5 Things You Need to Know Before You Investigate the Paranormal

As you know, I love everything about the paranormal, even though I can be a bit of a skeptic sometimes. So of course, it’s frustrating when ‘outsiders’ believe an interest in the paranormal should be equated with a lack of intelligence. Unfortunately, there are a lot of investigators out there who perpetuate this stereotype by ignoring basic science and using poor investigative techniques. Now, before everyone gets all mad, I’m NOT saying the investigators themselves are unintelligent—only that there are some simple changes they could make to help us all to be taken a bit more seriously.

So, I want to talk about a few things everyone should be familiar with before investigating anything paranormal, and especially before speaking with skeptics about their findings, or posting results online.

1 – It’s Probably Not a Face

Before you start showing everyone the spooky faces and shadow figures you caught on camera, it’s imperative that you read up on pareidolia. The short and simple explanation of this phenomena is that the human brain (all of them…even mine, and even yours), when presented with random shapes, shadows, light configurations, etc. will see patterns (especially faces, body shapes, and other familiar visuals) that aren’t actually there.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to catch things like shadow figures or disembodied faces on camera, but you’ll need more than a couple blurry snapshots or a two second video clip for rational people to consider it evidence. In order to have evidence that it’s not pareidolia, you’ll need proof that whatever is showing up in the picture wasn’t there before. A simple way to do this is to take multiple pictures or videos of the same area at the same time, preferably with some shots being from the same vantage point, and other shots from different perspectives. You’ll also need to take into consideration what types of natural occurrences could cause the patterns and/or changes that you see. If you have other concurrent evidence, like emf readings, cold spots (that you actually measured with a thermometer or temp gun), voice recordings, etc.; that would be a definite plus.

Oh yeah. And maybe the most important thing: Pareidolia doesn’t just affect vision. There’s auditory pareidolia as well. So, all those things I just said about pictures and videos? They apply to EVPs and spirit box results too.

2 – You’re Biased, Just Like Everyone Else

It’s impossible to be completely unbiased, even when we have the best intentions. There are a slew of articles online describing the different types of biases and how they can affect our opinions even when we don’t want them to. Please read them. As many of them as you can. And maybe read one or two of the many books on the subject. Most importantly, once you’ve studied up, always do your best to apply the things you learned to your own investigations…not just other people’s theories

It’s not magic. It won’t fully get rid of all your biases…but just understanding how bias affects us can help immensely.

Another thing that helps combat bias is to include people who disagree with you in your investigations. Also, listen to them.  You need skeptics on an investigation, or at least people who look at paranormal things skeptically. Sure, they have their biases too. But it’s still better than just assuming everything is a ghost. And of course, when you find things that even the skeptic can’t explain—you know you’ve found some great evidence.

3 – You Need Experts…But Not Those Experts

The paranormal community is filled with self-proclaimed experts. Always be wary about that. But even if you do find a true expert in some aspect of the paranormal, that’s not what I’m referring to right now.

Do you know all the animals native to the area you’re investigating? Can you recognize every sound they make even when you can’t see them? Do you know what the wind sounds like at every mph and direction in the building or area you’re exploring? What about the way light reflects and refracts, either in the area, or in relation to your camera? How much do you know about lens flare? What could your emf detector be picking up other than ghosts?

You need to know these things in order to determine whether or not your finding s are paranormal. And if you’re not educated in these things, you need to find someone who is.

If you can’t get people with all this knowledge to come with you on your investigations, at least make some connections so they can help you review your evidence later on. You don’t want to be that person who posts ‘proof’ of a ghostly encounter, only to find out later it was a barn owl. Seriously. Barn owls are responsible for countless ‘ghost’ encounters.

4 – The Scientific Method is Your Friend

If you’re not applying the scientific method, you’re not actually investigating. You’re just hanging out with your friends. For those of you who’ve been out of school for a while (or who weren’t paying attention to begin with), here’s a review.





Record Results




The first 3 steps are pretty easy, and most inquisitive people do them naturally. It’s the rest that tend to get a bit wishy washy. A huge amount of that is due to bias, which I mentioned earlier. It’s imperative that we all try as hard as possible to keep our biases out of the experiments, data collection/recording, analysis, and especially our conclusions. This means we have to count all the times nothing happens when we ask the spirits a question, just like we count the times we get results. We have to consider pareidolia as a possibility when we look at pictures or listen to our audio recordings. We can’t just assume something paranormal is happening when we analyze our data, and instead, do our best to debunk our own hypotheses. We need control groups and baseline measurements. We need to recognize and limit variables. And of course, if we can’t repeat the experiment with the same results, we can’t claim to have found proof.

