STGHA has guidelines to help you become a knowledgeable ghost hunter. Follow these, and you'll be one of us.
All ghost hunters and paranormal investigators started out as a little skeptical but open minded about "are ghost real" and if they can be hunted (On top of a thousand other questions each one of us has). Each ghost hunt is unique in and of its self because people's experiences vary from one person to another. A slow and quiet night doesn't mean that the ghosts weren't there when another person reports doors opening and closing loudly. A lot of factors come into play when ghost hunting that you should beware of.
Know Your Camera !!!
While no two camera's are exactly alike, we strongly encourage you to "Know Your Camera." What we mean by this is that we WANT you to intentionally take pictures of natural things like when it's raining, take a picture of the rain. When there's fog, take a picture. Find a dusty road and kick up a cloud of dust. Slap your bed covers or pillow in the dark and photograph the dust/particles floating. Take your camera strap and intentionally put it over your lens and take a picture. Have a friend blow cigarette smoke in front of the camera. On a cold day, blow warm air in front of you and photograph it. WHY? Because what you're doing is learning what images your camera captures, and the type of clarity your getting. You'll be able to study these pictures in detail, so when you do get something paranormal, you will know the difference of what ______ looks like vs. your image you captured. Also, if you show someone skeptical, and they it's dust, or water on the lens, you can turn around and say, nope, this is what ______ is. Being a Paranormal Investigator is difficult as it is, and doing battle with a skeptic is easier if you're one step ahead of the game.
Time of day
Ghosts can be hunted during the day or night. It's easier to pick them up on camera if shot at night because their reflection is brighter than the background (dark). Plus, during the day, you have the possibility of "lens flair" happening. Lens flare happens when the sun and the camera lens is at the right angle to produce a colorful "orb" or "orbs". All ghost hunters want to catch ghosts on camera or film, but when we eliminate all "natural" events that could have made that ghost picture, what we're left with is paranormal... Something that shouldn't be there, but is. When all other factors have been ruled out, we believe this maybe ghosts.
Anyone can get information on a haunted location and then run to it in the name of Ghost Hunting, but that's not how it's done in real life. A lot of haunted locations are businesses, people's homes, city or private property. You can't just go in waving instruments and claim you're looking for ghosts. First, and foremost, You have to ask permission. Some places don't want advertised that they may have ghosts. Not everyone feels the same way you do about ghosts. Some people believe in them, so don't, and some out right fear them. You must have respect for people's feelings and beliefs, even if they are contrary to yours, and even if they deny access to you. Don't take it personally, as in most cases, the timing may not be right for you. The best thing to do is be polite, ask nicely, and if no, be graceful about it. They will remember how you act, and maybe in the future, might reconsider. NEVER go somewhere or conduct a ghost hunt without permission from the people responsible for that property. You are then trespassing and are breaking the law. If we find out any of our members were caught, they will be banned from this group immediately.
Safety in Numbers
It's always a good idea to go ghost hunting with a friend or two, but never alone. Because most investigations are done at night, there could be obstacles on the ground that may cause injury or even death. When traveling together, always have at least two fully charged walkie talkies so if the group gets split up, communication will still be open. Obviously don't wonder to far that they render the equipment useless. Most walkie talkies have an average range of one mile, up to two at the most. In the event that something happens, at least one person can then go for help.
No Horse playing Around!
As funny as it would be to see the expression on your friends face when you pop out from a hiding spot, DON'T DO IT. Funny or not, someone can get hurt, plus, it's disrespectful. You are at a location that a ghost calls "Home" for what ever reason. Respect that as if it still is. This goes for being at a business or person's residence. People are watching your every move, your behavior and how you conduct yourself. Other ghost hunters may be judged by the experience the person has who's watching you. If it's a business, you might be the cause for other ghost hunters to be denied future access to a haunted location. By the same token, how you conduct yourself will also reflect on how future hunters will be welcomed. Be professional at all times.
Earning People's Trust
Remember, you are a stranger to most people you will meet. They have some fears and concerns about letting a total stranger into their home or office. Respect that, and do what you can to ease that fear. Be polite, explain as you do or before you do something so that they feel they have some control also. If they want to participate, ask them questions that may help lead you to a particular hotspot in the home or office. Remember not to touch, pick up or break anything. If it's not yours, leave it alone. The last thing a person or group needs is an accusation of a theft. This also is another reason why you should never ghost hunt alone. Do what you came to do, be polite, and don't overstay your welcome. Also, don't talk or share personal information about a person's lifestyle in their home. Who and what they are and do at home is their business, not yours.
