Let’s say you’ve heard about a great, haunted location. You throw your camera and EMF meter into your backpack, and arrange to meet a couple of friends at the site…
Well, that’s not the worst idea in the world. You might have a great, spooky experience.
Here’s what I recommend, instead:
1. Use Google Maps (street view) to see what the place looks like and what kind of area it’s in. If it’s in the middle of nowhere or it’s surrounded by pawn shops and some boarded-up stores, do a lot more research before you go there, even with friends.
Look for significant historical sites nearby: Battlefields, cemeteries, sites where hospitals used to be, or a location that’s between two other, verified haunted places. I don’t mean it has to be right next door. You’re looking for two points within a mile or less, and — if you drew a line between the two — this third site would be on (or right next to) that line.
2. If the location is in a safe area, it’s really close to you, and you can drive past it easily, check it out (from safely inside your car). See if you get that “creepy” feeling many people experience near haunted sites. (That’s different from the “uh-oh” feeling in a bad neighborhood. The latter means the site could be more crime-infested than haunted.)
3. Next, conduct some basic historical and genealogical research. You’re looking for evidence of the ghost (if he or she has a name) and events that could support residual energy hauntings, at the very least.
I’ve recommended many of these resources before, but the following are more in-depth tips for your ghost hunting research.
If the ghost has a name, search at FamilySearch.org to see if there’s any evidence of that person existing. (At the very least, the family surname should exist in local records around the time that the ghost supposedly lived there.) Though that database isn’t 100% reliable, it is one of the most complete free genealogical listings online, and it searches on “sounds like” names, in addition to whatever you enter.
In other words, if you enter “Mike Maloney,” it’ll also check for given names like Michael, Mark, and Mick.
The site will also look for sound-alike surnames including Moloney, Mulloney, Mullawney, Malone, and so on. That’s the fastest way to identify the real name (and history) of the ghost… if he existed at or near that location.
Also, visit the local historical society and ask them about the location and people named in the ghost stories.
(Tell them that you’re researching or writing a paper about local folklore. Historical societies can be wary of amateur “ghost hunters” and very protective of local historical sites. They worry — with good reason — about popularity leading to vandalism.)
If the haunted site has a staff, maintenance crew, or other regular workers, ask them if they’ve heard about ghosts there, or if they’ve had any odd experiences. (Again, it’s best to say that you’re researching local folklore.)
Visit the nearest public library. Ask the Reference Librarian if he or she has any material about the site, especially its ghosts. Even if the only references are historical, they can provide clues. You’re looking for all events with intense emotional content, not just tragedies.
If your town has a genealogical library, visit it. Ask about the family name and the location. Genealogists are people who research the history of families… their roots. Often, a genealogist is delighted to find someone who’s equally interested in a family that he or she has researched.
(Some genealogical libraries and family history centers provide free access to Ancestry.com. It’s easily the best resource if you’re looking for factual information about potential ghosts.)
Also, at the historical society, public library or genealogical library, look for historical maps featuring the haunted site. They can be excellent resources, with annotations that may be helpful.
Establish the facts. Is there any reason to believe the stories about the “haunted” site, or is it just a local legend? Even if a site seems haunted, it’s smart to do a little research before investing time in an on-site investigation.
After all, you might find out that the actual haunted site is a block away. Or, you might learn that the whole thing was a hoax started in the 1950s, and people who repeat the story, don’t realize it’s fake.
It’s time for the Summary and this week’s recommendations