Every now and then someone asks me how I got started investigating the paranormal.  I tell them it takes a heaping
understanding, and to help others understand that which is happening with them.
What prospective ghost hunters don't understand is you don't need a lot of expensive gear to do what we do.  All it takes
is a little common sense, a flashlight, a 35MM camera, a pen and paper.  Other than the common sense, these are all
items that are probably just laying around your house in disuse.  (Maybe your common sense is, too... Time to dust it
off!)  I will cover uses for said items a little later in this article.
Once these items have been collected, you need a place to go hunting at or in.  Pardon me while I get preachy...  DO
NOT TRESPASS!!!  You MUST get the permission of the owner before you investigate a site!!!  You can get arrested for
trespassing, and you will lose any or all respect you may have had before this.  OK, sermon over.  How do you find a site
to check out?  Ask around.  Check the web, sites like
The Shadowlands, or a local site.  You can also check books at the
local library or bookstore.  Check local historical societies or sites.  There are a ton of places out there if you just dig in.
So now, you have some dusty gear, a map to where you want to go, and the permission of the owners.  Where do I go
from here?  You have to have a plan.  How will you investigate?  What steps will you follow?  Here is a general guideline:
1.  Interview the owners/occupants.  What have they experienced?  Where have they experienced it?  How many times?  
Who has experienced it?  When does it happen?  Why do they think it happens?  (the 5 W's & the H)
2.  Sketch the layout of the house.  You don't have to be Picasso here.  Just a general sketch.  They say writing things
down ingrains things in your brain housing group, and I concur.  
3.  Decide where you want to focus your investigation.  IE, if a majority of the activity happens in the master bedroom,
you wouldn't concentrate on the backyard.
4.  Investigate.  How you do this will depend on what is going on.  Do you spend time in the dark with your flashlight?  
(BTW -- bring extra batteries, ghosts like to "eat" them)  Do you spend time "de-bunking" the things that go bump in the
night?  It all depends on the situation.  What I can tell you is take lots of pictures.  Why?  Am I looking for orbs?  Nope.  
You are taking pictures like a criminal investigator.  You may find something you didn't notice the first time.  A leaky
faucet.   An open door.  A loose whatchamajiggerit.  Who knows, but it maybe something that explains what is
happening.  Also,  document everything.   The 5 W's again.   Cause & effect.  You are trying to find understanding of the
circumstances.    Poor documentation can lead to poor conclusions.
5.  Review the evidence.  What did you learn at the site?    What does your documentation lead you to believe?  What, if
any thing did you find in your pictures?  Sometimes this step leads to more questions.  Lather, rinse, and repeat.  Huh?  
Go back, and try to duplicate the results.  If the people asked you to come out in the first place, they should be open to
this (as long as you didn't disrespect their property).
6.  Share your conclusions with the owner.  Why?  To help them come to terms with their surroundings.  They have been
concerned about that closet door opening, or those footsteps, or etc.

If you follow the plan time after time you will achieve consistent results.  This consistency is absolutely imperative for you
to gain credibility.   Not only that but it averts confusion, especially if you have a large group investigating.  It sets
guidelines for them to go by.
Which brings me to my next point, always respect the site you are at.  Nothing damages the reputation of your group and
ALL other groups than not respecting other people's property.  They have been kind enough to let you in, be kind
enough to leave it the way you found it.
So that begs the question of where does the humble pie come in?  Don't ever be afraid of saying that you don't know
what is going on.  You can't possibly know EVERYTHING.  Please, do not try to BS your way through things.  People can
tell when they are being snowed in.  So if you don't know, say so!!!  A little humility can go a long way toward credibility.
You may have noticed that I have harped on reputation and credibility.  Some how the paranormal community has gotten
the reputation of being graveyard chasers.  I constantly get asked where my proton accelerator is at.  We have to kick
this rep and show that we are serious about this endeavour.  It takes all of us being professional to make this happen.
These are the super basics of ghost hunting.  It obviously gets a lot more complicated than this, but this is a "short"
article to get your brain working in the proper direction.  More articles will follow, like more gear to use, different
investigative techniques, types of paranormal activity, personal experiences, etc.   You can also check out
Troy Taylor's
Ghost Hunter's Guidebook if you can't wait until the next article.  It is the guidebook we use to help new members of our
organizations! Until later, happy hunting!

So You Wanna Hunt Ghosts?
(aka Beginning Ghost Hunting 101)
By Chris Wiener, Author and Co-Founder of CVPI