On television and in films when paranormal investigators or ghost hunters are depicted, they often are seen using all sorts of high-tech gadgetry in the search for the unknown. TV’s Ghost Hunters, for example, love their high-tech infrared cameras, motion detectors, and so on. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with all that, except that 1) All the technology is very expensive, and probably beyond the reach of most scientific paranormal investigators; 2) most of the people using the equipment don’t understand how it works; and perhaps most importantly, 3) it is ineffective; the equipment has never-not once-captured definitive proof of the paranormal. The equipment is not designed for finding ghosts.
One important thing I learned from Joe Nickell is the importance of being prepared; he has an impressive investigation kit. Mine is loosely modeled after his, plus it has some additional things that I’ve added over the course of many investigations. Being prepared during an investigation is vitally important. If you’re doing a field investigation and you have an idea for an avenue of inquiry or an experiment, there’s nothing like the abject self-loathing when you realize that you don’t have some common object to do your work.
It also helps to have a MacGuyver streak, because you often need to improvise something on the spot. For example, during my investigation into the Santa Fe Courthouse Ghost, I hadn’t realized just how far up a surveillance camera was mounted. In order to perform an experiment, I needed a 10 foot pole, but I found a cut tree branch nearby, to which I attached a tube with some twist-ties. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
There’s no definitive list of what you might need on an investigation. Good planning and forethought are important (figuring out what questions to ask and how to test or examine them), but there will always be some items (usually small, common things) that you will need or want. Here’s what my investigation kit contains:
Half a roll of quarters; 16 foot tape measure; alcohol-based lens cleaner wipes; 12-inch-square medium-grade aluminum foil (folded); fully charged AA batteries (X4); fully charged AAA batteries (X4); quart sized Ziplock bag (X4); gallon sized Ziplock bag (X2); extra blank 2 GB picture card; extra roll Kodak 400 film; Velcro strips (1.5 X 6 inches); 20 feet fishing line; 20 feet coiled wire; folding multitool with light; Leatherman; superglue tube; Duracell 250 lumen LED light; fingerprint dusting powder; white fingerprint power / talc; black fingerprint powder / FeO2; fingerprint adhesive sheets; rubber bands, various sizes; magnifying glass; mini-lighter; pen light; tweezers, 2 types; two ball point pens; pencil; iron powder & activated charcoal hand warmer; metal mirror, 2 X 3; forensic brushes; pocket notebook; 2 hand sanitizer wipes; litmus paper; mini-plier multitool; head-mounted flashlight; Bell & Howell sonic alarm systems (X2); Scotch tape (roll removed from dispenser); 8 feet plastic-coated wire; empty, sanitized film container; super-strong magnets (X4); 8 push pins; window security screw; small case of red facepaint; 8 feet cotton string; 12 ml graduated sealed test tube vials (X4); Mini-highlighter; mini Post-It notes; dental floss (4.5m); baking flour (bagged, 6 oz); Q-Tip swabs (6); nitrile gloves (2 pair).
In addition to this basic kit, I bring cameras, voice recorders, a tripod, and other gear depending on the claims.