Investigation Tips and Hints

Some of the tips and hints the NEPRS has found helpful

  • If possible, do some research.  The best sources for information on a potential investigation site are the town library's local section, the local people who live in the area, and if possible, a local historian.  The more you know about a haunting, the more you will know what you may expect.
  • But at the same time, don't over research an area before you investigate. Over research often leads investigators to have preconceived ideas of what they will find at a spot before the investigation takes place.  This can lead to missing very important details that do not fit into the folklore of an area.  There is always time to research the fine details later.
  • If you have a medium or psychic on the team do not share much, if any, of the research with them.  It is important that their senses are clear to all possibilities.  This is not to "test" them against the facts, but so they will feel free to explore other contacts and impressions they get that are not part of the established folklore and may help to expand the understanding of the history of a haunting site.  Please click here for more tips for Mediums and Psychics.
  •   Wear comfortable clothing and sensible shoes or boots.  If you are working outside during bug season be sure to bring the appropriate bug repellant.
  • It is important to do a daytime walkthrough of the area before going at dusk.  Get daytime EMF readings and take some photos you can use as reference for the ones you will take in the dark. At some very active places you may even experience daytime haunting events so always be prepared.  Consider making a map to mark out things that could be hazards such as gofer holes, large rocks, broken headstones, fences, ropes, tree roots etc.  Also, make note of parking areas and posted notices.  If there are no trespassing or private property signs do not enter unless you have the owners permission. 
  • Set up a meeting place and time. NEPRS members prefer to meet at a local coffee shop and then drive out in as few cars as possible.  Be sure everyone knows what they are going to be doing, what equipment, if any, they will be in charge of and who is driving who if you need to make a quick retreat. We have yet to feel the need to make one, but you never know.
  • If the area is outside, such as a cemetery, make special note of any signs of partying activity by the local teens.  Beer bottles, broken glass, remains of a campfire and the like are an indication that the area has become a hang out.  If this is the case, you might want to pick up the litter, and then plan your night time investigation during the week when the partying teens are less likely to be present.
  • Check and double check ALL equipment.  Be sure you have plenty of batteries and film.  If you intend to use electronics always keep extra batteries in your car and out of the investigation area as some spirit energies will drain batteries quickly and you might need to replace them.

   Although you don't really need anything more than an open mind to investigate a haunted area, the  NEPRS uses many types of electronics including, but not limited to, EMF meters, digital and tape video recorders, digital and cassette voice recorders, and both digital and 35 mm cameras, as well as knowledgeable staff and proven mediums.


