Ideas and Answers for Students and Young Persons
This area has two purposes... One is to answer the most common questions asked by students and the other is to give people under the age of eighteen (legal adult,) some ideas for their own investigations and how to do things.
To get to our FAQ section for students doing assignments immediately, please click here and I hope we have the answers you need.
As for the second part of this... ideas for young persons to do their own investigations into ghosts and hauntings, just continue reading this page.
Why does the GHRS and PSICAN have age limits to people who can go on investigations?That's a good question and we get it a lot. The problem is that most places we visit need us to sign documents like non-disclosures (a thing that says you won't talk about what happens except with specific people,) as well as occasionally "waivers" (something to say that if you get hurt or anything, the people that own or run the place are not responsible,) and in order to do these things in Ontario, you must be at least 18 years of age.
It kind of puts us in a miserable position of not being able to take people under 18 with us on most of our on-site investigations.
BUT don't let that stop you! On this page, I'm going to tell you how you can look into all things "ghostly" without having to be a legal adult BUT FIRST, make sure you're parents or guardians are cool with you looking into these things. You're going to find out that in some cases, you may need their help and it's best you be honest with them right off the bat.
Talking to your parents If you've decided that you want to do some study into the paranormal, it's a good idea to talk to your parents because sometimes, things can be mistaken and nobody needs that grief!
This is not to say that you have to sit down with them and say "Gee guys, I wanna go look at ghosts!" but dropping hints like "I'd like to read more about ghosts and hauntings. Do we have any books on it?" or even asking "I've gotten interested in ghosts. Does anyone in our family have a story or anything?" are good ways to start.
Remember: Some people believe that all ghosts and hauntings are demons and devils and may think that an interest in that topic is the start of you becoming a Satanist. (We hope that's not why you're interested!) If your family does not want you looking into these things then maybe you shouldn't for now and listen closely to their arguments. Don't "sneak" around because it's best that you have support for anything you do in life... especially from your family.
Okay, my parents are cool, now where do I start? Well, I should tell you something right now. We've been doing REAL investigations (not "sort-of reality" television like those Fox shows,) and if you think that you're going to be going to these places and weird noises, screaming and things flying around is going to happen, trust me, it won't. Things occasionally (but not too often,) happen but think about it... If you could say "Go to this place at 'X' o'clock and books float off bookshelves and people hear weird sounds.", don't you think that EVERYONE would be crowding there to see it? Things DO happen at some places you can visit but you have to be patient, quiet and most importantly, be OBSERVANT! Watch, listen and take notes.
At our most "active" investigations (ones that have the most things happening,) it's not weird to have to wait hours (really, HOURS!) for the first things to start happening and even then, they sometimes weren't all that 'scary' or 'spooky'. Still, it is interesting.
Think about this... "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'". This was said by author Isaac Asimov and is true with ghost research too. Anyway, time to get YOU started!
The first thing you're going to do is read. Once you've finished that, read some more!
I know, that can be REALLY boring but it pays off all the time!
Reading books on "ghost research" (I hate to use this term but "ghost hunting",) is helpful for you to see how people do the job. Sure, I'll cover some ideas on this page but the more information you have, the better you'll be able to do the job!
So, OFF TO THE LIBRARY!
Don't simply read the books you think might be cool or interesting, pick up ANY book! Some of my best suggestions on how to do an on-site investigation came from the last chapter of a boring book on Scottish ghost-hunters that I found in the Toronto Parkdale Public Library... I'll tell you these later on.
So, let's start with WHAT you want to look for.
It's easy to say "I wanna see a ghost!" but what TYPE of ghost did you want to try and look for and how?
Are you interested in the spooky legends and scary stories and just being at the spot these things happened or did you want to go whole hog and try to "capture" a ghost with a picture or a tape recorder? Maybe a bit of both?
Well, if it's just the "spooky tales" and being at the spot yourself, that's not too hard and very easy to do.
First, using the stories you've read here or anywhere, answer these questions...
- Am I allowed to go to this place?
- Who do I need to talk to about the place?
- What am I going to do once I'm there?
- What is the story about the place?
Let's look at these questions one at a time...
Am I allowed to go to this place?:
Is this a "public" place? Most museums and forts are and it's no trouble to go to them but homes and private buildings or businesses are another matter. In all honesty, going to a private site is difficult for anyone as there is usually at least one person in authority who will not be happy about kids and/or "ghost researchers" being there.
