Ghost Hunting For Thrills is Tactless And Cruel

It’s October!  There’s a beautiful sense of withdrawing as the nights become longer and the trees give up their green for gold.  For thousands of years, this was celebrated as the time when the veil between the worlds was thinnest and communication with the dead was possible.   We continue this tradition through the modern holiday of Halloween and with it, all that represents our dark affection for all things paranormal.  Unfortunately, October is also the month that paranormal and ghost hunting shows are at their zenith, and a new crop of so-called ‘ghost hunters’ appear each year, parroting the awful techniques they see on television.  For some, ghosts are something to be exploited for thrills and YouTube hits.  Well, I think it’s time I finally put my two cents in about it.

I discovered ghost hunting long before cable television was filled with paranormal reality television shows. Digital cameras were still new on the market, and I was intrigued by the crop of orb pictures posted to the internet.  A friend and I decided to try this new form of paranormal investigation, though we were too inexperienced and shy to ask anyone if we could investigate their houses.  We often went to historical places: battlefields, old churches and the like.

We had a few hair-raising moments, such as when we went to a revolutionary war battlefield late at night and heard the very unmistakable sound of the military marching cadence on deep snare drums: RAP RAP RAP RAPPITY RAP RAP RAP RAPPITY RAP.  We had brought a videographer that night with us and not only was he scared to pieces, but forgot to record anything.

For the most part, we collected a nice binder full of dust, bugs and moisture.  We never graduated into more extensive investigations and after a few years, we moved on to other spiritual explorations.  I bring up my own experiences with ghost hunting for contrast: we didn’t have a model on television to work from and so when we interacted with what we thought were ghosts, we intuitively presented ourselves as polite and considerate.  We both distinctly felt that the spirits inhabiting these places were people who deserved respect.  One more than one occasion, my friend brought her guitar and we sang folk songs to the spirits.  We talked as we worked, always explaining what we were doing and asking permission to take pictures.  At the end, we always thanked the spirits for their time.

When I came across the term ‘ghost hunter’, I immediately disliked it.  You could make the argument that our method didn’t amount to a whole lot of evidence, but at the very least we didn’t feel as though spirits were prey.

Flash forward a year or two, and ‘ghost hunting’ became a popular new genre on television.  When I tuned into the show, I was dismayed to see that these “ghost hunters” entered into homes and businesses acting more like exterminators than people who wanted to really communicate and gather evidence of spirits.  They loudly tramped through rooms, dragging wires, setting up cameras and talked about the ghosts like they were vermin.  It’s true that ghost hunters may come across some nasty spirits who probably deserve to be reproached, but most of the time spirits are just like you and me, just well.. dead.  And yet, instead of speaking nicely to these spirits and ingratiating themselves, these ghost hunters seemed to want to ambush them.

The last time my friend and I went “ghost hunting” was on a trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  We wanted to sit quietly in the wheat field, take in the energy and maybe snap a few pictures.  After nightfall, we pulled up to the spot and saw at least a dozen flashes of light in the field.  To our dismay, the field was filled with 20 or 30 amateur ghost hunters milling around like idiots shrieking and laughing while snapping picture after picture.  With so many people in one area, I can’t imagine there was a ghost for a mile around.

We didn’t even get out of the car.  Disgusted, we turned around, went back to our campsite and never went ghost hunting again.  Five years later a ghost hunted us in the woods, but that’s a different tale for a different day.

Since that time, the pastime of ghost hunting has exploded in popularity.  Suddenly, teenagers everywhere are running around with digital cameras in the woods and haunting cemeteries.  On the other end of the spectrum, serious science and tech geeks are wiring up every known haunted location with every conceivable gadget.  There are now birthday party ghost hunts, ghost tours, old asylums grant access for money to thrill-seekers, and pretty much anyone with a camera and an EM meter is calling themselves The Paranormal Society of [Insert Town Here] or something flashy like “The Night Warriors”.  Warriors of what?  No spirit in their right mind is going to hang around and deal with that bullshit.

