Outdoors / Buying Guide

10 Essential Pieces of Ghost-Hunting Gear

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Before I started writing for B&H, I wrote and produced promos, trailers, and launch campaigns for a variety of paranormal investigative TV shows for a network that primarily airs Sci-Fi programming. In that role, I've spent literally weeks of my life watching those shows and, as a consequence, became fairly familiar with the gear that they all seemed to use—and it turns out that their kits were all surprisingly similar. So as we move into the Halloween season and ghosts and ghouls are on people's minds, I'm here to share some of the essential gear that you'll need if you decide to go out and hunt some ghosts.

It's commonly accepted that ghosts tend to manifest themselves at night. There's a great deal of speculation as to why this is, but a popular theory is that ghosts and other paranormal entities "feed" off of our psychic energy. The theory further posits that when we're awake, our minds are occupied with life and all that goes into it, but at night when we're asleep, our minds are less distracted and our defenses are down, so they have access to our mental energy. This is why most investigators work at night.

#1 & #2: Light

Primary: While you'll most likely want to do most of your setting up during the day, you're still going to need to do some work in the dark. I recommend a headlight as your primary light so you can keep both hands free. Of all the options you have, my favorite is this NITECORE headlight, because it offers variable output from an ultra-low of 1 lumen up to a bright 760 lumens, plus a low-output red LED. The red allows you to use it in the dark without affecting your night-adjusted vision, so you can use the white light at any output for setting up and navigating, then switch to the red when it's time to start your investigation.

NITECORE HC50 Unibody Die-Cast Headlamp

Backup: For your backup, I'd go with this other NITECORE, the Chameleon. It has multiple outputs from 1–440 lumens and multiple colored LEDs for night work, but most importantly, it is also outfitted with a powerful 1500mW invisible Infrared (IR) LED. This IR LED will help during your nighttime investigations by providing additional illumination to your camcorder (see below) and allow you to navigate without visible light.

NITECORE CI6 Chameleon LED Flashlight with Infrared Light

#3 & #4: Cameras

Fixed Surveillance: During the day, you'll want to set up your surveillance cameras. Most investigations will begin with an interview of witnesses and other research into the area or building where the hauntings or sightings have occurred. Through this research, you can identify "hot spots" or areas that seem to be most active. The best evidence is something captured on video. Depending on where you are, running cables back to your base camp is going to be tricky and maybe expensive, not to mention a tripping hazard when you're walking around in the dark. So, for your fixed cameras, I'd go with the Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera. The link is to a three-pack to make it easy to set up in more than one place. With these, you can live-stream multiple cameras to mobile devices like tablets in full HD and save video to a cloud service. Beyond that, though, is the ability to have two-way communication so you can speak to the apparition without being there, or your colleagues if they are near. They can also be set to activate by motion or sound—ideal for ghost hunting.

Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera (Pack of 3)

Mobile Surveillance: Now that your surveillance is set up, you'll need something more mobile to take with you. This Bell & Howell camcorder has IR night vision that you can use to navigate in the dark—simply walk around using the flip-out screen to reveal furniture, doors, and the occasional creepy dolls. The night vision works via IR so the back-up light I mentioned earlier will provide additional illumination to capture whatever might manifest itself.

Bell & Howell DNV16HDZ Full HD Rogue Night Vision Camcorder

#5, #6 & #7: Temperature Fluctuations

FLIR: One of the oddest and most distinct ways to identify when a ghost has appeared is a noticeable, if not drastic, drop in ambient room or air temperature. Just as with many facets of the supernatural, there is a great deal of speculation as to why this happens, but the most widely held belief is tied to the one I mentioned above: Ghosts need energy to show themselves, so they may take the energy right out of the air. Since this phenomenon is usually fairly localized, a recording device that measures temperature will be a key piece of gear. FLIR, or Forward Looking Infra-Red, does just this.

FLIR FX HD Sports Camera with Waterproof Case

The first of your two options here is the FX HD Sports Camera, which allows you to view the temperatures of the room, objects, and anything else in gradient color: Blue is cold, Red is hot. With tripod or head-mounting options, plus wireless control, you'll be able to “see” and record the temperature changes, helping you to zero-in on active zones.