   Though there are just about as many ways to investigate hauntings as there are investigators, some of the most basic things you need to remember during an investigation are simple, common sense things. The following are some of the methods NEPRS members follow during an investigation.
  • NEPRS outside investigations are ALWAYS and WITHOUT EXCEPTION done on days or nights that are clear and dry.   There is no point starting an investigation outside in the rain or even after the rain has stopped.  Rain will give you false orbs.  Even after rain has stopped, water droplets falling from trees or blowing in the wind can cause false orbs for hours after the rain has moved on.  Wet grass is not very comfortable to sit on, and delicate electronic equipment can be harmed in the wet weather.  So if it is not dry don't bother going out that night.
  • Get everyone's watches set to the same time.  This will help when keeping notes regarding the timing of events.  Keep those notes either on paper or on some type of voice recorder.  For example, you should note when a car drives by or when a plane flies over head.  That way, if there are any questions as to what the two white lights in the bushes are, or what the rumble on the EVP recording is, you can check the time against the notes and verify that a car drove by or a plane flew overhead at the time.
  • Be aware of your environment.  Be sure all members know where previously identified hazards are so no one trips or falls.  If you are in a public area watch out for not so dead people who might be around, especially if you are away from the road in a secluded area.  Some secluded cemeteries are the frequent haunts of drinking teens an troublemakers.   In our experience, we've found that if there are any people there when you arrive, they will usually leave soon after.  But if they don't, then you should leave.  Not only could they be trouble, but there is no point is trying to do a serious investigation with them present, making noises, and getting in the way.
  • An NEPRS investigator will start a digital voice recording at the moment we enter a site.  We do this so we have a full and complete record of an investigation from start to finish.  It unlikely to record EVP (electronic voice phenomena) until some time into an investigation, so if you only intend to use voice recorders (digital or tape) for EVPs then we suggest you wait at least 30 minutes to start recording.
  • If you are luckily enough to have a homeowner or historian to talk to, then you should consider setting up at least some of your equipment in the area where they report there has been the most activity in the past.  We often set up video cameras in such areas.
  • If you have a reliable medium with your team, as the NEPRS does, then start the investigation by having the medium walk around the area and give you their opinion of what they sense about the environment.  Be sure to record this, as a good medium has been known to give information that is useful in future investigation.  The mediums we use have given us names and dates that were unknown at the time but which later research proved to be accurate.  If your psychic/medium feels strongly about an area, you may want to set up some equipment there as well, even if there have been no reports of activity there.
  • If you have one, a sweep with a Gauss meter (also known as an EMF meter) should take place the moment you arrive.  This sweep should be repeated several times during the investigation. 
    • Tips on working with an EMF meter. 
      • Hold your meter steady and level.  Try not to move it around a lot.  If you have the type with the probe on the end of the wire, be careful not to swing the probe around or jolt it quickly as it can give false readings during such actions.
      • If your meter reads very high, check for non-spirit sources before getting excited. Check for poorly shielded wiring in walls or electronic equipment in use (particularly microwave ovens), or in the case of an outside site, underground cables or large transformers.
      • Many EMF meters have audible alarms that are pre-set to go off at about 2.5 milligauss, which is the level considered dangerous to humans with prolonged exposure.  But many times ghost energy will not register this high (at least at first) so watch your needle, don't just wait for your alarm. 
      • If your meter's audible alarm does sound, you might want to turn the volume down as it can interfere with EVPs.  We learned from hard experience when a very loud, rapidly beeping meter sounded during one of our best EVP sessions and made the EVPs almost impossible to hear.  Had someone turned the volume down, the EVP would have been stunning.
      • Once you have done a sweep or two, find a place to sit and stay there.  Leave the meter on, lay it somewhere safe and watch the needle.  If any spirits come closer to check you out, the needle will go up.  So keep your eyes on it.
      • If your meter readings go up, or are constant.  It's a good time to start your EVP work and photography.  The NEPRS uses a combination of digital and 35 mm photography, and digital and cassette tape for EVP work.
      • If you get a very active spirit, you might want to try using your meter to communicate with them.  Click here to learn more and hear an example.
      • An amazing thing to note, on many occasions when our medium is channeling, the EMF meter will register when pointed at the medium, and even when held inside the Medium's closed fist.  This does not happen when it is pointed at or held in the same fashion by others.   This does not happen when the probe is pointed at the medium at any other time.

  • Once you find a place with promising EMF readings, pick a spot nearby to start your EVP work.
    • Tips on working with EVPs
      • Be sure to use external microphones on all your audio recorders, even if they have a built in microphone.  Built in microphones will often pick up the sounds of the inner workings of the audio recorder and may give, at best, poor quality sound, or at worse, false results.
      • When using cassette tape recorders of any kind be sure to start with a new fresh tape.  Reusing tapes is not a good idea.  They lose sound quality each time they are reused.  Sometimes overwriting does not work correctly and some sound may remain from the previous recordings causing false EVP events.
      • Before you start, take a moment to explain to any spirits around what you are trying to do.  We have seen some new investigators give the old hands strange looks when they speak out loud to the unseen, telling them that the device they are putting down can record their voice and asking them to speak into it, but it does seem to yield better results.
      • NEPRS EVP investigators usually begin the recording by saying who they are,  where they are, where the recorders are placed, if there are any background noises expected (crickets, traffic, etc.), and the time and date of the recording.  Then they usually say "Hello" or some other appropriate greeting.
      • There are 2 basic methods of capturing EVP we at the NEPRS use.  The frst we call 'question and answer EVP'.  In this type of EVP the investigators will ask a question and sit silently waiting for a reply.  Since EVP are usually only heard when they are played back later, they hear nothing, so they pause for a while (20 seconds or so) then ask another question, repeating the pause until they are done with the questions.  The second type is what we call quiet time EVP.  This is when the recorder is started and the the investagators walk away to a far distance, or even leave the house if they are inside.
      • If your group is broken into more than one party, be sure everyone writes down any sounds they make in a different area at times when EVP are being made.  If someone in team 1 talks loudly 40 feet away over the hill from team 2 who are attempting to record an EVP, no one in team 2 may notice it, but it might end up on the tape as a strange far away voice.
      • NEPRS has a rule that we do not whisper when any voice recording device is on. Though you might think whispering is better when you are making a recording, the NEPRS has found that it only makes it harder to hear if the faint voice is a team member whispering or a real EVP.  So if any investigators talk, it is done in a clear loud voice.
      • When playing back your EVP at a later time, listen carefully, as many times ghost voices are very quick or very slow.
      • Be sure to check anything you hear against the notes investigators made so you can rule out odd sounds.  You may find that almost all the strange sounds on your EVP recordings line up with something in the notes.
      • Make a recording of the clicking of camera shutters for all the equipment used. This way you can identify their clicks and beeps when you heard them as the EVP is played back.
      • Many times the NEPRS has gotten the sounds of very loud sighs on "question and answer" type EVP.  Since people will sigh or exhale heavily without being aware, it's hard to say if these are ghost sounds or not.  We have gotten such sighs on quiet time EVP, but not nearly as often.  So if you hear a loud sigh in your EVP playback keep an open mind that it might be the investigator's and not true haunting sounds.
      • EVP are difficult to get, or at least get clearly, so don't be upset if you get very few or none at all.

