Have you ever passed by a location and felt deep within that it must be haunted? Certainly you’ve seen that one house in the neighborhood and thought “I’d really like to investigate that house.” I bet your next thought might be—“but I am not sure if it even has a history, and I don’t know who to ask.” Don’t fret … I was once in question of such steps myself. Your first step is to remember that like us; a place has a past. Sometimes new housing as well has something about it, and it too will have a past. We have all seen Poltergeist (and in no way am I suggesting we ought to refer to television) and the houses being built on top of sacred lands. These circumstances aren’t just film-factory; remember as well local legends and land records will often assist you in uncovering a story.
If you are curious enough, and motivated; grab yourself a notebook, a pencil, and maybe some caffeine. Searching through the past may become tedious but the reward will be well worth it.
Start off simple by checking out what the current (if any) occupants know of the location’s history. You may receive some inaccurate information as the occupants may be unnerved by the strange activity and could shadow their information in a suggestive way. Look into neighbors as well, you may find somebody whom has lived near the location for a long period of time. They can become a great source! An elderly resident who has lived nearby for some 50+ years will most likely remember the past occupants of that property. These locals may also know if there’s any folklore about the place. This sort of information is in no way scientific and could be only partially accurate; however you shouldn’t totally discount it. Folklore could point you in the right path, even if meandering.
After you have begun there; try to see if someone else hasn’t before traced the history of the location in question. Each state has a historic preservation officer who nominates structures that are “significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture” and then of course becomes listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I encourage you to seek out a list of historic buildings in your state by visiting the State Historic Preservation Office.
There are as well other places to look. The Historic American Buildings survey and the Historic American Engineering Record have documented more than 37,000 historic structures and sites since ’93. Their reports contain measured drawings, photographs and historical information, in which is a wealth of information for any ghost researcher whom, is lucky enough to find the location he is checking out included in the survey. The data is made available on microfilm and at the Library of Congress.
You may also find history at your local library or a local newspaper. Many newspapers have a research division as well but they will also charge exorbitant prices for assistance.
After these first important steps, you are well on your way! Remember; you have to have the drive, the energy, and just enough curiosity to begin your research.