I don’t want you to get me wrong; I am not lumping in those intrepid EVP/ITC researchers.  I consider that legitimate spirit contact, so long as the person is respectful of the spirits in question.  I am also not ragging on what I would consider real paranormal investigators; these are the experts that truly help people in need and further the scientific research of the paranormal.  I have a lot of respect for what they do; these are hardened, serious people who get little sleep and zero publicity.

How to evolve from Ghost Hunter to Paranormal Investigator:

  1. The term ‘ghost hunting’ sounds violent and predatory; use paranormal investigator instead.
  2. Most paranormal shows on TV fake their evidence and model bad practices. It may make for exciting TV, but they should not be considered good models of behavior.
  3. Don’t exploit the haunting just to get evidence, treat both the spirit and the client with respect.
  4. Paranormal Investigators set up equipment and try to catch evidence so they can confirm a haunting.  Explain to the spirit in question what is being done, and provide reassurance that it will not harm them.
  5. Don’t provoke spirits.  Kindly spirits will be offended, confused spirits will get defensive or scared, and the rare nasty spirits might get violent.
  6. When you are on the investigation, don’t talk about the spirit as if they aren’t in the room.  They can hear you.
  7. When you get the evidence you’ve been asking for, don’t scream and run away.  I can understand getting startled, but why are you asking for signs if you can’t handle it when they comply?
  8. Learn about the spirit in question and talk to them.  Be friendly, polite and quiet.  Don’t invite 10 people on the investigation.  Keep your energy as serene as possible.
  9. Do some afterlife research.  Learn how some spirits become ghosts, and why.

Paranormal Investigators (The Real Deal)

Real paranormal investigators rarely become famous or get recognition for their work.  They work long hours (mostly at night) in sometimes uncomfortable places.  Little happens on an average investigation.  The ‘evidence’ you see on television is mostly faked.  Getting one class A EVP over a 10 hour investigation is a gold-star find.  On many investigations they get nothing at all as most so-called ‘hauntings’ can be explained away as something utterly normal.  Paranormal investigators deal with people who are unnerved, angry, delusional or obsessed as well as spirits who are unnerved, angry, delusional or obsessed.  Equipment is expensive and requires study before use. Analyzing tape and video for the tiniest unexplained noise or image can be long, boring work.

On the other hand, when a PI can help a spirit move on and help a family find peace in their home, then the work can be highly satisfying.  An interest in helping people and spirits as well as gaining that rare evidence is why paranormal investigators work in the field.  Otherwise, it is a lot of legwork, time and money for little in return.  People who are in it for the glory, money, bragging rights, or thrills will be quickly disappointed.

There’s more to paranormal investigating than just setting up equipment and finding evidence.  Good teams also:

  • Interview clients, neighbors, and local historians
  • Research the history and area of the location
  • Check for normal explanations for the haunting, such as high EM fields, leaky pipes, drafts, mental illness, attention-seekers, etc.
  • Understand the psychology of the haunting and the client
  • Consult mediums who can connect with the spirit
  • Do follow-ups with clients to be sure their problems are resolved
  • Connect clients with higher-level services such as ritual cleansing or exorcism

How to Start in the Field of Paranormal Investigations

If you would like to work in the field of paranormal investigations, then the best way to start is by contacting a local paranormal investigations team.  It’s important that you assess their practices.  Find out if they are serious, or just an amateur group looking for thrills.  Ask about their portfolio of cases; review their evidence and read testimonials from clients they have worked with.  The best groups work with a medium or a sensitive who can communicate with the spirits and psychologically assess the situation.

Once you’ve found a good, serious and experienced group, you can ask (very politely) if you can help out on an investigation.  Be humble.  Expect to help with the drudgery at first – pulling wires; reviewing tape.  Don’t think you are going to be handed a thermal imagery camera and sent into an investigation on the first night.  You’ll also want to study up as much as you can about current technologies and techniques so you have something to offer the group as well as learning more about the field itself.

Even if your goal is to create your own paranormal investigations group, I would still encourage you to work with a team first.  You’ll get the on-the-ground experience you need before striking out on your own.  If you put yourself out there as a paranormal investigator and you get in over your head, you’ll not only endanger yourself and your client, but you could be sued if you accept money and don’t actually provide the services or your client believes you are defrauding them.  If you work with a team for a while and you do feel ready to start a group, then make sure you have at least one other person with you at all times.  Don’t ever go investigating alone.  Ever.