  • By this time you should be taking photos.
    • Tips for taking photos.
      • When you take photos we recommend you use several cameras.  We always use at least three..  Different photographers too.  Some people seem more "lucky" when it comes to getting ghost photos.  We use at least 1 digital and 1 35 mm at every investagation.
      • Know where all your light sources are before you take even one photo.  Where is the moon?  Is it full? Are there street lights or house lights you didn't see in the daytime?  Can you see the light of passing traffic through the trees? If in a home are there any glow in the dark knobs or light digital displays you didn't notice before the lights were out?  If you are at a cemetery, where are the glossy stones that might reflect your flash? 
      • Try not to photograph directly towards the moon, sun, or any other strong single light source.  This can cause solar flare which is sometimes mistaken for orbs.
      • We have gotten some of our best photos, including the incredible photo of ectoplasm below, by photographing where our Medium told us to.

      • NERPS All rights reserved.
(Please note: the NEPRS blurs the faces in our photos to protect our investigators, some of whom feel their belief in the paranormal may hinder their employment and social opportunities, etc.  Otherwise photo above has not been re-touch in any way.)
      • No psychic on staff, don't worry.  It seems that the 'gut' is one of the best indicators of where and what to photograph.  For most of us, the best photos seem to happen when we just get the urge to point and click.
      • NEVER take photos on rainy days or when the grass or brush is still wet from rain.  This is sure to give you false orbs.
      • When using a 35 mm camera, be sure to carry extra film and know how to reload it quickly and in minimum light, just in case.
      • Try not to take photos at the same exact time as someone else, as your flashes may cause lighting effects that will be problems.  If you do take a photo as someone else's flash is going off.  If possible, try to make note of what number photo it is for later reference.
      • Be careful not to photograph your camera strap, thumb, watch, lens cap, or other such thing that might get in your way.
      • A rule of thumb could be that the higher the EMF reading the more photos one should take. 
      • Do not smoke when you take photos.  And do not take any photos around people who are smoking.  Smoke can cause false ectoplasm in a photograph.
      • If the weather is below 45 degrees, or cold enough to see your breath in front of your face, hold your breath when taking a photo so your breath doesn't appear on the photograph as false ectoplasm.

   SHIMMERING LIGHTS PHENOMENA.... Some of our researchers have noticed something we have called the shimmering lights phenomena.   Though we have no scientific proof, and everything we know about this is based solely on the report of our investigators, it seems most of our investigators report that they consistently see a strange shimmering effect like sparkling lights that fades rather than "goes off" in front of them when they have taken photos with obvious spirit manifestations.  At first we thought it may have been caused by bugs in the air, as bugs can be a problem.  But it has happened indoors.  Also, the same investigator could take 10 photos in a 2 minute period in the same exact spot and only see the shimmering lights phenomena when taking 1 of the 10 photos.  And amazingly that 1 photo will have orbs or ectoplasm in it, or both!  But the ones where no shimmering lights phenomena was seen will have nothing unusual in them, even if taken only seconds apart in the same direction. Interestingly, shimmering lights phenomena is not seen by everyone.  But for those who do see it, it has become so consistent that just by noting its occurrence, we can expect that a roll of film or digital disk is going to have interesting evidence.

When this photo was taken the Investigator burst out the words "Shimmering  lights in the daytime!  It's a good one!"  
   Right away another investigation said, "Great! Quick take another shot!"

NEPRS all rights reservered

   The camera takes 4 seconds to reset.  And another shot was taken right away.  As the camera clicked the investigator who took it said, "Darn. Much less shimmer."  Here is the photo from 4 seconds later.

