Scientific tools for ghost hunters

A few of the many tools that professional ghost hunters use. 

WHAT NOT TO DO

Don't invest in a lot of equipment.  Even in the hands of a professional, some ghost hunting tools simply won't work.  It's the researcher, not the tool!

Don't spend a lot of money. A price-y tool may not work for you.  Electrical equipment can't always be returned, except if it's defective... and then, it can only be exchanged for a working equivalent.  

Don't let others use your new equipment. Hauntings can involve energy imprints.  People left those imprints on the environment, and people can leave imprints on your equipment, too. Remember when you were a kid and thought that someone could put "cooties" on your new toy?  It's rarely intentional, but a skeptic or an angry ghost hunter can leave an energy imprint on your tools, too.


WHAT TO DO

Start simple.  If you already own a flash camera, use that.  Try a hiking compass instead of an EMF meter.  A dowsing rod or a pendulum can be as good a tool as any, and you can make these at home with materials that you have on hand.

Choose quiet tools.  You'll be amazed at how noisy the gentle beep on your digital camera sounds when you're in a haunted tunnel, or at a silent cemetery. Choose the quietest equipment, or look for a "silent mode" option.

Practice, practice! It can take awhile before any tool works well for you.  For example, with practice you'll know what indicates a great place for photos. It may be something like the hair going up on the back or your neck.

Treat your equipment with care. Your tools will be under environmental stress during ghost hunts.  Store them carefully, keep them clean, and perform any necessary maintenance regularly.

Carry backups.  Electrical equipment can literally burn through batteries in a profoundly haunted setting.  High EMF can prevent some tools from working. Always carry a backup or two, preferably lower-tech than your usual tool, just in case.

Ghost hunting tools vary from one researcher to another.  Normal scientific rules don't always apply.  

I have met ghost hunters who get great EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) but can't seem to capture anomalies in photos.  I've known investigators who rely on digital thermometers, but have no luck with EMF (ElectroMagnetic Frequency) devices.  And, there's no pattern to this, such as skeptic v. believer.

When I go ghost hunting with skeptical news reporters, I get the best reactions when I hand them the simplest tools, such as a compass instead of an EMF meter.

So, for beginners,  simpler tools may be the best choices.  They cost less and new ghost hunters can see which range of tools work best for them.

Some basic ghost hunting tools

Cameras are great tools for new ghost hunters.  In experiments at Hollow Hill, we've tested the cheapest grocery store disposable film cameras, and the results were excellent.  Pro or novice, believer or skeptic, if you're using a flash camera in a haunted area, there's an 80% likelihood that some of your photos on one roll of film will include anomalies.  (See my article, How to take ghost photos for more info.)

Some researchers use infrared film for great results, and some digital cameras automatically pick up infrared imagery.  Ask at the camera shop.

Others rely on video cameras to study haunted locations.  I've seen impressive footage at mildly haunted sites.  However, in profoundly haunted locations (such as The Myrtles Plantation), video cameras can be less sensitive than still photography.  And, I've also seen a higher failure rate among video cameras--they stop recording--at some intensely haunted sites.

EMF meters are featured on many popular TV ghost shows.  In real life, ghost hunters either love them or find them inconvenient.  These are used to measure irregular levels of ElectroMagnetic Frequencies.   

High EMF levels can occur naturally around electrical outlets, computer monitors, refrigerators, and near electrical wiring.  For this reason, many ghost hunters prefer to use a hiking compass, which measures the same thing.  

The added advantages of a compass are (1) it's silent (see sidebar at left), and (2) it points in the direction of the higher EMF levels.  If, from across the room, the compass needle points at a refrigerator or a/c unit... bingo, you have a very natural explanation for elevated EMF levels.

EVP recorders can be old-fashioned tape recorders or digital voice recorders.  EVP is Electronic Voice Phenomena.  Some people believe that these are the voices of spirits.  The voices are not usually heard during the investigation, only in the recording, later.

Digital thermometers can detect "cold spots" and "hot spots" in haunted settings.  However, be sure that you know whether your thermometer measures air temperature, or the surface of the subject that it's pointed at.  Also, anomalous temperature variations are rare, even in some very haunted locations.

Divinatory tools include Tarot cards, Ouija boards, and so on.  But, some people regard dowsing rods and pendulums as scientific tools, especially with their accuracy for locating subterranean water and sometimes mineral deposits. 

I've seen dramatic results with all kinds of divinatory tools.  I'll talk about them on another webpage. 

However, I recommend that all ghost hunters start with a basic flash camera, and see what happens.  From there, you can add other tools, based on what works for you and fits into your budget. 

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