Mental State:

Not everyone is cut out to be a paranormal investigator.  If you are easily excitable, nervous or prone to anxiety, depression or paranoia, then this is not the field for you.  Paranormal investigators must be confident but humble, stable and grounded but open-minded and in good physical and mental health.  Finally, investigators must be willing and able to deal with the risks involved with paranormal investigations, which takes a strong positive intention and a sincere lack of fear.

The Risks of Paranormal Investigations:

A rare but important risk of paranormal investigations are the possibility of attracting spirits who then haunt you and your house after you’ve excised them from the home you are investigating.  This is one job where you definitely don’t want to bring your work home with you.  While some people think its cute to live in a haunted house, or would welcome a spirit to live with them this is dangerously misguided thinking.  Sure, there are spirits who do no harm but I would judge that the majority of the time spirits are walking on this earth plane because of a negative reason – confusion, anger, obsession, etc.  Spirits who haven’t passed on aren’t always in their right mind, and they may take it out on you.  I lived through this situation for two years and it was not at all cute.  Although we have free will – here and in the afterlife – it is always best for the spirit to move on to their afterlife dimension where they will reconnect with friends, family and guides who can help them deal with unresolved issues from their life on earth.

Other more ‘earthly’ risks include:

  • Respiratory illnesses from mold or particulates in older homes and buildings
  • Injuries from dangerous, old or cluttered buildings
  • The risk of meeting people with malicious or violent intentions
  • Legal risks for performing services and exchanging money

The Last Word

People watch paranormal shows and feel excited and inspired to try it themselves.  It looks both fun and easy, so many rush into it without really understanding the implications.  I fell into this trap too, though thankfully we didn’t get into any trouble and we were always courteous to the spirits.  We didn’t have paranormal reality shows to model after, and I consider this a blessing or in my youth and inexperience we might have gotten in over our head fast.  If you are interested in getting involved with paranormal investigations, think long and hard about why you want to do it.  Then, like anything else, prepare for hard work. For many paranormal investigators, they can’t see themselves doing anything else and find the work truly rewarding but it’s not for everyone and it shouldn’t be.  Working with spirits isn’t for the faint of heart, or appropriate for the dabbler.  When you start working with spirits, you may attract spirits into your life.  If you aren’t prepared to handle it, keep your paranormal enjoyment to the television and let the pros deal with the rest.

For a great companion article, please go see Keith Clark’s post 7 Ways We Can Help Bring Life After Death into the 21st Century on iDigitalMedium.

So, what do you think? Have you ever gone on a ghost hunting or paranormal investigation? What was your experience and how do you think it can be improved?


24 thoughts on “Ghost Hunting For Thrills is Tactless And Cruel

  1. As usual, dang good article. It will not please everyone, and that’s OK – but it is still the inevitable truth. Nobody should be offended, as it’s not much different than the argument for veganism and the treatment of animals – we know where it inevitably may lead, we are becoming more conscious, but that doesn’t mean we just stop our actions immediately. It’s a process of evolution we all go through as individuals and as a part of the human race.

    Very comprehensive, very much needed – and I’m glad you were the one to say it.

    I blame you….because since you posted this, now I had to post a much shorter article I’ve been sitting on but never finished…but it complements yours. So, thank you for taking the lead! Besides, your blog is actually read by people. :p

    Feel free to remove the link if need be.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Keith! I would never take down your link – I love your site! I just read the article and I have to say – thank you so much for taking a stand on the word ‘ghost’. I really don’t like the word either, though I use it here to make distinction between spirits who transition and those who stay on the earth plane. I just left a comment on your site, too.

      Everyone – go read Keith’s post on iDigitalMedium; these two posts are great companions to one another, and Keith goes into much of the human psychology behind the various words we use to describe paranormal investigations. It’s a great post.


    1. I can’t even imagine – I often wonder if a spirit’s experience is like in that move, “The Others”? What if they really don’t understand what is happening to them, and they are terrified?


  2. Good article! Thanks to Keith for mentioning it on FaceBook.

    Lisa and I try to find useful terms that have the right meaning without the wrong baggage. Our first try for this was “hauntings investigator” for our friends who approached the subject analytically. We still use “ghost hunter” for hobbyists.

