I will start off with my equipment. All items I list here are easy to find on the net. The best place to purchase these items are on ebay. My recorders: Oympus vn-120 digital recorder is cheap and provides you with more recording time than you will ever need. The Sony TCM 929 - cassette recorder is a very cheap recorder that is very tough. I have used this recorder in the most adverse hot, freezing, wet weather and it has proved a very tough recorder indeed, although the draw back is buying cassette tapes for it.
Ok, thats about it on my recorders. To me, the microphones you choose are the true key. Remember, I have wasted a lot of money and time getting these things right, so pay attention. I use two mics that are low dollar and extremely effective. Make sure you use headphones to listen to your recordings. Closed ear is best. Very expensive headphones are no good! They cancel out too much noise!
The 'Altai Super Uni-Directional Electret Condenser Mic' is the one that you will have a little trouble locating but it can be found. It has a switch on it that you can change from normal to tele. This mic can be directed directly towards where you believe the scource to be. Excellent mic and comes with a wind screen, although I never record in the wind. I usually carry this one around while walking about a grave yard.
This next mic, I can never say enough good about it. I cannot believe how cheap this mic is compared to how good it is. It is truly phonomanal! It is the 'RadioShack Boundary Microphone 33-3022' This mic can hear a fly fart! It is heavy and flat and sits on top a stone really nice. It is Omnidirectional, which means it will pick up in all directions and is also a Pressure zone mic. I usually place this mic in the middle of a grave yard along with my recorder and let it run while I take pictures.
Now, I do 95% of my recording and grave yard visits very early on a Sunday morning while it is still dark. This is for the simple reason that there is no traffic for my mics to pick up (these mics pickup an auto going up the road sounding like a tornado!) No one racing about to get to work and all the good Church people have not yet to move about yet. Freeways are nearly empty as well (where I live anyway) By the way, these two mics come standard with the small 1/8th fitting so they will fit your digital or analog recorder. I would buy the radio shack mic first.
Prior to popular belief, you will not need a bunch of mindless background 'white noise' so the spirits will have something to 'work with' I will explain this later. Go to http://audacity.sourceforge.net and download the free audio program. Don't download the Beta version, I have used it and it sometimes freezes up and just basically jerks me around. If you want a program to edit music, go pay for one because the free versions just don't have what it takes (my opinion)
You will need a patch cord from your computer to your recorder, 3' works well for me. This patch cord will have two male ends 1/8th". This cord plugs into the back of my computer. It Plugs into the 'Line in' jack. The other end will plug into your recorder in the 'EAR' jack.
Ok, ready to record. These mics will pick up their own interference this is why you need not make extra 'white noise' also the cheap recorders will take care of this. All this extra noise will all have to be removed later anyway. Because you are after voices, not noise. Do not expect fully understandable words or sentences because this will be very rare indeed. Some spirits will approach the mic and near blow you out of your seat, it happens!
Ok, realistically you won't have these mics for a while and will probably never get them. Go ahead and use your digital recorder without an external mic. If you use a cassette, you MUST use an external mic of some kind.
Find a quite place where you will not be disturbed by automobile noise. If you are inside your house, keep these things in mind. First, are you ready to hear spirits that are in your home? Because, they are in there. Most, just passing through. Disable ticking clocks and don't record like if you can hear your refrigerator running. Wait until it cycles off to record. Record with your forced air furnace off or your air conditioner off. Quiet! You need it quiet! Now, Turn the volume up on your recorder to about 80%. Set the mic sensitivity to 'Hi' Relax, sit or lie down. Do not hold onto your recorder, put it down on a hard surface if you can and press record. Start with a greeting like.....'Good morning spirits' or evening (whatever the case) wait about 15 seconds and speak again with something like 'How are you?' perhaps an ending like 'I would like to wish you a pleasant day' always say 'Thank you for speaking with me! and tell them goodbye. Record another minute of so and shut your recorder off. All you need is maybe 3-4 minutes of record time. Don't ask for names right away, don't pry and beat them over and over with the same question. My friends, be forever forewarned, Don't dig too deep.
Ok, you now have your recording. Bring up your Audacity program. In the right bottom corner of your tool tray turn your computers volume all the way down. All the way over to the left (in Audacity) you will find the 'Project rate' Place it ay 22050. Up top, turn the volume all the way down here as well. (you can experiment with this later, this is just what works for me) Next make sure you have selected 'Mono mix' Make sure your patch cord in plugged into the 'line in' on your computer and the 'ear' on your recorder. Click on the red dot to start the program, wait a couple seconds and press play on your recorder. Watch the graph and you will know when your recording comes to an end and click on the square (stop). Now do it THIS WAY! Highlight 5-6 inches of your recording (click and drag across your recorded graph) but do not highlight any high points, like your voice while you are asking questions. Highlight a nice, steady low section. Now go to 'noise removal' and click 'GET NOISE' and it will take a profile of that small selected area. Then, go to edit (top left) and 'select all' then, back to 'Noise removal' Move the selector slide all the way to the LESS side, click remove noise.
After this, get your headphones on and be ready to listen. Turn the computers volume all the way up and control the volume with the slide in the upper left of the Audacity program. It will sound very robotic to you, but you will train your ear. VERY IMPORTANT! Only listen to 2 seconds at a time, NO MORE! Highlight your 2 seconds bu click and drag. You can put this 2 seconds on a loop by pressing 'shift' on the keys while at the same time clicking on the play arrow in the Audacity program. If you feel that the noise reduction has been overdone go back to edit and select all. Go to effects and select amplify. Increase everything by about 8 decibels.
Remember, listen to only 2 seconds at a time. There will be possibly many voices, superimposed over each other. The will be talking to each other and saying things that make no sense to you. Always remember to also highlight and listen in reverse as this can sometimes reveel much as well. The 'High pass filter' set at around 1000 will sometimes help to clarify a voice, sometimes not. Most will never address you personally because they all have their own thing going.
So...Listen and let it blow you away at the new world you just tapped into. I hope I have helped someone. No doubt I have left out something and I hope I have not confused anyone. If you have any questions, I will try to answer them.