Gimme that old time technology!

basic-stationary-utensilsYou’ve heard of doing a variety of things “old-school,” but before there were television reality shows and phones and digital, just what did a paranormal investigator use? Believe it or not, the toolbox carried a variety of common household items (depending on what one could afford), yet a fairly scientific approach could be utilized.

Analog tape recorders

There was a time when analog tape and equipment was the standard for the broadcast industry and in the home. To get technical about this, analog technology involves information sent in electronic pulses, where the amplitude changes. Digital technology involves a binary code (each bit is two amplitudes). There is also a difference in the waves: analog uses sine waves, where digital employs square waves. To make it easier, you can touch feel and physically edit an analog tape, while editing digital is easier and utilizes a computer screen. If this is still a hard concept for you, with old telephone answering machines and cassette tape players, you need to often flip the cassette to continue to use the tape. With digital this is not needed. You would simply delete excess data for more space. Noise reduction can also be more problematic as you filter with analog; digital is superior for this as well. Today’s investigators may have a preference. For some, because of the electronic pulse aspect, the belief is that you may pick up sounds better with an analog recorder or film. Others find that after the initial expense, digital delivers better quality and can be edited much more easily. It is a choice. However, many of the more involved teams use both, and that is fine as well. There was a time though when analog was the only choice. The wise idea is to always use a clear fresh tape every time that you embark on an investigation to avoid artifacts that bulking (erasing) a tape can leave. Thus, there is a cost to incur with all those cassette tapes or reel tapes that will break down in quality over time.


It has been established for a long time that either through the mundane Murphy’s Law or unexplained draining of batteries that extra batteries for all equipment are essential.


The flashlight was for investigatory and safety purposes. It is unclear when they started to be used for a spirit to turn them on and off at will, but that remains an unscientific method to detect activity.

Household tape

Good ol’ scotch tape, packing tape, duct tape, double-sided tape and electrical tape were kept on hand for those odd jobs as needed.


A level is a piece of equipment consisting of a sealed glass tube partially filled with alcohol or other liquid, containing an air bubble whose position reveals whether a surface is perfectly level or not.


Without being able to video tape everything in your walk-through, investigators would often use graph paper and map out the house to mark the “targets” where study would take place.


Again, without the ease of a video camera, one would need to detect a movement of furniture and objects from the baseline (original) to what might occur.

Baseline photographs were utilized. Until the automatic camera was developed that popped out a developing picture. One had to wait to develop the film, which was frustrating to say the least, but needed for the study. A ruler and tape measure were employed again to take your baseline measurements (chair is 1 foot from wall) to establish possible movement.


Some investigators used mirrors to check if they could see their breath in a cold spot. Others would leave a mirror as a trigger object (see below) to catch possible touches or other evidence in a room.

Notepad, pen and pencil.

One would sit for hours and make notes with time stamps regarding any sounds or abnormalities. This is still a good suggestion in case your electronics go awry.


Baby or talcum powder was lightly spread on hard floors (not carpets) to see if there were any signs of activity. Clean-up at the time was achieved with double-sided tape. Today a cordless mini-vac is a wonderful new technology that makes clean up a breeze.


Thin string or dental floss was used to lightly mark an area to see if the string was broken by another investigator (contamination) or if something had entered the room. String was also handy if you wanted to hang your thermometer (see below). One would never use wire or heavy string that could damage another investigator by cutting an ankle or tripping the person.


A regular thermometer was placed in rooms or areas that were reported to be colder than others, with a baseline thermometer placed outside of the area.

Trigger Objects

Trigger objects were left and their place was measured and a piece of tape placed accordingly. Depending on the alleged haunting, one might use a doll, a screwdriver, an old piece of jewelry, a ball or a coin.

Please remember this is by no means an official or exhaustive list, but an example of equipment used “back then” that you may want to consider today.

Analog vs. Digital. Retrieved September 8, 2015 from

Lillee Allee

Lillee Allee

Representative at National Paranormal Society
Lillee Allee has studied religion, spirituality and paranormal investigation for over 40 years. She is the widow of John D. Allee, an internationally known dark magician. She continues to consult in paranormal investigation. Her specialties include: Marian and cultural spiritual phenomena/apparitions, spiritual support to teams and clients who want spiritual counseling after investigation, evp work and old school audio, the accuracy and research of past life regression and seance, and spiritual protection. Lillee was also one of the first to incorporate trained canines into paranormal investigations. She hosts a radio program on the network, Happy Mediums, with Debra Ann Freeman, who also consults with paranormal investigative teams in Southern New England. Lillee is a published author and journalist, and legal clergy with degrees in psychology and mass communication. Lillee walks on the middle path sees learning as a life-long endeavor and is looking to make a difference and contribution to this field before she too will be heard on someone’s EVP. Lillee is always available to educate and consult and continues to enjoy guesting on other’s radio and television programs.
Lillee Allee

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