5 – Grammar and Communication Skills Are Your Friends

This one may be the most important, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual investigations. The fact is, it doesn’t matter how great your evidence is if no one is willing to look at it, or if they don’t understand what you’re saying. And that’s exactly what often happens if you write or speak incoherently. This is especially true if you’re dealing with people who are skeptical to begin with.

Now, I’m not saying your spelling or grammar have to be perfect. You don’t need a professional proofreader every time you want to post your findings on social media. However, if you express yourself in writing, whether it’s on social media, through email, in a blog, or anywhere else—you need to come across as a reasonably intelligent, rational person.

This means you should probably have someone take a look at what you’re planning to post, or at the very least stop and re-read what you typed out before you click the button that shares your thoughts with the world. Make sure you used things like punctuation and capital letters in the correct places. If you weren’t sure how to spell something and your computer didn’t tell you…take 30 seconds to look it up.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen people on social media having their experiences discounted, or completely ignored, because the way they explained it made them seem drunk (in some cases, drunk is best case scenario of what people thought). If this is how people see you, do you really think they’re going to take you seriously when you say you saw a ghost?

Disclaimer: I realize some people may not be sharing in their first language, especially online. That’s ok…fantastic even. It’s awesome when people learn multiple languages. We should all do it. But if you’re communicating in a language that you’re still learning, you probably want to tell people that’s the situation. Or if you’re using an online translator, make that clear too. Those things are amazing…but not amazing enough to use without a disclaimer.

The same is true if you’re speaking about the paranormal, though not to the same extent. You obviously don’t need to worry about spelling and punctuation…but you still need to be coherent and knowledgeable enough that people know what you’re trying to say. You don’t want to trip over your words and say “umm” fifteen times while trying to explain how an emf detector works. Trust me. I’ve done that. I felt really stupid. Thankfully, I was talking with a good friend, and not someone who was going to judge my intelligence entirely on that conversation.

But we aren’t always talking to our close friends. We don’t only share our stories and our evidence with people who are going to love us even if we hear an owl and think it was a banshee. We have to remember that the way we write, the way we speak, and our knowledge of (and willingness to acknowledge) basic scientific principles reflects not only on ourselves, but on the paranormal community as a whole.

So, please learn everything you can, then go out and find some great evidence. Just remember to present it intelligently when you do.

Do you have some cool evidence already? Feel free to share in the comments!


There are no faces or orbs in this picture. Just poorly maintained walls and insufficient lighting. But people see them anyway. 🙂

Read this Before Buying a Ghost Box

I mentioned in a previous post that I love ghost hunting. I’ve been many times, and plan to go many more. But I want to take a minute to call bullshit on something that seems to be unreasonably popular in the paranormal community.

Ghost boxes.

Some people call them spirit boxes. Others use fancy, technical sounding names like ‘SB11’ or ‘Ovilus 5’. Whatever you want to call them, I think they’re a bad idea. Don’t worry though. If you read through to the end, there’s a better option waiting for you.

For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, there are a couple different kinds of spirit boxes. One type scans through radio stations, picking up random signals. The other, like the Ovilus, is essentially just an electronic collection of pre-programmed words. Depending on who you talk to, there are different ways spirits can communicate through these devices.

One theory is that ghosts simply have the ability to make their voices heard through electronics. This is a pretty common theory, both in the paranormal community, as well as in fictional horror. If you have a scanning style box, the ghosts would communicate using the radio frequencies alongside or over any other sounds that come from the device. In the case of the electronic dictionary, they either have the ability to find and pick the words, or the box acts as a translator. Kind of like google translate, but instead of translating one language to another, it translates spirit energy into human words.

Another theory (which I’m not going to spend much time on it, because it’s a bit out there, even for me) is that spirits essentially have the same ability as Bumblebee from the Transformers, and can pick currently-playing radio clips to answer your questions. Now, I’m typically not one to say things are impossible…but…really?

So, let’s go back to the first theory. In my personal opinion, the idea that ghosts can communicate through electronics really isn’t that hard to accept if you’re already considering the possibility that ghosts might be real. My problem with ghost boxes is that if the theory IS correct, they’re designed in the worst possible way for anyone trying get credible or verifiable results.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons.

    • They’re loud. Stupidly loud. At least, most of the spirit boxes I’ve seen in action are. So, basically what you’re doing is sitting in a quiet room, playing the loudest, most obnoxious sound you can find, and then hoping your ears or subconscious aren’t playing tricks on you when something that sounds like it might be an answer to your question comes through. I mean, even in normal conditions, we mishear things all the time. Were you around back in the days before we could google song lyrics? “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

Seriously. How much of the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did you actually know before you had google? But you want to trust a two second clip of a grainy  electronic voice that you heard under migraine-inducing circumstances?

