Category Archives: Investigations

How to Photograph a Ghost!

Photography Follow-Up:

Hey guys, I’m back with more vlogs! Sorry it was so long, my camera got stolen, and I got a new one, but then I was busy with summer work and getting the next book out. No excuses!

What I want to do is finish up on the photography topic that I was discussing before the break, and break down the different ways to photograph a potential spirit, and why some may be better than others.

So.

The setup: you’re in a very dark basement that’s said to be haunted, and there’s not much in the way of ambient light for any average camera to pick up at all. How do you best set up the situation to photograph a ghost?

The go-to camera of most experiential investigators?

Cell Phones.

Why they’re good? They’re portable, at-hand, and the images are easy to share and, these days, decent quality. Another less-known reason it’s good? Oftentimes, because the lenses are smaller and cheaper than your average point and shoot or SLR cameras, some cell phone cameras actually see a bit further into the UV light spectrum because they’re not as thoroughly filtered. Hence why lens flare is a little more wacky on a cell phone. If spirits do exist in this smaller, often unseen band, cell phones might be more likely to see them.

The problems with cell phones though, for one, is that they’re usually hand-held. Especially when so many ghost photos are examples of pareidolia, it’s important to take multiple photographs from the exact same position, to rule out anything environmental that you can later compare against. It’s also easier to recreate the shot later for further comparison.

They also need a flash in low-light conditions.

Flashes

And here’s the thing about flashes. The primary problem is that the intense burst of illumination, so close to the camera’s lens, illuminates tons of particulate matter right in your photograph (at odds to off-camera flashes or light sources). So if you have a finger, camera-strap, piece of dust, or bug hanging out in front of the lens, the flash is going to make it look like ectoplasm. Shooting without the flash removes something like 98% of variables otherwise thought to be spirit.

Photoluminescence

But the other problem is that the flash could be harmful to spirits. Photoluminescence is the process of a gas or substance absorbing photons of light and then re-emitting them. This process is a very specific scientific process, so I don’t want to go babbling about a process that could well be irrelevant (like those investigators who try to equate everything spirits do to quantum physics), but if this process happens, and a flash photograph illuminated a spirit, that substance could theoretically re-emit that light back toward the camera, giving you a strange photograph. That said, photoluminescence often fundamentally affects the structure of the substance, and carries the possibility that the spirit (or conscious substance) could be harmed by the emission, losing their substantial form after the photograph and photoluminescence.

UV Radiation

The same goes for exposure to ultra-violet radiation. One theory towards why spirits may be more active at night (as discussed in this vlog), is due to the UV radiation being harmful to a physical, manifested form. The same way that we get sunburned by UV light (our substantial structure is physically damaged by this radiation), perhaps ghosts too are broken down by such exposure. This may well apply to IR as well. We see shadowy figures more rarely walking directly through an IR beam, and more often they’re crouching behind objects, only peeking out.

IR Illumination

In order to penetrate deeply into the room with our night vision cameras, many investigators rig extremely bright IR illuminators beside their cameras. They seem dark to us because we can’t see them, but these lights are veritable spotlights blasting out these rooms. While IR is on the less-harmful end of the spectrum (the wavelengths are longer, and the same way red-light doesn’t hurt our night vision, IR is more gentle as well), in such incredibly bright doses, it still could be hurtful to spirits, or at the least, very intrusive to a spirit’s environment. If someone shone a couple car headlights into your room in the middle of the night, it’s altogether likely you’d duck out of the intensity too, regardless of it giving you a sunburn or not.

Visible Light

Given that the intensity of IR illuminators may be, after the fact, even brighter for the spirits than just keep the lights on, well, why not just keep the lights on? Certainly many investigators have their reasons for investigating in the dark, (which I still explore in this vlog), but it is a valid alternative for ghostly photography, and also minimizes low-light solutions which introduce too many false positives.

