Ghost hunting and paranormal investigating is a tricky field to be participating in, but, like anything else, we can all strive to be better by learning from our mistakes. And believe me, you will make mistakes. It's hard to handle equipment in the dark, and even harder to distinguish true anomalies caught on film or audio from inadvertent finger fumblings while trying to hold a flashlight, camera, notepad, pen and EMF meter in one hand while trying to dig for new batteries with the other hand. I've learned a few lessons over the past couple years of paranormal investigation; hopefully reading about my ?whoops' moments will save you some of your own.
Mistake #1: Do not assume that a location is haunted before you get there. This assumption is dangerous because it strips away your objectivity, making you prone to thinking every shadow, breeze or spider web that brushes you has paranormal origins. In this field, sometimes your objectivity is the only thing that keeps your credibility intact. I have a ghost hunter friend who I'm sure thought I was crazy when I claimed all these places I'd been to were haunted. When he heard my logic and explanations about why I thought they were haunted, based on evidential findings and not assumptions, he started to realize that yeah, maybe these places really are haunted. More importantly, he realized that I was not some hare-brained loon who heard a ghost story and claimed a haunting.
Mistake #2: Don't allow yourself to create false positives. A false positive is any piece of evidence that appears to have paranormal origins, but is in fact caused by a natural occurrence. Orbs in photographs can be caused by dust, humidity, rain, snow, pollen or bugs. Take some pictures in these bad conditions to learn how they appear on your film or digital pictures. Kick up dust, take pictures of raindrops. Knowing how not to take fake orb pictures will keep you from unknowingly claiming false evidence. Vortexes and rods can be created in pictures when a stray hair or camera strap crosses the path of the lens. Wear a ponytail or a hat, stay out of the wind, and wear your camera around your neck or remove the strap. Ghost mist or ?ecto' can be created by cigarette smoke, breath, or high humidity. Don't smoke, hold your breath when taking pictures on cold nights, and reschedule the investigation when it's overly humid.
Mistake #3: Don't assume that the preview screen on your digital camera gives a fair representation of the picture you just took. Boy, can this one make you feel stupid. Right in line with this mistake is passing your camera around in the dark to show off your newly captured anomaly. Do not let other people actually handle the camera. I learned this lesson when I was showing off the best ghost mist picture I ever took. It had the beautiful form of a woman in a long dress. As the camera was passed around, some finger unfamiliar with the buttons on my camera deleted the picture for me. A friend of mine deleted a great EVP this way as well. Share your findings after they have been downloaded and saved. Make copies of your film prints for sharing, keeping the originals and the negatives separate. The best meaning ghost hunter in the world can accidentally ruin the best evidence there ever was, and there's no going back to get that same anomaly when it comes to ghosts!
Mistake #4: It's more important that I can express to be familiar with your tools before you head out for a ghost hunt. Knowing how your equipment works, what causes it to malfunction, and where all those itty bitty buttons are before it gets dark will save you a headache and much embarrassment. A good example of a bad thing that can happen would be the first night I used my night-shot equipped video camera with a brand new wide angle lens. I didn't test the new lens at night. When I reviewed my video, it was so dark I couldn't tell what all those shadows moving around were. As it turned out, my new lens was actually blocking the infra-red beam that allowed the camera to ?see' in the dark. Maybe I got a bunch of ghosts wandering around a cemetery. I'll never know, because I didn't test my equipment.
Mistake #5: Store your fully charged batteries separate from your dead ones. When I was first starting to give tours at the Baker Hotel (a haunted, abandoned 14 story hotel with no electricity), I invested in a lot of rechargeable batteries. This was a very smart thing to do; it will save you a lot of money very quickly. Very haunted places tend to drain batteries quickly; so do digital cameras. I had the bright idea to keep my charged batteries in one jeans pocket, the dead ones in another. I cannot tell you how many times I got the pockets confused and wasted five minutes in the dark fumbling with the camera inserting and removing the batteries. It's hard enough to change batteries in the dark, trying to read the positive and negative markings on the camera. Store your fresh batteries on your person, keep the dead ones in your bag, your shoe, basically anywhere you won't mistakenly grab them in the dark.
Paranormal investigating is a fascinating pursuit. Save yourself a few headaches and learn how to do (or not to do) it to the best of your ability before you head out to those reportedly haunted locations.