Ghost Hunting Tips for Newbies

Congratulations! You have decided to step into a unique world of mystery, suspense, and even a little spook. Probably one of the most popular questions I get as a seasoned paranormal investigator is, “I’m going on my first ghost hunt, what do I do?” I love helping people prepare for their first ghost hunt. It’s almost like a right of passage! If you google what to do for your first ghost hunt, you’ll find a lot of good stuff. I’m not trying to trump on anyone’s good advice. But, I do have my own little “to do” list that will help you have the best time you can have!

Respect

First and foremost, respect the location you’re investigating. Respect the deceased that you’re trying to communicate with. Follow the rules of the venue and the group that you’re in. The quickest way to get kicked out of a ghost hunt, let alone some angry spirit coming after you, is to be disrespectful.

Self-Assess

Before you commit to any sort of ghost hunt, you need to decide what you want out of the experience. Do you want to get scared? Do you want to learn some history? Do you want to try to find proof of the afterlife? Are you trying to contact someone in particular? Just answering simple questions like this can help you gain a better understanding of what you want out of the experience. If you’re someone who gets scared easily, read reviews of the location before you go. Read some of the legends and experiences people have had. Is this something you can handle? If not, perhaps looking into a more benevolent location might be better. If you feel you’re ready, then you know what your limits are and when to give yourself a break.

Know Where You’re Going

Being familiar with your location is key before going on a ghost hunt. If the company you’re working with wants to keep it a surprise until the night of, all hope is not lost. Ask them what kind of environment you’ll be ghost hunting in. Is it a house? Will you have to hike? Will you be outside? If there’s any part of the ghost hunt that will take place outside, then be sure you’re ready for whatever weather is on the forecast that night.  Not only that, but find out how the roads are. There have been times I’ve almost damaged my car from driving on rugged terrain in my little sedan when my ride buddy had a jeep left at home. If the location is going to be in the dark night in the woods, then flashlights are a must. Closed-toe shoes are also a must. Speaking of the woods, going through any bushes and trees will warrant wearing some jeans just so you avoid any poisonous plants. I also advise people to not wear all black if they can avoid it. I’ve heard of many ghost hunters getting hit by cars at night because the driver couldn’t see them since they were wearing all black.

Tech

This is another area where I get a lot of questions. I always tell people that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment. Part of the ghost hunting experience is collecting evidence, or as I prefer to call it, data. It means you could be recording audio on a recorder, or taking video of your experience. The one thing that people forget is that if you take in 4 hours of data on your audio recorder and 4 hours of data on your camcorder, you have 8 hours worth of data to go through. If data collection is what you want to do, that’s fantastic. If the thought of this is daunting, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do tech-free just so you can have that experience.  Some of the earliest ghost hunters only had a pen and paper to jot down notes.

Pack Smart

If you’re going on a ghost hunt that will last longer than 4 hours, you might need to pack some food provisions to get through the night. Everyone will usually default to packing sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks. However, that will cause your blood sugar to spike, and then you’ll experience a crash…which will be counterproductive if you want to stay up for several hours. Protein-filled snacks, veggies, and water will be necessary to get through the evening.

Food aside, packing flashlights, batteries, and a first aid kit should be in any ghost hunter’s survival kit. Even if the location is indoors, you never know when you might get a scratch or miss your footing and get injured.

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential to enjoying the ghost hunting experience. Sure, eventually you’re going to get tired. But if you push yourself beyond being sleepy, you will start to see and hear things that aren’t really there. Sleep deprivation can cause some interesting hallucinations and can be similar to the feeling of being drunk. It could compromise your ability to understand your surroundings. Something simple and logical could get interpreted as something paranormal. If you feel tired, there is no shame in taking a cat nap. I try to get at least eight hours of sleep the night before an investigation along with a nap during the day.

Research

This can go in two different directions. Some people want to research the location as much as possible before an investigation. They do this so that they know exactly what is going on at a haunted location. They will know the names of who is reportedly haunting and be able to use contextual questions to establish communication. Meanwhile, other people don’t want to know anything before going in. This is so that they don’t “taint” themselves with previous information. Many with psychic abilities may opt to do this.

