Ghost Hunting Etiquette: How to properly treat historic site

Originally Published October 11, 2010

Much like the article I wrote last year about exploring historic sites, the same rules do apply to going ghost hunting in and around historic sites, as well as these rules specifically for ghost hunters.

  1. No matter how many books you find that particular haunted site in, if the books specify that no tours are allowed, then they mean no. You can ask the owner of the site, but they can still say no- it’s their property! DO NOT TRESPASS! Is any ghost sighting truly worth going to jail or worse? There can be some very specific safety issues involved like weak floorboards, or cave ins, or it could be that the owners just do not want strangers traipsing through their homes or property.
  2. DO NOT badger the owners with phone calls and emails if they’ve said no already. Badgering them will not make them change their minds, it will only upset them and potentially cause you legal problems.
  3. Even if a site is open to the public, you must go at the days and times they are open, unless you can make different arrangements with the owners. Assuming that a property is open all the time is a bad idea and will also land you in jail on any number of charges, including trespassing and breaking and entering. This includes climbing the fence into cemeteries; all this is going to do is get you arrested, since the police are ever more vigilant this time of year for people breaking in to vandalize or other things in the cemeteries.
  4. In public spaces, be aware of what the rules are there too. Most state and county parks have rules about time of day you can be there; a number of parks don’t allow people to remain in them after dark. In you decide to stay the night in a state park, make sure that camping is allowed, follow any burn bans for fires, and of course, pay your park fee.
  5. Be polite. Whether it is to humans or ghosts or any other kind of spirit, being belligerent and demanding never wins you any prizes. Most ghost hunters will tell you that pissing off the spirits usually leads to adverse conditions. And being belligerent to humans? Well, I think you have a good clue as to where that could lead.
  6. Don’t take anything. This is not your property, it belongs to private owners, the city or the state. Tempting as a souvenir may be, let your pictures and maybe even a journal or blog entry about the event be your souvenir.
  7. Learn about the place before you go – then you know what to look and listen for. It would be kind of silly to go to Chessman Park and expect the ghost of Lizzy Borden to show up; as far as we know, she never even visited the state.
  8. Be safe. Don’t go alone, especially at night, especially into certain areas. The mountains are dangerous, but the city can be dangerous too. We wouldn’t want to be hearing about how a lone ghost hunter was mugged on the morning news. Tell someone who is staying home where you are going and what time you plan to be back – and call them if the plans change!
  9. And addendum to the above – don’t go into abandoned mines. Flooding, gases, possibility of cave ins- these are all serious risks to your life. The only mines you should go into are the ones that have guides willing to take you about.
  10. Remember that ghosts are year round. Just because it is almost Halloween isn’t going to make more suddenly appear or make them more willing to be seen by you or talk to you. Some ghosts are even daytime spirits, so going after dark is not a prerequisite.

So get your cameras out, your voice recorders, and head out to see if you can have some fun. If you are truly serious about wanting to become a ghost hunter, every city has a ghost hunting group who are more than likely willing to teach you about the different equipment used, the protocols for a professional ghost hunt, and even take you out and make you part of their group. A quick search of the internet will help you find the one nearest you.

Happy ghost hunting!

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