Thursday, January 29, 2009
Modern Ghost Hunting's Limitations
I'm a huge advocate of science as the manner in which we tackle ghost hunting. If these things are manifested in physical ways, i.e. sounds, moving objects, closing doors, then they have to exist or interact with our physical world. That being said, the instruments for hunting ghosts just haven't made a great progress since the 90s because most folks pass on the "knowledge" of ghost hunting without any real "credence" about how reliable these tools have been.
It's sad to say, but honestly the best tool in my huge arsenal is still my own body and senses. The super computer called the human brain seems to be the most reliable ghost hunting tool and perhaps that's because in a split second it takes five senses and memory and instinct and combines them to give you instantaneous response and a need for self preservation.
The EMF meter is very likely, in my opinion, to go by way of the Ouija board for ghost hunting reliability. I can't tell you how many times we've experienced all the sensations of something about to happen, felt a drop in temperature, hair standing on end, and had an actual occurrence, and nothing shows on EMF. Then, the meter decides to spike without a single sense of something about to occur. It's ability to accurately measure when things are happening is very lame. It's also extremely vulnerable to so many factors in the environment that if the source of its spike is paranormal or not is indistinguishable.
I understand that we naturally are choosing instruments that we have readily available that can measure natural forces in nature with the hopes that whatever this phenomenon is uses these forces to transport. The problem with that logic, however, is that if it were truly the way it manifested, the EMF meter would be dead on all the time. But, it isn't.
The real tragedy here is that as long as people believe EMF is going to be a great indicator of activity or presence of a haunting, no one is going to do what needs to happen for the industry and science as a whole to evolve. We need to ask ourselves how to weigh and measure that which might exist in a place/time that we can't access with our present instruments.
Using an EMF meter has become kind of like listening to your toaster to get the radio.
I'm sure in retrospect, most serious ghost hunters laugh at the use of Ouija boards, but there was a time when folks thought that was the portal to the "other side." I keep hoping that hunters will eventually get to realize how unreliable a lot of tools are and decide it's time to work alongside science to find ways to weigh and measure things in realms we haven't approach, things along the lines of quantum and string physics.
Since 1972 when I first tape recorded the booted footsteps in my childhood home and was unable to get others to believe that I had not made the sounds myself, I have been faced with this ghost hunting dilemma. If I use a thermometer, I could be measuring a breeze, a cool spot created by a wall that has a chimney on the other side, or any other number of things that can discount it. If I use the EMF meter, the spikes could be caused by our cameras, wall wiring, wiring in the basement ceiling. If I get a digital photo, could it be the limitations of the camera trying to adjust to taking pictures in the dark that caused the phenomenon seen on the picture? If I get audio, was it an open walkie talkie and the recorder (being a receiver) captured voices? Was it really a voice or something that just sounds like a voice when you listen desperately?
There is no way to absolutely prove phenomena. The more folks on YouTube sending in their "haunted house" movies with furniture being moved by strings, the harder it is for all of us who are driven by a desire to prove true phenomenon to make people believe that it's out there.
Ultimately, we are still back to the human factor in ghost hunting. I wouldn't feel comfortable saying a place was haunted because I got some fuzzy voices on tape and a few blurry pictures and maybe a temperature drop. Then, I would be left with team members' accounts of incidents as proof. And there you go, we still have the human in the equation and we know what bad witnesses humans can be.
So, we move on to debunking. We may not have the equipment to prove a haunting yet, but we do have the intelligence and logic to debunk hauntings. What we're left with is still the same...elusive phenomenon as of yet unprovable by any means, even the human eye.
Sometimes, it feels like I'm back to square one with my 1970s tape recorder on the stairs at night waiting for the Civil War ghost to ascend, but I have to say that if one thing comes out of this phase of ghost hunting, we've managed to move from spiritual (Ouija, ectoplasm, seances) to science (debunking,theorizing,using instruments).
It's not great science, some would say pseudoscience, but then they felt the same way about the Theory of Relativity when Einstein proposed it.
Right now it's kind of like we left the horse behind and now have a car that needs a crank. It'll give us the feeling of independence and covering ground a bit faster, but it's not a big step up from the horse yet.
I keep waiting though. Some day, we'll have race cars and hybrids and electric equivalents in the ghost hunting world. When we do, these present tools will seem miserably archaic.
Ultimately, we have to use what we have to figure out what we need. Primitive man used a stick to cook his supper over a fire and he couldn't dream at that time that some day he might have some tongs and a grill with a no-match lighter.
That's kind of where we are. We're making it happen, it's just not real effective yet.
at 12:23 PM