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Ghost Hunting
In this photo taken Oct. 9, 2010, Twelve year-old Hannah Mockenstrum, right, photographs a stack of books that were evidence of a paranormal phenomenon at the Natrona County Public Library in Casper, Wyo.

CASPER — The No. 1 rule in paranormal investigation is to be a skeptic, said Lisa Lauderdale, founder of the Paranormal Research Society of Casper.

Most bumps, creaks, moans and bone-chilling whispers are caused by natural, everyday phenomena. In fact, in three years of investigating, Lauderdale has encountered just one piece of evidence she can’t explain.

“My group would characterize me as an extreme skeptic,” she told a dozen or so tween girls and a couple of boys recently at the “Ghost Hunting 101” class at Natrona County Public Library.

She wanted to explain what her group does. “Ghost hunting” isn’t about proving a place is haunted, but about proving that it isn’t. It’s about going into an investigation believing that the “haunting” can be explained — as the wind, as a house settling, as a reflection.

When it can’t be explained, that’s when you’ve got something.

But her warnings seemed to fall of deaf ears. Especially near Halloween, the paranormal appetites of girls are not easily satisfied. And each had her own ghost story to tell.

So Lauderdale and other society members showed the girls how they could investigate the paranormal in their own houses. With the following ghost-hunting tool kit, you can join the hunt.

But remember: Be skeptical.

Cotton balls

Wind can play all sorts of tricks on the conscientious ghost hunter. Drafts can slam doors, flip book pages or make cold spots that are easily mistaken for spirits or other entities.

A few well-placed cotton balls can help determine whether you’re dealing with a breezy window or doorway, or something more sinister. Try putting some in front of doors, windows or other drafty places. If they move, you’ve likely got a draft, not a demon.

Flour

The thing about little brothers (or sisters) is that, when planning their scare tactics, they will have to physically manipulate the environment. They can’t hide their voice recorders with disembodied voices without venturing into your room.

To catch them in the act, sprinkle flour on your floor. You’ll be able to see their footprints and possibly follow the flour trail straight to the culprit.

Flour can be used to detect human — or animal — movement around all sorts of suspect places. A word to the wise: Mom’s not going to appreciate flour tracks around the house. Get permission, or learn to use the vacuum. Use with restraint.

Candles

As with flour, use with permission and adult supervision. An open flame is dangerous.

But these can be useful in differentiating between wind and supernatural phenomena.

A flicker indicates a draft. A smoking wick indicates something much faster. If none of the investigators have sneezed out the flame, you might have a fast-moving entity on your hands. Though it won’t be proof solid of a haunting, more investigation will be warranted, in which case, you’ll need a light now that your candle is out. Have your flashlight ready.

Flashlight

Some investigators think flashlights can be used to communicate with ghosts, though Lauderdale thinks this method leaves too much to interpretation.

The idea is to unscrew the top, making a shaking connection to the battery. Your light should go on and off with the slightest bump of the top of the light. A ghost, then, will be able to answer “yes/no” questions by the flick of the flashlight.

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A better use for the flashlight is simply illuminating your way through a dark and creepy environment. Darkness is a ghost investigator’s friend, and not because ghosts are more likely to knock on the walls under the veil of pitch black.

“Shut off one sense and the others become heightened,” Lauderdale said.

Plastic cups of water

Consider these your own personal motion detectors.

You can differentiate between settling boards or approaching footsteps by the water vibrations in your glass. If the water moves with each “step” and you’re certain no one else is in the building, uh ... well, you better have an escape plan.

A cup of water can also be used to see if something’s been shaken, moved or otherwise manipulated. For example, say you want to know why your collection of snow globes won’t stay on your dresser. You leave your room and come back, just to find them on the floor or knocked over. A cup of water will help you tell if the dresser is moving and with how much force, or whether the snow globes are being manipulated in some other way. The water may have splashed out of the cup or spilled altogether.

As with all investigative tests, ensure that it’s not your tricky little brother (or sister) sneaking into your room and causing the spill.

Tape

This is another way to detect movement when you have to leave a room.

Let’s say your favorite bedside book has a way of popping up in places you don’t remember leaving it.

Make a tape perimeter around the book next to your bed. Leave the room and stay gone for as long as you can stand it.

Assuming no one else has entered the room in your absence, you will be able to tell if the book has moved if it’s lying outside the taped perimeter.

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