This article began life as a set of notes written to accompany the talks and practical demonstrations of mediumship combined with scientifically documenting ghostly manifestations and following proper standards of ethics and "Paranormal Health and Safety", which the three authors give from time to time. As such, it is not intended to be a fully comprehensive 'how to' manual for newcomers to the world of spirit investigation and mediumship, and it really is essential to "learn the ropes" under the guidance of an experienced and trustworthy medium or witch.
Please be aware that 'ghost hunting' is emphatically not something to be taken lightly; although the majority of spirits are generally fairly harmless, some can be exceedingly hostile and dangerous, and can latch on permanently to an unprepared 'ghost-hunter' and cause very serious consequences --- and therefore it is vital to understand the 'ground rules' about protection and how to stay safe.
It is also important to develop an appropriate sense of ethics: remember that the spirits of people who have passed beyond the Veil are still people and should be treated with the same respect and politeness that you would use to a living person.
It is also an unfortunate truth that the world of all things 'paranormal' has a tendency to attract far more than its fair share of lunatics and charlatans, in addition to intelligent, broad-minded people who simply want to discover what is true and what is not. Therefore it is always essential to be on your guard against both nonsensical information and people who wish to exploit or manipulate you. It is always wise to remember the scientist's maxim "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
However, this principle of following good scientific practice necessarily cuts both ways, and some die-hard anti-'paranormal' skeptics are just as guilty of abandoning rationality as the most credulous cultists, having decided a priori that any evidence that supports any sort of 'paranormal' phenomenon must automatically be bogus and deliberately twisting scientific facts to "explain away" reported hauntings. Two good examples of this are claims about infrasonics and magnetic fields: while it's absolutely true that strong infrasonics of circa 14 Hertz can make humans feel distinctly unwell and "freaked out", there is absolutely no plausible mechanism for an abandoned building with no power source to spontaneously produce such signals, so dismissing hauntings as "nothing but infrasonics" just doesn't wash; similarly, it's quite true that very intense magnetic fields can affect the human brain, but the levels required can only be generated by the use of carefully-designed induction coils placed directly against the head, and there is absolutely no way that natural geological phenomena can produce anywhere near the field strength required, so attributing "hauntings" to the effects of geomagnetism on the brain is unscientific nonsense. Since the die-hard skeptics invariably claim to be "scientists", they should be ashamed of themselves!
On the subject of the term 'paranormal', it's a term we don't like because it suggests that there is something different or abnormal about such phenomena. There isn't -- the only thing that's 'different' about them is that the majority of people don't see or understand them, but they're just as much part of the normal, natural order of things as are those that everyone understands. And those of us who have a gift in the Craft see and deal with the so-called 'paranormal' every day (and many of us have done so since early childhood), so to us it seems particularly ridiculous to regard such phenomena as anything out of the ordinary. It's purely a matter of awareness: after all, think what would happen if you showed a perfectly ordinary smartphone to a person from the Tudor period -- that would be far more than just 'paranormal' to them, they'd probably accuse you of sorcery or worse!
Protection and Earthing
Protection is vital --- you should always establish protection before entering a suspected-haunted location or starting work, and those of us with well-developed psychic abilities are always careful to maintain protection at all times for our own safety. It's always best to have an experienced witch or psychic with you to assist with protection (but beware of charlatans!), since such a person can apply whole-site protection and/or establish a 'safe room' before you start and also deal with any breakouts that may occur, but in any case you should always protect yourself to the best of your ability. Practice regularly so you can do it easily when you need to.
Visualisation-and-transformation is the key, as it is to a lot of witchcraft/magic; several different techniques can work, find the one you're most comfortable with and that works for you. Natalie uses tree-like roots from her body down into the planet that then link into a bubble of fire energy surrounding her (she's a fire witch) --- this is an advanced technique but extremely potent if you can get it to work properly (because anything trying to get through her has got to get through the entire planet first). Easier methods include surrounding yourself with white or golden light, as Sami does, or Heather's method of visualising herself grounded and protected by the spirits of Nature in a beautiful forest glade.
A 'safe room' is established (if you have a witch who can do this) by casting a heavily protected Circle with an open gate in a convenient location through which people can pass freely, but which can be closed quickly if trouble develops. Some witches have access to advanced techniques which allow the gate to be prepared so that anyone can close it in an emergency. A Circle can also be cast in such a way that people can cross it freely but malicious spirits are held back; this type gives less strong protection against 'nasties' but is good for whole-site protection.