Who do I need to talk to about the place?:
It's best to start in a public building or space BUT if, say a friend's house is the place, just make sure the friend's parents or guardians are okay and if they say it's okay, then that's a good place to start. THINK ABOUT THIS THOUGH: If a friend says their OLD house is "haunted", do you really want to go to the door of this house, knock on it and say to the new people living there, "Hi, can we see your ghost?"... Not a good idea. Stick to what you know.
What am I going to do once I'm there?:
So, we have a place we're going to. You show up and NOW WHAT??? Well, if you've opted for an attempt to capture phenomena (phenomena - Fancy word for weird things that happen or are seen,) with equipment, then just keep reading BUT if this is for your own interest, then you should ALWAYS be armed with the facts. One thing though, almost EVERY psychic and researcher will give you one good piece of advice... NO OUIJA BOARDS! Below are the two main reasons they are not recommended for investigations...
#1: Ouija's are a dangerous and uncontrollable device that can unleash ANYTHING from the "spirit world" into our realm. Once there, this new entity may control events to such a degree as to screw up any "real" investigation. Instead of being "cool and scary", things become very nasty and uncomfortable.
#2: Ouija's are a dangerous and thoroughly controllable game mass marketed by Parker Bros. that can either make your team conjure up weird things from their own minds ("subconscious") that will affect their ability to do their job on the investigation OR some twit will lead the people that are either very scared or who want to think something REALLY weird SHOULD happen to believe something as a joke that isn't true and that will also affect the outcome of your investigation.
If you want another really good reason, we (The PSICAN/GHRS,) and many other people will never take you seriously. No matter WHO thinks this is cool idea or may make things "more scary", it's not. It's silly and dumb and if you want to be taken seriously and be treated with respect, don't do it.
What is the story about the place?:
Well, these are the "facts" you'd best be armed with. What is the "ghost story" at this place. It's great to say "We were in this one place where a lady in white floats down the staircase! Cool!" but you can see the next question, can't you? "Who is the lady in white and what happened to her?" You'll look pretty silly if you don't have a good answer for this.
Let's say you decide to go to Mackenzie House in Toronto for a look around. We know the ghost of a "small, bald man" has been seen and the sound of "ghostly children" have been heard. Can you find out WHO these might be? Heck yeah! Ask the tour guide! William Lyon Mackenzie, when he lived in the house, would fit the description of the man BUT no one seems to fit the story for "ghost children"... that is until the guide tells you that after Mackenzie died and his family moved out, the townhouse was home to many families... too many to look into but maybe the kids they hear are from one of the other families?
The next question is why would Mackenzie be there haunting? Well, why not find out what Mackenzie did (other than being a ghost,) and maybe that will give you a clue as to why he might still be haunting the house.
Now, finding out the history can be anything from visiting the site and talking to people to reading about it on the web or in the library... Like I said, the more information, the better! Believe me when I tell you that the staff of a place like Mackenzie House will be far more impressed and helpful to you if you know at least a little bit about William Lyon Mackenzie then they will if all you can ask is "Tell me about your ghost!"
RESEARCHERS TIP: Always ask about what the people know about the history of a place LONG before you ask about the ghost! They'll be nicer and know you're willing to learn rather than just be "spooked out".
Ghost Research for Young People
If I go to a haunted place, what do I take with me? First and foremost is make sure your parents or guardian know where you are going in case you need a drive home or someone you meet asks the question "Do your parents know you're here?" It's also important because IF something happens and your parents aren't with you, they should know where they can find you.
Next, take all those great notes you've made about the place so the questions you ask will be good ones. Know the history of the place and the reports of the phenomena.
Okay, now once all the above is done, here are the things you should take to "capture" anything...
CAMERATake either a digital camera or a 35mm film camera. Make sure you have enough batteries and that the camera has a flash. Use 400 or 800 speed film too as it's best for "low light" (dark) places. If you don't have one of these, get a disposable camera with a flash that uses 400 speed film.
TAPE RECORDERThis can be a bit hard to get. You don't need it if you only want to visit and take pictures and it isn't absolutely needed. If you do want to try and use a tape recorder, make sure it's small, it has a microphone that is separate from the machine and only use fresh, factory sealed blank tapes. Again, fresh batteries are very important.
FLASHLIGHTEven during the day, a flashlight can be important to look into dark rooms or spaces. Make sure yours has extra batteries.
PENS AND PAPERYou will be taking notes so make sure you (and everyone on your "team",) has note paper and a pen or pencil.
TWO WAY RADIOS or CELLPHONESThese aren't needed too much but it's good to be able to contact the people your with when you need them. Cell phones (or at least change for a pay phone,) is important to call for help if you need.
