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 Fenix Flashlight HP25R Rechargeable Headlamp, because it offers variable output from a low of 4 lumens up to a blazing 1000 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. I also like that the battery compartment is separate from the light head and situated on the back of the strap—this distributes the weight evenly, and the relieves neck strain that can occur when all the weight is forward, pulling your head downward.
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.
#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.
Mobile Surveillance: Now that your surveillance is set up, you'll need something more mobile to take with you. Small, lightweight, and easy to handle, this Bell & Howell camcorder, critically, 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.
#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.
The first of your two options here is the FX Camera. The one linked here is a kit, which gives you two cameras with multiple mounting options for each: Dash mount so you can record your trip to the site and get your discussions on camera, a pedestal so you can use one as an extra fixed camera, and an action-cam housing so you can wear the FLIR during your hunt. The cameras allow you to see the temperatures of the room, objects, and anything else in gradient color: Blue is cold, Red is hot, so you'll be able to “see” and record the temperature changes, helping you to zero-in on active zones.
The second option is a small unit, FLIR Scout TK Thermal Monocular. With similar functionality to the previous cam, but in a much smaller and easier to handle form factor, you get options for how hot and cold zones are displayed, with simple USB connectivity to a PC to download any still images and video you capture. Its wide -4 to 104-degree operating temperature, and IP-67 dust- and waterproof rating, make it ideal for ghost hunting in less-than-ideal weather.
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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
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.