I was asked last night what would be the best investment for ghost hunting equipment. That depends? What do you want to spend? My dream piece is a FLiR Thermal Imaging Camera, but I don't have a spare $8000 laying around for the one I want. Maybe I can go for the $5000.00 and work my way up.....uh probably not.
I know the person asking the question does not have the last name Gates, nor do they have a contract with Sy-Fy or Travel Channel, so let's be reasonable.
When you just have a few dollars to spend and you want to ghost hunt, start with the best audio recorder you can afford. The best ones are in the $70 range and have MP3 capability. It is great if you have a software package, like Adobe Audition, to go along with that, so you can verify if voices are actually paranormal (above or below our hearing decibel levels).You will also need the best ear buds or headphones you can get your hands on, since they won't all be "class A" EVPs. You will get audio evidence just about every time you go to a haunted location, it is the easiest evidence to obtain. I have an Olympus VN-8100PC and have many awesome EVPs.
The second item, more pricey for sure, is a good camera. Any camera that needs to flash to take a picture in the dark or low light is useless in investigations. There are now IR cameras and low light cameras out there in compact digital form. My newest toy is a low light compact camera. I LOVE it. It takes pictures in low light, just like IR video cameras do. The pictures are clear (18.5 megapixel), and the camera has anti-shake, Macro, low light, regular light, zoom, Wi-Fi and GPS. My husband (with his SLR), says he is jealous as it takes pictures that are just as good as his camera. I am not sure if that is true or not, but the functions (such as being able to lighten or darken a photo BEFORE you take it) are amazing. It is a Nikon Coolpix S9500 and cost just under $400, but if you can't afford the pricier SLR, it is the way to go!
When you can, buy an SLR and a tripod. This way you can leave that lens open and pick up as much as possible without blurring. A good camera and lens will run you about $1500.00 although there are cheaper options around $1000). Make sure it photographs in low or IR light. You NEVER want to use a flash in ghost hunting photography! Canon and Nikon make the best cameras for this use.
Needless to say I have an extra battery (which I forgot to bring the other night), and cables to download photos. The cables come with the cameras. You will need software here also, but it usually is included. The best camera bags are Lowepro. They sell every shape and size and even sell waterproof ones (which I need, long story).
Still have a couple of dollars in your pocket? Hopefully you already have a penlight flashlight. Large flashlights will ruin your nightvision, so make sure you stay small and use only when necessary, not for generally walking around. If you are afraid of the dark, you are in the wrong hobby.
The next little toy with big impact is a laser grid. These are inexpensive, and will help you see shadow movement. They are only for use in a controlled area, like a hallway or room where no one is in front of the grid. They only cost about $25, and some come with a stand.
You are probably wondering why I haven't said "meters" yet? Meters are the last place to spend your money. Seriously. It is OK to have them, but many people use them improperly. Make sure that you are trained for using your particular meter (they pick up different things and are effected by different things, so you need to know!). Be aware that when meter batteries are getting low and dying, they give high readings. Make sure that you are not fooling yourself into thinking a weak battery is a ghost, this is why most investigators replace the batteries for each use, whether they think the equipment needs it or not. You have to be very aware of power lines, transformers, radio towers, microwaves, conduit, cell phones, walkie talkies, and other electronic ghost hunting equipment when using a meter.
Their best use is for getting base readings, then when something starts to spike, taking a picture or doing an EVP session. They are to be used in conjunction with other tools, not for the meter to go off and to say "we have a ghost!". The earth's magnetic fields naturally measure on several of these devices, so make sure you know what you are doing. I find that people who have meters spend an entire investigation with their nose buried in the meter and miss things like Black Shadow People. Don't walk around with your nose buried in your meter!
That all being said, sometimes meters indicate spirits, sometimes they don't, and the best part...a spirit can be standing right behind you reading your meter and it won't go off! They are not the best tool in the tool box! They just let you know that it is possible that something may be going on, NOT that there is ghostly activity in the room.
