How to use your iPhone as a ghost hunting tool this Halloween
Everyone knows about "ghost detector" apps. Year after year, we're bombarded by an onslaught of novelty trackers and cams, all meant to make us feel like we're getting a peek beyond the veil. However, as any true paranormal investigator will tell you, unless you've got wizard eyes you're going to have to be equipped with some actual tech to see if those noises coming from your basement are the result of clumsy spirits or just some equally clumsy seasonal mice. Thankfully, we've got you covered.
Disclaimer: Tory is not Zak Bagans using a pseudonym, nor has she ever done any paranormal investigating of her own beyond some accidental ghost run-ins at her grandma's house that were filtered through her overactive kidbrain and thus can't be used as concrete evidence of activity. Most of what she knows comes from a ghost hunting book she got at the Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school, Coast to Coast AM, and whatever dark corners of the internet Google sends her to. We can't guarantee you'll encounter any ghosts using these methods.
If you've watched even a single episode of Supernatural, you'll know that one of the first signs of spirit activity in a location is cold spots. Whenever a ghost is inhabiting an area, the temperature in that area tends to drop inexplicably, causing living beings to get the chills. Though paranormal experts aren't quite sure why this happens, many suspect that it's due to the fact that in order to manifest themselves, spirits need to sap energy from their environment.
Thermodo is a tiny temperature sensor that plugs into your iPhone's headphone jack (or, if you've got a newer iPhone, your phone's headphone jack adaptor). Along with its companion app (opens in new tab), this little thermometer gives you full temperature readouts in real time wherever you are, so you can make note of any drastic drops. You can even choose to compensate for device heat, so if your phone is running warm, it won't affect your measurements. It's currently on sale for $39.99 (specifically for this purpose, I can only assume).
Zoom iQ6 iOS Lightning X/Y Microphone
Another ghost hunting must-have: a reliable way to record audio. A great majority of evidence gathered in paranormal investigations takes the form of what the pros call Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVPs. Many think that if you record your surroundings while you're in what you believe to be a haunted environment, you'll pick up spectral voices in the static that the human ear may be unable to hear. Don't expect any elaborate Hamlet-esque soliloquies in a routine paranormal interview, though — ghosts usually communicate in short one or two word phrases (or sometimes just growls).
When it comes to capturing EVPs, your iPhone's microphone is okay quality-wise and can be a good option if you don't have any extra cash. In fact, some people are of the opinion that the more white noise you have in the background the better, so having a lower quality mic can be a boon if you want to give the powers beyond something to manipulate. However, others maintain that higher caliber audio equipment is preferable because you have more control over your mic's settings. If you want to beef up your recording capabilities, try a microphone that plugs into your Lightning port like Zoom's iQ6 (opens in new tab) — it's compact but powerful, and you can use it with any audio recorder app of your choosing.
Remember, though sometimes you can hear EVPs by simply listening back to your audio footage as-is, occasional amplification and reduction of background noise is required to properly hear the voices. If you've got any sound editing software around, you should consider using it. If you don't have an audio editing program already, there are some free ones like Audacity floating around that could definitely work in a pinch.
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Seek Thermal XR Imager
Though not totally necessary, a thermal imaging camera can be helpful when trying to spot a phantom because it gives you a visual representation of temperature changes in your surrounding environment (which, as we discussed above, may be the result of spirit activity). If you're looking to add a thermal imager to your kit, the Seek Thermal XR Imager (opens in new tab) is a good starting point. It's small, it can detect temps ranging from -40 to 626 degrees Fahrenheit, and like the Zoom mic, it plugs directly into your Lightning port. And, when you aren't using it as a specter detector, you can use it to do weird stuff like see your cat's heat signature through walls.
There is a downside to using thermal imagining cameras in your ghost quest, however: these things are touchy. What you think is a disembodied spirit could actually just be an echo of the warm spot your butt and back left on the couch. So while they can be a great addition to your equipment bag, make sure you know that what you're seeing is completely unexplainable before you start waving it in your landlord's face as evidence of a haunting and demand your rent be lowered (but also, do that if you want, because rent's too high regardless).
