If you are contemplating joining us and need to put some thought into what equipment you will need or want, you are on the right page. Here are some ideas and thoughts regarding equipment:
Purchase equipment that you feel comfortable using. Use equipment that you can financially handle and can maintain. Batteries or other replacement parts can be expensive. Look around to find the best price and perhaps think of purchasing used / second hand equipment. Do not allow the purchasing of equipment to break your piggy bank. It is not worth it. Set a limit for yourself in regards to how much you will purchase. The rule of thumb is to purchase things you would use elsewhere in your own life or home.
Some simple equipment can be made at home. See below for instructions.
Know that choice of equipment can be personal. But you can also ask what equipment the team needs most and focus on that piece.
Equipment should cover at least one of the basics: Sound, visuals, movement (such as objects moving or vibrating), monitor electronic issues.
Equipment that makes noise such as static, beeping sounds, can be discouraged. It is important to keep the environment as quiet as possible.
We also use common tools from other basic trades: plumbing, electrician tools, carpentry tools.
Don't break your piggy bank, not worth it. Stay within your budget.
For photos and video work, make sure you are able to download to your computer. A bigger screen helps see the whole picture
Some or a set of equipment can be heavy. Consider carts or other transport on wheels to prevent any physical injury when transporting equipment.
Crap happens. Plan on having a backup to your equipment. If one instrument fails, have one that can replace it at a moments notice.
Think about what you would like to specialize in....Sound? Visuals? Or both?
Equipment can be bumped or moved either by a person during the investigation or possible paranormal issues. Make sure you have tools to steady your equipment such as tripods or other frames that will help steady the equipment and help make sure it does not fall over.
Keep it simple no matter what! There are a ton of paranormal tools being made out there these days. They flash, blink, beep and look very cool. But do you really know what the tool does and how it does it? If it malfunctions, can you figure out what is wrong with it? Do you understand what it measures? Is it reliable or does it react randomly (there is nothing worse in this field to have a tool that is random)? Do you know what might interfere with the instrument? If you can't answer those questions, the tool should probably not be used. Always make sure you clearly understand all aspects of the tool.
Tools currently used in the field that have been helpful and give good, reliable results: Cameras Video recorders Thermal imaging Mel-Meter & KII Motion sensors Laser grid Voice Recorder
Most of these tools need to be used along side another tool. If you setup a laser grid, it is useless unless there is a video recorder watching over the grid. The KII tends to be sensitive, so you usually want to use a Mel-Meter along with it to check what it might be reacting to. The thermal imaging is good only if you can record hits. So there you have it. Best to think things through and make sure you have a plan A, B, and C.
Sound: Voice recorders. We use voice recorders in every investigation. It might not seem like a big deal or an important piece of equipment, but it is. Sound is what tends to be captured the most during most investigations. You should be able to get a good one for around $40. Make sure you can download the recordings to your computer so you can clip files, share files and be able to listen with a good set of headphones.
These two pieces of equipment are also used on each investigation. Visuals are not as common, but it is important to be prepared in case something does happen. This equipment is a bit more expensive. Good to shop around for quality and good price. Investigations can go from 4 to 8 hours. So check for how long the equipment will run on battery or if it can be plugged in / recharged. Know that sometimes equipment can get "zapped" and be drained by an unknown situation. Always bring back up batteries or a back up plan no matter what. Make sure you can download your data to your computer/desktop/laptop for viewing later.
Movement: At times objects will be moved, there will be vibrations, or objects will be rattled. This can be captured by video, but also with vibration detectors or motion sensors/detectors. We either record what the instrument is telling us or we video tape the reaction of the vibration / motion detector. Look around for some basic home type sensors. Some are quite reasonable in terms of price.
Health of a home / business: Here is where those other professional tools are helpful: We check health of the plumbing, wiring of the home, EMF levels of electronics and electrical boxes, we check the proper installment of doors, cabinets, windows, make sure the floors and other objects are leveled correctly, we check carbon monoxide levels while in the home, any closets with an accumulation of cleaning / construction chemicals, etc. The general health of the home is just as important as the investigation itself.