Now I am going to make every meter manufacturer and some owners groan, since this isn't the greatest tool, and you want to pick up on electromagnetic anomalies, buy a compass. Yup, a compass, it will spin and point in any direction BUT north when there is electromagnetic activity! You won't have a number to shout out to your friends, but you will have more money in your pocket.
Another great tool is a video IR camera system. This will take some training and practice, but they are a great tool. Most systems come with 4 cameras. Make sure that the system comes with a DVR, not all of them do! These cameras can be set up to "see" and record in the dark. They cast a pretty bright glow on things, so you can see if anything moves or any light anomalies. They can be as inexpensive as $250, but then you need a laptopor monitor to go with it, and that gets expensive. It is also a lot to carry, so if you have trouble carting a bunch of equipment up and down stairs and away from your car, it might not be the best tool for you. Always make sure IR cameras are never facing each other, and that your range is covered (some cameras can only "light up" a short distance, others a longer distance, of course the latter cost more!).
Low budget? Get a hunter's IR camera that takes pictures when it senses movement. You just may catch something that isn't a deer! They retail for about $100, and work like a digital camera, you take out the chip and download the pictures.
It is then fun to have other things like the Thermal imager, the Ovilus, or rempod, but they really aren't necessary. The shows have them, and they sometimes help, and sometimes do not. It is all about what you can afford, and cart to the site!! When you are in a group and want to buy a high dollar item, see which item would best benefit the group, they may be short on a specific type of equipment.
The most important part of all this is KNOW how to use it. When you don't use it properly, you might was well not even have it at all!! You will NOT learn how to use it by watching the ghost shows. Remember that these are edited down to the exciting moments. Most of an investigation is wandering around in the dark for hours without anything noticeably happening. Most evidence is found the next day at review. This is why it is important to do real time listening or have someone watching monitors of IR cameras. When you take a still photo, take THREE , and review them. When something is there, investigate further!
I laugh when I watch the ghost shows because they show evidence or have something happen, and then it is , "OK let's go review", or "stop for the night". I don't think they are actually that dumb, but the editing makes it look that way. When things happen is when investigators get excited in jump in, not go home for a nap. If you know everything about ghost hunting from a TV show, you know NEXT TO NOTHING! You know edited details that are only about 30% of the process , and none of the "well that didn't work".
Make sure that you learn how to use your equipment alongside a person who is knowledgeable and skilled. I have seen more people misuse meters than anything else. If you are walking around the entire investigation with a meter in your hand, you are doing it wrong.I guess being a living meter makes me not appreciate them, but let's say you get a hit. Can you show that to your friends? If you have someone following you around with a video camera maybe,but I know I can't afford my own personal camraman.... but if there is a person with you with a video camera, they should be pointing it elsewhere! It is more fun to play voices for friends off the recorder or computer and watch their jaws drop.
Video cameras are OK, but I recommend the IR still systems more than the video. Ghosts rarely walk up to you and wave "hi". Move evidence is collected when they forget they are being watched!
A ghost hunting friend said to me that she thinks people use meters so they know when the ghost is there so it won't sneak up on them , they are afraid, not looking for activity. That may be true, although the investigators I know are LOOKING, trust me. That is something you will have to figure out for yourself.
You don't need a lot of expensive equipment to go investigate. You do need one thing besides the equipment. A healthy dose of skepticism. I know this stuff exists, I have been dealing with it since I was 5 years old, however the stuff I see that people call "evidence" is terrible. They see a ghost in every investigation.They matrix a ghost in every window or reflective surface. They see "orbs" in every dust mote or drop of water vapor. Most places, the ghosts DON'T come out every night. Make sure you aren't wasting your time fooling yourself.
Find an authentic group to learn from and have fun!
(C)2013 Dr R M wolf. May not be used, copied or reproduced without prior written permission.