Earthing (or Grounding) is closely related to protection, but usually used at the end of a session when you need to 'discharge' accumulated emotional/psychic energy and bring yourself back to balance to continue with everyday life. To do this, first make sure you're somewhere safe, preferably outdoors and in contact with natural ground because that makes it easier if you're inexperienced, then relax totally, close your eyes, and release whatever burden you're carrying into the ground. If you have trouble getting it to work, an experienced witch/psychic can earth you actively --- basically, pull out whatever needs to be discharged and discharge it for you. Earthing is also very useful for stress management in everyday life, once you've got the hang of it.
There is a considerably more detailed tutorial on Protection and Earthing under the Introduction to Ritual Working section.
Spook Spotting and Photography
The best way to spot or detect spirits is always with Second Sight; this is more sensitive, reliable and less prone to false positives than any kind of equipment, but of course it does mean you need someone with well-developed witchcraft/mediumship skills in the group (and as usual, beware of charlatans!).
In our experience only a relatively small minority of manifestations are strong enough to be photographed, or to affect physical objects (knocking, telekinesis etc), since affecting light or especially matter on a large scale requires massively more energy than simply impinging on Second Sight (which appears to be a quantum-mechanical phenomenon acting on the quantum-scale tubules within human neurons). To have any reasonable chance of photographing a manifestation, you'll need a camera with a highly sensitive imager capable of low-light operation; ability to override the automatics and apply some degree of manual control (ranging from aperture- or shutter-priority all the way up to full manual exposure) and long-exposure capability is valuable.
Always be aware of how easy it is to fake up 'ghost photos' though; a good spirit investigator should always maintain a degree of skepticism, weigh up the evidence and ask themselves if there is any reasonable chance that a given observation might actually have a mundane origin. This is true of all 'spirit' phenomena, not just photos.
To illustrate just how easy it is to fake up ghost photos, this example was created in less than
a minute, using nothing more than a digital camera -- no Photoshop or PC needed!
Useful Technical Equipment
This section lists some of the equipment that might be considered useful, what to choose and what to avoid.
Can be useful if you don't have psychic skills, since nearly all
manifestations seem to be associated with a sudden drop in temperature --- though often
slight, perhaps 0.5°C or so, if the manifestation is weak. The best type uses a
bare K-type thermocouple on a long 'wand'; enclosed or thermistor types don't
respond quickly enough to be useful for doing a room search, and if the probe isn't on a
long wand you run a high risk of false alarms from the effects of human body heat or
warm breath. Always take care to exclude the effects of cold drafts from windows,
doors, vents, holes, etc.
Temperature wand and meter: Note tiny thermocouple at left-hand end
Listening Ear (EVP Amplifier)
extremely sensitive microphone that amplifies tiny sounds and
allows them to be heard through headphones and/or recorded. Useful for trying to detect
very weak spirit-caused sounds, as well as for documenting spirit communication
sessions. Can be used in pairs for stereo recording, for example when recording
'knockers' so that the location of the current knocker can be pinned down.
Listening Ear, sold by Dawnmist Studio
Infra-Red Camera & Illuminator
This allows a scene to be viewed on a video monitor and/or video-recorded without needing to light it. Although it's debatable whether or not this can help with 'spook spotting', it's extremely valuable for documenting a spirit communication session and proving that nobody is cheating, for instance faking up knocking sounds. Note especially that this should be an infra-red video camera with a wide-field illuminator, and not a night-sight (image intensifier) with a beam illuminator, since the latter are extremely prone to being overloaded either by small amounts of ambient light or by reflections of their own IR beam from windows etc., causing a bright circular 'bloom' in the image which has on innumerable occasions been misreported as a 'ghost orb'.
The IR camera that we use, shown in the picture below, was built by Natalie by converting a
high-sensitivity machine-vision camera to infra-red operation and equipping it with a wide-field
LED illuminator. A wide-angle, large-aperture lens (6.5mm f/1.8 C-mount) makes it easy to film
an entire room in total darkness.
Infra-Red Camera, built by Natalie
This is a tiny camera mounted on either a telescopic pole or a flexible gooseneck, along
with a tiny but bright light source (usually LEDs). It can be passed through a small
hole so that inaccessible spaces in buildings can be viewed on a video monitor and/or
video-recorded. Very useful for checking out historical tales about old buildings,
discovering what's under the floor or in the roof space, and so on.
