The successful key to any investigation of alleged "hauntings" is to perform a vigil;
these usually , but not always occur at night
and only once the location has been assessed for any obvious hoaxes or
misidentification of nature phenomena, such as settling of timbers in a
house, or a river running beneath it.
The following list is merely intended as a guide to help eliminate or
reduce the time wasted during investigations.
- Each member of the team should carry a torch, note pad and spare
pens. Silence is of paramount importance and any event should be noted
(complete with the time) such that other teams in different locations
can correlate results to eliminate natural/accidental noises. In some situations,
some small noise is tolerable: it is up to the people involved to judge for themselves.
- Always ensure that you have a good supply of batteries, fuses and
spare bulbs. If you have any audio or video equipment again, please
ensure that you have a sufficient supply of tape. This tape should be "virgin"
tape (that is, not previously used) and should still be sealed in its
wrapper. This eliminates the possibility of spurious results caused by
- A "red filter" of cellophane over a torch will ensure that
the impact of harsh light on your 'night vision' is minimised.
- Don't wear clothing that makes rustling noises etc. when you move;
for instance, leather jackets. However, you should take a supply of warm
clothing, since during night vigils in particular, the temperature can
drop. Also, if you on an outside vigil, regardless of the weather, don't
forget to take waterproof clothing, an umbrella, wellington boots etc.
- If you use long lengths of cable (such as the rerouting of video
signals), please ensure that it is adequately shielded from radio
interference. Mobile telephones should, if possible, be avoided on
vigils; however, this should not be adhered to rigidly, a mobile phone (set to vibrate) with
team member's numbers on speed dial could be an
important way of contacting others in the event of a "walkie-talkie" failure.
- Make sure that your equipment is adequately insured, and that
whomever uses it knows some of the basic features (for instance, don't
point an image intensifier at a light bulb when it is switched on).
- You may need to pay the owners of the property something towards insurance, staffing
costs etc. Indeed, if you go on regular vigils, or investigations, you should consider
taking out insurance to cover yourself against breakages.
- Equipment need not be expensive: graphite powder can be used to check
for footprints if you suspect covert entry to a sealed zone; similarly
black thread can be used as a check. A cheap compass will tell you if
the magnetic field in the vicinity alters, and a thermometer (preferably
of the type that records temperatues) can provide good results. Cheap
infra-red burglar alarms can provide good notification of entry.
Naturally, all doors and windows to a zone should be sealed or locked,
but beware that rats can set off such alarms.
- Please be prepared to provide addresses of references or character
witnesses if you investigating private property: it places the owner's
mind at ease.
- Never take strong smelling foods or perfumes on vigils since these
may prevent detection of olfactory effects.
- If your vigil location has many rooms, only some of which are "haunted", then you should rotate team shifts using some of the unaffected rooms. If teams that are placed in these virgin locations
report phenomena, you can treat any observations made by these teams
- Cold spots may be nothing more than the result of an unknown source of cold air; such draughts may not be readily apparent. If you tear up a sheet of paper into tiny fragments and drop them into a cold spot, the direction of the cold draught may become more apparent.
- Baseline emf readings should be taken and compared to the Earth's magnetic field at that location at that time. The Earth's field is complex and can alter at a moment's notice. If your meter registers 0.15 and suddenly goes up to 0.20, this may be nothing paranormal!
- The appearance of "orbs" can be minimised using ideas from this webpage
- Take the strap off any camera you may take with you. Several ghost
pictures have been the result of the strap being inadvertently
- The issue of infrasonics affecting the participants of a vigil is a controversial subject
and difficult to verify as infrasound (below the threshold of normal human hearing) is difficult
to detect. However, Dr.Ciaran O'Keeffe, a well known UK Parapsychologist suggested to a team
investigating an alledgely haunted location that a flickering candle, in the absence of any
other obvious sources of air currents, might give a clue as to the presence of ultrasound.
- Most importantly probably- only ever tell the details of the
investigations to those who really need to know- this prevents
contaminating participants with false hopes and expectations which might
colour their judgement.
- A safe zone should be designated in which a member might get some sleep, or some food and drink. This room should definitely
have no spectral reports associated with it as it could be a harbour for nervous team members.
- No team member should be left on their own. For one thing, one or more members in the same area give credence and corroboration to any perceived phenomena. Also, a team member may become spooked and become so nervous that they need immediate help. This raises an important question:
how many people do we put in a team? It is unfeasible to have just two people because a nervous person could not be expected to navigate a darkened building on their own to a safe zone. It also results in someone being left on their own. If one proposes a team of three, then someone would still be left alone - the person in the haunted location, the nervous individual and his escort. A team of four still results in someone being on their own, if the escort has to make his way back. A minimum of five seems to be the most practical. Of course, people deliberately based in the safe zone could be available to collect any nervous people - hence the need for some kind of contact with the base/safe zone.
A good book that discusses the basics of vigils and describes a few case
"Ghostwatching- The Ghosthunter's Handbook"by John
Spencer and Tony Wells, published by Virgin Books, 1995. ISBN
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(Ghosthunters is a DVD series available from Amazon.co.uk)