Respect the Ghosts
This is the most often ignored part of a ghost hunt. Remember that ghosts were once, and technically still are a person who once had a body. Don't just go into a place and start snapping pictures without saying a word. That's disrespectful to both the living and the dead. Announce your intentions. Ask the spirits/ghosts permission to take their picture. As silly as it sounds talking to something you can't see, you'll be surprised at how often they cooperate. When you first enter a location that's haunted, hang out for about 30 minutes. This gives the spirits time to get used to you being there. Use this time to do a EMF sweep so you'll know where the EMF readings are before hand. Check all doors and windows for air leaks, so if you feel a cold chill, you know it's not the windows or AC. Set up any audio & video equipment at this time and make note of any noises you make when approaching or leaving the area around the equipment. After 30 minutes, Tell the spirit's) that you would like to take their picture and if they would please stand in front of you. Point in the direction of where you're going to take the picture and give them a heads up count down. It doesn't hurt to add a little humor... "On the count of three, one, two, Say Cheese! *Snap Picture*"
Don't Freak Out!
On some intense ghost hunts, You've got adrenaline pumping naturally, making you more alert and aware of your surroundings. Any little sound or movement might cause you to jump or react. The most important thing to do is DON'T FREAK OUT! People don't want to hear a blood hurling scream because something scared you. Trust us, there are some people who are natural screamers. When on ghost hunts, it's not uncommon to have things that go bump in the dark, or furniture move on their own. A lot of times, this is the spirits way of acknowledging your presence. That's not to say Ghosts don't have a sense of humor. They may get a kick out of scaring a girl/woman who's already scared silly. Again, this is why we don't travel alone. Sometimes, someone with us is our anchor to reality and a sense of safety. Remember, the people who invited you are expecting you to remain calm, collected and professional. If you go, they will go too and it will be a big mess. Set the example.
How do they feel?
It's important early on to understand how the person or business who invited you feels about the potential of having a ghost in their home or office. They will have questions for you to answer about the existence of ghosts, what equipment you use, and why you're doing it. Educate yourself so you can educate others who are open minded about ghosts. This may be one way of testing your knowledge or experience to see if you really know what your doing. If they disagree or don't welcome the thought of having a ghost in their home or office, don't argue or promote any evidence of potential ghost footage/photographs. This may only lead to further anxiety and could have a snowball effect. If they are open minded and want to know if a ghost does occupy the same space, be honest and show them what data you have gathered. If showing them a picture, help them rule out natural causes leaving the unexplained as possible evidence of a ghost. Since no one can 100% say for sure it's a ghost, do your best to add up what it is, if it's not a ghost.
Religion & Faith
Some people's religion, faith, philosophy or beliefs permit them to NOT believe the existence or any evidence of a ghost/spirit. And if so, that all ghosts/spirits are evil or the work of the devil, are demons, etc. When we encounter a person who has strong religious beliefs, we need to respect their feelings and their beliefs. We might not agree or like their feelings about ghosts, but we're not here to debate or convert anyone to any side or belief. Agree to disagree, but never try to win a debate. It's not worth the trouble. We are investigators who have picked up consistent patterns which strongly suggest that ghosts are real and do exist. We don't know for 100% certainty but that's why we have equipment that we use to record data, photograph paranormal evidence, record audio & visual phenomena, record energy & temperature fluctuations. These readings are consistent with patterns found at other haunted locations. Religion has nothing to do with what we find. Religion, faith, beliefs & philosophy are all ways that people deal with understanding life, death and the afterlife. (I.e. what happens when we die, where do we go, etc.) What we deal with is science... physical patterns that are consistent and can be measured anywhere in the world. How we interpret that into religion is for each person do in private.
Other Ghost Organizations, Clubs & Businesses
Remember that anyone can start their own ghost hunting group. In fact, this is evident by the growing number of ghost clubs on the Internet. The important thing to remember, regardless if your starting a club, organization, or business, is that we're all pretty much in the same boat... We're ghost hunting. It's VERY important that you lay down the rules for others to follow if your inclined on starting your own group. Keep in mind that other groups may have been around longer, and may have more experience or numbers. You're not here to compete. We are all ghost hunting for personal reasons. Some for fun, some for serious reasons, some to make a profit, some for religious reasons, you name it. Open your group up to others so that they will feel comfortable with having you around. Let your intentions and motives be known. Invite them on a ghost hunt or two and if allowed, join them. Remember that when your invited to join their group, that you and your members must abide by their rules and their lead investigator. The same rule should apply to when they join your group. This keeps the group operating as a whole with no confusion on who's in charge & responsible.
