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Beginners Guide to Ghost Hunting: Planning your First Paranormal Investigation

Have you ever felt the urge to strike out on your own paranormal investigation after watching a ghost-hunting show on TV? Ever witnessed something supernatural and wished you'd collected evidence of the encounter to analyze later? Then, you might be a budding ghost hunter just waiting for the chance to go on your first ghost hunt.

But now what?

Paranormal investigation isn't a light bedtime read. It can be an overwhelming topic, especially if you're new to the scene. But don't get discouraged—we're going to cover everything you need to know to embark on your first investigation in our beginner’s guide to ghost hunting. So, what are you waiting for? Let's go hunting!

First Things First: What Is Ghost Hunting?

Before jumping into ghost hunting equipment and haunted places, let's take a second to talk about what ghost hunting is and, maybe more importantly, what it isn't.

At its core, ghost hunting is the act of looking for and trying to collect evidence of paranormal activity. How that's done depends on the investigator and their techniques. 

It can look like a group of friends going into a local abandoned building with their phones and a ghost app, or it can involve a team of investigators who've been called on to investigate spiritual phenomena in a specific location.

It's important to understand that ghost hunting is not an excuse to throw a wild party in a haunted house or start shouting at spirits, hoping for a response. So, please remember to keep it safe, respectful, and ethical!

Is Ghost Hunting and Paranormal Investigating the Same Thing?

You might notice that we use the terms "ghost hunting" and "paranormal investigation" interchangeably. While most people understand the two are closely related, not everyone sees them as two peas in the same spooky pod. 

Some believe ghost hunting implies a more laid-back approach, like joining a guided tour for entertainment. Others feel that paranormal investigations are more scientific and involve things like stricter scientific protocols, witness interviews, and in-depth research.

It's also worth mentioning that not all paranormal researchers are hunting for spirits. They could be tracking down cryptids or researching local UFO sightings. 

For simplicity, we'll use the two terms interchangeably, but it's always a good idea to keep the distinction in mind when talking to others in the community.

Why Do People Enjoy Ghost Hunting?

People are drawn to the supernatural world for all sorts of reasons.

Some are simply drawn to the thrill of the hunt, the excitement of finding and exploring seemingly haunted locations. For others, it's all about collecting evidence that otherworldly things exist.

Some of the most popular reasons people decide to go ghost hunting include:

  • Excitement and adventure

  • Connecting with the otherside

  • Finding answers

  • Scientific exploration

  • Personal validation

  • Spiritual beliefs

  • Personal growth

  • Sense of community

At the end of the day, everyone has their own reasons for ghost hunting, and it's a good idea to explore your reasons before you venture out on your first hunt.

So, here's your first homework (er, I mean piece of advice); before doing anything else, take some time to sit down and identify your reasons for wanting to break into ghost hunting. Remember, there's no right or wrong answer; you're just setting some goals for your first adventure.

Ask yourself why you want to go out and what you hope to accomplish on your first investigation. Remember to keep your goals reasonable. It's highly unlikely that you'll capture a perfect EVP on your first trip, but then again, you never know!

Ghost hunting equipment checklist for beginners that lists basic, optional, and advanced paranormal investigation equipment options
A comprehensive ghost hunting equipment checklist

Ghost Hunting Gear: Equipment Recommendations for Beginners

You could easily spend a small fortune on high-end ghost-hunting equipment, and you'll want to grab some good gear eventually, but for now, let's cover the basics.

Basic Ghost Hunting Equipment Everyone Should Have in Their Kit

Regardless of where you go or how serious your investigation is, everyone in your group should have the following things in their beginner ghost-hunting kit:

  1. Cell Phone: to contact your team or emergency services or to use as a camera or recording device

  2. Portable Charger or Power Bank: to ensure your electronics remain fully charged

  3. Flashlight or Headlamp: to illuminate dark areas and communicate with spirits

  4. Notebook and Writing Utensil: to document your experience for later analysis

  5. Extra Batteries: carry spare batteries for any electronic device you have with you

  6. Map of the Area: to locate you to your surroundings

  7. First Aid Kit: to ensure everyone on your team is safe in the event of an accident or emergency

  8. Water and Snacks: investigations can be lengthy, and there may be periods of downtime

  9. Easy to Carry Bag: try to pack light and keep it easy to carry

(Pro Tip: Your cell phone can double for most of the things listed above, but be sure to carry backup power sources.)

