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.


  1. I don't tend to get as excited as they do when the EMF goes off. I feel that anything can cause it to move. I know from experience that your digital camera might be capturing unusual things because of the way the light reflects on the lense. Although the GHI's full spectrum camera is interesting because of what they have caught on it. What I like the most is the personal experiences and reactions to the sudden paranormal activity happening to them. Being in a pitch black situation, they have to rely on their senses to detect any unusual activity. We have done that while at the Copper Queen Hotel and had some interesting stuff happen. (no cameras, no recorders) It was fun.....Julie

  2. Great attitude. I think we all evolve as we get into hunting more regularly. I remember when I first started out, I was entertained by every orb in every shot, thinking that something was trying to manifest. I feel like even after six years of hardcore research, I'm still a babe in the woods. I'm excited by the full-spectrum camera GHI is using too. In fact, I even feel pretty intrigued by my KII meter for the mere fact that it's extraordinarily hard for it to go off on its own when it's been set down away from electrical. In fact, I've never gotten it to light up yet like Grant and Jason can, but I'm not quite fully sold on it until they have it light up for Tango or Steve and have Jason and Grant away from the device because I think it's entirely possible that two "sensitive's" like Jason and Grant who attract a lot of electrical and physical phenomenon, can be unconsciously activating the device. The Copper Queen is pretty sweet. I think I was most put off guard and surprised by "Abby's Room" in Hotel Vendome Prescott. I also had a lousy night's sleep at the Jerome Grand because of some residual "coughing." We had something very strange happen at the Hotel La More in Bisbee too. That place is crazy active, but I think a good component of it is the mining hills and metals in the ground there. I think it truly does make it more able to "record" events.

  3. I've always wondered what the basis for the emf theory is,who proposed it and on what grounds.
    EVPs are another.ok some are quite clear but many on GH are a nothing more than squeak and a hiss yet they claim it not only as speech which is a conclusion too far they have the neck to put words to it !!!!
    Once,maybe twice I've been at home,middle of the countryside in the Highlands,Scotland and been playing my electric guitar,plugged direct into an amp when all of a sudden there were booming voices in German coming out my amp.Nothing that strange i imagine its picked up a radio signal from somewhere.
    Goes to show that voice you recorded,you never heard may just be a stray yet innocent radio signal.
    I've seen paranormal things,had experiences and I know it cost I tried,indeed wanted a rational answer but one didnt and hasnt yet come up

  4. BadPenny;
    This is exactly why I do not use EVPs as evidence of a haunting. The fact is, I've been sitting in my home office when someone came down the street on a satellite phone and it came out over the speaker on my answering machine. A receiver is a receiver and without shielding and a controlled situation, it's ridiculous to even use it as evidence. It's like GA's little ghost box that shoots out random words that come across radiowaves. Hey, I can play this with my radio dial and get similar results. I roll my eyes at such notions and I have come to find that electrician's tools are ridiculous. Even the KII meter which was rather impressive because it was hard to set it off, can with a burst of electrical input nearby like an air-conditioner, go off and seem as if you're having a regular conversation. We don't have the tools yet which is why I want a long-term study in one location with experts in their fields to adapt testing and find patterns and create the proper way to test these things. This autumn I plan to have a book out that explains "Spirit Vessels" and why some buildings are haunted. If we backtrack from why they're haunted and the features they have and the histories, then we can begin to figure out just what measurable method they use.