But there’s still arguments against such light. It’s very intrusive, often harsh, conflicts with investigators’ EMF equipment, their more subtle sensitivities, and potentially the spirits physical structure (as UV, photon emission, and IR may seem to do as well).

So. We’ve got issue with flash photography, IR illumination, visible lights, how are we supposed to photograph a spirit?

Long Exposure Photography

The immediate alternative is to shoot with a long exposure. Long exposure is automatically applied on the “night-shot” setting of most cameras, and a manual adjustment on most DSLRs. The exposure is adjusted by keeping the shutter open for different amounts of times. If photography is simply burning light onto a sensitive plate, quick bursts of exposure (a fast shutter speed) will capture quick movement as still, but the longer you hold the lens open (slow shutter speeds) the more the image will blur before the photo is over. At night, this can be as long as seconds that the lens will be open, and if the camera is hand-held or if there’s movement in front of the camera, you get motion-blur (which can look like creepy trails of ectoplasm, where in reality the light source seems fixed).

This is how you make cool light-paintings. By running around with a flashlight while your lens is open, you can create cool streaks of light.

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The problem here is that, while you make cool streaks of light, it doesn’t also make streaks of shadow. Because the light is, in effect, burning into the sensitive plates, it masks any dark movement because that light is already burned in.

Think of giving yourself a sun-tan tattoo. If you were to drag a heart-shaped cutout across your skin at the beach, you don’t get any kind of design. But if you leave it in one place, you get your tattoo.

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Same goes for photography, as we’re also talking about light burning into a source. If you leave your shutter open for thirty seconds at a time and a shadow (or a non-illuminated person) were to walk across the frame, they won’t show up in your photo, the same way that the heart doesn’t show up on your skin if you’re moving it around.

Which is what makes THIS picture recorded by the Ghost Hunters International team at Port Arthur Penitentiary in Tasmania so strange. Shooting thirty-second exposures outside at night, they captured the image of a man walking across the hill. Why that’s weird? Because a silhouette of a person walking, for thirty seconds across a hill, shouldn’t show up at all — even if it were a living person. But the fact that this figure shows up as a perfect, non-transparent shadow, suggests that, though it appears to be striding, did not move for the entire thirty seconds.

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Though this was indeed captured by a team, it should be a pretty rare occurrence, because everything we know about spirits is that they appear to move at normal speeds, and for the most part, it’s very rare to see a spirit in one place for as long as thirty seconds. They often seem to be fleeting. And so, unless they’re bright or producing light, they’re not going to show up very well on a long exposure, even if it gives you a nice bright photo in the dark.

So if exposures and flash photos are out, how are we supposed to take photos? And if IR illumination is out, how do we shoot video?

Great questions.

Low-Lux Cameras

One alternative is to invest in Low-Lux camera equipment, or light-amplifying night vision. Most cheap night vision cameras are so today because they’re essentially using invisible flashlights to light up a room. It’s the expensive stuff that doesn’t illuminate a room, it amplifies what’s already there. Night vision goggles? There are no little IR illuminators on the sides, they’re amplifying the light that’s already there. Consider the difference between these two IR images.

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Light amplification is great, but it’s also expensive as shit.

Back-Lighting

Your other alternative is back-lighting. Rather than setting up your light right beside your camera, blasting out the room (and, potentially, the spirit), you instead set up your illumination along a back wall in your shot, so that you can see the back of the room, and you have a bright surface to differentiate a shadow or figure moving through your shot, without blasting that figure out with intense, possibly-harmful light.

And the best light to use? Investigators like Barry Fitzgerald suggest that red is the most welcoming for spirits. The same way photographers use red light in dark rooms, because it’s the least intense of the visible light wavelengths. Where UV is very harmful, red is as far as we can get, and doesn’t effect the photographic chemicals. Same goes for our night vision. Red doesn’t  burn into our eyes as badly.

The best way to capture a ghost? Red light, splashed up over a back wall, or light-amplifying equipment. No flash, shutter speeds that aren’t too long, and tripods.

