"I ain't afraid of no ghosts!" —You, after reading this article

By Andrea Wurzburger
October 16, 2019 10:00 AM

It’s the season of spook, which means that everyone is looking for a fright. I, personally, see nothing fun about getting my wits scared out of me for an entire month, but alas, such are the realities of Halloween. But what if, instead of going to a haunted house and getting chased around by actors who are just trying to get their equity cards at any cost, you found an actual haunted house and did some ghost hunting?

I spoke with Alexandra Holzer, the daughter of the famous paranormal expert Hans Holzer and featured expert on The Holzer Files on the Travel Channel, and with Ghost Brothers stars Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass and Marcus Harvey, to find out what one would need if they decided to go hunting for ghosts themselves this *~Spooky Season*~. No, I’m not suggesting that you text that guy you went on a date with once and then never heard from again — some ghosts are better left roaming the Earth on their own.

Contrary to what I have said while watching Ghostbusters, I am, indeed, afraid of ghosts. But, in an effort to get into the spirit (pun intended) here is everything you should know if you are planning on hunting ghosts this Halloween.

Be Open to What You’re About to Experience 

When entering into paranormal territory, it’s important to recognize that you are your best tool. “The first thing I tell people that are curious about the supernatural, that want to learn more is, you have to allow yourself to be open,” Holzer says. “That means being aware of your surroundings, your environment, the people in your circle, your day-to-day ongoings, because a lot of the times, we miss what is around us.”

That door that creaked open even though all of the windows were shut? That item that was moved from where you left it to another spot in the room? Stop chalking it all up to coincidence (or, in my case, the fact that I can simply never remember where I put my keys) and start being open to the idea that you may have some spooky guests.

Holzer also says that your intuition is an asset on a ghost hunt, so don’t tune it out. “You have to open yourself up to the possibility that there are things that we can’t always see, but we feel,” she says. “That feeling is called intuition. We all have that ability. Just not all of us are open enough to allow that in to feel it.”

Your intuition will come in handy while investigating the paranormal because it’s your first indication that there is something less than human in the space. “We’re made up of energy,” Holzer explains. “That’s your gut telling you something is there, and it’s not just the people in the house.”

Do you think it matters if you have an awful intuition when it comes to knowing whether or not men will ghost you? Asking for a friend …

Do Your Research

For Holzer, her upbringing was research, but it’s not hard to find books and articles about the paranormal. In fact, her father, Hanz Holzer, wrote many books — more than 140 — about his experiences.

And while the Internet is the preferred method of research for some, like The Ghost Brothers, for Holzer it’s a change to go old school. “No Internet, none of that, because all you’re going to find is things that are not real. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it might fool you into thinking this is what this is or this is what that is.” After you go old school, “compare it to what you see out today,” she adds.

What to Bring with on a Ghost Hunt 

Sure, you could just show up to a place that is rumored to be haunted and wait for a ghost to appear, but how will you prove to yourself what you heard or saw if you have absolutely nothing recording you? “Don’t forget, our brain, it plays tricks on you, too, when you’re in that environment,” Holzer warns. “You have to be able to have the tools that can hear, see, monitor, pick up on energies that we can’t normally do ourselves, as human beings.”

First things first, you’ll need a recording device — you should do your homework so that you’re ghost hunting with the most affordable option for you, especially if this is a one-night ghost hunting situation. If you’re buying expensive equipment without any research, you’ll only be haunted by your debt.

Your cell phone is your best friend, but we don’t mean that you should be Instagram story-ing the experience (although, if that’s your jam, please do it). Your cellphone is a recording device that can pick up EVP, which stands for electronic voice phenomena. Spratt says it’s the first tool he tells anyone to bring along.

“What you do is you pull out your phone, open up your recorder, and just ask questions and play it back. It’s just listening through the silence and I promise you, you will be surprised who be talking to you,” he says.

Next, you’ll need a good camera. Holzer actually swears by a Polaroid, which is making a comeback in a big way thanks to #90sNostalgia. But she isn’t hoping that you get a ‘grammable photo of a ghost — she wants you to trust what you’re seeing. “They’re just fantastic. Rule number one. You can’t manipulate them. What comes out, what you see is what you get. I love that and I think it needs to be applied in the tool bag for this sort of thing,” Holzer says.

The Ghost Brothers suggest tools like an REM Pod or EMF reader, which detect energy — anytime energy shifts around the device, it will sound and/or light up. “You can ask questions, and, theoretically, if a spirit’s there, it can communicate through this machine,” Spratt explains.

While Holzer isn’t quite as sold on EMF readers, she does say it’s important to “detect the electrical anomalies in the environment because that is what a ghost puts off.” Ever wonder why the lights flicker in a haunted house? It’s not Nosferatu in the corner, playing tricks on you (shout out to every millennial who remembers the Hash Slinging Slasher episode of SpongeBob SquarePants). Not trying to freak you out, but: “That’s the residual haunting of said person that was once there that hasn’t left.” I repeat: Their energy is still there. That goes for any reports of doors slamming on their own or footsteps when no one’s home.

The most important piece of the puzzle: Relax. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. How can we relax when we are about to come face-to-face with a ghost that may not be of the Casper variety? I also argued this one with Holzer. But she insists, “You have to allow your day-to-day life to go, your hardships, your moments, all of it, it’s got to go, and you have to disconnect. You have to give yourself to the environment and to the history of the place and the information that you’ve gathered together and walk in there free.”