Basic Ghost Hunting Equipment for Collecting Evidence

If you're going out with friends for an adventure, your phone and a ghost app should do the trick, but if you're serious about collecting evidence, you'll want the following gear in your ghost-hunting kit:

  1. Digital Voice Recorder: to capture electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and other auditory anomalies

  2. Digital Camera: to photograph or take video of your surroundings for analysis

  3. EMF Meter: to detect fluctuations in electromagnetic fields

  4. Spirit Box: to capture real-time communication with spirits

  5. EPOCH Box: an all-in-one device that gives users a way to interact and communicate with spirits

(Pro Tip: Several professional ghost hunters recommend the EPOCH BOX for more advanced hunting.)

Hunting Gear for a Thorough Investigation

Finally, if your goal is a comprehensive investigation, you'll want to equip yourself with more advanced gear, such as:

  1. Infrared Thermometer: measures variations in temperature

  2. Full-Spectrum Camera: captures images that are invisible to the naked eye

  3. REM Pod: custom-built device that alerts you to changes in EMFs

  4. Thermal Camera: allows you to see areas of temperature difference

  5. Video Recorder to Carry: documents your investigation for later analysis

  6. Motion-Activated Cameras or Video Cameras: monitor areas of interest when you're not present

Keep in mind, this is just a basic list of ghost hunting gear. There are numerous other tools available on the market, most of them custom built, and it’s a good idea to play around with different things until you get a feel for what you’re comfortable with.

Common Phenomena You Might Encounter While Ghost Hunting

Okay. You've decided to go on your first ghost hunt and put together a proper beginner ghost-hunting kit; now it's time to go over some of the things you might encounter on your first paranormal investigation.

Understanding the different types of phenomena you could encounter serves a couple of purposes. For starters, it helps you mentally prepare for your adventure. Disembodied voices are much more exciting when you're expecting them!

It also helps you choose a location for your first ghost hunt. When you know what kind of phenomenon you're comfortable confronting on your first go-around, you can look for specific areas where people have experienced that type of paranormal activity. 

So, what type of things can you expect to encounter on a ghost hunt?

Unusual Feelings or Senses

Feeling watched or uneasy is among the most common phenomena ghost hunters experience when they’re open to the experience. Be mindful of your mental state on the day of your hunt, noting any changes during your investigation. 

If this happens, stay calm and acknowledge the feeling. If you feel something is watching you, try communicating with the presence. If at any time you feel dread or feelings of intense fear, leave the area immediately.

Physical Sensations

Don't be alarmed if you feel something touch or brush past you. Record the encounter, documenting where you felt the sensation, where you were when it happened, and what else was going on at the same time you felt the spiritual activity. This will help you recreate or debunk it later. Remove yourself from the location if you're pushed, tripped, or feel like something is trying to hurt you.

Shadows or Movement

Another common experience is seeing shadowy figures or movements in your peripheral vision. This can be alarming but not cause for alarm. If possible, try to set up cameras and recording devices in the location and see if you can communicate with the presence. 

Remember that several things can cause visual illusions, and sometimes, a shadow is just a shadow.

Unexplained Noises

You might hear footsteps, knocking, or other sudden noises. When this occurs, determine where the noise came from and investigate that area. 

Spend time looking for natural causes for the noise; was a member of your team nearby? Is there something in the surrounding area that can explain what you heard? Meanwhile, ask if a spirit made the noise and invite them to do it again if possible. 

Cold Spots

It might sound cliche, but cold spots can indicate the presence of spirits. A digital thermometer can measure and record the temperature difference, and a thermal camera could show an outline of the cold spot. Be sure to check for potential drafts, air currents, or aid conditioning that might explain the temperature difference.