Then, go ahead and see what you might get.

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He now leads the weekend public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, he travels the nation lecturing, and he writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and the Paranormal Pop Culture Blog. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide and the book Into a Sky Below, Forever. He’s also a portrait and landscape photographer based of Fort Collins. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Wyoming Territorial Prison HDR Work

Just a quick blog post to share a couple HDR photos that I shot this weekend on an investigation in Laramie, Wyoming at the state’s first territorial prison. The ParaFPI TAPS Family team out of Denver gave a lecture and I floated along with them. Later in the evening, during our investigation, we experienced some compelling activity, from objects moving to disembodied voices to distinct presences.

I managed to get away during a passing storm and the twilight hour to get some quick photos. This was my first real attempt at playing with HDR, and I’ve got to say I’m thrilled.

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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.

Conclusion:

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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Why Do Ghost Hunters Investigate in the Dark?

This week we’re tackling a big issue: Why do we investigate in the dark?

Many investigators will echo TAPS in the sense that they’ll say that if phenomena is happening during the day and not at night, they’ll investigate in the day. But why do we investigate in the dark? Why not the day? Many don’t have answers.

So I’m going to do quick points on both sides of the issue,  but it’s first important to differentiate between investigating in the dark and investigating at night. Think about that as we go.

Reasons to investigate in the dark number ONE: One of my first responses to this question was that if a spirit appears and is producing light, it’s easier to see in dim lighting the same way that a flashlight is easier to see in dimmer light.

This does of course apply more in the instances of “orbs” (balls of energy producing light–not the dust in your photos) and the odd instances of trick-of-the-eye-type “sparks.” Whereas the more traditional idea of “spirits” actually producing light is something I’ve never experienced and begins to seem a bit outdated. Most apparitions are either shadows or look just like you and I.

Reason number TWO! Barry Fitzgerald has shared with me a compelling reason suggesting that UV light might be harmful to spirits as they try to manifest. When you consider the EMF spectrum, the frequency of the waves increases as you move to the right on the spectrum. Because these waves are more frequent, they impact matter with much more violence and regularity, causing damage. This is why UV light gives us sunburns. This is why X-Rays will melt our brains, and why gamma radiation will forever be my greatest fear.

Barry operates under the idea that sunlight, in the same way that it harms our skin, may in fact scatter spirits as they delicately try to assemble themselves into something visible.

Consider, he suggests, how spirits in folklore seem drawn to the darkest parts of the room, perhaps not because they are the most frightening places, but because they’re the furthest from sunlight. Also consider the amount of shadow figures captured by various ghost programs and teams that–if legit–demonstrate the apparition often crouching and peeking out of the direct light.

Reason number THREE!

Many investigators will cite that they turn the lights–and all other power–off in order to lower the ambient EMF energy of an area to get more accurate readings.

This isn’t without controversy though. Many other investigators believe that lowering the ambient EMF reduces a kind of natural energy shield within a residence, allowing more stray EMF to travel through (seemingly randomly) that otherwise wouldn’t, and may contaminate an investigation.

Also, some investigators believe that you should keep the environment as close to the conditions in which the entity manifested in the first place for the most honest investigation. Which seems to make sense, doesn’t it?

Reason FOUR! Many investigators investigate at night because there’s just too many people around during the day. There’s too much noise, too much activity, and specifying what is anomalous and what is the living is challenging in many locations. I did this last summer, investigating a bed and breakfast during the day. Nightmare.

Final reason number FIVE! It’s more theatrical and entertaining. Though not necessarily good for objective investigation, if you’re going out there to have some fun and get spooked, lights off is the best way.

So, flip side? Why should we investigate in the light?

(PS, many of these reasons I’m stealing from Mr. Jeff Allen Danelek who wrote the book A Case for Ghosts and reps my home state of Colorado. Check him out here.)

Reason number ONE! Ghosts manifest during the day, don’t they? There’s a million ghost pictures from the daytime, right? So what’s the difference? And doesn’t that defeat Barry’s idea of UV harm?

