There are some colleges that do have courses on parapsychology, while the degree won't actually say "Parapsychologist" or "Ghost Hunter", it will atleast make you look 'qualified' if you did it professionally for people. Though in all honesty, you don't need to have a degree or anything in it.
All you really need is a desire to do it, and a way to get to haunted places, or supposedly haunted places. You don't really need any fancy equipment (though if you want them, there's no rule saying you can't). All you really need is a camera, flashlight, and maybe a cell phone in case something happens.
As well, my advice for anyone that wants to start ghost hunting, is to follow a few simple, common sense rules.
- Don't go somewhere that is considered private property and that you could be fined, or arrested for trespassing, if possible, get permission from the owner beforehand. If you don't know who might own it, some good places to go would be any local ghost hunting groups/clubs/societies, or historical societies.
- Be respectful to the place you visit, especially if it is owned by someo
ne else. Don't make loud noises, break things, grafitti, etc.
- Don't go alone to a place, mainly for safety reasons, like say you go to an old house and the stairs give out and your too hurt to call someone or get help, or if there happens to be unexpected people there. If you do go alone, use common sense and tell someone where your going, and how long you plan to be gone and such.
- If your visiting a graveyard, especially during the day, be respectful and quiet, especially if there are people in the graveyard. Don't sit on graves, or make inappropriate jokes.
- Research the place you plan to visit and time your visits accordingly. If the hauntings take place during the late afternoon, you should try and go in the late afternoon, etc. As well, learn about it's history (Who lived and died there, who may have been born, noted people who lived there, who owned it, any notable events/disasters, etc.). If the place is owned by someone, again, ask for permission before going in.
- Always be more wary of the living, than any possible ghosts if you go to an abandoned place that is haunted.
- The best times to go (unless the hauntings are in the day), are obviously at night, usually between midnight and 4am. As well, at night, there are less noises and distractions to worry about.
- If you feel in danger at all, trust your instincts.
- While some people may advise against it, Ouija boards, tarot cards, or pendulums can also be used to try and communicate with a spirit at a haunted place.
- When you leave a place, make sure to write down everything that happened, and don't leave out any details. Write down how you felt, if you saw or heard anything, smelled anything weird, if anything happened, etc.
- If you are bringing friends with you, it's best to be honest about who your bringing with you. Like if you have a friend that gets easily scared over every little thing, screams and is loud in a potentially scary situation, it'd be best not to bring them. Bring people that are going to be serious, not to serious obviously, the point is to have fun, but basically someone that isn't going to be an idiot and do something that could get you, or others hurt or in trouble with the law.
- While this sounds very cheesy, cracking alot of inappropriate jokes or trying to scare everyone else can usually turn out badly. Whether it's just bad luck getting you back, or a ghost that decides to get you to shut up in it's own way, so avoid this if possible. It's fine to make a few jokes if your nervous, most people do that and use laughter to ease any tension, but there are limits.
- Use tools your comfortable with. If you've had more luck using an electronic voice recorder (they sell them at most stores, I know Wal-Mart sells them for a fact) than with a camera, then use the recorder.
- I would also recommend looking up websites and maybe getting a book or two on the subject. These are filled with valuable information, basically on what equipment can do, the best kinds to get, the more reliable kinds, alternate ways of contacting or attracting a ghost, haunted places, places that have been debunked as not haunted, how to become a professional ghost hunter, etc.
- When you go into a place you need to keep an open mind. The first time you go somewhere, you won't get a ghost immediatly. All it takes is some patience and luck before you get something, either physically (video/photo/recording), or actually seeing or experiencing something.
- If you are ever stopped or the cops happen to find you, or someone tells you that the place your at is off-limits or private property. Do not give them an attitude. Simply apologize, explain why your there, be polite, and leave the area when asked. Usually you'll just get a warning if your polite.
- Do not go somewhere while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
I know alot of these sound very over-bearing and protective, but again, these are mainly important common sense things that any beginning ghost hunter should follow. The main point is to have fun, while also being smart about it and presenting yourself as someone that can handle things professionally (basically, not acting like an idiot and trying to stir up a reaction).
If you are trying to find out if a place is haunted or not for someone else (either as a job, or just something to do) it is important to ask them what their experiences are and what has happened in relation to the site they want you to investigate. As well, when you go there, be honest about what you saw. If nothing happened when you were there, then tell them nothing occured.
Also remember that some hauntings have rational explanations. Example, here in Oklahoma there's supposedly a marble gravestone that looks like it's on fire at night when you drive past it. Turns out, this was caused by a stray spotlight that reflected off of it.
When it comes to a haunted home, when people say they feel depressed, fatigued, dizzy, irritable, they may think it has to deal with a bad ghost, but more often than not it turned out to be something that could be avoided and potentially saved their lives, such as a carbon monoxide leak. Just remember there are rational explanations as well as unknown ones.
Starting your own ghost hunting group
If your doing this just for fun with friends, the best way to start off would be to create either a myspace/blog/facebook/or youtube page dedicated to it. Explain clearly why it was started, the goals, what everyone in it does, places you've visited, and any guidelines for people that might like to join.
If your starting a group, basically what you should do is present yourselves in a professional but fun way. Basically to show other people (especially if you plan on making videos for other people to see) that you can go places and act accordingly, but also not so boring and drab that no one will be interested.
Also, if you plan on doing this as a career to be paid, here are some guidelines and useful advice for getting started.