FLIR ONE Thermal Imaging Camera

The second option is a small unit, the FLIR One, for Android or iOS. With a similar functionality of the action cam, these allow you to use the mobile device in your pocket to view and record, and if you want to upload to social media while you’re investigating, then this is what you want. 

If you gave your FLIR to your friend and are the one using the camcorder, the simplest way to measure ambient air temperature is with a digital thermometer. This one from Kaiser not only has a small form factor for mobility, but it has an alarm function with High/Low limits so you don't have to constantly look at it to know when the temp is falling, and minimum/maximum temperature memory so you know exactly what the variation was later, during analysis. You can also set this up in view of the surveillance cameras for even more remote monitoring and evidence gathering.

Kaiser Digital Thermometer with Probe

#8: Sound Recording

Some ghosts never manifest themselves visually. Many people report hearing voices and other sounds, many of these at the edge of human perception. It's for this reason that many investigators carry voice recorders. What I like about this Olympus VN-541PC Digital Voice Recorder is that it can detect ultra-low-frequency sounds down to 40 Hz, so you'll be able to record sounds that you can't even hear, as well as ultra-high-frequency sounds; plus, it has 2GB of internal memory so you'll be able to catch a lot in a single night.

Olympus VN-541PC Digital Voice Recorder

#9: Safe Transport and Storage

One of the gold standards in hard cases is Pelican. Its line of Air cases gives you as many options as there are paranormal events worth investigating. Offered in all sizes, with padded dividers, pick-and-pluck foam, or specialty linings, you'll find a case to fit all your hunting gear. Made of a super-light polymer to reduce weight without sacrificing strength, they are waterproof, dustproof, crushproof, and designed for travel.

Pelican 1615AirWD Wheeled Check-In Case

#10: EMF Recorder

Sadly, this is the only item that you need that we don't sell at B&H. Fortunately, there are any number of apps for smartphones and tablets that you can pick up for free or for a fee. EMF stands for Electro Magnetic Fields and is widely considered the signature of the paranormal. Remember all that energy that ghosts need to manifest themselves? Well EMFs are a by-product of that energy consumption. When you're finished here at B&H, be sure to download an EMF app—you won't be able call yourself a paranormal investigator without one.

Paranormal Events

In all the hours I spent watching paranormal investigations, I've seen some weird things caught on camera and on voice recorders. Some of them I've been able to write off as a cold spot from an AC vent or an animal in the distance, but there are things that I've seen that I can't explain and that I still think about all these years later. While I don't know that I've ever experienced a real paranormal event personally, I'd love to read about yours, so leave them in the Comments section… and if you are an amateur or professional paranormal investigator, I'd love to hear from you, too.

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Fun article. Boadening the playful field of product applications is clever. I've used B&H products primarily for astrophotography, but nice to know you are a full-service outfit!

Actually, our publisher asked us to do a book a couple of years ago on haunted houses,  and we immersed ourselves in the paranormal culture. Fascinating stuff, and we certainly came away with the realization that reality might extend beyond whst we previously thought.

One minor observation: the interviews we conducted and experiments we performed didn't seem to matter whethet it was day or night so far as paranormal activity was concerned. Mr. Witt's nighttime experiences with tv shows might have been the result of ambience and ratings more so than ghostly preferences. :)

Great article!

Thanks for the compliment, Mark...There is definitely the possibility that you may be onto something about the ambiance and looking good for TV, there's no denying that. I'm glad that the piece was entertaining. Do you have any specific story that you'd like to share that made you less skeptic to the possibility of ghosts and the supernatural?

Yes more marketing on the back of Halloween, more reason to sell gear, I would not normally be so thick skinned but clearly B&H is!  :-)

So, here is how you really make yourself a ghost movie....you need to lock off your camera and create your own ghosts.  If lock off doesn't make sense then quite simply it's putting it on a stable tripod so it does not move between shots/video clips.  You take 2 shots/clips, one with no one in the scene, and another with your 'ghost' actor.  Then do a half mix using a NLE (non linear editor).

If you want to make it even more believable then you need a motion control rig, so the camera is moving over the exact same path for both video clips, and then you can cross dissolve to make the ghost appear and dissappear as the camera moves through the scene,

Proper film quality motion control is expensive.  This is what we do, for film, features and commercials. So try out the locked off camera idea first. It's great fun and next Halloween you will have more people believing in ghosts too! 