They do appear in the day! The question of such appearances first becomes, are these spirits a different type of manifestation? Residual? Time slip? Interactive? If it’s residual, the spirit is only a kind of energetic echo, one that is potentially a different makeup than a manifesting interactive entity. Time slips too are a different constitution entirely, the theory being that we’re for a moment crossing over into a different time. So, perhaps what’s being seen is a manifestation not affected by UV the way others are. The way a character in a movie doesn’t get a sunburn if you watch it outside.

That said, go where the ghosts go. Absolutely investigate during the day.

Reason number TWO! It’s so much easier to freak yourself out in the dark. I do it myself every time. Mostly because of THIS CLIP.

Damn you, Slenderman.

If a lamp is knocked across the room in the light, my reaction is going to be far more mild than a lamp’s sudden motion in the middle of a mostly-dark room. It’s easier to be objective about what is happening around you when you have the lights on.

Reason number THREE! If spirits are manifesting as something with mass rather than simply an energy conglomeration, they should reflect light, which would make them easier to see in the light.

Reason number FOUR!

Additionally, if spirits draw from energy to manifest, isn’t it better to leave sources of energy on around the investigation area? We see this happening with battery drain, why not with electric circuits inside an investigation area? Some investigators have tried using small “EM pumps” to encourage activity: why not just leave the lights on?

And finally, reason number FIVE!

It’s safer. How many investigators do you see running around in the dark in a decrepit location on television and in real life? Holes in the floors. Debris everywhere. Homeless people lounging about.

If it’s all the same, why not just poke around with the lights on?

But which do you prefer? Investigating with the lights on or off? Daytime or nighttime? Leave a comment in the comment section down below.

That’s all I’ve got this week. Stay tuned in the next few weeks as we dive into provoking, ORBS and photography, and as always, new ways of looking at ghost hunting that you may not have thought of before!

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He 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 he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Moral Issues in Ghost Hunting

New Vlog this week! This one is a bit more casual, with me just talking to the camera about some of these ghost hunting topics, including the ethics of investigating a place of tragedy and the problems with charging for investigations.

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What Kind of Ghost Hunter Are YOU?

A lot of the debate and problems in this field arise from people claiming that other groups “aren’t doing it right.” Or that they’re using the wrong tools or doing it differently

So for this week’s vlog I want to take a step back and look at the four different kinds of ghost hunters.

This is a topic that I’ve lectured on for a couple of years now. And I think it’s an incredibly important step.

In the last ten years we’ve seen a trend of investigators spring up who were first fans of one of the ghost shows. They think, that’s cool, I want to do that. And so they do. They form a group like TAPS or they head on out and start poking around at the nearest Hell farm or creepy backwoods road or cemetery.

Now this of course has inundated the field with many “investigators” who many say “pollute” the work being done by more “serious investigators.” But this is where we start to break our categories down.

And those three to four categories of investigator break down as follows: The experiential investigator, the technical investigator, and the scientific investigator. The extra fourth classification I’ve recently added is the researcher.

Now, the experiential investigator, as I define it, is a person who’s out there to have an experience. There’s different levels of this, from the tourist who goes on a famous location’s ghost hunt, to the journalist who writes books on the matter, to someone like myself, who studies the experience and the phenomena from an almost artistic and philosophical position.

Point: There’s nothing wrong with these types of investigators. It’s very human and it’s very personal and can translate to a good many different pursuits and products.

The problem that frequently occurs in this category though is that many are uneducated in the field of paranormal study. Which to a certain extent is fine. Sometimes it’s fun to play around in the kitchen. But there’s a certain point where one needs to know to not put metal in the microwave.

There’s a baseline of information that many experiential investigators are missing, especially those using devices to facilitate experience. A prime example of this is the K2 meter. You can watch my vlog on the K2 here. Another example is dust. I’ve seen SO many photos of dust that people have decided is proof positive of the paranormal.

