“Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting,” by Christopher Balzano is a very helpful book to read for new ghost hunters or aspiring ghost hunters. Overall, it’s clearly written, but it can be a bit repetitive. As a new hunter or researcher, we believe the repetition is important on key points, such as ghostly behavior and ghost hunting techniques. The strongest points in the book include the picture examples and the DVD. Yes, Mr. Balzano takes you through 3 investigations in painstaking detail. Before you watch the DVD, read the book. The DVD is the ‘putting-it-all-together’ chapter that’s not in the book, if you know what I mean.
Let’s go through the book, chapter-by-chapter, and identify the standout information you need as a new ghost hunter:
Chapters 1 -3: Learn Before You Look / It Takes All Kinds / A Brief History of Looking for Ghosts
These sections are the typical, general info type chapters that everyone needs to know. We do appreciate Chapter 2 about ghost-hunting personalities. Not many other books detail someone’s motivations for ghost hunting. Our favorite information is from Chapter 1, ‘What is a ghost?’. Ghostly Activities uses his definition – a disembodied essence of a person – as our standard definition.
Chapter 4: The Equipment
This is a good overview, but it doesn’t go into much depth about using digital cameras and EVP equipment. He does a good job of explaining why to use the equipment. We like how he tells you about the classic equipment. Classic equipment means analog(!) equipment like Kodak cameras and tape recorders. To really understand it, you have to watch the DVD.
Chapter 5: Talking to the Dead
This is a standout out section, although it’s a bit short. You get the gist of using Ouija boards, pendulums, white noise generators, automatic writing, and spirit boxes. His best section is the facts about using the highly misunderstood Ouija board.
Chapter 6: Hitting the Field
Chapter 6 is very practical. It tells you how to protect yourself from negative ghostly attacks and using common sense on the ghost hunt to keep yourself out of trouble. Mr. Balzano goes into when to use provocative shouting to get an EVP response (a la Zak Bagans). Ghostly Activities also likes how he addresses the use of intuition, psychics and science. We think the best section is the step-by-step instructions for preparations and setting the right environment to collect data.
Chapter 7: Different Places, Different Approaches
Now, this is an interesting chapter. The author details how to approach ghost hunting in cemeteries, abandoned buildings and the outdoors. There are better booksabout cemetery-based hunts, like anything by Fiona Broome. There are also many online resources that do a better job at detailing hunts in abandoned buildings. But, this is the only book we’ve found to address concerns with outdoor ghost hunts, like a haunted forest. Mr. Balzano even addresses the types of rock formations that register residual hauntings.
Chapter 8: Other Things You Need to Know
Chapter 8 is really about interviewing witnesses and the legal stuff you need to protect yourself from lawsuits. The author addresses other items like if you should charge for your services and how to look like a professional hunter. The standout part is about research. Personally, Ghostly Activities would have split the interview info and research section into a combined chapter. The legal stuff and how to look like a pro seems out of place compared to the interview/research content.
Chapter 9: Looking at the Evidence
Overall, Chapter 9 is a bit of a letdown when it comes to ghostly voices, or EVP. There’s too much focus on the software used to analyze EVP. The software is important to help find an anomaly, but examples would be better. He provides the 3 different classes of EVP to help you classify the evidence, but there are better books dedicated to audio evidence. If the author had provided examples on the DVD, that would be better.
The photographic examples are excellent, though. You’d expect it since the focus of the book is on pictures. He gives clear direction and great examples to help you deduce if it’s a ghost in the picture or not. There’s a section on detecting shadow people that’s decent and some advice for the ‘demon’ conclusion.
Chapter 10: Connecting with Others
Chapter 10 is about connecting with other ghost hunting and paranormal research teams. He provides good tips and advice on whether to join or not. We think the section on roles and responsibilities is the strongest part of the chapter. We also appreciate the additional details on the crazies and the legit hunters.
Chapter 11: The Paranormal Media
In this chapter, the author takes a few jabs at all the TV shows. But, the best part is about paranormal investigation authors. Ghostly Activities bought some of these books based on the info in this chapter. There are a few pages about magazines and radio shows, but they’re thin on details.
Chapter 12: Legend Tripping
We found this to be the best chapter in the book. It tells you how to tell the difference between urban legends and hauntings. This is critical info to know. If you buy the book, memorize this chapter!
All great information to have on hand. It provides online resources for websites, ghost hunting forms, a glossary and an meticulously crafted index.
The DVD guides you through 3 ghost hunting investigations and you see all the steps from the book at work. Again, you do need to read the book first. Then, watch the DVD. The Kindle version of the book doesn’t come with a video download element. Be warned.
Overall Grade: 4 out of 5 (Really Helpful Read!)