Also, if I was a ghost and someone brought one of those loud-ass machines into my house, I’d throw it across the room and smash it. If I wasn’t strong enough to do that, I’d leave.

    • Picture this. You’re in a dark room and you turn on your ghost box. It starts scanning through radio stations. You ask questions. Nothing happens. You ask more questions. Still nothing. Then, suddenly (as you start to ask another question)—you hear a word! It’s so exciting!

But, is it really? It’s a machine that scans through radio stations. OBVIOUSLY you’re going to hear words eventually when you’re frequency hopping. There will be words whether there are ghosts or not. At some point, you’re going to hit a station that has something on it. So, even if there IS a ghost, and even if it DID talk to you through the box, you still have no way to verify that’s what actually happened. The same is true for the dictionary style boxes. Maybe the word was chosen or spoken by a ghost who was answering your question. But maybe it wasn’t. Unless you get a full sentence with a ghost saying, “My name is Jane Doe, and I died in 1872 when my ex stabbed me,” and then you’re able to verify that statement with historical documentation…you don’t have solid evidence.

And I’ve never seen an instance, even on the fakest of the fake shows, where that’s happened.

    • I’m sure this last one will piss some people off, but I promise I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I’m sure the people who make and sell the ghost boxes are probably good people who are not trying to scam anyone. But we do have to consider the possibility that words could be coming up randomly. The scanner may be picking up live stations, and those are the words you’re hearing. Or, even though they all say they don’t have any programming that makes words come up…maybe (unintentionally) there is something in the programming that causes words to pop up in the dictionary-style devices. Even if it’s not intentional, this would make the boxes seem to work more often than they actually do which, quite frankly, is necessary for people to continue buying the product. People wouldn’t keep buying them if they didn’t get results.

Of course, it’s surely possible to test that last one if you know enough about programming. But most people who purchase these devices don’t. And really, who’s going to test all the different devices and then have the platform to share the results? Who’s going to then test those results to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, or a mistake, or something less innocent? It’s not like there’s an abundance of funding available for paranormal research. So, even if these devices DO work exactly as advertised…it still won’t be enough for someone who’s even the teeny tiniest bit skeptical to consider it evidence.

So, what should you use instead of a ghost box? You’re in luck! I’ve discovered an amazing device that works with the same theory (ghosts speaking through electronics), but eliminates the problems you find with the current ghost boxes and apps.

It’s called a radio.

Some of you may be too young to know about these crazy devices, so I’ll explain. Radios are what people used to listen to music on before downloads and streaming services were a thing. They’re the base technology for many ghost boxes. The great thing is, if you use a regular, old-school style radio (the ones that came before “digital” was an everyday term), you can cut out most of the ghost box problems.

You have to use one like this, with the dials. No digital!

If you use a radio, you can pick one station that you know won’t have anything playing on it and just keep it tuned there, instead of jumping between stations like a sentient robot on a bad acid trip. If ghosts actually can speak to us through electronics, this should be significantly easier for them than navigating a spirit box. Instead of trying to jump in on whatever frequency the box scans through at any given second, fighting to be heard over other sounds, or having to pick words from a list, the ghost can simply speak. Just set the radio to a station that’s out of range of any signals, and the spirit has free reign to say whatever it wants. Or, maybe they’ll just change the station to find their jam.

Either way, if you get a response, you’ll KNOW it was real. No one would have had any reason to program random words into a $10 radio you got from Target, Amazon, or whatever discount store is closest to your home. It’s also much quieter, and doesn’t sound like you’re trying to cause someone three miles away to have a seizure. And of course, since the sound of a radio that isn’t picking up a station is fairly consistent (usually static), it will be much harder for your subconscious mind to hear words that aren’t there. If you do, they likely won’t be the same words the people around you heard, which will make debunking the situation much easier than if you were using a ghost box.

Of course, this option is only better if you’re actually looking for the truth. If you’re filming a show or a video and you want something exciting to show your fans, definitely get a ghost box. Buy the most expensive one so everyone knows how serious you are. Filming a video with a group of people sitting in the dark listening to static would be boring. No one would watch that.

Or, maybe you want to make sure every investigation is exciting so your friends stay interested. In that case, by all means, buy the box. Or maybe an app, which are usually cheaper. You should probably sneak into places too. That helps with the adrenaline.