My point: if you want to have an experience of a ghost, take the time to learn what’s not a ghost first. You don’t want to cheapen genuine experience.

The second category of investigator dovetails from the first, and that’s the technical investigator. Primarily speaking, the technical investigators are the guys who do residential type cases, who are trying to debunk hauntings and help people. They use a myriad of tools in order to do this. And so, in order to do it well, they need a strong knowledge of scientific and technical situations and details in order to successfully do their work.

Technical investigators operate, not in the space of the purely scientific, but in the space between hard science and pure experience. They work for clients, where the burden of proof is on debunking and that fine line of the unexplained. They follow the belief that if you can explain as much as you can and the phenomena still holds up, it falls into that category of paranormal.

Any technical investigator worth their mettle should read THIS BOOK.

Many of these types of investigators will call themselves “scientific investigators.” In fact they are not. In western science, primarily physics, study focuses around cause and effect.

The role of the real scientific investigator is to document as much of the environment as possible (this involves full EMF spectrum including UV, Radio waves, gamma radiation, magnetic fields, weather conditions, sound, light). The scientist documents these and studies the situation around which a “spontaneous phenomena” occurs. The important elements being what happens before, during, and after the phenomena.

Theories are extrapolated. Tests are run, rerun, and the situation is set up again. After enough documentation, when consistencies arise, the scientist begins the process of writing a paper, offering a testable hypothesis, and allowing other scientists to recreate her work.

The scientist is not necessarily interested in capturing a cool video, is not necessarily interested in communicating back and forth, and is not necessarily interested in helping homeowners. They’re there to study the situation of a haunting.

To be a scientific investigator you’re going to have to be deeply knowledgeable–bachelor degree wielding engineer type knowledgeable.

Now the fourth type that I slipped in here has popped up on my radar lately that defies these prior three classifications. That’s the paranormal researcher. The researcher can be any one of the prior investigators, but can also exist on her own. This type of investigator is embodied in people like John Tenney. Owning libraries worth of material, research conducted by scientists in the past couple hundred years, and looking into the “facts” of the matters in a way that’s not physical science. They’re the historians of the field.

And if you think that science has never cracked paranormal research, think again. Consider this book for example, Psychic Exploration by Dr. Edgar Mitchell. He walked on the moon, and in this 700-page book compiled in 1973, he edited papers written by some of the world’s leading scientists in the field of paranormal and parapsychological research.

So as for myself? I’d say I’m an experiential investigator with a background in art, technical investigation, a spattering of science, and a more recent serious lean toward research investigation. But what about you? Where do you fall on the spectrum, and what’s the next step? Leave a comment down below!

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He 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 he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Fun Facts About Ouija Boards!

This is the vlog that’s going to be a little controversial. Why? Because it’s about Ouija boards. And how Ouija boards aren’t necessarily the devil’s tools you think they are.

You might not have known, but Ouija boards have been around since the mid-nineteenth century. The boards were originally called “talking boards”, and Ouija was only a brand name. They were used in much the same way you see them used today–

Not for possession but for party games. Now in the 19th century, when things were a lot more “proper” and couples cuddling up to watch the Bachelorette was frowned upon–

(Actually let’s be honest, I still frown upon that.)

Anyway, cuddling was way too intimate. And so the Ouija board was a great excuse to sit close as you balanced the board on your knees. And the planchette? An excuse to almost touch fingertips.

Take a look at this Satanic Séance, as painted by the late Norman Rockwell.

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Blistering with Sexual Tension, isn’t it?

Now say what you will about the inherent darkness of the board, but it wasn’t popularized as occultish until the movie The Exorcist came out. The movie made no explicit reference linking the board and the possession, but there was one scene in which Linda Blair was talking to Captain Howdy with the Ouija board. Shortly after, the possession began.

So first point, the board was seen as culturally harmless for a hundred years before Hollywood got a hold of it.