Inspection Camera, built by Natalie
A good-quality camcorder is highly useful for two reasons. Firstly, simply to document the site prior to starting the investigation, or any investigations performed under reasonable lighting conditions; secondly, if it's a type which can record from an external video and audio input, it can be used to view and record the signals from an Infra-Red Camera and Inspection Camera. It is particularly useful, when (for example) documenting a session of communication with 'knockers', to connect an IR Camera and a stereo pair of Listening Ears to the Camcorder so as to produce a tape showing clearly that none of the living people present were cheating in any way (tapping feet etc) along with stereo sound showing the precise location of each knocker.
Battery Pack(s) & Voltage Converter
A lot of this equipment, especially cameras with illuminators and camcorders, has high power drain and internal batteries will not last for anything like an all-night session. Plugging into the mains is seldom an option in the sort of buildings in which ghost investigations are done, and is massively inconvenient and non-portable in any case. An excellent solution to the problem is to use a voltage converter so that all of the equipment can be powered all night from a single, large, rechargeable battery pack.
The battery pack shown in the picture is a 14.4V, 6Ah NiMH type, very inexpensive but can
easily power a camcorder and IR camera plus illuminator all night. The switchmode voltage
converter automatically senses what's plugged into it and adjusts its outputs accordingly: it
can power our camcorder, IR camera, inspection camera, digital SLR camera and even recharge
a mobile phone if needed!
Rechargeable battery pack & Voltage Converter
Very simple, but useful when poking into dark corners! Again, battery life can be an issue with powerful torches, so we use one that can run all night on one of our large rechargeable battery packs if the internal battery runs out.
Not terribly technical, but useful, and most people can pick up the basic skills of
dowsing quite readily. With even minimal skill, can be used to find things like
foundations of demolished buildings, buried culverts and pipes, and in the hands of an
expert can be used to find grave cuts, lost objects (handy if you lose your car keys or
drop your wedding ring during a session!) or almost anything else, as well as being
another option for 'spook spotting'.
Good old dowsing rods -- with modern improvements!
This one falls in the 'possibly useful' category; it's a device that may possibly help people who lack Second Sight to spot manifestations, based on the idea that a manifestation may disturb the air sufficiently to affect the passage of a laser beam. The type that are potentially useful project a stable, regular cross-hatch of beams across the area being monitored, so that anything manifesting in the monitored area will hopefully cause a clearly visible distortion in the grid pattern. Inexpensive laser-grids are on sale that project a matrix of dots, but these are not useful: they are not continuously rated, and become so hot that they have to be switched off after a few minutes; worse than that, as they heat up, the heat causes the dot pattern to change, causing false alarms, and in any case a matrix of dots is not a helpful pattern for spotting disturbances. There are several so-called 'ghost' videos on YouTube that are quite clearly nothing more than overheating patterns in these dot-matrix grids.
Rip-Offs, Useless Equipment & Spooky Russian Roulette
This section lists a few pieces of kit that we've seen marketed to 'ghost enthusiasts' that really should be avoided, generally because they're totally useless, produce unreasonable numbers of false positives, or are downright dangerous. There are undoubtedly others that we haven't heard of, so as a general principle, use a healthy degree of skepticism and preferably check out scientific claims with a scientist and psychic-related claims with an experienced witch or medium.
Top of the To Be Avoided list is the Ouija Board. This might surprise you, but there's a good reason: if you have well-developed psychic skills, you simply don't need a ouija board, and if you don't have well-developed psychic skills, using a ouija board is basically playing Russian Roulette --- all kinds of bad stuff can come at you from the Other Side that you have no chance at all of defending yourself against. Having a competent witch with you doesn't make it OK to use a ouija board either; just leave the mediuming to her/him and put the ouija board in the dustbin!
Ghost Boxes (EMF Detectors)
Almost certainly entirely useless. For one thing, we have seen no evidence, nor any theoretical reason to believe, that spirit manifestations generate frequency-coherent alternating electromagnetic fields, which is what these units detect (at least the ones that work at all!). Secondly, many of them are, technically speaking, a joke --- such as electrician's cable-finders 'modified' by inserting a coin into the works (these are sold very widely on eBay). Those that manage to produce any 'detection' at all will simply be throwing up false positives; furthermore, those that actually produce their own alternating electromagnetic fields (such as the modified cable-finders) are likely to irritate genuine spirit manifestations and will most definitely reduce the sensitivity of, and annoy, human beings with a high degree of psychic ability (so if you irritate the local witch with one of these and she does something awful to you, don't blame us!)
Ghost Box Apps on Smartphones/Tablets
Even more useless than real (hardware) Ghost Boxes (see above). Not only do they not
work for the same reason that real Ghost Boxes don't work, but the broad-spectrum
electronic hash from the phone/tablet is the psychic equivalent of
fingers-on-a-blackboard to any spirit or witch.