Conflicts & Civil Wars
In some groups, when you have two or more ghost hunting organizations in the same city, or surrounding area, No matter how hard you try, they may/will not accept your group, and in some cases, may even talk bad about it. This may cause difficulty down the road when the other group burns a potential bridge with a haunted location. DON'T DO THE SAME. If they have nothing better to do than to debunk your groups reputation or name, don't associate yourself with them, and don't swoop down to their level. Let that reflect on them. Instead, lead by example. Be professional, courteous, and remember that the public is watching and judging us by how we conduct ourselves, regardless what group name we hunt under. Fighting, Arguing & Conflicts are childish behaviors. We're better than that, and have no need for immature conduct. It's not a war about how many people you have in your group, or who's better. If anything, the quality of each group and its members is what everyone should strive for, not who's better or has the most toys. In the end, if two groups can't see eye to eye, still respect them and have an open door policy incase they want to try to amend things.
Know Your Equipment
Make a list of things to check off BEFORE you leave to go on a ghost hunt. Make sure you have brand new batteries, make sure your camera is fully charged, your flashlight is working, where the extra batteries are, walkie talkies charged, etc. The last thing you want to find out is that your not prepared to be at a haunted location. Make sure you have plenty of gas in your car, some money in case you need to make a phone call, and always CARRY AN I.D. WITH YOU in case someone stops you and asks questions. Know what your camera does before using it. Know the range, flash distance, and what certain items look like in the dark or under adverse conditions. If you have a strap, REMOVE IT so it doesn't show up in your pictures. They have a way of looking ghostly on film, and is easy ammo for a skeptic to use against you.
Respect Law Enforcement
Now days, with people reporting suspicious activity, it's not uncommon to have the police or security to come and ask you questions on why you are hanging around a graveyard or other location at night. Remember that vandals used to do the same, and often destroyed their surroundings. We need to make it clear that we respect all local laws, authority, property, and that we're paranormal investigators/ghost hunters conducting an investigation. Some law enforcement don't share the same enthusiasm we have for being at a haunted location and don't care why we are there... just that we leave immediately. If confronted and asked to leave, be polite and don't make a fuss. In the future, other ghost hunters might be spared having to leave if you conduct yourself accordingly.
Sensitives, Mediums & Dowsers
While some ghost hunting groups have dedicated scientists who rely on their equipment, some groups, like ours, use both scientists and metaphysical means for finding ghosts. This cuts down on time and increases our success rate. Some of our members are more "sensitive" to the presence of a ghost/spirit than others. They tend to pick up on if a spirit is in the room and where. They have an excellent track record and are tried & true when they say that "Something is here or near me." Usually, the scientists can confirm using their equipment in the location that was pointed out.
Another type of ghost hunter is called a Dowser... someone who is experienced in the use of dowsing rods. Johnny Bravo, a member of our group & REI nails it every time on a ghost hunt. His dowsing rods point or swing in the direction of where ghosts are, and when photographed, they are right there next to him. He's a sure bet when ever we are on a hunt with him. Another type of ghost hunter is a Medium. They are able to either see, hear, or communicate directly with a spirit. Their gift is invaluable to any group that uses mediums. They have in the past helped other spirits communicate a message that was important before the spirit left the earth realm. All of these types of ghost hunters need to be respected, whether or not you believe what they are saying or feeling. We are an open minded group, and each type of person backs up each others claim.
For example, on a ghost hunt, The Sensitives point out that someone's here, The dowsers rods react to a spirit in the room, the scientists measure a temperature drop and an energy signature consistent with a ghost, The medium tells that the spirit is happy or sad, why they are still around, etc. and the photographer snaps a picture using a digital or 35mm camera. It just so happens to be a glowing orb, mist, or apparition. Chances of it being a ghost or being in the presence of a ghost, almost 100%.
Know The Weather
It's a good idea to watch the news, or get the local weather so that you know what conditions to expect when going out on a hunt. Appropriate clothing is recommended if you know of a cold front coming, or if an umbrella is needed. Usually, when the weather makes a turn for the worse, you'll want to wrap up your investigation until you have better weather. Windy conditions usually blow dusty & debris in the air, and when taking a photograph, it tends to make something look paranormal when it's not. The same thing for rain, sleet, hail, fog and/or snow. These conditions are not favorable for taking pictures or recording audio/video because the environment plays a major part in what ever it is that your trying to document. Plus for safety reasons, either driving or being out in this weather, it's not a good idea to ghost hunt. Ghosts aren't going anywhere, they'll be there when you return.
