Investigation Tips

There is so much more involved in investigating a possible haunted location. You must do your research, it is very important that the history goes along with it. Not sure how to do it. Here are a few helpful hints for those of you just starting out:

1 Identify prior owners by researching the title. The series of documents transferring the property is called a chain of title. These documents are filed or recorded in a government office, which archives a copy of each document. Depending on the region, these records are kept in a city, county or state office. Obtain copies of individual documents from the government office or purchase a summary of documents called an abstract from a title company. Look for construction mortgages, too, which can indicate building or improvement on the property.

2 Check past property tax records with the appropriate government entity. These records may indicate the age of the building and the property’s taxable value for a number of years. A leap in the value of the property from one year to another may be a clue to when a building was placed on the property, or when other significant improvements were made. A major drop in the value might indicate that the building was destroyed. Tax records might also reveal who paid the taxes in prior years.

3 Interview current and past owners and residents of the property, as well as neighbors and local historians. Ask for information about when the building was constructed, who the architect and builders were and any details they can recall about the building’s history. Gather stories about the history of the area, past businesses and residents in the neighborhood, and significant events that occurred there. If the building style matches that of other structures in the area, check out the possibility of a common architect or builder.

4 Study city directories, state and local census records and telephone books to find the names of previous occupants. Check with the city building department for building permits, subdivisions or zoning variances granted for the property, as well as historical maps of the area. If city records indicate that a permit was granted for a building or improvement, look for the name of the owner, architect, builder and costs reported in the application for the permit.

5 Visit special collections at your city, county and state libraries, as well as historical societies and museums serving your community. Using the data you’ve already collected, search for articles and photographs pertaining to the property. Search newspaper archives, books, diaries, interviews, historical summaries, maps and genealogical sources.

6 Examine the building for information as to its construction and age. An expert in construction history may be able to estimate the age of a building from the construction materials and style of the building. Changes in building materials might indicate remodeling or an addition to the property.