- Start locally - Look up places that are considered haunted or have strange stories about them, and look them up, and visit them. Do alot of research on these places and also make sure you find out if anyone owns the property to these places, before you go. Make sure to get permission. Almost every town has some sort of local folklore, but in the event it doesn't look in towns near you if you have reliable transportation. Again, please make sure you get permission before you go somewhere. It'll look bad for you and others in your group if you have a reputation for sneaking and trespassing into places that you don't have permission to be in. If your unsure of where to find out about local history and haunted places, some good places to go would be historical societies and groups, your library, or even just ask around if anyone knows anything. Actually a good place to go would be a police station since they'd be the first ones people call when something strange or weird goes on.
- Presentation - When you start your page or group, make sure it looks good and organized when people see it. Make sure you use proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and that everything is easy to figure out and navigate so someone doesn't get confused when they see your page. Looking organized let's people know your serious and are more likely to show interest than somethin that looks sloppy. Also make sure you leave information on how to contact you for anyone wanting to hire you to investigate a place. Make a unique email address specifically for your group and display it on your page. If you choose to leave your cell or home number, make sure that you put down hours when it is acceptable to call, and don't answer any blocked numbers.
Another important thing to remember is now that you have your page looking well, now you need to decide on how you and other members will dress and what their jobs are. Part of being a team and being a good leader is using everyone's skills to their potential. But you'll basically need;
- Someone to organize the calls, and record what they'd like investigated, and when they want you to show up and can write all of the information down clearly (keeping detailed records of places and people you've met and visited)
- Someone that's good with electronics and technology if you plan on using equipment and to view and look at any videos you make.
- Someone to research the places you are going to be visiting
Another good thing would be to decide on how you want to present yourselves. Do you want to wear uniforms? Examples would be everyone wearing casual dress wear in the same color, or everyone wearing a t-shirt with the name of your group on it, etc. As long as everyone can agree and is comfortable with it. This will help people if your visiting their home feel at ease and more likely to take you seriously.
- Manners - If someone calls you to investigate their home, always be polite to the person. They are inviting you to their home, so use the same manners you'd use visiting someone else's. Also, don't roughhouse, or steal anything, or raid their fridge or anything like that. However, if you are talking with someone about going towards a haunted site they own, be polite and respectful. Make sure you show up on time when they ask you too, and make sure you have someone taking notes about the things they experience. If they say that you are only allowed to be at a place for 2 hours, then only stay there for 2 hours. While you are at the place they are allowing you to visit, do not break anything, or make a mess, and bring any trash you leave with you. Leave everything as it was when you got there, and also make sure you lock any doors (if the place has a key) when you leave, and return the key to the owner. Remember, this is their property. If a cop should come by and you have permission to be there, explain to them your reasons for being there, and give them the number of the owner so the cop can verify it. Do not run or give the cop an attitude. If you have permission to be there, you have nothing to worry about. However, if the cop tells you that there is someone or something dangerous in the area, listen to what the cop says and leave immediatly. This will also help boost your reputation when you investigate places for other people if they have references of people they can call that have said you didn't cause any trouble or problems and make people more likely to trust you.
- Investigative Method - When you go somewhere, always approach the place with an unbiased view. Just because a place is supposedly haunted, doesn't mean it is. You have to be prepared to look at things from a logical point of view as well. Example, if you are in a room and it feels cold suddenly, check for any vents or drafts that air might be coming through before assuming it's a ghost. Also remember that if you feel in danger, to trust your instincts. When you leave a place, have everyone that was with you write down everything they experienced and compare notes, and then tell the person that called you everything you experienced. As well, explain anything that could be a rational explanation for what's causing any of the supposed hauntings to have them look into it, and to call you if anything happens, if the site turns out to be truly haunted and is trying to hurt people (especially in a home), advise the family to call a spiritual person of their appropriate faith to get rid of the spirit (Basically meaning, if the family is Jewish, do not tell them to get a Catholic Priest, etc.). Do not try and resolve the haunting yourself! Also, publishing where you go, and writing down what places were really haunted, and what weren't helps create a good starting point for other beginning ghost hunters.
- Money - If you manage to get people interested in hiring you and pay you, make sure you give them a rate that is both fair and reasonable, both for the person and your group. Don't overcharge, and remain consistant with your rates. Check with other ghost hunting businesses in your area to see what their rates are and go from there. Or look online to see what average rates are for ghost hunting investigators. While many people would like this job to be a steady source of income, it's very rare that this becomes your sole method of money. Consider this as more of a part-time job than a full-time job. If you get lucky and manage to become big and get a large following, then you know your doing well. But many ghost hunting groups stay fairly small. It depends on what your goals are.
Here is a list of some basic equipment you'll need, or should consider using. These are not things you must have, but if you feel comfortable using them, or would like to try them, there is nothing stopping you. Use whatever feels more natural, and comfortable to you.
- Walkie-Talkies (If you are going with a group)
- Cell phone
- Digital Camera
- Video Camera (Preferably one with a night vision feature)
- Pen/Pencils and notepads (for recording down notes and information)
- Electronic Voice Recorder
Here are some of the more pricey things I know of that may take a while before you can own them. My advice before getting any very expensive equipment is to find someone that owns one, and find out how it works and if you can figure out how they work easily before investing in one yourself. If someone lets you borrow their equipment, take good care of it.
- Thermal Imaging Camera
- Infared Camera
- EMF Detectors/Readers
- Night Vision Goggles
- Motion Sensors
- Night vision video cameras
And here are some occult items* that have been used and can work for contacting spirits.
- Ouija Board
- Tarot Card Deck - Pendulum
*Note - If you do not feel comfortable using these items, for personal or religious reasons, you do not have to use these.