Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Do Ghost Hunters Do That?

(**Don't forget, tonight is "Lonely on a Friday Night." Join me here 7 pm EST onward and jump on and off and chit chat**)

I get asked a lot of questions about the logic or pseudo-logic behind some of the techniques for ghost hunting. Here's the chance to discuss them.

Why do we hunt at night?

I can tell you a lot of reasons why. One reason cited is that ghosts come out when folks have calmed down for the night. They know when the museum is not taking visitors anymore, they know when the family is in bed. Sort of like animals that stalk at night when humans aren't around, ghosts have a cautious schedule.

Another popular reason for ghost hunting at night is the reason I personally have: Less stimuli. We can turn off power to the building which will help us to not have sounds created by air-conditioning or EMF spikes from active power strips and such. Without cars passing outside, noisy humans rushing about, and the darkness that allows us to see the difference between shadow and light, we can notice any sound, see any moving entity. This is simply sensory deprivation and it does work. I know it seems creepier to hunt at night and I guess for some it is (I personally love the dark), but the reasons are actually very practical.

What are some disadvantages of going at night? The biggest one is that if you use your camera with flash, you will get orbs which can distract you from any promise a picture might hold. As well, the use of IR, although helpful can cast shadows of the people standing in front of them and cause false shadow people pics. The simple fact you can't see well at night makes it possible to miss things and to run into overhead beams and have close calls in dangerous places. It also means that, if an animal got into the building, we might not see it whereas in the daytime we would have seen that scampering shadow for what it was, a pesky raccoon.

What's with EMF meters and why are they so important that hunters walk around staring at them?

I wish I could answer this one. It's like an Old Wives tale that gets passed along in the community. Everyone wants a gadget that can get it, find it, know it's there. There are no instruments that tell us for certain that ghostly activity is occurring. The reasoning behind an electromagnetic field detector is that there is an assumption that spirits have to gather energy (thus the incidental and occasional battery drains) for it to form and therefore these fluctuations show up on a meter. The only problem is that random sources can provide us with EMF spikes and we have absolutely no way using that instrument to know what the source is of that spike. It's like trying to capture radio waves with a butterfly net. People say EMF spikes when ghostly things occur, but that's kind of like saying, because Bigfoot is seen with trees, then when we see trees, there must be a Bigfoot!

If you notice on the ghost hunting shows, when they get an EMF spike, they get quite excited, but not a damn thing happens. When they're sitting around not paying attention to the meters, things happen. The meters don't help them locate anything more than EMF changes. Who is to say a ghost wouldn't utilize a radio wave or microwave frequency? Until we know how they manifest, we're just taking a temperature with a volt meter. Without a shielded controlled environment, it's like picking up a radio station's signal in the middle of the desert, it's going to happen unless you build a shield to keep waves from your location. Those crazy radio waves are everywhere. Those damn electromagnetic fields are everywhere.

Why are ghost hunters hearing voices on EVPs when all I hear is noise?

If you go into a building to look for ghosts, any sound is likely to be called a ghost, anything you get in photos or video, you are likely to attribute to spirit formation and any sound you get on your digital recorder, you're likely to chalk up to a ghost trying to communicate. It's one of the "Trinity of Relevance" I wrote about in my book "Was That a Ghost?" Context. It absolutely affects outcome. Women know this one well. We can have a conversation with a man and pick up all kinds of subtext that we extracted from the encounter because we went into it believing he was interested in us, or he was lying and cheating. He could say the same thing, "I just need to think about this," and she could take it as, "he's falling hard and fast and is scared, poor thing," or "he needs some time to come up with a new lie."

Class A EVPs are extremely rare. They are ones in which it is obviously a voice and what that voice is saying is obvious to everyone who hears it. That they even listen to what are obviously either mechanical sounds or environmental sounds and hearing a language in it amazes me, but then it also doesn't surprise me that much because there are lot of folks seeing faces in orbs, so anything is possible when one wants desperately to believe.

The fact is, finding evidence of ghosts is not that easy and the shows have made us believe that they get evidence every time they go to a site. It is the single most boring hobby of all time. That anyone found that it might entertain enough for TV surprised me a lot when "Ghost Hunters" came out, but then there is a lot to be said for people getting to see the inside of some dark scary places. That alone is probably exciting enough, but the jumping and startling and long boring pauses in EVP sessions don't mean a damn thing at the end of a case. Sometimes, all you have are some droning sounds on a recorder and if you try real hard and want it real bad, you can make it sound like anything when you've listened to it about 50 times.

If you have more questions, feel free to share them and perhaps I'll do another installment of "Why Do Ghost Hunters Do That?"


  1. i have always speculated this thought and wondered the same or why is a cemetery more frightening at night... i would like to see a ghost story told during the day.

  2. How many times have we seen the GA boys trip over something, and hit their heads? It seems a bit crazy to me.

  3. that seems like a helpful tool. I sometimes might prefer to not know when a spirit is close by though :D

  4. lol @ capt!! me too, sometimes!

  5. i think at night all ghostly , electromagnetic activity reflect better.

  6. Ok, I know I am sounding like a total Grumpy McSkepticpants today, LOL, sorry about that. But I have an observation that I would love to have clarified by someone more knowledgeable than me in the paranormal (read: pretty much everybody).