How should I use these things?
CAMERAJust take pictures of interesting places and always take pictures of spots where phenomena has been seen or spotted. MAKE SURE in your notes you say what the conditions were during the picture. (ie: Was it raining or sunny? Was there a breeze? Was it dusty? Were other people around or in the picture when you took it?) Knowing these notes will help you decide if you really got a weird picture or just a picture of some guy that was also there that was a bit blurry. REMEMBER, some places don't want you taking flash pictures inside so PLEASE remember, it's not worth getting kicked out of some place because you decided a flash picture was worth getting!
TAPE RECORDERAsk if you can leave the machine somewhere by itself. Tape recorders are used to record EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena - This is weird noises or voices that some people say are the voices of the ghosts.) Use your judgment... Setting up a tape recorder in a room of a house that you can be sure no one is coming in or out of is good but trying to use one outside near a busy road is not so good. You'll never know if the sound you capture is really a "paranormal" thing or simply some person who had their car window open as they drove by. When anyone on your "team" of investigators goes near the machine, tell them to say "hello" and say who it is into the microphone and say goodbye when they leave so you won't mistake them either.
Another tip, (and the reason that you want a microphone that extends away from the tape recorder,) is to place the mic AWAY from the machine so you don't end up taping the grinding and whirring of the tape recorder. I like to place a mic about three feet (one meter,) away from my machines.
As for the flashlight and notes, just use your own judgment.
What kind of "team" should I use? A team for this sort of thing can be anyone from you and your mom and dad or a few TRUSTWORTHY friends.
These people can help you take pictures and give you a second set of eyes when looking around a place. They may also be able to remember something that you might forget like which room is supposed to be the haunted room or who is supposed to be the "ghost" in this spot.
If you have friends who are a bit silly or can't be trusted to really help... y'know, goofballs that like to jump in front of your camera or scream into your microphones or, worse yet, mess around at the place your investigating, DON'T BRING 'EM! They'll only make you look bad and probably get you into trouble. If you want to be taken seriously while doing this, you must take the place you're in seriously and, in many cases, if you're respectful doing this, you may be INVITED back or get some extra information that otherwise you might not have gotten!
I can't get to the site at night to see a ghost! Well, many of you may think that ghosts ONLY come out at night. Well, I can tell you right now that is NOT true! Some of the best stories I've heard happen in the daytime! The reason that most "ghost stories" are set at night is for two reasons...
- People are more apt to notice weird sounds and things at night
- It makes for a better story
...but it is true that it doesn't have to be night to be "ghostly".
There are many places you can visit during the day that are active and I'll give you some suggestions at the end of this page.
Can you suggest where I could go and investigate? Well, I can suggest places NOT to go first...
CEMETERIES are not the best places to visit. First of all, think of all the "true ghost stories" you've heard or seen on TV. How many of them were in cemeteries? Not too many, I'd bet. "Ghosts", as we know them, haunt where the person lived, worked or played, NOT where they are buried so in all honesty, cemeteries are not great spots for investigations despite what you may have heard. Still, cemeteries are nice quiet spots and provided you treat them with respect, they can be interesting places to visit.
PRIVATE HOMES THAT DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOUR DOING because you can and will be arrested for trespassing.
ABANDONED PLACES because even though it may not LOOK like there's an owner, there is and you can and will be charged with trespassing not to mention that it could be a dangerous place with loose floors or animals that are now calling it home. You do NOT want to go back to school telling your buddies that your broken leg is from falling looking for ghosts and that the police brought you home.
"MY FRIENDS, OLDER BROTHER'S, BEST BUDDY'S, HOCKEY FRIEND'S GIRLFRIEND TOLD ME THAT IF I..." anything like this should always be looked at in advance for sillyness. Stories like "If you stand in the middle of the field with your head in a bucket singing the national anthem and then say the name of this girl, the ghost will appear!" are probably not real. It's best to go with well known stories or ones the TRUSTED adults tell you.
So, where CAN you go?
How about one of the forts from the War of 1812? Fort York, Fort George, Fort Erie? So far, every fort we've visited has a ghost story and some of them are VERY spooky and grisly (Fort Erie's "Headless and Handless" ghosts are really creepy!)
To visit these places and general information, click the links below...
Museums and homes like Mackenzie House, Pioneer Village (has stories that aren't on our website yet!) and Todmorden Mills... Ireland House in Burlington and Battlefield House Museum in Stoney Creek are both great spots!