    Not being inclined to work with ITC in uncontrolled conditions, Lisa and my exposure to EVP field recording has always been in the form of “walkabouts” for media people. They want places to film that are more interesting than our livingroom. In walkabouts for EVP, it is usually understood that the results are not real time, so no, “Can you act scared now?” for the camera.

    To reinforce your point that our friends on the other side are people too, Lisa once recorded “Please don’t come,” while she was asking about a supposedly haunted projection room at the Cal Neva, Lake Tahoe. You can hear it at the bottom of (Listen behid Lisa’s voice).

    There are others, such as a lady warning Lisa to “step back dear” when she was close to what was thought to be a vortex. Perhaps good advice. The point is that you are right, they are watching, interested and want to be helpful.

    Hazel Denning impressed me in her book, “True Hauntings, Spirits with a Purpose” (Llewellyn Publications 1996, ISBN 1-56718-218-6) by expressing the belief that some of our more persistent discarnate personalities are so because they think we can help them in some way. According to her theory, they are attracted to us (specific individuals) because they sense our ability to help, even though we may not be aware of the need or how we can help.

    I often wonder how many of the people who come to us for advice about how to get rid if a pesty personality are actually trying to get rid of a loved one come to say “hi.” Your advice is on track, let us all look for better relationships across the veil by maintaining the intend to develop an contact field of goodwill and open communication.


    1. Dear Tom,
      Thank you so much for you comment and for your expert opinion! I’ve been to your site before and listened in amazement at the wonderful EVPs you’ve managed to record (not capture, right Keith? 🙂 You taught me something new today!). EVP is a great way to illustrate that spirits are people, with their personalities intact. There is nothing, in my opinion, more powerful that the sound of the human voice. I will check out that book you recommended. As for spirits saying Hi – I think a lot of people have a knee jerk reaction to spirit contact, evidenced by the number of ADCs that the Guggenheims recorded as starting out frightening when it wasn’t intended as a frightening event. Our media paints spirits as evil 99% of the time, so the work that you and Lisa and Keith are doing is super important to our cause. Thank you again for visiting and commenting, I really appreciate it. 🙂


  3. Thanks Jen for this great and timely article! I am actually set to tour with our State’s main Paranormal Society (wont give a name 🙂 ) After reading this I thought hmmm perhaps I should cancel.. but then thought that it might be better to attend and see what their methods are during a public event before judging. They are not promoting it as Ghost Hunting, but it is a tour of some of the State’s Historic sites (which just by itself that is so very interesting). I spent a bit of time with them once when they came to the zoo where I worked and they did an investigation of sorts in a few areas where there had been some odd activity. They did not come up with anything noteworthy, and were very professional in all their actions and mindful of those who may or may not be present in spirit. I am truly hoping that this will be the same case during the event, and people may actually learn a thing or two. Time will tell. I already have written to them inquiring about the flavor of the evening, and mentioned that I work in ITC/EVP and always maintain the same respect for those in spirit as those who are physically with me. Actually I might even say I have more respect for many of those in spirit who connect to me! 🙂 I will follow up after the event and let you know thumbs up or a thumbs down… Hoping all goes well so I don’t have to share too many of my opinions. Thanks again for another great, well thought out, timely and spot on article!


    1. Dear Gretchen,
      I think you should definitely go! Sounds like you already have the tools and knowledge to know what good practices are, especially since you work in the field as well. Of course, not every paranormal group that uses the term ‘ghost hunting’ is in it for thrills, some use the term because they either don’t share my opinion on the term, or they think they won’t attract customers without it. In many cases, they still have respect for the spirits and conduct good investigations. Anyway, it sounds like this is mostly a historic tour, which can be quite fascinating! Please do return and tell us how it was and thank you for the kind compliments on the article. 🙂


  4. Great article Jenn !
    Im glad some one else came to the same conclusion as me when it comes to use of the word “Ghost”. I never do use it but know people who do and some use it jokingly. I call them spirit people for the lack of a better word. They’re people for sure.


