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Ghost Hunting for the Beginner

So – you’ve felt a draught in a closed room, or your child’s favorite doll is levitating. For one reason or another, you think your home is haunted and want to find out for sure. However, like most people, you’d like to do a little poking around before you call your local paranormal investigator and learn you have a rodent problem. Also like most people, you don’t have all the nifty tools and gadgets available. The general populace doesn’t have a Gauss meter in the junk drawer, or a laser thermometer lying around.

Fortunately, you probably have the tools to do a basic investigation… enough to determine, at least, whether the draught is a ghost or poor seals on your windows.

Let’s begin this with tools.

Assembling Your Kit:

The most basic and most important tool at your disposal is a logbook. This is a physical record of any phenomena you experience, holding your notes on the date, time, exact location, duration, and the most detailed description you can give of any unusual happening. Try to keep all of your notes in one place; if your ghost stays in one spot a spiral notebook in the area is fine, but if it moves all over the house you might consider a three ring binder for loose pages.

If you live with others, or have children old enough to read and write, supply them with their own logbooks, as well. If your children are too young to write, you can always interview them and write down anything unusual for your log.

Alternately, you can make a form template for the lazy and nag them into filling it out.

The next tool for your kit is a thermometer. Actually, two thermometers. You need something you can read at a distance of at least three feet, and while a meter that reads 1/10th of a degree is best, whole degrees can work. A mercury type porch thermometer is suitable.

Inexplicable temperature changes often indicate ghosts in the area, usually with cold spots that can vary from the normal room temperature anywhere from half a degree to fifteen degrees. In some cases, the temperature drop can measure forty degrees.

Temperature increases also happen in haunted areas, although rare. It seems that temperature differences for warm spots can vary as much as cold spots.

You will need two thermometers for your kit, as I said before. One should be placed within the area of highest activity, and the other as close as possible to the first without actually being within that area. Notes on time, temperature, and any fluctuations should be recorded in your logbook.

The third tool in your bag of tricks is the camera. Use every camera you have access to… film, digital, movie, webcam, cell phone camera… anything at all. While the debate rages over film verses digital for ghost photography, I prefer a digital camera based on expense and speed.

Photographs can reveal all sorts of things often not seen by the naked eye. Most people are familiar with “orbs”, spots of light caught on film and thought to be spirit energy. In many cases, these spots are dust or insects caught by careless picture snappers. Haze, fog, glows, and shadows can show up in your photos, and in extreme cases, full apparitions. To cut down on mundane explanation for any oddities, some prep work should be done.

Before using your cameras, thoroughly clean the entire area. Be sure to use plenty of glass cleaner, and a sticky, oily cleanser – like Pledge – on every other surface. The oil will help keep dust from spinning about the room. Vacuum well, take care of cobwebs in corners and on ceiling fans, and close all windows and vents. Once the room is sparkling and anything that might disturb the air is turned off or closed, shut the door and cover with a heavy blanket, or seal with tape. Leave the room undisturbed for an hour or so, and refrain from smoking in the house.

When taking photos, do not use your camera’s flash. Turn on every light, instead, and bring in additional lamps if needed. Take any straps off of your camera before beginning the session, and check your position to make sure you aren’t casting any shadows. Absolutely no smoking in or near the area while taking photos!

In your trusty logbook, note the date and time of each photo session, number of pictures taken, and what you were pointing the camera towards. Try to include your thermometers in a few of the shots, but let your intuition guide you.

The fourth tool no ghost hunter should do without is a voice-recording device. Anything from an old tape recorder to a digital note taker is useful, although higher quality recording devices are best.

For this activity, turn off any source of noise in the house. No radios, no TV, no frat parties… you want your home as quiet as possible. Place your device in the area, leave it on, and leave it alone for as long as the recording medium holds out. You’re trying to catch an EVP.

EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon… or, as I like to call it, Creepy-Ass Voices From Beyond The Grave. CAVFBTG just isn’t catchy, though. The voices caught on tape, when not from living humans, do very interesting things… they can cycle from 100 Hz to 1400 Hz, while the human voice is stuck with the 300 to 1000 Hz range.

Using a digital voice recorder makes it much easier to find EVPs for this reason. You can load your recordings into the computer using the software provided with the device, and search for anything that spikes below or above the human range. This is much easier than sifting though five hours of nothing.

There are other odd things associated with EVPs, which is handy if you’re using an old tape recorder. There is often a popping noise just before a ghost speaks, generally three short “thwock” sounds. The voices of the ghosts themselves are often described as either very mechanical, or extremely sibilant. Of course, any voice at all in an empty house is cause for concern.

The last tool I’ll be mentioning in this section is a little less scientific than the previous four, although no less useful. Dowsing rods have been used for centuries… for finding water, finding metals, or finding lost items. Why not for finding ghosts, as well?

There are many different types of dowsing rods used, but the simplest two are the forked branch and the L-shaped rods. The forked branch type is exactly what it sounds like – a chunk of tree in a Y shape. To use, hold the branch by the two top limbs and point the third limb away from your body. Hold it loosely in both hands, with just enough pressure to keep it close to level, and walk slowly. The branch will begin to vibrate or dip when close to whatever it is you’re dowsing for.

L-rods are two separate pieces of metal, usually brass or copper. However, two bent wire hangers can work if you don’t want to purchase the equipment. L-rods are generally a foot and a half long, with a handle of about five inches, and they work by crossing, rather than dipping. Hold one rod in each hand, again, loosely with just enough pressure to keep them upright, and walk slowly. When you begin to approach your object or ghost, the rods begin to cross themselves. The deeper the crossing, the stronger the energy pattern (or water source, or mineral deposit).

While dowsing isn’t hard evidence, like EVPs or photographs, it can still be a useful tool in determining whether your home is haunted or not.

There are other tools used in paranormal research, but these five are the most basic and widely available. With your logbook, thermometers, camera, voice recorder and a dowsing rod you’re ready to begin hunting some ghosts. In the next article, we’ll look at various types of hauntings, and how to approach each investigation.