Down to earth equipment made at home: There are simple, down to earth tools that can be made right at home. Trigger objects: These are objects that can be made at home or purchased for little money. We use them and put them around the home to entice whatever is there to move it or signal us that they are there. It can be a teddy bear, to a toy race car, a stuffed animal, playing cards, etc. Cooking flour or other powders: This has been used to see if footprints are left behind. The only downfall is that you have to clean it up when you are done. Home made trigger object: Materials:
Empty, transparent plastic jar/container
Tool to make small holes in the top of your container
A few marbles
Find / save a large plastic transparent cookie jar or other transparent container. Find some cheap chimes, medium to small size. You sometimes can find chimes for very low prices at Goodwill or Walgreens. Cut the chimes from the object. Take off the top of the container. Make 3-4 holes in the top. Put a knot at one end of your fishing string and thread it through the holes in the top. Tie your chimes at the other end of your string, not too close or too far from one another, enough distance that they can touch each other and make their noise if moved. You can also choose to place some marbles in the container. Screw the top back on and you have a wonderful trigger object that will alert you if something decides to play with the chimes or the marbles inside the container. It helps that it is inside a container, because wind / drafts in the environment will not interfere with the objects in the container. If it begins to make noise or move on its own, you are in luck.
At times the lower tech tools can be more helpful than all the blinking and flashing lights in the world of technology.
Other tools to consider: When evaluating the health of a home, there are many things to consider, not just the pipes, wires, etc. It is a lot of detective work.
Critters/Pests: This one can't be ignored. This area is one that needs consideration, especially during the change of the seasons. One tool that can help with this is black light or UV flashlight. They are pretty inexpensive, but come very much in handy. If there are critters causing problems, the black light will show what they leave behind. People sometimes don't check into the possibility. For some odd reason, the paranormal also tends to appear with black light / ultra violet, green light, or full spectrum light. Camera tools that use these types of light, can be a bit expensive though.
Electrical issues: We always keep in hand a voltage stick. This helps check wires and make sure they are not broken. We also check fuse boxes to make sure all is working there as well. EMF detectors are mainly used to check to make sure EMF levels are with in normal range of a particular electronic. Sometimes the paranormal might make use of an EMF tool as well. To get a reading of the overall EMF level in a home takes about 24 hours and special equipment to do so. We do not have that type of equipment. We only check for EMF levels of the individual electronics and wiring systems in a home.
Plumbing: Pipes cause banging, wooshing, clacking and clicking sounds. Sometimes washers in faucets are old and need changing to help avoid a faucet from turning on on their own.
Furniture / Construction: People can report things rolling / falling off of tables or counters. Doors opening on their own, objects rolling across a floor. We use levelers to check proper installment and level of the item in question. Levelers are used often.
Movement: We also check for vibrations from the environment in and around the home. We consider the regular traffic, if there are railroads near by, mines, or other activity that could cause the house to vibrate and have things gradually slide / fall off of tables or other surfaces.
Imaging: Thermal imaging cameras have been proving to be very useful and pretty accurate in the paranormal. These cams can pick up heat or cold signatures of various kinds. However, these tools are at the top of the price list. They can run anywhere from $800 to $2000 or more. If you do not plan to stay in the paranormal world long, don't make that investment. There are new tools coming out all the time in this field. They have now created a sleeve that can fit over a phone and turn the phone camera into a thermal cam. The cost is about $200. As we say in Wisconsin, wait 15 minutes (and the weather will change) and another, cheaper tool should pop up any time now. The trick with thermal is that you really want to find a way to record what shows up. Otherwise, it was something you saw and was lost because no picture or video was taken.
This list is not a complete list by any means. But it will give you ideas as an investigator what has been helpful in the field so far. If you have new ideas, let us know. We are always looking to test new ways to explore the paranormal.