Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Debunking 101

As you move on in the ghost hunting world, you add a lot of new finds to your list. When I first started hunting, I was still stuck in the obstacle of what to do with orb photos. That seems so long ago now, but once you have knowledge, you can't go back to not having it.

It's like that day when I was a kid and questioning the Sunday School teacher's explanation about how women were fashioned from one of Adam's ribs when I had just learned that men had nipples and milk ducts because they were women to begin with and in the womb with the right hormone being introduced their genitalia became external and they became men. So, I tried to explain to her how technically, men were fashioned from women and that would make God of the female gender if we were designed after her. That was the beginning of the end of organized religion for me. I came to the conclusion at the ripe age of 12 that religion was the prostitution of spirituality. There was definitely no room in the organization for new learning or questioning and debunking.

Of course, knowledge is going to make you a better debunker. Curiosity and open-mindedness will get your head in the right place for a hunt. I hesitate to hunt with people who already know ghosts exist and are most definitely trapped souls that died in a tortured manner. It begins to remind me of attending Sunday School again with believers without question. I'm totally open to the concept of ghosts existing and I admittedly think it would be awesome--why do you think heaven gets such a big following? Eternal life--sweet! But, I also don't want to call a ghost an eternal soul and perhaps do an injustice to those who do believe in the Bible. After all, God supposedly has a place for everyone, right? He/She wouldn't let souls wonder aimlessly in old abandoned buildings, right? So, perhaps what we're dealing with is a combination of explanable events and some extraordinary events that occur by means we don't know yet. These things occur in the physical world, but the question is--are they launched from the spiritual world? Another dimension? Some law of physics as of yet undetermined? Some geological or climatological event we've missed in our studies?

The more explanations you know for the things, the more you can test your environment. So, over the years, here's some debunking tips to check out before you get excited by any findings.

Sounds: Check air-conditioning/heater (roaring/blowing/clicking), boards expanding (sigh sound), house walls expanding/contracting at the end of the day (snapping sound), plants/shutters against the windows (scratching, thumping), automated devices in the house that are on timers (clicking, beeping), ice-maker machines (clunking, whistling), pipes (rattling in their brackets), things falling inside of overcrowded shelves/closets (classic falling object sound), outside influences sometimes heard through vents/exhaust vents (voices, cars, whining engines), other investigators—know where you team is (voices, coughs, shuffling, furniture scraping).

Visual: Go ahead--take orbs out of the equation. I don't think many serious ghost hunters are willing to use those anymore as an indicator of activity other than dust and pollen. I've tested this enough times with my camera that, other than being pretty, there's no reason to keep an orb picture. I have had two or three times the rare occasion in which an orb was captured that appeared to behind something in the distance. I've kept those pictures just for future reference if the question comes up again. For now, I won't use them as proof to anyone that the place is haunted. The only issue I have with the use of nightvision on your camcorder is the very real fact that the IR (infrared) light from the camera can make a shadow of you on the far wall if you are between the camera and what it is filming. We saw this on the Ghost Hunters edition in the prison where someone had taken a photo of a shadowperson in a doorway. Jason was able to recreate that, even showing that his arm was bent upward like the shadow's was as someone taking a digital photo would produce. When you sit in the darkness and you use no lights, your eyes adjust by having your pupils dilate seriously large to get any trace of light. This can work for and against you. It works for you because should any light occur you'll know right away, but it works against you as you have enough light to see varying shades of darkness. This can give a very strong impression of shifting shadows. I see this phenomenon at night when I go to bed. I lay on my side and in my peripheral vision, I see dark blobs on the ceiling that seem to be moving around. When I turn my head, they're gone. Peripheral vision gets really knocked up in complete darkness. So, you see something moving around, don't get impressed unless it blocks out the light. Even then, question it. In the episode of "Ghost Hunters" where they're in the Birdcage Saloon in Tombstone, Jason and Grant keep seeing something dark block out the light of the window. They interpret it as something inside moving around, but it can just as easily and more likely be a person outside the window walking by which would block the light equally as much. Don't let the adage "seeing is believing" get you too excited. Have people try to recreate conditions for a good explanation. If no explanation exists, hope you got it on camcorder.

Scents: These can actually be held in old wood and with the right temperatures and humidity can be released, as well as we've seen on "Ghost Hunters" that scented cleaning agents in the cabinet could be the culprit. I was on one hunt when we smelled very strong flowers (a classic haunting scent) and we were all excited, until I realized it smelled a bit synthetic. Then, I realized we were outside. Clothing dryers have outdoor vents. The homeowner was in fact drying clothing with static sheets that smelled like flowers. Culprit found. Phantom scents are possible, but even then there could be an explanation we can't explain such as someone leaving a lingering scent from their clothing or a tiny draft from the corner of a window bringing in the smell of wet pine.

Body sensations: Cold, chills, hair standing on end, head feeling pressurized... I don't use cold as an indicator anymore. It's a lot like EMF, completely unable to keep a controlled environment to check it out. When I was a kid, our tiny end bedroom had a closet that none of us kids would use when we had that bedroom. It was icy cold, cold breath kind of cold. We swore it was evil. I'd leave my clothes out on the heater so I wouldn't have to open the cold closet in the morning. One day, while I was in there cleaning it out to move to another bedroom, I studied the closet and realized that our chimney that ran up the outside of the house was inside the closet and that's why the wall was shaped so weird. I touched it and it was icy cold. I went downstairs to the music room where the chimney wall was cold. I realized it was bringing the outside of the house's cold air up to the closet like a funnel. No wonder it felt cold all the time--it was like having an open window. Even back then, I was debunking. The exciting thing, however, is that enough completely unexplainable things happened that I'm still to this day pursuing answers. And, I do very much use sensations like pressure in my head, dizziness, tingling, hairs standing on end as my best predictor tool. Whatever this phenomenon is, it tends to be interpreted by your body very early on before it manifests and you can prepare cameras and recording devices when you feel this way. I still think the body is the best tool. Man must have developed extraordinary senses to read an environment and feel uneasy and know when to run, perhaps from the hunt in our primitive times. That might be why using it on a ghost hunt is equally predictive.

Don't think of debunking as a party pooper. Some folks get upset when you give them the logical reason for why something occurred. Be glad that you're expanding your knowledge so you can't be snowed the next time. We seem very naive when we start in this business and we become more seasoned later on. When Jason or Grant or Steve on "Ghost Hunters" gets excited about something that occurred, you can get excited too. They know how to run the debunking. They've seen and heard it all. Eventually, you too will have seen and heard it all and when true phenomenon happens you can get genuinely very excited. And there won't be a moment's doubt in your mind because you've run the debunking gamut before you threw your hat in the air and screamed "yahoo!"

Happy hunting!


  1. As Mike and I get more and more into paranormal findings, we are looking at things from more of a critical eye. I know that watching Jason, Grant and Steve on GH has helped us to pick out what might be real or may have a logical explaination for it. They will go out of their way to try and find that logical reason for the paranormal happenings. I would like to go back and listen to our recording we had taken in room 401 at the Copper Queen Hotel. Most of the noises we were able to debunk but there were some we had no explaination for. Your blogs and experience has also helped us have a better knowledge of ghost hunting. Thanks...

  2. Glad you've found something useful here. I'm sure as you two go along in ghost hunting, you'll add a lot more things to look for on your list. I usually spend a good half hour or hour in a place just to get used to the sounds it makes.