.  Or, if you are lucky enough to have one of your investigators experience a visual entity, chances are that your camera won’t be pointed in that direction.  Instead, I recommend investing in one stationary video camera, and to use it sparingly, only when the claims of the property involve heavily visual events in a concentrated area.  Also, try a Go Pro camera that might attach to your head or body, so that you can record your own movements and events.  It’s likely that this video evidence will be more useful to you, whether it’s to watch for an apparition or simply cross reference another event.

Many of the paranormal shows that are out now are shot in the dark, and I can see how this would be viewed as a means of increasing the spook factor for the audience.  However, darkness isn’t just for the audience’s experience.  Many times, any visual evidence that you will catch will be either wispy or shadowy in nature, and if you are fortunate enough to catch something, the last thing that you want is to wonder if it’s just a shadow from another investigator moving around the property.  If all the lights are out, you can more confidently rely on your video evidence.

EMF, or electromagnetic fields, can be described as fields that emanate from sources of electrical equipment or other energy sources.  You can find EMF fields radiating from your refrigerator, toaster oven, and thermostat.  It is also believed that the presence of EMF with no obvious source can be a sign of paranormal activity in the immediate area.  There are dozens of different kinds of EMF meters out on the market.  However, for ease of investigating, I would recommend using an EMF meter with a digital read out for recording readings, and a KII meter for communication.  A KII meter, while also an EMF detector, is a device that indicates the presence of EMF through the usage of different colored lights.  It is for this reason that it makes it a very effective tool for requesting communication with a spirit.

When a mobile device is in search of a signal, which is pretty much constantly, it can interfere with much of your equipment, including KII meters, walkie talkies, and REM pods.  I once investigated a residential home where we had astounding KII activity.  We were all so excited!  The responses that we were getting seemed to correlate to questions that we were asking, and it was a lead that we spent a good couple of hours following.  However, upon evidence review, I realized that one of our investigators had forgotten to turn his iPad to airplane mode.  I had to throw out all of it.  Don’t torture yourself like that!  Do a spot check for airplane mode on all devices before you get started.

On one of my cases, I picked up what sounded like an EVP that was mocking an investigator in a sing song voice.  I was so excited!  I clipped the audio right away and shared with my team.  Because there was some debate on what the voice was saying, and the fact that I like to hear the difference between clips, I checked the same time stamp on another recorder in the area.  What at first seemed to be an amazing EVP turned out to actually be one of my investigators burping and saying excuse me.  Sound can do strange things when it bounces off walls, through a digital recorder, and into your ears.  Cross reference wherever you can to be sure that what you think you’re hearing is actually what you’re hearing.


Have fun out there, kids!  And don’t forget to have respect for the spirits that you attempt to communicate with.  They could be you one day.

Author: Sara Varner

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