Abilities

If you feel like you have psychic or mediumship abilities, then you’ll need to prepare for another aspect. Numerous times, I’ve noticed people get overwhelmed during an investigation. When I talk to them to try to help them, they reveal to me that they have abilities and they got overwhelmed by the experience. To avoid this, if you’re completely new to the world of having abilities, I recommend that you learn how to ground and shield. There are some great articles to help you learn this.  Having the best understanding of your abilities before your ghost hunt will be key to you having a good ghost hunting experience.

Ask the Right Questions

With each ghost hunt, you’ll probably hear a few suggestions for questions to ask. But, there is a trick to asking the right questions that will create a welcoming environment for communication. You want to keep questions simple, but also smart. One of my pet peeve questions is, “Do you know you’re dead?” Something as simple as asking for a name is better. Knowing the history of the location in terms of important dates in its existence (ie: wars, presidential inaugurations, world events, etc.). Stacking questions can create problems as well. That is when you ask several questions in the same stream of speaking. An example of a stacking question would be, “What’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you?” If asked by themselves, these questions are fine. But asking them in the same line of questioning, it will result in confusion. Finally, be sure to leave 10-15 seconds of silence after each question to give the entity time to produce an answer.

Be Safe

At the end of the day, you want to be safe. That is the number one priority in any ghost hunting experience. You don’t want to try anything that could compromise your health and safety.  You have most likely signed a liability release form, which means that if you get injured, then you’ll have to cover those expenses yourself. While it may be tempting to climb into the attic or ignore the “Keep Out” signs in order to explore another part of the haunted house, a lot of things could happen. The floor might give out, you might inhale bat guano, or you encounter an unexpected injury. Ultimately, you want to put safety first.

If you have any other tips for a successful ghost hunt for a newbie, please share them in the comments!

Slender Man Movie Review: False Advertising & Wasted Potential

slender-man-main_81f1bbbcf8The newest “Slender Man” (2018) movie was released last night. I don’t normally write reviews unless I feel inspired to do so. Sometimes this is a good thing. In this case, it wasn’t. I have been fascinated by the Slenderman (Slender Man?) phenomenon for quite a while. I’m not even talking about the subsequent crimes that took place by mentally ill teenagers. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of how legends can be created so quickly and go viral thanks to the innovation of the internet.

One of my side jobs is being a writer for TheRichest. I had the awesome chance to write a script about Slenderman before the new movie came out. You can check it out here. I recommend watching this before or after you see the movie, because frankly, the real story is more interesting than what the movie portrayed:

Now that we’re on the same page, here are my thoughts on the new “Slender Man” movie.

It was a huge disappointment. It had amazing source material to draw from, and it failed on epic levels. If you don’t want spoilers, then I recommend you stop reading now.

My first major issue with it was the movie dragged. There wasn’t a lot of meat to this movie at all, and it seemed like the writers didn’t have a lot to work with. The result was every mediocre action was dragged out much longer than it should have. There were moments where the pace picked up, usually with when SM made an appearance or attacked, which didn’t happen often. The movie felt like 3 hours when it was about an hour and thirty minutes.

My second issue is how the world was built. It started okay, but then it went downhill from there. First off, you summon Slender Man by watching a video on the Internet. Once I saw this, I immediately thought of “The Ring”, but this concept wasn’t as well executed. But an online video? Sure. I suppose one could argue that since SM was born from the internet, then it would make sense. But, there is a plot hole that derails this theory later on in the movie. One of the characters, named Wren, goes to the library to do more research on SM and finds that his origins and child-stealing activities could even date back to him being the Pied Piper. If you can only summon SM from an online video, how does that explain his child-stealing activities before we had the internet?

After the first girl , Katie, disappeared, there was some scratching the surface on potentially having the father involved, or at least aware of some occult activities. But that is never revisited again.