Property of NEPRS all rights reserved

  • Using a compass to detect ghost activity.
It has been said for a long time that ghost activity can affect the true north pointing of a compass needle.  NEPRS trust in using a compass is shaky at best due to the multitude of things that can affect a compass needle.  

According to the Boy Scouts of America a compass can give an incorrect reading if it is in the presence of iron, steel, or any electrical device or battery that generates a magnetic field.  Such commonplace things as nails in picnic tables, belt buckles, rings, watches, knives, lighters, and any rocks containing iron can easily disrupt a compass

Many grave yards in the North East are rimmed with stone walls made of rocks containing iron. Rod iron gates, which of course are made of iron, are common enclosures for graveyards.  There is often enough natural magnetism in these structures to cause a compass needle to move away from magnetic north and towards these structures when you are anywhere near them.

The NEPRS only uses compasses for making general maps and directions.

But if you want to try using a compass, here is how you do it.  Be sure to take off all metal or electronic items from your person.  Hold the compass steady and try not to wiggle it too much as you walk, as the needle is floating in water. Line the needle up with N on your compass.  As you approach an area, watch to see if the needle drifts off of N.  If it does, check to be sure you are not approaching a big rock, an iron gate, or a telephone poll with wires on it. When the needle goes off N, take photos, and mark the location as a spot for later research.


In the days and weeks after an investigation there is a lot to do. 
  • First thing is get your evidence together.  Start with listening to all your EVP recordings and watching your videos.  It is best to do this in groups of 2 or 3 people per EVP or Video.  It's preferable that more than one group will review them independently, making notes and recording questions, statements about their impressions & feelings (both physical and emotional) 
  • Each group should isolate anything they feel merits further.
  • When you have your film developed, be sure to tell the lab to PRINT ALL PHOTOS no matter how dark.  Some members have sent film out and forgotten to tell them to print all photos and got only 3 or 4 photos back from their roll and had to have them printed again.
  • If your photo lab offers it, have them make a CD rom of your photos.  When you get the CD rom, do not install the photo viewer program it may have with it, as it will only load low resolution photos.  Be sure to open the original  high resolution photo files.  Since photo lab machines are set to develop standard family photos, the prints you get may be unusually dark.  When you look at the photos on your computer you are likely to see a lot more detail and maybe some ghost activity that doesn't show in the standard printed photos.
  • Assess and note your own photos then have them reviewed by others.
  • Be careful when looking at your photos.  When you get unusual photos that are not expected, it doesn't hurt to go back and check out the site again.  For example, take a good look at the photo below, taken at the Pine Hill Cemetery in NH. (also known as Blood Cemetery). To most of us, it really looked like we got some amazing light phenomena on the front of this stone in daylight.  But others in our group insisted it was not,  so we went back to the cemetery and checked.  Sure enough, the stone itself is colored like this, as is the stone behind it to the left of the photo.  It is only a trick of the eye that the light tones seem to create the vision of light streaks that start at the back stone and continue across the large one in front and onto the grass.  Had we not returned, we would have never been sure.
not really light
  • Get together and compare notes, review EVP, videos, photos, and other evidence if you have it.  NEVER feel pushed to declare something haunted if you do not have enough evidence to support it.  You can always say "maybe" haunted if you are not sure.
  • If you found little or nothing unusual, say so.  Just because you're "ghost hunting" doesn't mean you have to find one.  Sometimes even the best fishermen come home with an empty net.
  • If you worked with an historian, provide that person with a copy of your report and important photos. 
  • If you worked with a homeowner, provide them with the same.

PLEASE NOTE... NEPRS does not recommend that newly trained ghost hunters and people without experience work with  homeowners or families living in houses they assume to be haunted.  It is difficult to assess people's feelings, and you must be careful of their state of mind.  The proof that a home assumed to be haunted is in fact haunted may be overwhelmingly disturbing to the residents.  On occasion it is even more distressing to have to tell the owner who believes their home haunted that you found nothing to substantiate the claim.

When doing a private investigation for a homeowner or family, be sure to take the time to talk to them before hand on how they might feel about your results.  If you believe any person may have mental or emotional problems, or may develop them when dealing with the possible results of your investigation, do not proceed.

Also note: Before investigating any home, apartment , building or private property, be sure to have the written consent of the owner, not just the occupant, as in some states  your results as to whether you believe the house haunted or not must be revealed to prospective buyers in the future. This could affect the resale value of the property so the decision to proceed must be that of the owner.