Disembodied Voices

While not as common as some of the other phenomena, EVPs are far from uncommon. Although you might be lucky enough to hear something with your own ears, EVPs are more commonly caught on recording devices. 

Verify the absence of background noise (where were your teammates during this time) and attempt real-time communication with the spirit via a spirit box or ghost app. 

EMF Fluctuations

Changes in the electromagnetic field can signal paranormal activity. Wiring, local power sources, and certain appliances can also cause them. Though not as exciting as an apparition, EMF is a good way to track when a spirit enters the area or detect places that warrant further investigation.

Apparitions and Orbs

It's not uncommon for witnesses to describe seeing apparitions, orbs, or other visual manifestations during an encounter. These manifestations often appear as glowing spheres or shadowy figures, commonly appearing in photographs or videos. 

If you're lucky enough to encounter this phenomenon, stay calm and try to remember as much as you can about the entity's appearance. If you captured it on film, try to recreate the photo as close to the original as possible to see if you get the same effect.

Choosing Your First Ghost Hunting Location

When it comes to choosing a haunted location, it's important to remember that paranormal activity can be hit or miss in even the most haunted places. So, for your first few investigations, I'd recommend starting locally. And you might be surprised at how many haunted hot spots are right in your backyard!

First, you'll want to choose a location. People often report experiences in the following places:

  • Historical buildings

  • Cemeteries

  • Schools

  • Residential houses

  • Hospitals

  • Battlefields

  • Hotels

  • Prisons/Jails

A bit of research will also help you uncover haunted spots in your area. Look for old folktales, local legends, or familiar ghost stories told by those in your town. 

If all else fails, ask around! Word of mouth is a great way to find places where people have witnessed paranormal activity. 

Once you've chosen a location, it's time to scout out the area. Your investigation should be done at night, but before that, tour the area during the day. Take note of the surrounding area, documenting any nearby establishments or utilities. You should also document any safety concerns, such as uneven terrain or structural hazards. 

Stay mindful of your intuition and feelings during this tour, and note any areas you feel uneasy or different, as these are locations you'll want to focus on during your investigation. Finally, make sure you have permission to be there. 

Pro Tip: Contacting a local investigator or paranormal group is a great way to learn more about your area, and some groups will even let you investigate with them!

Conducting Your First Paranormal Investigation

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably itching to get out there and encounter some ghosts! All that’s left to do now is conduct your first ghost hunt.

Some things to keep in mind during your investigation:

  • Don’t go alone. Make sure you have someone with you and that you have a basic plan outlined for your investigation. 

  • Tell someone where you will be and how long you expect to be gone.

  • Be prepared; make sure you have everything you need.

  • Don’t barge in. Be polite and respectful.

  • Stay mindful of your surroundings and how you’re feeling. Follow your intuition.

  • Start slow. Do a walkaround and familiarize yourself with the location before inviting spirits to communicate with you.

  • Set up any equipment you want to use.

  • Approach your investigation with an open mind, and try to debunk things as you go.

  • Introduce yourself, explain your reason for being there, and invite the spirits to communicate with you.

  • Explain your tools and how they work so spirits understand how to communicate.

  • Take photos and recordings of your investigation. A lot of paranormal phenomena are found during later analysis.

  • Thank any spirits and ask them not to follow you.

  • Leave the area as you found it.

Once you become more comfortable and have a few investigations under your belt, you’ll want to up your game a bit, but your first few investigations should be more about getting comfortable and having fun!

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re drawn to the thrill of adventure, the idea of finding answers, or simply looking to connect with like-minded people, there are so many great reasons to get into ghost hunting. During your first few hunts, focus on getting comfortable with your equipment and tuning into your mental and emotional energy. Once you have the basics covered, you can start to learn more about more thorough investigation techniques, which is where things start to get really fun!

If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for our email list and read some of our other blog posts. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or comments.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there–and let us know how it goes!

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