“Don’t doubt yourself,” Holzer adds. “That’s what creates, I think, a lot of skepticism. If someone self-doubts and they rub it off like, ‘I think I felt something cold over here, and now it’s gone,’ or ‘I think I smelled somebody’s cologne.’ It’s a fleeting moment, and that’s the problem because our brain can only process so much where we start to put in self-doubt.” At the end of the day, “You’re going to have to trust yourself and not have anything in your mind to say I believe or don’t believe.”

How Can You Know If You’re Dealing with a Casper Situation or It’s Time to Move Out of Your House?

“When I tell you the spirits will let you know, they will let their intentions be known early,” Spratt says. While some spirits are fine with peacefully co-existing (Spratt tells me a story about an innkeeper’s wife whose husband died but still haunts the inn … with her new husband) others are not so kind.

What are some signs you’re in not-so-nice ghost territory? “Well, they’re the ones that are going to create nasty smells. They’re the ones that are going to take things and hide them on you. They’re the ones that are going to knock things off your shelves, or even worse, create an environment for the family and make them ill, where they have nightmares,” Holzer says of malevolent spirits. The name for those spirits? Poltergeists.

And while Holzer tells me that ‘poltergeist’ means ‘noisy ghost’ in German, it clearly isn’t as cutesy as the translation makes it sound. “It becomes ingrained in that person’s life and that environment if they’re living with that,” she says.

“Don’t forget,” Holzer warns, “A lot of nasty people die and get stuck as ghosts. Those nasty people are not the environment you want to be around.”

That’s why, Holzer says, you should also be careful while playing with tools like Ouija boards. “When you use these things, you are opening yourself up to be a tool and a vessel for the unknown around you,” she says of the board some believe conjures spirits. “It may not be the aunt coming through. It may not be a guide coming through. Could be some nasty, malevolent spirit that’s hearing you call out, and they’re coming through layers of God knows what to travel to here, to get to you.”

The paranormal respond to our energies first and foremost, so depending on just how many people you have involved with the Ouija board, you could be feeding that spirit a whole lot of energy. Holzer says, “It takes a lot for [spirits] to come through to us. When something comes through, pushes that planchette, and you’re with two, three of your friends doing this, and you’ve got, what, [six] hands on it? That’s a lot of energy. If you’re by yourself, nothing may not happen.”

So You Want to Find a Ghost

Holzer and the Ghost Brothers all suggest using the Internet as a means of finding a group or organization with which you can attend meet-ups and investigations.

“Everybody blends in, so you’re not feeling alone anymore these days,” Holzer explains. “You connect to people who are like-minded, who know who’s who, and if they’ve experienced a ghost hunt that they really like and had a good experience on. You connect that way.”

The other plus side to joining a group is that some of its members will have been going out and looking for ghosts for quite some time and will have invested in some pretty pricey equipment that you can get a chance to work with without having to spend a ton of money.

But what if you’re not so into the idea of a group and still want to perform an investigation? “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Mass tells me of the best ways to find haunted locale. “Anytime you get a lot of people talking about a particular place, nine times out of 10 there’s something to it.”

And even if you’re more of a lone wolf, you should still operate on the buddy system. Mass says, “Don’t go by yourself, have somebody that can verify some of the things that you’re going through so you’re not experiencing them alone.” The Ghost Brothers are holding their own investigation in Savannah, Georgia, on Oct. 25 and 26.

And if you’re a scaredy-cat who can’t imagine showing up at a haunted insane asylum in the middle of the night, just know that you don’t need to be searching for ghosts in the wee hours of the morning.

Mass jokes, “We tell people all the time, a lot of crazy stuff happens during the daytime too. Got to be respectful, a lot of times, late at night, spirits be tired, this might be irritating them. Disrupting their rest.”

And Holzer agrees — her father used to investigate during the day — but she does say that your best chances of an encounter are going to be in the middle of the night. “When it’s night, things quiet down. People get quiet, which is why a lot of times people have experiences when they’re sleeping. They get woken up by a noise, or they’re so tired, their guard is let down. They’re kind of getting ready to let go, and then something happens. The nighttime represents stillness. Everything settles down.” Which makes it easier to hear (and potentially see) the things that you may not have during the day. So if you want a trip to Spooky Town, USA … best to wait until after dark.

Don’t Be Fooled

It can be easy, especially with your senses heightened, to think you’ve seen a ghost when you have not. While you are your own greatest tool in an investigation, Spratt says we also can hinder ourselves. “I think people’s minds play a lot of tricks on them, ’cause you start thinking about every horror movie you’ve ever seen, every scary movie you’ve ever watched, all of those memories start playing in your mind.”

So what is the most common things people mistake for ghosts? “Dust,” Harvey says. “Dust and pet dandruff will always be the number one and two things that people think are ghosts, and it’s really just hair. It’s just a furball. Not a spirit, not an entity.”

Don’t Get Discouraged If It Doesn’t Happen the First Time

Even Holzer says that her father would revisit locations multiple times. “Sometimes [ghosts are] not wanting to communicate, for whatever reason. It’s not like we can turn on a light and there they are. They’re not on command.” In other words, you can’t force an entity to do anything that it doesn’t want to do.

But definitely be sure not to take anything in the home or space you’re investigating back with you. Not only is that literally stealing, it’s also not the best idea. According to Mass, you should always tell the spirits you’ve encountered to either stay in the space or that it’s safe for them to cross over. Mostly, you just shouldn’t let them leave with you.

“Tell the spirit to stay there,” Mass warns. “Let them know you do not want them to follow you.” It can be as simple as saying, “All spirits, stay here. You’re not welcome with me.”

Not freaked out yet? Great! Happy hunting! Or should I say … haunting!

You can catch Alex Holzer on The Holzer Files and Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass and Marcus Harvey on Ghost Brothers by watching The Travel Channel.

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