Being a paranormal investigator for the past 4 years or so, I’ve had lots of people ask me lots of questions about my experiences. Topics that come up a lot seem to be things like how we started the group, what equipment we use, how we conduct investigations, what kind of evidence we have caught, what was the scariest thing to ever happen on a case, etc. So with that in mind, I decided to write a series of (partially tongue-in-cheek) articles answering those questions and talking about what I’ve learned over the years, with many “dos and don’ts.” In Part 1, I discussed the ins and outs of starting a paranormal investigations group. In this entry I’ll give my advice on what equipment to buy, how to use it, and some advice on things to avoid. Enjoy!
Part 2: Equipment and How to Use (or Misuse) It
Do Your Research: Before you buy anything, whether it’s a new car or a new EMF detector, do your research. That should be common sense, but I can’t stress this enough. The first thing you need to be sure of is that the piece of equipment you’re interested in will actually suit your needs. There are plenty of DVR systems out there, and most are used for closed-circuit security cameras. But if you’ve ever seen security footage on the news, you’ll quickly see that most of these systems have extremely poor resolution. Not exactly perfect for capturing evidence of the paranormal. If you can’t differentiate an apparition from the grainy static on your DVR, then you’ve just bought yourself a $900 paranormal paperweight. If you buy infrared cameras, make sure the power is suited to your needs. A high-powered camera will make a bedroom or living room look pure white, and an underpowered IR camera will barelly illuminate a church or restaurant. So again, make sure you truly know what you’re getting and how it will handle the situations you need it for. Secondly, shop around for the piece of equipment you need. It may be tempting to go to places called “Ghost Mart” or other similarly-themed shops that sell “ghost hunting equipment,” but these places usually overcharge for their items, knowing that paranormal investigators need them. (As a side note, there is no such thing as “ghost hunting equipment.” The equipment many investigators use, such as EMF detectors and thermal scanners, is taken from other, truly scientific fields). Instead, shop around on other sites, like eBay or Overstock.com. On eBay you can even get discounts on used items. I know there are groups out there who like to stick to exclusively new items, but I don’t see why. As long as the item is in good condition, it should suit your needs.
Learn How To Use Your Equipment: This is another “common sense” piece of advice, but you’d be surprised how many groups out there don’t really understand or know how to use their equipment. It frustrates me to no end watching the guys & girls from TAPS on Ghost Hunters taking EMF readings, getting a 1.2, and then getting super excited when the meter jumps to a 1.9. The truth is, you can get background EMF reading from the environment up to 2.5 and even higher. So a jump to a 1.9 is not impressive, and is in all likelihood not a ghost. If you’re going to buy 500 feet of cables for your IR cameras, it’s probably a good idea to know which wires work best with which cameras. Different wire types provide different power levels, and some wires will make your camera’s IR emitter too bright, washing out your picture. So make sure you know all the little ins and outs of your gear before you claim to be an expert.
Quality, Not Quantity: A lot of teams feel the need to get as much equipment as possible, and then show it off on their website or tell everyone how much they’ve spent on their gear. But again, think logically here. If you have 4 members in your group, and you have 6 EMF detectors, how cost-effective is that? Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to have a backup in case your main piece gets lost, broken, or you need it for a larger investigation. But there’s no need for that many EMF detectors. Why do you need 18 flashlights for a team of 6 people? If your mission is doing residential cases, why would you ever need a DVR with 16 channels? Spend your money wisely, and for what you need it for. Don’t do it to compete with other groups or impress clients. Equipment that never gets used is a waste of money.
The Bare Necessities: So what do you need in order to ghost hunt? In actuality, not a lot. And in all honesty, you probably already have a lot of what you need to conduct your own ghost hunt. A camcorder with Night Shot will help you take video in low-lit rooms, as well as capture some audio, and you can get some nice models for relatively cheap. A good digital camera is sufficient for taking still photographs, and you can review them immediately. A standard digital recorder is great for EVP sessions, and they usually have lots of memory so you can record for hours. But any tape recorder will do in a pinch as well. You should also bring along a flashlight, as well as a notebook so you can write down your observations. The only other thing you might want to invest in initially is an EMF meter. This is not a “ghost detector,” but rather it measures electromagnetic fields in the immediate area. You can pick these up on eBay for relatively cheap. There are always more things you could buy, such as DVR systems & IR cameras, K-II (or K-2) meters, radiation detectors, ion detectors, and more. But in all honesty, those things aren’t necessary, and are experimental at best. The DVR can be replaced by a few camcorders, which will cost less money, require less time to set up, and have the added value of capturing audio and not just video. The bottom line is that you don’t need all the same equipment that TAPS or any other team uses. Any camera or audio device that will capture evidence can be used. EMF detectors are great for measuring spikes and anomalies, but beyond that, they don’t really prove or disprove anything. So start out small, with the basic necessities, and add the more experimental, luxurious and expensive items when you can afford them.