Ghost Hunting and Urban Exploration

Ghost Hunting and Urban Exploration

urban_explorationSome things to consider the next time you head out to investigate ghosts, and look around places where you’re really not supposed to be. How priming can set you up for failure. Priming is activating particular associations in memory. An example might be watching various paranormal shows on TV prior to investigating a location, or reading books concerning ghosts.

Although the popular consensus states a particular location is haunted, consider all possibilities as to why and how people came to this conclusion about the location. Many locations get the attribute of being haunted for many reasons. Some may be for tourism reasons, others may be that it was a former mental hospital or prison where many atrocities have occurred. Some business owners have been known to start the rumor that their establishment is haunted to draw in interest and more business. For once you have a belief, it influences how you perceive all other relevant information. If you enter a location believing that it is haunted, then every noise you hear, every shadow that you see will convince you further that the place is haunted. Most likely the noise that you heard came from another team member clumsily stomping around, or a mouse, a bird or possibly a homeless person that seeked shelter in the building that you are investigating. Entering a location with a neutral frame of mind will produce far greater and accurate results. For every piece of information that you gather that confirms your original thoughts and suspisions, try to find a piece that will disprove it. Opposing information is just as important as information that is confirming, if not even more important.

A healthy and appropriate amount of skepticism will usually yield correct results. With each piece of evidence that confirms your beliefs or what you suspected, please reserve some skepticism to test if the original theory is correct. Confirmation bias (a tendency to search for information that confirms one’s preconceptions) is usually counter productive without “conflicting” evidence.

cursedWilliam Shakespeare said it best: “The error of our eye directs our mind: what error leads must err”


Usually when one has a solid belief in if a location is haunted or not they ignore all contridicting evidence. This is called Belief Perseverance (persistence of one’s initial conceptions, such as when the basis for one’s belief is discredited but an explanation of why the belief might be true survives). Many are enticed by the unknown and thrive on the thrill of the hunt, not really caring about the futilness of actually finding anything that is logical.

Amateurs fueled by the popular ghost hunting TV shows, riled up by the stories in Weird NJ and inspired by reading a ghost story may prematurely set off to a location, conducting an impromptu “ghost hunting” session without properly conducting the research needed to come to any sort of logical conclusion. Usually this behavior is mirrored by individuals that feel the need to either vandalize, take souvenirs or drink and party at the location, disrespecting everything.

“We hear and apprehend only what we already half know” – Henry Thoreau

underpantsI never really liked the term “ghost hunter”, it always conjured up images of rednecks hopping into a pick up truck and heading off to an adventure. Also are you really hunting ghosts? Or are you investigating a specific location that was rumored to be haunted, using scientific measures to determine if the place is haunted or not? For us we do enjoy venturing to locations that even angels fear to tread. Many of the locations that we researched and documented are/were in danger of being torn down in the name of progress. As reported, after we walked through, took photos, performed tests, noting the history, and logging our experiences many of the locations have been torn down.

We have documented the history, researched why the location might have been deemed haunted, took photos/videos and conducted experiments to see if there were any spirits at the location. We consider ourselves urban explorers, documentors of historic architect, investigators of the paranormal, preservers of legend and lore. We preserve the various legends and lore of the place with the scientific research of the history of the location to come to our conclusions.

Sometimes this works backwards and the Misinformation Effect may marry Hindsight Bias. The Misinformation Effect is incorporating misinformation into one’s memory of the event, after witnessing an event and receiving misleading information about it. Hindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along effect or creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to see the event as having been predictable, despite there having been little or no objective basis for predicting it, prior to its occurrence. What this means is that you may go out and investigate a location, gather all your information and then when the investigation is complete an outside source may tarnish the gathered evidence by interjecting information that was misleading or bad information. You may look back and figure that whatever was said might have actually happened.

Happy exploring and documenting! Don’t forget to clue us in on your adventures at our Facebook page, at Twitter, or in the comments below!

