Old school paranormal investigation techniques

2nd August 2017. Reading Time: 6 minutes General, Paranormal Investigation, Paranormal Equipment. 5975 page views. 2 comments.

People have been investigating the paranormal long before K2 meters and Spirit Boxes were created. So how did they do it?

We as humans have been fascinated with the afterlife for centuries. Nowadays we have a large array of paranormal equipment at our disposal that can supposedly give us evidence that we are in the presence of a spirit. But what did all the old school investigators do to communicate? They didn't have K2 meters, they didn't have REM pods or spirit boxes. So what did they do and how did they do it? One of the most famous old school paranormal investigators was Harry Price. He is a paranormal figure that many of us investigators look up to. He had a scientific approach that focused on debunking activity and most famously, exposing the frauds. (You can read all about the time he exposed fake spirit photographer William Hope in my post: Fake Spirit Photography has actually been around for centuries.). He is however a controversial figure, but that is something we will explore another time. Today we are looking at different old school techniques that we can still apply today.

This is a famous picture of Price's 'ghost hunting kit' from the 1930s when spiritualism was as popular as ever. What techniques were used with these basic pieces of equipment? Can you investigate without all flashy lights?

Locking down a room

This is a theory that investigators still use today. Set up your room and then lock it down so that if you do capture something, you will be able to eliminate the possibility that someone has walked in and tampered with the evidence. Price would use steel tape, plaster, and string to lock down a room. The tape was used to seal a door shut. If it is ripped, it means someone has opened the door. Seal the windows shut to eliminate any sort of draft coming inside. Price didn't just seal the room off with tape, he would put his initials on it so that if someone did come in and tamper with the evidence and tried to cover their steps, he would know if the tape was replaced. So why lock down a room? What would you put in there? What are you looking for?

Trigger Objects

Your room is locked down and the possibility of tampering or natural interference is low once you have sealed all windows etc. It is an ideal environment to place trigger objects. Price most famously used matchsticks as a trigger object with the theory that a spirit who used to smoke would be enticed by a matchstick. Remember smoking was a bit different back then than it is today and pretty everyone smoked. You can lie objects on the ground or on a piece of paper and trace an outline to see if it is moved. Price loved using chalk to do this.

Detecting Movement

There are no vibration sensors to pick up those footsteps, but you don't need one! A bowl of mercury can do the trick. The consistency of the liquid will make it clear if there has been any sort of vibration or tremor within the room. Another little trick is to put powder on the floor to detect footprints. If you put the powder inside a room that is completely sealed off, you would be pretty impressed if a footprint appeared! Bells are another great way to detect movement. Hang a string of bells in a doorway or at the top of stairs, somewhere where the activity is reported. Make sure it is somewhere that will not get a draft (again sealing those windows is a good idea). If those bells go off, it could mean there is someone passing through.

Notepaper and Pen

Not only is it important to document everything that is happening, but some people also like to leave notepaper and pen in a room. Again in a locked-off room with no one inside, could someone leave a message? Perhaps you would like to try automatic writing. Write down a question you wish to ask. Sit down and relax and completely clear your mind. Write down whatever comes to mind however silly it may seem. Some psychics like to use this technique and believe it is a way the spirits can deliver messages


Today we use very fancy digital cameras and even our mobile phones can do this for us. Back then, nothing was digital so they relied on infrared film which was needed in low light circumstances. This would be very expensive to get your hands on today as well as a camera that you could feed the film to, but even back then, they could potentially capture a spirit on camera.


In a time when Ouija boards and Seances were the things to do on a Saturday night, this was a common thing investigators would do. You can try a seance or an Ouija board session. Perhaps you want to try table tipping. Using a pendulum was also a very popular tool. Just remember, these techniques all have a human element involved and can be easily influenced.


Not only is a flashlight needed for safety reasons, some believe that the spirits can manipulate the light. By unscrewing the top of the flashlight where it only needs to be lightly touched to turn on, it is thought that you can communicate with the spirits and ask them to turn on the light as a yes answer to a question.


This is my favourite technique and I use it quite often. I have been criticized for doing so in the past and out of the many many many times I have used this technique, I have only had it work once where it seemed like I was having a conversation with a spirit. It's simple. Can you please knock once for yes twice for no. You can have an intelligent conversation with a spirit without the need for a spirit box. Use that paper and pen and write out the alphabet. Read out each letter and ask the spirit to stop when you get to the first letter of their name and so on.


Put down the K2 meter and try a compass. You know the compass won't go all crazy with mobile phone interference or a light switch! It could however potentially go crazy if it is in the presence of a spirit (it is thought). It is a very cheap and different way to try and detect energy.

There is no shortage of what you can do without using modern equipment. This is merely scratching the surface. Modern-day equipment is very entertaining, but how reliable is it? We know that there are so many elements that can interfere with our equipment. Mobile phones, natural emf, and electricity can cause a lot of false readings. If you have a room completely locked down using some of the above methods, you can pretty much say you know it is not the cause of a mobile phone. It is a bit of fun but you need to have patience. When you don't have all of the false positives happening, it is literally a sitting around and waiting game. At least however you know you can safely browse on your mobile phone while you are waiting, and it won't affect your results! Happy Hunting!!!

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  • Dan 4 years ago

    You've got superb information right here.

  • Abrams Todd 5 years ago

    Good read.. I do many interesting things to capture the para.