What Happens When We Die?
Questions surrounding death are one of the cornerstones of spirituality. Judeo-Christian dogmas believe in everlasting life in Heaven or Hell; Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans believe in various forms of reincarnation; but all religions have a kind of belief (or at least a mysticism surrounding) ghosts. So what are ghosts? They aren’t in Heaven or Hell, and they haven’t been reincarnated - is ghosthood a form of purgatory? Or are ghosts a totally separate thing, a final product, not a stage in life after death?
There are those who spend their lives seeking answers directly from the ghosts themselves. Today they call themselves "ghost hunters", but the pursuit of information from beyond the grave is as old as mankind. Shamans performed elaborate rituals to produce visions, many tribes connected spiritually with ancestors, and just about every modern religion includes a right that involves communication with someone who was once alive. Victorians considered communication with the dead, a naughty sort of parlor trick - everyone expostulated about the foolishness of it all, but seances were always well-attended.
Today, ghost hunting is the subject of reality television and the pastime of choice for more than just bored teenagers. While some may be interested in only proving or disproving the existence of ghosts, others are on a mission to interact with the dead and gain a clearer understanding of what awaits us on the other side.
If you’re curious about ghost hunting, give it a try. The professionals who chase ghosts for a living have all kinds of specialized equipment, but the most compelling evidence always seems to come from the simplest tools - a camera, a video camera, and a handheld audio recorder. Even if you’re not interested in documenting evidence, visual and audio recording devices often capture things the naked eye does not.
Location, Location, Location
Theoretically, you could find a ghost anywhere - considering how many people have lived and died, the world should be crowded with ghosts if ghosthood is, in fact, a stage of death. But even the pros seem to have trouble finding ghosts, so starting with a known "haunted" location may up your chances. Old houses, cemeteries and battlefields are great places to start because they have a connection to both the living and the dead.
If there are in fact ghosts at your location, they are not likely to walk up and introduce themselves. You have to talk to them, coax them out of hiding. Make them understand that you are just there to talk, not to hurt them or chase them away. Introduce yourself and make small talk. This is where digital tape recorders come in handy - you may get a response. You might hear it, you might not; a current theory is that ghosts communicate in a register that we can’t hear. But when the digital recording is slowed down and run through noise-reducing filters, the voice becomes clear. The recording can also help debunk voices, too - the mind is a tricky thing, and if you want to hear a voice very badly, your mind may invent one to make you happy. If it doesn’t show up on the recording, you can be assured it was just a trick of the silence and atmosphere.
A video camera (especially one with night vision) comes in handy for both recording and debunking evidence. It may catch tiny balls of energy (called orbs) in flight, or it may reveal that the loud "boom" was the result of your elbow knocking over a lamp, not a ghostly communication. Your eyes can play tricks as much as your ears can, and having video of a ghost hunting session can help you determine that yes, that teddy bear was there before and that no, it wasn’t facing that direction.
Caught on Film
Even professional ghost hunters carry a regular camera with them on hunts, and some of the best ghostly evidence to date has been photographic. With the advent of digital photography, unexplainable mists and shadows can no longer be blamed on darkroom mistakes. Unlike vampires (which everyone knows aren’t real. Come on.), ghosts tend to show up on film.
Snapping random photos of the site while you talk and record may just yield something interesting. The difference lies in the "frozen moment" aspect of photography versus videography. An apparition may reveal itself only for a second - if you blink, you’ll miss it - but the camera captures that second for posterity. Some ghost hunters theorize that ghosts respond differently to the sudden flash of light from the camera, which may reveal them accidentally, so to speak.
If you decide to get serious about ghost hunting, you can get carried away with equipment. Infrared cameras may reveal apparitions invisible to the naked eye, and electromagnetic field readers may reveal when a spirit is nearby. Elite-level ghost hunters are constantly developing new equipment to ease communication between the living and the dead.
At the end of the day, no one can say for sure if even the best "evidence" is actually evidence at all. You could sit and chat with a ghost for hours, and still not have any way to prove that it happened. But if you come away enlightened and a little less afraid of death, isn’t that all that’s really important?