I work in the field of forensic photography including thermal imaging, macro and micro, where I provide expert witness testimony in insurance related cases. These tools and others are entry-level, where for the hobbiest, they can provide you with a lot of fun and adventure. In the 1970's, I took a course at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute through Dr. Thelma Moss, who taught kirlian photography (phantom-leaf photography), dealing with corona discharge. What Mr. Witt is presenting for us is fun forensic photography with a little bit of science supporting it. Patrick Moffett

Thank you, Patrick for the praise and comment!

Is this serious? This can't be serious...

Actually many sitings have happened on just a security camera in a hotel or on the street. You may not need most of this gear after all.

That's very often the case. In my experience many paranormal investigators often use those encounters that get caught on surveillance cams as inspiration for deeper study.

I've both seen and heard ghosts, but both were of animals. One was an interactive haunt. I was staying at my Uncle's house about 3 months after his mom had died and he had moved into the master bedroom, I was in his old room. His dog had predeceased his mother by about a month. The folding vinyl door was pushed in at the bottom (broken) and let in light from the hallway. I covered it with a trashcan (not where the door could affect it) as there was too much light in my face and went to sleep. I awoke to the sound of plastic scraping across the hardwood floor and slightly obscured light shining in the broken area. The trashcan had moved with nothing to push against it. Then I heard a clicking sound, like dog toenails, approaching the bed. Even though I was in shock I managed to say "Susie, your daddy is in the front bedroom now. If you're looking for your daddy, go to the front bedroom." The clicking paused then resumed but moving away from the bed. A shadow obscured the light for a few seconds and then I heard the clicking move down the hallway toward the front bedroom. I got up and moved a heavy nightstand in front of the door and eventually went back to sleep. Yes, the nightstand was still in place in the morning, I hadn't dreamed it all.  

The animal ghost I actually saw was my deceased weiner dog, Schatzie. She had always laid in the chair nearest the window to watch for us to come home. Late one night as I walked from the bathroom to the bedroom, passing the staircase that gave a view of the living room I heard what sounded like a dog sighing. I looked down, and sure enough there was a dark shape (Schatzie was the mostly black with brown markings variety) laying in the chair against the arm closest to the window. It moved a bit, settled, and sighed. I just stared for a minute and shrugged before saying "Good night, Schatzie. Good to see you baby", then going to bed. 

Yes, both times I was shocked and startled. But both spirits were of dogs that we had loved and that had loved us and apparently weren't ready to leave their loved ones, so I while I was on edge by the thought that this meant there could be other spirits out there, ones that weren't benevolent, I wasn't afraid of these. 

Chilling and awesome at the same time! Thanks for sharing!

The EMF meter shown is the Ghost Meter at Amazon

Please! Ghost busting gear? Come on B and H let's  leave the ghostbusters to the movie producers. I'm very disappointed in this story. 

It's great, timely marketing on their part.....it is Halloween after all....

Thanks for understanding, Tankgirl...and for having my back!

Bigotery is also a market to consider...

Great marketing and perfect timeing.  I went  on a ghost walk last week with my 14 yr old son and was a bit skeptic.  We saw all kinds of unexplainable things!  Orbs, moving lights, tempeture drops and even an object moving by itselg.  I was just looking on Amazon to buy a few gifts for xmas but you just made this super easy!    THANKS!!!

I'm glad I could help with your gear choices. If you get any evidence, I'd love to hear back from you!

Early one morning I took a walk. On my way back, I saw, in a cemetery a little above my path, a little boy sitting, leaning his back against a tombstone. He was wearing a cap, and looked a little chubby. I then saw lots of people milling around, and so I guessed there was a memorial service going on (actually, I didn't even register "memorial service" - I just thought there were a lot of people out in the graveyard). I lost view of the cemetery as I continued on the path for about 40 feet, but then, when I hit the road and the cemetery was fully visible, I totally expected to see the gathering of all the people I had glimpsed at a minute ago, but the cemetery was empty. It was around 7:30 a.m.  I really was ready to forget that I had seen anyone, but remembered clearly that I had, that it was not my imagination, and so, unlike a few other times when I put things like this out of my mind, I forced myself to remember what I saw. So get those cameras rolling!! Seriously!

Awesome experience! Gave me goosebumps.

I forgot the question.  Any hints from people reading as to how to better do this?