The mystery girl who the characters chatted with online was never fully explored besides a follow-up news article that she went nuts. How did she know so much about SM? Was her mind being controlled by SM? Why didn’t the character speak to her more since she was so knowledgeable? Another plot hole that wasn’t further explored.

The biggest thing that bothered me was that the main character were incredibly whiny and weak. When Katie first disappears, all they can question is whether it was SM. At first, they are proactive in trying to find their friend as they deal with their own nightmares and hallucinations. Then, that drive wanes off for two of the characters. When Wren tries to do more research, she comes across a theory that SM is bioelectric, and he is using that bioelectric energy to break down the minds of his victim. Again, this was interesting, but once again, unexplored. There was no attempt to really try to STOP Slenderman from his ghastly agenda. Hallie (with the last name Knudsen in honor of the creator of SM, Eric Knudsen/Victor Surge), doesn’t seemed to be bothered trying to figure out what’s going on despite having her own SM sightings. All the while denying things were going on and trying to explain everything. If her sightings were trivial and debunkable in the movie, that would be one thing, but she was having full-out sightings and intense nightmares. And yet, that didn’t drive her to do more? Her love interest, Tom, also ends up watching the video. All we see is that he’s shaken up coming into class sometime after with bruises on his arm. Again, this plot point is not revisited.

Given that Slenderman has no real canon besides what people on the internet have conjured up, this movie had the potential to bring something new and fresh to the legend. Unfortunately, this fell incredibly short. As mentioned in my video, it would have been cool to explore the idea that is was US who created Slenderman through collective thought. Then, the girls go into this whole thing of trying to get people to STOP thinking about Slenderman, which of course, would never happen. It seemed that the girls were doomed from the beginning because they didn’t do anything to try to stop him. The movie dragged on and on with questions on what SM was, their boring nightmares, and trying to brush it off as if it were nothing.

There was also no violent crimes mentioned or even performed in this movie. I assume it was for the respect and sensitivity to the crimes that Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser committed in 2014. There were a few other SM crimes that year as well. However, the movie could have done something…like a desperate attempt by one of the girls to try to save herself?

Why do I have “false advertising” in the title of the review? Let’s get into that.

Also, if we look at the original trailer, there were plot points brought up in the trailer that didn’t make the cut in the movie:

The part where Chloe stabs herself in the eye doesn’t make the cut. Instead, she gets visited and choked by Slender Man and becomes catatonic. The girl writing, “Can you see him?” seems to be the mystery chatter from the beginning of the film. But this is a scene we never see. Also, we never see a girl walking out of the woods, to be greeted by police cars. It looks like the mystery chatter again. AGAIN. Why wasn’t this plot point explored? We also never see the guy taking his own life by jumping off the roof. It looks like they had planned for maybe a more violent movie and then postponed the release from May to August to completely change the movie? It would make sense as to why we got this final product. However, the movie that the official trailer sold to us was not the final product that we received in the theater.

Screen-Shot-2018-01-03-at-10.16.09-AM

See this scene? You won’t see it in the movie.

At the end, SM is the winning champion of the movie, as the girls (predictably) falter and join him in the other world. The most interesting part of the movie is the last 10 minutes. But even the last shot of the movie was mediocre and boring as it showed a school hallway. It definitely left you feeling a void of wasting 90 minutes of your life on wasted potential.

Paranormal Investigation – USS North Carolina

Thanks Amanda for sharing your experience on our investigation of the USS North Carolina.

Amanda Hettinger

I’m not sure if some of you know this or not, but I am big time into all things paranormal. Mostly it’s anything having to do with haunting, ghosts, demons, and all of thee above. I’ve watched all the TV shows and watched many movies, but nothing makes me more happy than being able to go on an investigation.

I had been able to go on some investigations in the past with my mother and father ( who are apart of the Indiana Ghost Trackers ), but living so far away from them makes it difficult to be able to join them when I want ( unless it’s an awesome big investigation like Waverly Hills ). So I had been on the hunt for quite some time to join a team or be able to go on investigations. Needless to say it had taken me a while.