  5. […] Ghosts and ghost stories play heavily into the lore of Halloween, but so-called ghost hunting is kind of a twister sister of afterlife research. Seeking to capture ghost presences with digital equipment is too often approached for kicks and grins and the occasional thrill ride panic attack. It is usually not approached as a serious, respectful, and humanitarian endeavor to help lost, wandering spirits. (See this excellent article.) […]


  6. Jenn,

    Impressive as usual. I happened to be writing my piece on Halloween when I read yours on ghosts and it fit in perfectly. I find so much of anything in the media about paranormal phenomena to have a disturbing, disrespectful, sci-fi movie quality to it. The afterlife conference I went to last year was so different in tone. I gave away my TV so I am not up on ghost hunter shows, but part of the reason for giving away my TV was that I was tired of all the dramatizing of subjects I would like to be seen treated more seriously. Anyway, great post.


  7. Couldn’t agree more! I investigate not only to find out the truth, but to at least try to help or offer a shoulder to cry on, many people think it’s weird what I do but I find it even weirder when these people do it for a laugh and a joke.


  8. Excellent piece Jenn – which I missed but have just seen.
    Although ‘hunting’ is not such a dirty word in the gun-toting US, it is surely not appropriate for possibly lost or disturbed souls.
    Perhaps the one benefit from this ghost hunting craze is that it serves as an entry into the paranormal world for thousands of youngsters who hopefully might grow into a more serious appreciation of other realities.
    And your piece might be a good place for them to start – so email it folks to any ghosthunt group you know!


  9. I’m simply curious and am in no way any expert on this topic so I read what I can find. Your article states to never investigate alone, ever. It probably seems a very stupid question to you and others who know about these things but the very first thing that came to mind when I read that was, “Why?”
    The reason I ask is because, while I don’t have experience in this area as you and others do, I do have a lot of experience in dealing with dangerous living people and animals (bulls in particular because I am around cattle every day). I know from this experience that, unless it’s almost an army, it doesn’t matter how many people you have with you, if that bull (or even a dangerous person) wants to single you out for attack, there is little or nothing all those other people can do except take you to the hospital after the attack. They certainly are unable to prevent or stop the attack if that powerful animal is extremely determined. This happened just recently to my father-in-law and he had 3 other workers with him but they couldn’t stop or deter that bull.
    My point is, we can see dangerous people and bulls, and we still often cannot stop them even with others around to assist. So what is having others around going to do to stop an attack by something we cannot see?
    I realize my analogies may seem crude, but I think they are valid and I am honestly curious.


  10. Fantastic article. I have been on a couple of investigations that have been lead by a company and I have to say I didn’t agree with the way they were conducted. Lots of shouting trying to get the spirit worked up enough to start pushing things around all for a cheap thrill. Like poking a caged animal at a zoo. This article is the down to earth thinking I like follow and put into practice myself even if the few investigations I have done with my small team can come far between. Thanks again for the post!


  11. Jen,

    When you say spirits that walk the planes of the earth… are you saying that some choose to not leave here? Or are they trapped here? Also, in another blog you’d mentioned our loved ones can kinda come and go as they please. Do these spirits all see each other the way we do here?


    1. Hi Carisa,
      Based on things I’ve studied, spirits have free will just like we do, and so aren’t trapped. However, spirits may choose to stay on the earth plane because they are not ready to leave, or they are angry, obsessed, afraid, worried.. there are a host of reasons. Most of the time, people who specialize in trying to help these spirits move on find that the spirit thinks that if they go back to the spirit world, they will never see their loved ones again. That’s, of course, not true. Once they do finally pass over and ‘go home’, they realize that there were never trapped – either here or there, and so spirits can come back and visit whenever they want. Spirits who have a high level of psychosis may literally only see what they want to see here on earth, and they might not perceive other spirits – even their own spirit guide can’t get through. But spirits who have moved home and resolved their issues can come to the earth plane to visit and sometimes they bring friends along. I don’t know if all spirits can see all other spirits – that would be an interesting question. I know that spirits, when they go back to the spirit world, tend to reside in their own level and only see the spirits who accompany that spiritual plane with them, though they say they are always in mental contact with people they love, whether they are there or here.
      I hope that helps to answer your question somewhat.


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