In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the terms ghost hunter and ghost investigator were interchangeably used to refer to any person who investigated suspected hauntings. Today, however, the term ghost investigator refers to a person who conducts in-depth, controlled, scientific investigations of suspected ghost activity, whereas ghost hunter refers to one who merely visits reportedly haunted sites in an attempt to see and/or photograph a ghost or record the sounds it makes.
The first people to investigate ghosts scientifically were members of organizations devoted to studies of the paranormal. The oldest such organization still in existence is the Ghost Club of London, England, founded in 1862. Other notable organizations dedicated to ghost investigation are the Ghost Research Society, formed in the late 1970s, and the Ghost Hunter’s Society, formed in 1994, both primarily operating in Illinois. The most famous such organization is the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), founded in London in 1882. Among its members were Henry Sidgwick, Frederic W.H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, Sir William Barrett, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, all of whom either investigated spiritualist activity or supported such investigation.
From 1920 to 1924, perhaps the most prominent SPR ghost investigator was Harry Price, a skeptic and an expert on stage magic who went on to become the most famous ghost investigator of the early twentieth century. One of his best-known investigations was a 1929–1947 study of the Borley Rectory, then considered the most haunted house in England. As part of this study, Price published a pamphlet, issued in 1937–1938, describing his investigation techniques and offering tips for others who might want to study ghosts as well. Another person to offer such tips is one of the most prominent modern-day ghost hunters, Hans Holzer, who has written more than one hundred books about ghosts and haunted places. His first book, Ghost Hunter, brought him a great deal of publicity and inspired many ordinary people to take up ghost hunting.
- >William Barrett
- Haunted houses and other structures
- Hans Holzer
- Harry Price
- Society for Psychical Research
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning