Let’s Talk Provoking

I want to talk to you guys today about provoking spirits on a ghost hunt.

This always seems to be a popular topic to be asked about up at the Stanley on our ghost hunts and so I want to clarify it for many of the rest of you too:

Firstly, what is provocation?

Provocation is antagonizing a spirit on a ghost hunt in order to illicit an emotional reaction from them in a way that might manifest something happening. Technically speaking, it’s an incentive for the spirit to do something, albeit a not very nice one.

Most investigators will throw around insults in order to stir up such a reaction.

Usually the reaction is violent. It always makes me laugh on ghost hunts when someone gets super pissed off when a spirit attacks them after provocation.

Some investigators will draw lines about this. TAPS used the framework that they only provoke if it’s a negative entity with a history of attacking people

Provocation usually successfully brings such an entity out… but the results are usually less conclusive in seeing what the true nature of the spirit is. If you want to see if a spirit is violent and malevolent by nature, don’t insult it first. I can think of a number of living people not malevolent in nature who would react violently to such antagonism.

Dustin Pari for example, you might remember him provoking the elemental at Leap Castle in Ireland. He was picked up and thrown down for his verbal assault and he never provoked again.

Ghost Adventures uses the philosophy of putting as much energy as they can into the environment around them and, being as they’re often in dark places with dark histories, they often provoke these seemingly violent negative figures.

Does provoking work?

Yes. Fifty percent of the time. It usually stirs up spirits who are happy to fight. And annoys the ones who don’t want your bullshit.

Problems with provocation:

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with provocation is this sense of entitlement from people. They pay to go on a ghost hunt, or they visit a haunted place and go out of their way to have an experience, and then they think that means they deserve it. News flash: ghosts are people too. And most spirits aren’t on the payroll for a location. They’re there for personal reasons. You treating them like shit because you think you deserve an experience really poorly reflects on your sense of place in the world.

Another problem is that you don’t know who you’re talking to. Just because reports might have a violent encounter or an ugly history doesn’t mean the spirit is evil or negative. Violent spirits often are violent for a reason. Go figure. If you listen to what they have to say, you’re often going to be surprised. How many living people do you know who had a sad, decidedly human story at the heart of their anger?

Problem three is that good spirits are often provoked. Like our spirit Lucy at the Stanley, who died young when she ran away from home. Provoking her would earn you the status of biggest douchebag ever. And would get you very little activity. She hangs out with us because she enjoys it.


Give spirits as much respect as you think they deserve, and then be prepared for the consequences.

Many people believe that everyone deserves equal amounts of respect, no matter what their history. Loving everyone because hate is bad, no matter who you’re hating. Other people believe that there are some darker spirits out there, you don’t treat them well, and you might get some good results…. and entertaining television anyway.

Just be prepared when you get a smack to the face.

But that’s all I’ve got this week. As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Provoking

  1. shellez bellez says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Take the pervoking of “Paul” up @ the Stanley. I know it is something commonly done. Sometimes, he might want to just be left alone… Lucy on the other hand, she really hates the question are you cold Lucy? I have seen her slam a door shut on someone when repeatedly asked this question. 🙂

    • karlpfeiffer says:

      Absolutely! Paul is a good example. Yes, he’s kind of grumpy and gruff sometimes, but he’s just an old guy going about his job. I think having a good time with him and giving him a hard time can work, but much more than that is just being an asshole.

  2. Love the article, been debating if I should attempt this in Charleston at the old jail come August. I’ve been told people have been slapped, scratched, etc so I’m not sure if I should go right to this stage to test their “power”, or just aim for answers as to the “why” questions I’d be curious about. Why they targeted people, why they’re still around, why they attack guests, etc. It’s going to me just me and the girlfriend locked inside, so not sure how risky we wish to make things.

    I’m trying to bring along some positive results with “timmy” at Waverly next month by bringing along a few toys different than the ball most seem to use to see if I can get any interactions. Just thought he would perhaps like to interact with a different toy for a change, and debating which toys to try. I hate to think of people not even thinking like a child, kids love new toys! I’m not sure if this would apply in the spirit world or not, but I’m going to try my best.

    • karlpfeiffer says:

      Glad to hear you’re thinking seriously before going into even a reasonably ‘obvious’ provoking situation. I think there’s always something to be said for spending the beginning playing it cool and going from there.

      And great thinking on Waverly too! Kids absolutely love some new toys. Thinking like the spirit you’re talking to is a fantastic way to go, brother! Good to hear it!

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