Much of this information is talked about in Jeff Belanger’s book Communicating With the Dead. But it’s also lectured about by the Ouija board expert if there ever was one, my friend Robert Murch. He has thousands of boards in his home. If there was ever a portal to Hell, that would be it. But he’s had no problems and is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. You can find more at www.RobertMurch.com.

Another part of the reason Ouija boards have built such a reputation is because possession, it is believed, happens for a reason. Exorcists believe that possession is rarely random, but comes from what usually amounts to an “unhealthy” curiosity with the occult in one way or another. And so in most possession cases, the source is traced back to understand where the possession started. And because Ouija boards are so common? It’s usually game, set, match, when one is found in a closet.

But are there real dangers from the Ouija board?

That depends.

Many of the stories I’ve heard from people go along the lines of something like this:

“I don’t do Ouija boards. Nope. No. No.”

“Why?”

“I had a bad experience with one when I was a teenager, and just… nope!”

“What happened?”

“Well, we pulled out the board and turned the lights down, you know? And I was touching the planchette and my friends hadn’t touched it yet, and it moved.”

Beat. “Isn’t that what you want to have happen?”

“Well, then we asked it when I was going to die, right? And it started telling us a date!”

Beat. “How’s that demonic?”

“Well, okay, then something near my dresser, it totally flew off the shelf.”

Beat. “Sounds like good activity.”

“Well, okay, then for the next couple nights, I felt like a dark presence around me when I was sleeping and it was bad.”

Beat. “Ghosts are often frightening. And often appear that way.”

“No, this was different. This was bad, see.”

And usually they wrap like that. I find that the cultural paranoia tarnishes the activity as “bad” or “negative” when playful interactions with spirits yield, well, actual interactions with spirits.

That said, I find there are two different instances that I would call attention to their potential danger.

The first is the question of how the board works. If a spirit sits down across from you and pushes the board with you and your friends, sweet. Time to get down to business and see if you’re gonna marry that hot guy in your English class.

But if the demands of the board require a kind of channeling of a spirit, you should be careful. Channeling is practiced by many experienced mediums and psychics, and has been said to leave you open to spirit possession if you’re not careful about it.

I like to stave this off by setting intention the moment I sit at the board. If channeling is what it requires, it’s not going to work, I say. But you’re welcome to push the planchette along with me.

Intention goes a long way in the paranormal.

But further still, there’s a danger of investigating in your home. Homes are usually safe energetic places. It’s where you feel comfortable. It’s where you go for safety and love. Most investigators will clear themselves after an investigation to keep their home static and clear.

Once you’ve invited a spirit into your home, and you give them that attention, that can spread. And, once your home is an open invitation to spirits, it’s hard to tell then who or what is coming and going. And if something darker is passing through the neighborhood on his way down to Georgia… it can be bad news.

(That said, the odds of coming into contact with something that dark are still very far off).

This then takes the emphasis away from Ouija boards, and if it is the cause of hauntings going bad, the same negative spin can be put on your K2 meter even, which can just as easily be used to speak with spirits inside your home.

Hope this has been helpful. Controversial topic I know, but I’ve said my piece. Do you have a story of a Ouija board gone bad? Still don’t want to mess with them?  Sound off in the comments down below!

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He 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 he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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EVIL SPIRITS AND THINGS THAT WATCH YOU SLEEP!

I want to go ahead and piggy-back off that last blog with this blog. In the last vlog we talked about deconstructing and dividing these ideas between what is “scary” and what is “evil. Now, the obvious place I want to go with this is to apply it to ghost hunting.

Historically speaking, hauntings have always been fodder for horror movies. And so investigating hauntings is easy to present as a “dangerous” profession, or at least a risky and exciting one for television. That’s why we get all these ghost hunting teams on television who present themselves like badasses. I would know! I did that for a while and I’d love to do it again.

But so, in our present state of media-driven ghost popularity, we get these recurring ideas of how “dangerous” it is to ghost hunt.

