How to Ghost Hunt: The Keys to Capturing the Supernatural

Updated June 18, 2021
Ghost Hunters

Have you always been fascinated by ghosts? Do you long to have an experience with a specter? Are you someone who runs towards things that go bump in the night rather than away from them? Are you dying for proof of the afterlife? Then ghost hunting might be the activity for you. You don't need a lot to learn how to ghost hunt. So gather up your flashlights and a few of your adventurous friends and head out to see if you can encounter a spirit.

What Is Ghost Hunting?

While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, ghost hunting is different from paranormal investigation. It's more of an activity for the ghost-curious; that is, people who have always wanted to encounter a ghost but haven't had the opportunity. Ghost hunters go to haunted locations--often famous ones--and see what they can experience. For the most part, ghost hunting doesn't have many protocols. Instead, it's an informal activity that people pursue for fun and to satisfy their curiosity about ghosts.

Where to Hunt for Ghosts

So where do you go hunt for ghosts? You can go to publicly available haunted places, such as well-known haunted battlefields, museums, hotels, or similar locations. Many of these locations even host public ghost hunts where, for a fee, you can try to encounter ghosts with experienced ghost hunters or paranormal investigators.

Some caveats:

  • Make sure where you go is open to the public, and only go during public hours.
  • Don't trespass simply because you've heard there might be ghosts there. Trespassing is against the law.
  • Always get permission if you are visiting a haunted location after hours.
  • Follow all rules set up by the location. For example, if it's a museum, stay out of prohibited areas and don't touch any display items unless you have specific permission to do so.
ghost hunting outside

When to Go

You can ghost hunt any time of day or night provided you have permission from the property owners to do so. There's a misconception that ghost hunting can only happen at night. If it's a spooky atmosphere you're seeking, then a nighttime investigation might be just the ticket. However, the best time to ghost hunt is during the times of days people report ghostly activities. So, if the bulk of ghostly activity typically happens in broad daylight, that's when you should hunt for ghosts.

Who to Take

One of the cardinal rules of ghost hunting is to never do it alone. So whether you take one friend or a few, make sure you have at least one buddy with you at all times and stay teamed up throughout the activity. Conversely, don't take too many people, or the sheer volume of people and the noise that accompanies them may keep you from having an experience. Ideally, a group two or more and fewer than ten is a good plan, fewer for smaller locations, more for bigger locations. Make sure you go with someone who will remain calm should stuff start to happen, as you don't want to be distracted by someone else's fear if you start having experiences.

What to Take on a Ghost Hunt

You've probably watched paranormal shows and noticed there's a whole lot of equipment involved in investigating ghosts. And if you're a gadgety person and have already spent money on some of it, then learn how to use it and take it with you. However, for casual ghost hunting this is not only unnecessary, but it could distract you from noticing an actual paranormal occurrence if you have your head buried in a monitor all night.

So, while you can take equipment, you don't have to. Instead, take some water, your phone, and a flashlight. If you want to try to capture electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), you can also take either a digital recorder or have a recording app ready to go on your phone. Otherwise, your very best tools are your own five senses and something to note your impressions on, whether you make voice notes on your recording app or write down what you notice on a piece of paper.

first ghost hunt

You may also wish to take some safety equipment depending on where you're ghost hunting. For example, if you're going to be in an abandoned old building (with permission of course) or a dank basement, you'll probably want to take a protective mask to filter out any harmful particulates in the air. A first aid kit is also a good thing to have on-hand.

What to Wear

Dress for the climate of where you'll be ghost hunting. Wear layers in case temperatures change so you can easily remove or add to them if you get too cold or too hot. Wear sturdy, quiet, soft soled comfortable shoes that won't make too much noise, and make sure you have a few pockets in which you can stash any equipment you take with you. Avoid noisy clothes like jangling jewelry or swishy fabrics. Keep your sense of smell keen by not wearing any scents such as perfumes or aromatic lotions.

How to Ghost Hunt

Now that you're ready to begin your ghost hunt, it's time to forget everything you've ever seen on television about it. The best way to ghost hunt is to choose a spot, sit quietly, and observe. There's no need to go barging about banging on walls and shouting challenges. Rather, sit for at least 30 minutes per location without talking and just pay attention. If nothing is happening after about a half an hour, move to another location and do it again. Later, rinse, repeat throughout your ghost hunt.

audio recorder in a beam of light

You can also try an EVP session. To do this, turn on your recording device or recording app on your phone and press record. Start by stating the date and time as well as anyone there with you. Then ask questions. Ask one question at a time and leave plenty of time between questions to give any spirits a chance to respond. You can either listen to the recordings in real time or listen with headphones later.

Be polite in your questions. Ask the way you'd like to have someone ask you stuff if they came to visit you in your home.

Lights on or Lights Off?

If you're in a place with electricity, it doesn't matter whether the lights are on or off. Having them on helps you see better. Having them off often helps you focus on your other senses. What you do need to avoid doing is going between lights on and off throughout the investigation, as each time you change the lighting it takes your eyes several minutes to readjust to new lighting conditions.

How Long to Ghost Hunt

You'll want to be there for at least two hours to get a good sense of the place. If you're on a guided ghost hunt, you'll be limited to the scheduled time. If you're on your own, two to three hours is a good amount of time to engage in a ghost hunt as long as you have permission to do so. You may wish to go longer for larger locations. If you notice you're getting tired or bored, it's time to stop.

What to Do Afterwards

After your ghost hunt, make sure you pack up everything you brought with you. Leave the location in exactly the same condition you found it; consider it to be like hiking--if you pack it in, pack it out. Thank any spirits, thank your hosts, and head for home. When you get home, take a few minutes to write down or voice record any impressions you have. Then, if you used any recording equipment, wait at least 24 hours to settled down and rest before you begin to review it. Only review recordings for about 30 minutes at a time to avoid sensory fatigue.

Go Get Those Ghosts

Ghost hunting is a fun pastime that gives you the opportunity to dip your toes into the paranormal world. It doesn't require much planning or equipment, and there aren't really any formal protocols other than being considerate to spirits and living people, seeking permission, and following the law. But beware, because it can be addicting. If you try it once or twice and like it, you may want to learn more formal protocols and become a paranormal investigator.

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How to Ghost Hunt: The Keys to Capturing the Supernatural