Ghost hunting can be a dangerous hobby, and I’m not just talking about the furniture being thrown at you by invisible angry people or the risk of being possessed by Satan…
I started to actively hunt for ghosts at the age of eighteen, and with a small group of others I would visit businesses and homes after the sun had set to see if we could find evidence of the paranormal. We’d mimic what we saw on paranormal television shows because we knew no better, and we would ask empty rooms “is there anybody here with us? Give us a sign of your presence” in voices that we attempted to make sound mysterious and yet business-like.
Anyone who has read my blog before will know that years later I completely changed my approach to my research, but for those who haven’t been here before I now use a more scientific approach when investigating reports of paranormal phenomena and I use rational inquiry and scientific scepticism to try and work out what is really going on when people experience weird stuff. This means that I usually do my research during the daytime which has significantly reduced the number of risks I take – like being accidentally shot by Counter-Terrorism Officers. Yet, there are still people out there who choose to visit allegedly haunted places with the lights off to look for ghosts. I think that methodologies that rely on ghost hunting gadgets and spiritual communication techniques are flawed and irrational, but to each his or her own, right?
However, if you are going to go ghost hunting at Halloween- or at any other time of the year -here are some tips on how to do so safely and responsibly. I’m not going to go into the details of the ethics of ghost hunting here but I have written about it before and I recommend that you read about it. Below are tips on the risks that many people wouldn’t even realise they are taking when they go looking for ghosts…
Tip #1: Don’t Get Mistaken For Burglars
As I mentioned previously, ghost hunters tend to walk around businesses and homes in the dark and guided only by the light of their torches or by candles. To a passer-by this could look as though a house or business has been broken into and is in the process of being robbed. Late last year that very thing happened to three ghost hunters who were investigating a Civil War-era location in the US. News outlets reported
The officer reportedly passed by an old Civil War-era building in Gettysburg and saw flashlights inside. Thinking he was witnessing a burglary in progress, he went in, handcuffed, searched and detained the three ghost hunters at gunpoint.
Um… eek! The best way to avoid this is to make sure the owner of the location is present or is easily contactable. Always carry identification and if you can get written permission to be at the location then do carry that with you. Alerting the police to your planned activity is also a possible course of action.
Tip #2: Seek Permission To Access Buildings And Land
It’s really tempting to enter private and restricted areas to hunt for ghosts at creepy and old looking buildings but you can end up in a whole heap of trouble. Remember – the first thing people are going to think when they see people sneaking around in the dark in a location they shouldn’t even be in is that they’re up to no good. Is it really worth a police caution or conviction?
Further to that though, there are some places that can be tempting to ghost hunters that seem public but are actually privately owned. Some woodlands and parks are private property, for example. Some wooded areas near my house are split into plots of land which are each owned by different people and permission would need to be sought from each of these by anyone thinking of going on the land after certain hours. Graveyards and Cemeteries are also a big red flat for ghost hunters. Although some are public, they will have restricted visiting hours and you will get in trouble if you enter outside of these hours. Other graveyards that are in the grounds of houses or estates may not be open to public access at all.
Tip #3: Remember That You Are Not Immortal
Ghost hunting can be exhilarating and when spooky things happen it can cause a rush of adrenaline, but always remember that you are not immortal and you will die if you do dangerous things. Going off alone without a way to contact the others with you is an obvious n0-no, but over the years ghost hunters have taken even bigger risks while looking for ghosts.
People have been shot while trespassing in the hunt for ghosts, people have run off of cliff tops while evading police after being caught trespassing, people have tried to access haunted buildings via rooftops only to fall to their deaths and people have been hit by trains while looking for spooky activity. Such risks are really not worth it and are not a required part of ghost research.
Tip #4: Don’t Set Fire To Stuff In An Attempt To “Provoke” Ghosts
I seriously cannot believe that people need to be told to not do this but there have been several instances of people setting fire to a property in an attempt to “provoke” a ghost into doing something. Usually people just verbally provoke ghosts by saying things like “come on you coward, don’t you have the guts to do anything?”, or as Yvette Fielding once shouted at the alleged spirit of a woman who was cruelly persecuted for witchcraft as part of the Pendle Witch trails, “Come on you bitch!”
This in itself is tasteless but setting fire to venues is a whole other ballgame. Don’t do that, okay?
Tip #5: Don’t Get Mistaken For Terrorists
I can’t even believe that I’ve just written that header up there, but armed police in West Sussex recently responded to a 999 call from a member of the public who had seen armed men forcing people into the back of a van in the middle of nowhere. The BBC reported
Armed officers descended on the Outbreak “physical horror” event in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, after a concerned passerby called the police. Sussex Police said they had strong words with organisers who inadvertently placed people at “significant risk” … Supt Rex Matthews said: “We would actively discourage people from carrying even imitation firearms in any public place. The threat level from international terrorism in Britain is currently assessed as severe and there have been a number of terrorist plots thwarted. Incidents such as the one on Sunday are clearly going to worry local residents and the public who were unaware of the intentions of the event organisers.”
I don’t know any ghost hunters who carry imitation weapons, but even so, it is really easy for the actions of ghost hunters to be misinterpreted by outside observers.
If you must go ghost hunting then please make sure that you do so safely and make sure that you don’t endanger other people too. There’s absolutely no reason to put yourself in danger when looking for spooky encounters.