I'm working on GENERATING ghosts in my Halloween pictures.   First attempt has not gone well, with a 30 second exposure at ISO 50 of the front of my house with my two pumpkins going full blast and my daughter holding her beloved black cat.  I flash her and then she walks off to get the ghostly look  I'm trying for something like what you have above as the lede picture.  There's too much variability in intensity, even with the 12 bits of raw my a77 gives me.  I'm thinking this is going to be a massive photoshop layer contest, especially with the lit pumpkins and very low light.

Hi Douglas, thanks so much for asking about this. Here are a couple of tips to help you get the eerie, long exposure look you describe. Generally speaking, a 30-second exposure should be a good timeframe to work with, but you might want to dial your ISO down to 100 or 200 ISO, which is more likely to be your camera's native ISO setting. If your equipment allows, I'd strongly recommend that you adjust your camera settings for a rear curtain flash, meaning that the flash goes off at the end of the exposure instead of at the beginning. Shooting in this setting will let you record the general framing and ambient light over the full 30 second exposure time. Then, during the last 5 to 10 seconds of the exposure, have your daughter and her cat walk into the scene and pause to be frozen by the flash. This causes the ghosting to fall behind your subject rather than in front, generally creating a cleaner, more dramatic look.

For added inspiration and tips, you might want to check out some of my Explora articles on Light Painting and Paranormal Photography... Here are links to two of them: 

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/light-painting-101

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/brief-history-paranormal-photography

Best of luck with your photo session and thanks again for reading Explora. Happy Halloween!!!

Thank you, Jill...I never could've pulled that explanation off!

Douglas, I hope you get the shot you're looking for - and we'd LOVE to see it.

My 14 year old grandson loves watching ghost adventures. I have been teaching him photography and this would really help get his interest up even more. Going to work on getting everything in this article so him and I can become ghost busters.  Thanks for the article and a great idea for my grandson and I to spend more time together. :)

Having fun and spending time with friends and family is the most important thing - especially these days. Enjoy hunting those ghosts...and if you find any, please let me know!

Great bit of marketing guys (and interesting products) ....... It caught my attention and that's not easy these days!

High praise, Ralph! Thanks for reading and commenting

I've always considered B&H the best first stop for accurate and honest photography & tech equipment information. All I can say concerning this article is; are you kidding me?

I believe the most accurate description would be "tongue in cheek".

Thanks for having my back, Ed   8)

This is actually for real. Though "scientific" recording devices may be the worst way to capture paranormal events, they possibly have on occasion, and people keep trying. I've met too many people, though, who have experienced the phenomenon. It's as real as we are.

LOL! It's halloween and the bigotery is a market. I had the same reaction, business has no limit!

I'm going to get some of this gear to investigate a spooky paranormal matter that's been happening in my own backyard. There are these nasty hobgoblins terrorizing neighborhood cubicles by impersonating Flipper, Spanish Columbo, Shatner, Sammy Davis Jr, Janet Reno, The Kracken, Sean Connery and many others. They're really annoying. I've tried combating them with headphones, hynotization, and chanting, but nothing works. Fortunately they hibernate on Friday afternoons and through the weekend. Great article! :)

Regarding #8: Surely you meant 2.9 Hz, not 2.9 kHz.  2.9 kHz is audible and is not "ultra-low-frequency"

Jerry,

We surmise that you not only have sensitive ears, but sharp eyes, as well. You are correct, sir. On further investigation into the range of frequencies that can be captured by this recorder, we opted for the manufacturer's lowest estimate, which is 40 Hz—and have changed the copy to reflect this. Thank you! I know Chris will sleep better tonight.

— Copy Editor

Canyou tell me why orbs appear on a digital card, but I have not seen them on my film slides?

Orbs almost never show up without a flash.

Orbs perfected their visual countermeasures in the analog age. Eventually, they will evolve to become invisible to digital sensors, but current sensor technology is outpacing their ability to adapt.

Hey man, that was well written!!  I do product marketing and pro photography. Loads of the Photoflex product shots and copy were mine. I've been doing it for decades, since names like Norman, Broncolor, and Sinar were common. They were clients. It's hard to deliver interesting content that is fun to read and hits the marketing points. Very well done! DO MORE STUFF LIKE THAT!

Thank you, Jeffery! With feedback and encouragement like yours, I'll look more outside the box for topics in the future. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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