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Anker PowerCore II 20000 Portable Charger
Okay, so you and your team are collecting evidence like nobody's business. You've basically got EVPs falling out of your pockets, and you're pretty sure that the orb you captured by that one super old vine-choked headstone wasn't a speck of dust on your lens because it's bluish and you got the vibe that it had a message for you. You're about to get a Stranger Things Lyft ride outta there when — dang! — the last of your phones goes dead. You spent all your precious battery juice investigating, and now you're stuck in King Hill Cemetery awkwardly holding the handful of graveyard dirt you forgot to bring a baggie for. What do you do? Make a circle of your dead, useless phones and try to summon biker-era Undertaker so he can motor you dummies out of there? No! You pull out the portable charger that you had the foresight to bring with you, duh.
Anker's PowerCore II 20000 Portable Charger (opens in new tab) has two USB ports, so you and a friend can use it simultaneously, and it can fully charge an iPhone 7 up to six times. Though it does take a few hours to completely charge a device, ten or fifteen minutes should be enough for you to get yourself a ride home or call for help. Having a power bank with you, especially when you're going to a weird haunted location, is always a good call. Safety first.
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Yeah, I know, this one isn't necessarily an app. However, a flashlight is an integral part of any ghost hunter's arsenal, so it'd be foolish not to use the one built directly into your phone. Here's how:
- Swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen to open Control Center.
- Tap the flashlight-shaped symbol in the bottom left corner.
Ta-da! A bright light should be emitting from the back of your device, next to your built-in camera lens. Now you can use it to make sure you don't step in any ectoplasm with your very cool shoes.
In paranormal investigation, note-taking is definitely encouraged, just as it would be in any other scientific discipline. It's good to jot down what happens and when, as well as sensations and emotional responses that may not have be captured in your video or audio footage. Though there might be better and more advanced note-taking apps you can download, when you're busy asking "Oh my god guys, did you hear that?" it can be hard to tear yourself away to craft a carefully categorized diary entry. That's why I'd advise just using the native Notes app that Apple has already thoughtfully left on your iPhone. You don't even have to tap anything to record your findings — just say "Hey Siri, make a note: October 31 at 11:03 p.m., I was struck by a sudden wave of nausea. It may be those convenience store taquitos, but it may also be a sign of a malicious presence."
Ghost Hunter M2
Okay, okay. I know I talked some trash on ghost hunting apps as a whole at the beginning of this article. However, I thought that I'd be remiss if I didn't include the most popular one in the bunch just in case you're really not feeling up to an all-in investigation but still want to have a bit of spooky fun. Ghost Hunter M2 was developed by "a team of professional engineers" and, according to reviews, is widely regarded as the most accurate spirit detection app (if there can be such a thing). It's ugly as sin, but it comes with a ridiculous array of features that purportedly use the tech already built into your iPhone to monitor everything from fluctuations in magnetic fields to changes in barometric pressure. It even has an instrument called "Twilight" that uses several complex image filtering algorithms to enhance the video imaging produced by your device's camera. If you don't want to invest in a ton of extra accessories in order to have your own ghost adventure, drop a dollar on this app and go nuts.
- Ghost Hunter M2 - $0.99 - Download now (opens in new tab)
Have you ever had a spectral encounter? Share your story with us in the comments!
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Tory Foulk is a writer at Mobile Nations. She lives at the intersection of technology and sorcery and enjoys radio, bees, and houses in small towns. When she isn't working on articles, you'll likely find her listening to her favorite podcasts in a carefully curated blanket nest. You can follow her on Twitter at @tsfoulk.
Coast to Coast AM? Sorry, you just lost any credibility you may have had.
let’s just cool the jets here
Yes, how dare I express my opinion.