Now there’s absolutely real dangers out there. Every thing I say in this vlog can have an asterisk footnote that says “unless you’re dealing with something really bad.” A point about that: it’s rare as Hell. If you want to know what stuff like that REALLY looks like:

Read THIS BOOK. Or THIS BOOK. Or THIS BOOK. And if you’re really worried about those real dangers and how they present themselves (usually in Christian terms), you’ll be left with a better idea of how the darkness really acts in the world around us (at least as far as we know).

But what I want to address right now is toward the deconstruction of the evil-nature of many spirits.

Let’s look at evil situation number 1: A spirit following you home.

Everyone is super freaked about this lately, and it’s the number two question everyone likes to ask para-celebs at events.

Point of order: for the most part, it’s not scary. It’s awkward.

Most spirits we deal with. MOST. Are human spirits. With human wants and human attachments. If one follows you home, it’s because they like you. Or they want something from you. One is awkward if you don’t want a new roommate. The other isn’t frightening. Watch the Sixth Sense again and play it cool.

Like any other human being, things get worse when you don’t treat a spirit with respect. If you don’t want the there, ask them politely to leave. If that doesn’t help, being assertive goes a long way.

Evil situation number 2: ANYTHING ghostly that happens at your house.

Same goes. It’s your house. You don’t want to take your work home with you. You don’t want to bother with energy drains and creepy people watching you sleep. But simply because you see a black figure standing by your bed. Or because you get a dark feeling in your chest and it feels bad. Or because you hear a growl. None of that means it’s evil.

Ghosts have to appear somehow, often times it’s what we’ve always labeled as “creepy.” But so was that guy with all the tattoos and the biker boots who helped you pick up your groceries when you dropped them that one time. Dark feelings in our chests are usually indicators of the presence of a spirit. Not necessarily it’s mood. It’s usually an energy drain. Or just the funky feeling that accompanies a spirit’s presence. (Which could even be due to ions, if you see the last blog or read THIS BOOK.).

Growls happen. Maybe they want your attention. Maybe it’s a ghost dog. Maybe it’s a ghost with indigestion. In fact, even the most evil seeming stuff isn’t evil. Look at Evil situation number 3:

I want to tell a story now, but I can’t for the life of me find where I got it from. Part of me wants to say it was shared by Andy Coppock and Michelle Brown, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, there was this hospital in California. Run down. Abandoned. Creepy as hell. And apparently there was a very angry spirit in the basement who would curse and throw objects and make a big scare. Instead of calling it a demon and yelling at it, they sat down, said “dispense with the bull,” and had a conversation about why the spirit was so upset. What they learned was that the spirit was a patient at the hospital in the sixties or seventies, who wound up dying on the operating table because of a surgeon’s mistake. So he took it upon himself to scare way anyone he could so that the same thing didn’t happen to them. He still sees the hospital as functioning.

This I think is a classic example of a situation that seems negative, but is actually very human and very understandable. MOST of the spirits we deal with on investigation are human beings dealing with human problems. If they’re angry, it’s for a reason. If they’re attached to something, it’s for a reason.

So before you freak out, understand what’s happening. Be confident. Be assertive. And above all else, be respectful. Like any bully, even the bad stuff has a hard time getting to you if you’re confident. If you don’t react. If you don’t let yourself get scared (which can be very hard, for sure).

This way you have the tools to deal with it if it is a grumpy human being, and you’re already reasonably well protected emotionally if it turns out to be something darker or more persistent (which usually seeks to draw out negative energy from you). Where we talk about energies and attitudes on a regular basis, being positive when dealing with ANY entity is paramount.

Next week I’ll be getting controversial and covering evil situation number 4: There’s no topic that freaks more people out than bringing up the terrible and cursed portal to hell plastic board game…

The Ouija Board.

Until then, be positive, be respectful, and rock on with your bad selves.

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He 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 he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Use Your Words, Dude

Today I want to talk about our Words and specificity.

Some people think it’s nerdy to be concerned about word choice or specifics. To which I say it’s everything, and fascinating, and incredibly important.