(DISCLAIMER: Please don’t actually sneak in. If you do, leave me out of it when you get caught. Obviously you shouldn’t break the law. Always get permission when ghost hunting.)


But if you’re looking for actual evidence, something even a skeptic might consider…save your money and by a cheap radio.

Ghost in a Box
I call this masterpiece “Ghost in a Box on a Post-it”

What are your thoughts? Do you use ghost boxes? Have you already tried a standard radio instead? Tell me your experiences in the comments.

Ghost Hunting and Being Weird: Unsolicited Advice #1

I’m kind of a weirdo. If you’re reading this because you’ve read other things I’ve written, you probably knew that already. But today, I want to talk about one particular weirdness I have going on.

Confession: I love ghost hunting. Like, a lot. I’ve been to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield four times. I’ve been on official hunts in local haunted places a handful of times, and kept my eyes open for anything that might be paranormal while hanging around said places for non-ghost hunting reasons. I’ve even been to a paranormal convention, and plan to attend another this spring. Oh yeah, and my sister and I took a vacation to New Orleans, specifically to do all the supernatural based historic tours (and to see alligators…but my love of scaly, squirmy, slithery creatures will have to be the subject of another blog).

Would you go down these stairs? I would. (If there’s no sign telling me not to. Safety first!)


Now, I assume if you’re here, it’s for one of two reasons. Either you’re family and feel like you have to read this, or you’re into spooky things too. So why, surrounded by fellow spooks, do I think ghost hunting makes me weird? It’s because even among the strange and unusual; the horror writers, the scream queens, the readers and watchers of all things creepy—most people don’t actively seek out the paranormal.

There are plenty of completely logical reasons for this. Some simply see scary things as a form of entertainment, an adrenaline rush. They don’t, even for a moment, believe any of it is real. If they’re right, then wandering around in the dark talking to nothing would be pretty ridiculous. Then we have the opposite extreme; people who are 100% sure there are supernatural creatures lurking in the dark, just waiting for the right moment to strike. Some of these folks will avoid everything even a little scary at all costs. But others consume all things creepy, not to get that nice safe buzz of adrenaline, but as a sort of research…from a safe distance. They want to be aware of every possibility so they have a fighting chance when the things come for them—and probably so they can say ‘told you so’ when zombies pull out your intestines.

Of course, there’s quite the range in between these extremes. There always is. Some people simply lean a bit one way or the other. But me? I’m as close to exactly in the middle as one can possibly get. I can’t say I fully believe that ghost (or other supernatural) sightings are real. But I’m not counting it out either. And unlike so many others in this position, I WANT to know the truth.

So, I hunt. Not like Sam and Dean. I don’t have a shotgun filled with rock salt, and I don’t carry weapons made of silver and iron. But I do have dowsing rods, an EMF detector, and a laser pointer that kind of makes a grid. And yeah, I’ve tried a couple spirit box apps on my phone, and I burn sage when I get home.

A lot of people think this is weird.

And that’s ok.

There’s nothing wrong with other people thinking you’re odd. There are so many people out there who believe they’ll only be happy if they fit in with a certain group. They do everything they can to look the way they ‘should’ and say the ‘right’ things. And more often than not, they succeed. They blend in to their chosen crowd.

But they never get to be happy.

They give up all the weird things they enjoy. They spend all their time pretending to like things the ‘cool kids’ like. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that if you live your life like that, it’s nearly impossible to make real friends, to find people whom you can confide in.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trash talking the cool kids. But the fact is, when you turn yourself into something you’re not in order to fit in with the right people they’re not the right people for you. They might be good people. They might even be great people. But they don’t even know who you are. Not really. Because you never let them. You hid everything real about yourself to fit in. So even if they are great people, even if they want to be there for you, how can they? The person you’ve shown them isn’t really you. They don’t know what you need. They can’t.

So don’t do that.

We have the internet now. It’s fairly easy to find people who like the same things you do, or who, at the very least, will love you even if they think some of your hobbies are super weird. So do the strange things you like to do. Watch the strange things you want to watch. Read, write, paint, listen, and dance in all the strange ways and to all the strange things that make you happy.

You’ll find your people, and they’ll find you. Best of all, you’ll make the other weirdos happy, and you’ll give them a place where they fit in, where they feel safe. You’ll find each other. You’ll be the real you. You’ll find happiness.


Let’s start now, shall we? Leave a comment and tell me what weird things make you happy. Tell me what makes you who you are. 🙂

The best doorways are the ones that creek and make creepy shadows. Always go through those doors. And don’t forget to tell me what you find!