Monitor The Moon & Geo-Magnetic Fields
We've found that the Sun, along with the Moon and the Earth's geo-magnetic fields all help to create conditions that are favorable to encountering ghostly phenomena. Ghosts, being energy, feed off of other energy the way we drink from water when we're thirsty. When an electrical storm, either from the Sun, or Earth bombards the atmosphere, we have conditions that are ideal for ghost hunters to find ghosts/spirits. They feed off of this energy, making them a little more "active" in the sense that they easier seen, or heard from vs. the days when things are quiet. This pattern, is noticed almost all over the earth and is a reason why we pay attention to changes in the moon & geo-magnetic changes. The moon helps by creating a pull on the magnetic fields, making them stronger when approaching a full moon.
Electronic Voice Phenomena
"Ghost voices" are not a new discovery. In fact, the man who invented the first voice recorder was also the first to record "EVP's" (Electronic Voice Phenomena). His name is Thomas Edison. He spent the last few years of his life asking questions and carrying on conversations with what we now believe to be are ghosts/spirits. Considering that energy & magnetism, (two properties that ghosts are believed to be made of) are also the same properties used when recording audio sound to a tape. Thus, giving ghosts a means of verbally communicating with the living. As of 2002, No person has yet recorded a full blown conversation or paragraph, but at best, a full sentence has been recorded with remarkable clearly. Most often, one or two words are spoken at a time. When using a cassette or digital recorder to capture EVP's, make sure you place it away from any background noise that may interfere with your recording. Always use an external microphone so you don't record the sounds of the motor gears running. Cars passing by, dogs barking, clock ticking are examples of things that make it harder to hear when you have a faint voice recorded. Be sure you write down any noises that might be picked up. (You walking away from the recorder is an example. If you are going to or away, mention, I'm now walking away. With audio, you don't see what's going on. Your footsteps might be confused with a ghost. Also, place it away from heavy traffic or where you think people might be. If conducting a interview with a potential spirit, Ask a question, and wait about 3 seconds before asking another one. Ask open ended questions if possible, as well as random questions. You may be surprised at which question you get an answer to!
Sharing Pictures, Ideas, Thoughts...
Most of us would like to believe what we captured is ghostly or paranormal. We painstakingly made sure that we followed every precaution and rule in the book to ensure that the pictures & footage we have is not human/environmentally influenced. Some ghost hunters who are new, might not know all the measures we take to reduce the chances of a picture being human/environmentally influenced (Something that can be explained caused by a person or natural event doing something that was caught on film.)
Example of these are 30+ people walking around in a dusty construction area of a house or building and taking a picture immediately afterwards, or taking pictures outside when the winds are gusting or if its raining. The result expected would be lots of orbs in the picture. To a new member who doesn't know this, this looks like a jackpot prize. The same goes for someone smoking inside of a house and taking a picture that shows an ectoplasmic mist, and last but not least, someone with long wavy hair not tied down, captures a vortex on camera. These things can be avoided and explained through normal means. Many things that seem fantastic are as commonplace and matter-of-fact as the ability to convert PDF to excel- simple and straightforward but to the untrained eye, it CAN seem magical.
When a new ghost hunter shows you something that you think might be explained naturally, ask them what the conditions were at the time the picture was taken. Also, ask what precautions were taken. If they answer honestly, detailing the precautions taken, they may very well have a ghostly phenomena. By you giving the person the benefit of the doubt, & not shooting down their picture without first asking what precautions were taken, you are giving that ghost hunter the respect and validation for a job well done. New members as well as veteran members like to get that kind of praise every once in a while... it's what keeps us coming back for more.
Paper or Plastic?
There remains a huge debate between the use of Digital Cameras vs. 35mm Cameras. One has negatives that back up a ghostly phenomena, but by the same token, can produce a ghostly phenomena if the negative is bent or has debris on it... Digital cameras on the other hand have no such evidence, but provide a clearer means of seeing a spirit. One is costly in the long run, One is costly in the beginning. As to which one to choose is up to the preference of the ghost hunter using it. Usually, if possible, have both and use both to back up each other. Our group likes to compare 35mm with Digital pictures to show how two different cameras can catch the same spirit on film. The Sony Mativa is most commonly used amongst the Digital photographers, while Advantix style cameras are used for the quick loading and sharper images on 35mm roles.
This page is a guide line on how to properly investigate as a ghost hunter. You assume all risks and give up all rights to sue us by being here as defined by the terms and condition of our website. Use common sense, obey the law and be respectful. Remember that other ghost hunters will be judged by how you conduct yourself so be professional at all times.
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THE SOUTH TEXAS GHOST HUNTERS ALLIANCE (MAIN PAGE)
THE GHOST EDUCATION & RESEARCH CENTER (MAIN PAGE)