This vlog will be simple today. Only two parts.

For the first part, I want to examine the importance of being specific in your questions on a ghost hunt. Let’s take a listen again to the interaction we had with the spirit of Lucy through a cell sensor April of two years ago. In this example, we have the instance of my asking Lucy the question:

“Do some spirits feel negative energy?”

Lucy responds without an answer, indicative of a “no” response. But her answer is immediately ambiguous in the yes/no situation. Is this true that no other spirits feel negative energy? Or, I wonder, quickly adjusting my question,

“Do you KNOW if some spirits feel different energies?”

Her response is again no. So to fully clarify, I ask;

“So you don’t know?” And she then responds with a yes.

But even here in this example, there’s loads and loads of questions and clarifications I didn’t ask, that I didn’t realize at the time, being younger and put on the spot. We’d been asking Lucy about feeling our “positive energies” and then opposed them to whether she feels (or, sometimes, as we accidentally used interchangeably, “draws from”) negative energies.

See the obvious problem here? She might have understood what we meant, discussing the positive attitudes and excitement of the group, versus the negative energy put off by grumpy people. But especially when asking even pseudo-scientific interview questions, we start talking about “positive energies” and that could mean something completely different to her, or say, a scientist. Some scientists theorize that ions may contribute to paranormal phenomena, or be a factor in the manifestation. Ions are charged particles. What’s interesting is that an excessive amount of positively charged ions in the air make people feel bad. And, inversely, excessive negatively charged particles make you feel good. (This is where you get those “Ionic breeze home air filters” on infomercials. They charge the particles negatively so that your room feels better.) Some think then, that as a byproduct or condition of the spirit’s manifestation, positive ions may contribute, and may also explain the heavy, more negative feelings associated with even benevolent hauntings.

So as we sit asking about Lucy only drawing from “positive energies,” who’s to say she wasn’t referring to ionic charge, not attitudes?

You can understand how quickly, from even this one example, what seems like a simple question can be loaded, and especially difficult for a spirit to answer with just a yes or a no.

Look at the simple difference between the questions “Can you do something?” and “Do you do something?” One speaks to potential, the other speaks to whether it actually happens. How easy would it be to ask Lucy if she can interact with the other spirits, then begin to tell the story that Lucy does interact with the spirits. There’s a jump in the facts here. Perhaps she can but doesn’t.

What I find interesting about this forms the second part of the vlog today, and that applies to real life applications of thinking about our words.

For example, I have a tattoo on my forearm of a Jack o’ lantern. Some people would say specifically that I have an “evil Jack o’ lantern” tattooed on my arm. I’d say I have a scary looking Jack o’ lantern. Now this isn’t an issue of semantics. My tattoo is supposed to be scary. And specifically so.

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In fact, I got it partially because of this idea that Jack o’ lanterns were meant to scare off evil or negative spirits. So to say that my tattoo is itself an evil Jack o’ lantern is not only inaccurate, but also contradictive to it’s very purpose in a MEANINGFUL way. Having an evil Jack o’ lantern would make my ink a part of that evil rather than combating against it.

If you think about it, we see a lot of things that way. Many of us see things that are scary as inherently evil.

And I think that making that distinction between scary and evil is a very important distinction. One that horror aficionados, for example, have made for a long time. But one that a fair amount of the general public have been ignorant of. They often act under the assumption that for one: scary things are evil. And then leap to two, if you like scary things, you’re interacting with things that are evil or are romanticizing the evil.

This opens doors to different conversations, but what I want to stress is the importance of the distinction.

So I urge you to continue to make distinctions. To study those binaries we tend to group. Not just within the paranormal and the questions we ask, but with ANY distinction. In politics, in literature, in music. In social interaction. Because it’s important to clarify what you mean, what society means, and where you stand.

If you liked this vlog, feel free to check out the earlier episodes here, subscribe, and give that like button a click.

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He 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 he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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