Fast forward a…

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Do “The Vagina Monologues” Still Matter?

V-Day Raleigh

I remember my first period. I was 11 years old. I was a figure skater at the time, and I was at the rink. It was after my lesson. I remember asking my mom for a quarter so I could get a pad. It wasn’t a big deal. I had sex ed. I knew it was coming. I thought it would be a big deal, but it wasn’t. Then, when I was 18, I read, “I Was 12. My Mother Slapped Me.” It was one of the earlier monologues from “The Vagina Monologues.” You don’t really see it in the annual V-Day movement anymore. But the message is still poignant 1billion_2018_V6_blackand clear. We have all had different experiences with that “magical moment” that makes us a woman…some are positive, some not so much. If only we knew back then that it was only the beginning of experiencing “womanhood.” It’s no…

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Go Ahead, Just Live

January 30th is not my favorite day.

It’s a bit odd to think that it’s been 3 years since my mom died. A lot of things have happened in the last three years; I became a published author, got back onstage, found myself in a serious relationship, started working from home, and moving forward with my life…finally. Granted, the thought of moving forward without my mom was terrifying because it reminded me that she was gone. If and when I get married and have kids, my mom won’t be there to celebrate with me. I often find myself somewhat haunted by her memory with moments. I can see a movie and think, “Oh, Mom would have loved that.” Or I see something in Target and think about how I would have bought it and sent to my mom as a surprise.

I stopped living. But this wasn’t the first time I stopped myself from living life.

No one really talks about the regrets. I had a rocky relationship with my mom that only improved in the last few years of her life. Things happened that would’ve completely destroyed our relationship. Things happened that should have determined that we weren’t a family anymore. But, there’s that thing called forgiveness. I don’t know how to describe it. Even though both I and my mom did things that weren’t part of the “picture perfect” narrative of a mother and daughter, at the end of the day…she still loved me with all of her heart. Her former tax clients and coworkers still come up to me to tell me how proud of me she was and how much she loved me.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you can still make some terrible mistakes while loving someone. Of course there are lines, and there are times where lines are crossed and separation is healthier. But my mom never ceased to love me and do whatever she could to prove that to me. Looking back, now that she’s gone, I wish I would have forgiven her sooner. In the moment, not talking to her or being mean to her seemed like the right decision. At the time, trying to separate myself from her seemed like a good idea. But all it did was prolong the pain and put off the resolution that would eventually happened. It caused me to lose time with my mom, and I truly regret that. I regret listening to those who encouraged me to continue that division, not looking at the bigger picture and only looking within myself. Because I neglected to look at long-term, I’m left living with the “what ifs.” There are a good amount I’ve finally let go of, but there’s still work to be done.

For too long, I have held myself back from living my truth. I literally put myself on hold because I wasn’t skinny enough. I thought that because I was fat, I wasn’t allowed to enjoy things in life-like go to the beach. I also saw myself unworthy of love, and I literally held myself back in relationships because I thought my weight deemed me unworthy. I got this from my mom. She held herself back for decades after I was born. She didn’t date, she didn’t allow herself to enjoy the body she was in because of some awful words my biological father said to her years before. I found myself following in my mother’s footsteps because she projected her issues of self-image onto me. I need to break that cycle. It’s not my mom’s fault, it was the society she was born and raised in.

You know what I also wish? That we didn’t have such low self-esteems of ourselves that we barely took a picture together in the last years of her life. So, next time you’re taking family photos and you’re worried that you look fat, tired, stressed, etc. Just take the picture. If anything, take the picture to remember that moment in your life. None of use look as bad as we think we do. How many times have we seen pictures of ourselves from 10-15 years prior and thought, “I looked pretty good.” I never got to enjoy who I was back then. I’m sure as hell going to enjoy myself now, even if I am overweight, boring, etc. I owe not only myself that, but also my future self.