Chris Chaos is a long time resident of South Jersey who once again resides in and writes from Gloucester City, New Jersey. He is a filmmaker, a business owner, writer, urban explorer and investigator of the odd and weird, a proud parent, happily taken and a connoisseur of hot wings. Chris can be reached at [email protected]


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  1. Marc

    09/07/2014 at 5:26 PM

    Thanks to the US Army, I had abandoned city half the size of San Francisco to explore when they closed the base in 1993. I was not there to ghost hunt, I was there the document the murals and artwork painted on the walls before they were lost.

    I totally get your point. It is so easy to psyche yourself out, or into believing you’re experiencing something.

    The cool thing about the situation was that it allowed me to collect objective, unique data on – possible – hauntings. I searched over 50 buildings in three years. of those 50 I only had suspicious encounters in 3 structures. I also had anomalies in photographs taken in one location over a period of three years, but I never heard, saw or felt anything while inside this one building.

    Of the three encounters, two were impressive. One was a glowing cloud inside a day-room of a large boarded up barracks (a 3-story structure built for the Korean War). It moved like a goldfish and was visible for twelve seconds. The second was a soldier sitting on the steps of his barracks. The lower half were the woodland camo BDU pants of the late 1980s, but his upper half was black shadow. I watched him sit in the shade of the building (a daylight sighting) for just under 2 minutes. He looked like he was smoking a cigarette.

    For practical purposes, Urban Exploration of the base was great for learning how sound travels in large empty buildings depending of the atmosphere and weather. I was able to eavesdrop on a conversation taking place 200 yards away from the inner hallway on the 3rd floor of one of the barracks. It sounded like they were inside with me.
    I have seen doors shudder from deluded sonic shock-waves, and I have heard the wind take on qualities of the human voice as it passes through small openings.

    I have stood in rooms where I knew men committed suicide, or were murdered, and had nothing happen. Urban Exploration is great practice for sharpening mental discipline for ghost hunters. Your adrenaline is pumping, your senses are heightened, and you can see, hear, and feel so much more. The problem is that these senses will lie to you if you let your imagination run away on you.

    I think the two should be seperate, ghost hunting should be a serious exercise where time is taken to record events and observe. UE is, in my opinion, a mix of art (photography), history, and adventure.

  2. Marc

    09/07/2014 at 5:32 PM


    Check out if you’ve read this wonderful article but are not clear on what UE is. It’s run by Mr Motts, and he doesn’t believe in ghosts at all.

  3. Pingback: Chris Chaos: Ghost Hunting and Urban Exploration | There is widespread belief in Ghosts in English-speaking cultures, where ghosts are manifestations of the spirits of the dead.

  4. Ken Summers

    09/09/2014 at 11:10 AM

    Today, we might conjure up a mental image of “ghost hunters” being goateed rednecks in black tee shirts with silly clipart logos bragging about what shows their latest equipment was featured on, but just like your UE days, back when I started, it was a totally different world.

    Just mentioning that term in public meant people assumed you were some goth teenager hanging out with a Ouija board and some candles trying to tap into the melancholy atmosphere of cemeteries and abandoned places. (That’s why it wasn’t something you shouted proudly, but instead muttered shyly under your breath.) There were no fan clubs following your every move; the people we idolized were authors such as Auerbach and Holzer. We carried flashlights, 35mm cameras, and microcassette recorders; with fewer published books on stories, we would often explore places without prior stories.

    At least that’s how it was for me. Places that are now well-trampled by every team within 50 miles were unexpected discoveries we made just out wandering with an open mind. We weren’t out to play “scientist” or “prove” something to the world, instead we were just curious optimists seeing if there was more beneath the surface of random places. And the research played a very important role.

    I never thought of myself as an urban explorer–maybe a rural explorer, given the places I’d investigate–more bent on finding the buried history than that perfect photo of an apparition. I think the history is far more rewarding and less fleeting. But now, instead of reading books written by people who’ve spent decades studying the unexplained, people are taught by that unrealistic medium called television and its heavily-edited (and often poorly researched) content.

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