    I was watching an episode of GHI I think about two years back and they were investigating a castle in Romania or somewhere else in Eastern Europe, not really sure. But anyway the castle was built into the side of a mountain that was full of quartz crystals. The castle was actually PART of the mountain in fact, very impressive design for the middle ages.

    But anyway, they caught an EVP and the dang thing was in English. American English too, not British or even an older dialect which could have been explained by a medieval British prisoner or something of that nature. This EVP was was then presented to the client as evidence by the crew with a straight face on national TV.

    When the client asked why the EVP was in English and not any of the local languages, the explanation was as follows, and bear in mind that I am paraphrasing: Supposedly spirits "think" their vocalizations and they manifest to the listener as their native language. What? Ok, I can suspend enough disbelief to maybe accept that, but what about the native language of the digital voice recorder that was used? If they played that EVP back to a Chinese person, would it have sounded Chinese? I call Shenanigans...

    So what's your take? I am sure you saw the episode. Did you facepalm as hard as I did?

  7. @Aaron: I too have noticed the prevailing of English-speaking ghosts in the EVPs. You have to admit that answer of manifestation-in-the-native-tongue is a clever one.
    That *is* a little more power than I would attribute to said spirits.

    And I always assumed a lot of ghost hunting was done at night for contrast; since (IMO) they tend to appear in an ethereal or glowing way.

    The one thing I can sink my teeth in to is the use of EMF, but not really in any urban environment. Gotta roll with the times and technology!

  8. Y'all are great and I see I should do a followup. I forgot the common pesky question of why foreign ghosts speak American-English. Oh, and RR, I'm all for technology, but I wouldn't chase a ghost with a laptop or a cell phone. Just because they tote meters we assume it's helpful and it's 100% not helpful to be measuring EMF. We might as well measure RF or radiation. Oh, and, yes, they do use Geiger counters. Irradiated ghosts--I like that concept, kind of reeks of 1950s Scifi. Okay, onto the question about those multilingual ghosts in Europe... I have to go through a few roadblocks first:
    1. EVPs in general are an extremely unreliable thing. If a ghost can record without making an audible sound, he could certainly give us more clear-cut answers but if you really listen to EVPs, they don't necessary answer a question. They also do so in the middle of the hunter speaking or after a very long pause. If you walk around with a receiver, you can pick up all kinds of cross talk and that's just a fact. So, whether it's from the spirit world could not verified.
    2. If you take the notion that ghosts are polite enough to speak our own language, then why do we often get them answering in foreign languages. Please, make up your mind ghosts!
    3. We interpret what we hear through our own frame of reference. I talk about this in my "Was That a Ghost?" book. You have people expecting an answer, expecting it understandable, so anything they hear now becomes their own language and even words they believe answer their question. In my industry, there's a term "if you see hoof prints, think horses not zebras." I got an EVP from a pal recently and he and his team were trying to figure out what it was that was said. He asked a question that would have been answered by a number, but there was about 30 seconds or more until the reply. He and others assumed they'd hear a number. They all heard different numbers. My job as a transcriptionist for almost 20 years is to know every word and sound uttered from a doctor with extremely high accuracy enforced by my industry of medical records keeping. I heard the long pause and knew that the words would not be a reply to the question. I heard class A to my hearing a phrase that did not answer the question. When you have that much pause, you must listen to it as if the person is speaking, but not answering the question, then you can hear the true words. We make things fit in context.
    3. If we truly are to believe that a ghost would speak in English for us, then my take is that it's entirely possible that this is done so psychically. It's my goal to do an EVP session where I simply think, but not speak out loud. If a ghost is so good at using recording devices without a vocal chords, then I dare them to know what I'm thinking.

  9. nice info I'd never really considered some of these reasons....great hobby to have

  10. So do you do this with everything? Blatantly ignore facts that don't fit your theories, and fail to do any research or even ask so much as one question before forming opinions? So the sounds and images that they "incidentally" attribute to ghosts, what about the fact that the "sounds" are clearly enunciated words that no one in the room said? And what about the "images" that are very clearly people that are not one of the crew? And I have noticed that every single time activity occurs there is an EMF spike, however, not every single time there is an EMF spike is there activity. And as for naturally occuring EMF, base readings are always taken before an investigation occurs, and only exceptionally high unnatural EMF's are taken seriously. And if ghosts are not draining all the fresh brand new batteries in all the equipment all at the same time, then please, tell me, what is your theory on why that happens?

    1. Actually, every bit of "evidence" uncovered by investigators is up to interpretation. I have yet to see EMF spikes and activity be correlated and that is my own experience. Others may say that "I felt uncomfortable and the EMF spiked" and that is subjective. Everyone must investigate with a critical eye towards any previous investigators who think they know what a ghost is, how it works, and how to find one. We cannot further the field if we just accept that an electrician's tool is going to find a ghost. That's like chasing a Bigfoot with a yardstick. I encourage everyone to make their own correlations in the field, through testing, and with a critical eye. We will get no where in understanding the phenomena if we believe what others have told us.

  11. oh and I have never heard a foreign ghost speak English, unless they spoke English in life.