To visit these places and general information, click the links below...
| Mackenzie House|
| Pioneer Village|
| Todmorden Mills|
| Ireland House|
| Battlefield House|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
Why not take a ghost tour to get ideas? Toronto has two companies offering them... The one's in Kingston, Ottawa and the one in Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake are EXCELLENT! These are the BEST way to get leads and look at places you may want to visit.
To take these tours and general information, click the links below...
| Walking Tours of Haunted Toronto || A Taste of The World|
| Ghosts of Niagara|
| Haunted Walks of Canada|
Kingston and Ottawa
| Haunted Hamilton|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
| Click Here|
These places are good because information is easy to get, they all have good famous ghost stories (which means usually more than one person has seen or experienced something there,) and you can ASK QUESTIONS! Also, it's a safe bet you can convince your parent or guardian to come with you and maybe even help with your notes!
Going to a fort or museum may also help you in another way... Ask your history teacher about doing an assignment on the "Ghostly Legend of..." and I'll bet they might be happy to hear you're heading to this site for your own interest!
DAYTIME HAUNTS: If you read through our site, you'll find that odd things happen during the day in Todmorden Mills, Fort York, Fort George and Ireland House especially but almost all the historic sites do have daytime stories and reports of phenomena.
So there you go... Now, what are you looking for? Look to see if maybe you can see a reason for the ghost being seen or heard. Let's say that in one building of this one site you're visiting has a story about "cold breezes" that come from nowhere and a vision of a ghostly lady in white is seen at the top of the stairs, is there a window at the top of the stairs with white curtains? That sort of thing MIGHT cause a ghost story if the window was open and the breeze from outside catches the curtains... or is there no good reason?
RESEARCHERS TIP: If you're going to do a really serious investigation, have your team not TALK about their experiences until after the initial walk around of the site but write down what they felt or experienced then meet somewhere and compare notes. It's much more interesting to see what people's thoughts were and if they match without having them tell each other things that might make them just agree with the other person.
Sometimes, you may even impress your guides. I had one guide at Fort Erie tell me that he couldn't figure out why one ghost is seen wearing a top hat. I pointed out that one of the military groups that were in the fort (The Royal Marines,) wore "top hats" instead of the tall hats the normal soldiers wore (those tall hats were called "Shakos" [Shack-Ohs],) OR sometimes, officer's (not 'private soldiers',) would go into battle wearing their civilian clothes. This might account for a top-hat wearing ghost too.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: I don't want to go into too much detail here but if you are interested in "special research equipment" such as an EMF Detector and a very sensitive thermometer, you can pick up both these items for under $140 (Canadian) at Efston Science near Yorkdale Shopping Mall in Toronto off the 401. (No, we aren't being paid but these folks, we just know it's a good and inexpensive place to purchase these items!) To find out more about EMF Detectors, please read our article on toys.
Click Here for Efston's Webpage.
So, do your homework, ASK QUESTIONS and be respectful and make sure EVERYONE is comfortable with what and how you're going to do something and you'll have a great time and might even convince your parents or guardians that indeed, Ontario has a ghost or two!
Take 'em on a ghostly road trip!
RESEARCHERS TIP: Do not assume everything is a ghost. Always make sure you've gotten rid of as many "natural" answers to things before saying something is "supernatural". You don't want someone pointing out that the moaning and groaning you're hearing is the guy beside you who's sick after eating bad pizza and not a ghost!
VERY IMPORTANT: In June of 2003, a nineteen year-old Western New York GHRS member was on a private, non-GHRS investigation when he was struck from behind and killed by a car on a dark country road. The driver was intoxicated and the young man on the road was dressed in dark clothing. This is not and excuse but, it is the facts.
This driver was not part of the investigative team but, a person who just happened to be on the road at the time. It was not intentional, it was, for all intents and purposes, an accident. A person putting their own "need to be somewhere" despite their intoxication over the life of an anonymous pedestrian. A nineteen year old man who, as a 'day job', worked with children and was well liked and admired by those that knew him.
We at the GHRS in the memory of this young ghost investigator cannot stress the importance of either dressing to be seen or, if nothing else, wearing some reflective tape or other type of highly visible type of clothing or straps so that this tragedy will never happen again to a GHRS person or *any* ghost enthusiast or researcher.
Please, take the time to be sure to be seen while out in the field. It will not be only good to avoid traffic or other accidents but, also assists in being seen as a "researcher" in long distance photos and videos.
Most hardware stores, auto parts stores and camping stores sell reflective tape, stickers or straps for bags, cameras or whatever. A few dollars spent on this could save a life.