Grief is truly a funny thing. It comes in waves. You’re fine one minute, but then something as simple as a flower will send you over the edge. You don’t ever get over losing someone you love. You just learn to live without them. Yet, no one talks about the regrets you have. You can’t go back in time and reverse your decisions. For the sake of not going through the same thing I am, call that family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. Take that picture with your kids. Say, “I’m sorry.” Go to the beach and let your bat wings fly.

Go ahead, just live.

Death: A Faithful Companion

You would think that after surviving a car accident over 10 years ago, I would be well aware that one could die at any moment. But instead, I think that accident made me feel immortal in a way. What were the odds I would survive that accident? I should have died. But I got by with several broken bones, a surgery, and months of physical therapy. Yes, I had a weird experience on that night, but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, I hadn’t thought about my own death that much. Even when I’m looking for ghosts, that’s someone else’s death…not mine.

For some reason, in 2013, as if that year wasn’t messed up enough already, it hit me.

I’m going to die someday.

With this newfound fear, and yes it is a fear, it has changed the way that I approach paranormal investigating. First, I really REALLY want that confirmation that there is life after death. Second, when I pass I want someone to talk to me like I’m a person and not a blip on a gadget. Third, I can feel death looming around me when I’m investigating or in some location where a lot of death has taken place.

I’m not saying that death is a conscious being that is following me around. But there has been a consistent vibe that I’ll feel when I’m in a location that has seen a lot of death. The vibe has been the same from the time I walked into my mom’s trailer after she died to visiting a location like Old South Pittsburg Hospital where people passed. I even get that feeling when I’m a Duke sometimes, knowing that there are people dying every minute and there are bodies in the morgue.

I visualize death as a personification of the life I’ve lived. As I survive each day, a page is added to my book of life. I see death as this faithful companion who is with me and on my mind each day; reminding me that it’s waiting for me.

Of course, I was also raised Christian and taught to believe that we will indeed survive and go to heaven once our time here is over. I want to believe it…I truly do. But between my interactions with some not-so-perfect Christians and seeing how unfair life can be (example: kids dying from cancer), I question my faith all the time. If there is a heaven, awesome. If not, what is waiting for us? In this case, death is the door…the door that remains unlocked and is waiting for us to open.

I just hope it’s not nothingness and ceasing to exist. But, I feel like it is likely identical to falling asleep. You don’t know you’re asleep, and you’re not aware of yourself. You don’t remember when you fell asleep, just like we will likely not be aware when death finally does come to collect the debt.

This Little Light of Mine

If you know me well, which most of you do, if you had to name two things I love it would be theatre and the paranormal. Theatre has been a part of my life for over 20 years, and it isn’t going anywhere soon. The paranormal found me, so to speak, and it’s been at the forefront of my mind since I was a kid. Regardless of where I end up in life, those two things will always be important to me.

I will say 99% of the people in these communities are amazing and fantastic. But that 1%…not so much. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means our personalities are quite different and it wasn’t a good mix. However, that 1% has gone out of their way to hurt and break my spirit it seems. Like, they need to put me in my place.

Why does that 1% get more attention than the other 99% who are amazing to me? Maybe it’s because I once trusted them? I need to stop focusing so much on the people who have hurt me. I’ve noticed a pattern with those who end up hurting me, and it usually goes along like this:

  • They aggressively insert themselves into my life to become my friend
  • They do a lot of favors for me
  • In turn, they expect me to go to bat for them in ridiculous circumstances because of said favors
  • When I can’t deliver or don’t meet their standards when I do go to bat for them, they leave quite dramatically
  • Thus follows about a year’s worth of petty drama and a one-sided pissing contest

Now that I’ve noticed the signs early on, I’m usually pretty good at picking this up. When this happens, I divert myself away from the person as soon as possible. But what happened to giving people chances? Nope. Not doing it anymore.

I’ve put myself out there to the extent now that my light faded for a bit. But, it’s time to let that shine. If that means certain people aren’t invited to the party, so be it. I’d rather have just 1-2 friends who are awesome than 50+ friends who take advantage of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities for their personal gain.

Let your light shine, and don’t you dare let someone else put it out.