First things first, don't go alone. You can't do everything yourself. The human body was not equipped with eight arms. It is physically impossible for you to operate all the equipment. It is also important to remember that many times you will be in the dark. There are stupid people out there who mean to harm you. There are crazy people out there that don't know any better than harming you. This is merely a precaution for your safety. Always remember friends don't let friends ghost hunt alone.
Next, your ghost hunting group is very important. You may find that you would like to join a "club". There are many to choose from. You want to pick people who are generally in your area. It is easier to make meetings and go to outings that way. Knowledgeable people will make for a less stressful learning environment. It's a lot easier to learn what you are doing and how to use the equipment if there is someone to show you the ropes. People that are interested in the same aspect of the paranormal as you are will be a plus. There are many people out there that are, for lack of a better term, cultists. They tend to be a tad overzealous. These are the people that you want to steer clear of. Also make sure you get along with the group you choose. You will be spending a large amount of time in the dark with them. Do you really want a weirdo pumped full of adrenalines skulking around in the dark looking for ghosts with you?
Now for the big guns, equipment comes in handy. Yes that is right ladies and gentlemen, you need to have your equipment ready. This means any of the following: a camera (with lots of film and good batteries), a camcorder (please refer to instructions for camera), a flashlight (again kids, don't forget the good batteries), an EMF detector, a thermal scanner (refer to same page), a tape recorder with external microphone, area maps, a pen and pencil (going a little old school), your id (if you do get lost we know who you are), a compass, first aid kit (ghost hunters are not immune to accidents), chalk to mark areas safely, and batteries (did I mention batteries?). Any of these items will help you to enjoy and record your adventure. Do not be overzealous yourself and bring everything. You don't want to be carrying the 40 pound pack and having to rifle through it every time you hear and odd noise.
Research is your friend. Know the history and stories before you go there. Also glance over maps or layouts before hand. It doesn't hurt to know where you are going. Check the place out in the daytime. This will help you to orient yourself after dark.
Don't wear cologne or perfume. This affects the recording equipment as well as your senses. Remember both are your key to having a an EMF detector safe and fun learning experience.
Say no to drugs, alcohol, and food. Clouding your senses is not the way to go. Food also attracts animals and animals make strange noises in the dark. Strange noises in the dark result in false readings.
Don't partake in illegal activities. Please do not trespass. It isn't hard to ask for permission to explore a site. If you ask for permission you are more likely to get it because you are less likely to vandalize. If they say no, it's not the end of the world. There are lots of dead people stuck here on Earth. You'll be able to easily find somewhere else to go. Do not litter. How do you like feeling like you are walking through a trash can when you go for a walk at the local hiking area? How would you like picking up after inconsiderate people that just threw their waste on the ground? Please leave these areas like you found them - disturbed only by hauntings.
Have fun. Remember this is a hobby. You are supposed to enjoy your hobbies. If it were work you would be getting paid. Even if it is your job, you should enjoy what you do.
If you follow these simple guidelines your ghost hunting outings should be fun experiences for you. Make some new friends. But also be aware that even though you may be the only ghost hunters at that site on that day, some of us may need permission at a later date to go there too. Treat the property and people with respect.
Originally published in Acrimony Magazine Issue #4 November 2003