There are certain things that simply go without saying you will need for all investigations. We'll simply list them here first, the only qualification is to use good quality models where applicable. A cheap flashlight that falls apart the first time it is used does no one any good! That said, all investigators should carry:
- A good, bright flashlight ("D" Cell type, for extended use.)
- Notepad and two or three sharpened pencils.
- Cellphone or two-way radio to keep in touch.
- Basic First Aid kit, just in case.
- Small folding knife.
- Tape measure.
- Spare Batteries for whatever other equipment you use. (including your flashlight)
- Plaster of Paris - Taking any impressions of tracks or imprints.
- Clean/Sealable containers - Collecting samples if any exist.
- Latex surgical gloves - Collecting and handling samples
- Camera - (We'll discuss this in detail shortly)
- Audio Recorder - (We'll also cover more on the recorder later.)
- Forms - (It is helpful to have report forms printed up and ready to go.)
- Professional Contacts - Experts in various fields you may consult as needed.
That will get you going on a basic Ghost or Haunting case. A little preparation ahead of time keeping all your equipment in one place will save a lot of time. A major difference between Ghost investigations and other forms of paranormal research is the type and variety of equipment brought to an investigation. Most UFO and Bigfoot cases are generally done after the fact, you go out and conduct interviews, maybe take a few pictures and do a lot of research to try to find what was seen. Hauntings cases are different, those are often done in real time, expecting to possibly capture some evidence of paranormal activity as a part of the investigation. Consequently demands on equipment are much higher. Plus, a larger toolbox full of stuff is often brought to the investigation.
This subject will look at what you need to know before investing money in gear to conduct an investigation. We'll break it down into several subtopics.
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Cameras and Video
We'll take a look at still cameras first. It should be noted that many of the same requirements also apply to video as well, so they have been combined here. Cameras are used in different ways when doing ghost or haunting cases. This means that a camera has to perform various operations. Some researchers have found that it is helpful to have two or more cameras, each set up for various aspects of a case. This report will give the requirements for several different applications, it will be up to you whether you want to use a single camera for all or use multiple cameras for each.
The first thing you'll use the camera for is making a record of the area under investigation. It is a good idea to photograph the entire area from various angles. This will be valuable later should something appear in one of your other pictures. For instance if there was a large mirror on a wall behind you and some strange light appears in one of your pictures, that mirror could be responsible for a flash bounce. Having the record allows you to possibly work out the angles that may have allowed that. Even if you are setting up for EVP work, it is helpful to know where your microphones are with respect to other things in the room. For this type of photography any point and shoot camera will do nicely. Film or digital won't make a lot of difference here since you are not using the camera to capture actual evidence, only logging information for later use.
Things become a more critical when you use the camera for evidence gathering. Here there is debate regarding digital versus film cameras. Previously film cameras have been recommended for two reasons. First, there is the presence of a negative to validate your photo. While it is true that digital provides EXIF data, that data can also be faked thanks to some clever software. One can also hoax a filmed image, but that requires a lot more skill than simply sitting down in front of a computer and running Photoshop or some other similar editing program. Second factor is quality. In the past digital cameras, unless you spent a small fortune, were subpar to film cameras. This has recently changed as digital cameras with 12 - 16 or more megapixels have become common and much less expensive. So today it it quite possible to get very fine quality from a mid priced digital camera.
One area to avoid are cell phone cameras. These generally use extremely small lenses and even though they may have high resolution imaging potential the small lens does not generally lend itself well to high definition imaging. The physical size of the lens is simply too small to admit sufficient light to keep shutter speeds fast.
However to be fair, any photo by itself is not really conclusive evidence no matter what type of camera was used. With that in mind it becomes apparent that either digital or film is satisfactory as long as certain features are considered.
ore importantly is having at least some control over the settings. Flash must be able to be turned off at times. A fully manual camera which gives you control over shutter speed and aperture is also recommended. And to minimize the appearance of orbs (dust) in your flash, a camera with an external hot shoe will allow the flash to be positioned some distance away from the lens. The close spacing on many digital cameras due to their small size is becoming increasingly a problem when it comes to dust orbs in pictures.
What about IR or Night Vision? Many ghost hunters are using this in conjunction with their cameras and video systems. But is it of any value? The short answer is no. TV Ghost hunters aside, there has been no evidence that any paranormal activity has been caught using IR that would not also be seen using normal light. Now before some get irate about that statement and bring up the fact that you can take pictures in absolute darkness, I want to ask them why? Why is it necessary to take pictures with no other light present? Do you believe that by eliminating all light you eliminate shadows? Not so. IR light reflects from surfaces just as well as visible light, only you can't see it. But your camera does. So reflections and light bounce are just as much a problem with IR as they are with visible light.
The only advantage to IR (and UV for that matter) is that it does allow you to see over a wider spectrum. In theory it might be possible to detect something that would otherwise be invisible. The problem, at least to date, is that no proof has been forthcoming that anything paranormal fits that category. But there are certain natural materials that react very differently under IR and UV light. For instance, consider those iridescent posters that glow under black light. Now consider how any airborne particles of paint or ink from something like this may react if it floats by in front of your night vision camera. You may not see it, but it may glow like a light bulb to the camera. Some cotton fabrics also exhibit these characteristics. Imagine what any lint from these materials might look like! Many false positives result under these conditions.
Another factor is the way infra red light behaves through a lens. The longer wavelength requires a slightly different lens curvature than does visible light to properly focus. Of course such lenses and cameras are available, but how many ghost hunters have invested the money in such equipment? Instead the majority simply use what they have with its limitations. Then when something shows up they claim they captured a ghost image! Before going into any night vision equipment it would be a good idea to consult with a photographer to learn the methods they use to obtain good quality pictures under those conditions. You just don't run out and start taking pictures in IR lighting situations. There are quite a few tricks to the trade and it would be a good idea to learn them if you decide to go into that area. It will help to minimize the number of dust orbs and other such artifacts that make their way into the field.
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When it comes to audio recording, as with photography there are two primary types of recordings you will be concerned with. By far the simplest is the witness interview and event logging. It is helpful to record the witness testimony so you have a record of all that was said. It becomes much easier to review later; small details that might have otherwise been overlooked are there on the recording and can be included in your case files. You can also get inflections in the witness's voice that may be clues to the case. Regarding event logging while investigating, some investigators do this, I do not. The reason is that while simpler than writing a log, it requires speaking while the investigation is underway. This could interfere with EVP recording in progress.
The type of recorder you use for this application is not really critical. Any inexpensive voice recorder will do nicely. One consideration might be ease of review. Since it is likely you will stop and start the recorder many times while reviewing the statement, it should be one which is easy to use in this manner. Another consideration is the overall sensitivity of the recorder to voice. There is no reason to use an extremely sensitive machine since in most cases you and the client are sitting down face to face discussing the case with the recorder right there with you. A recorder which is too sensitive may pick up background noise which could make the recording difficult to understand.
By far the more complex recording issues become evident when you want to record actual evidence. Previously I would not recommend any digital recording system for this application, instead requiring the use of good quality analog cassette or reel to reel systems. However newer high quality, stereo digital recorders are now available and will serve well for EVP work. I do not make recommendations regarding makes or madels, but what follows will outline the minimum specifications any recorder used for EVP work must achieve.
First, all recordings, whether digital or analog should be made in stereo. (This rules out most common voice recorders!) The use of dual channels allows each to act as a check on the other. Any valid sound should be present on both channels. If one channel picks up a signal while the other gets nothing, the possibility exists that microphone placement may have been such that a stray EM Field may have been responsible. Another advantage is that the use of two channels will allow you to hear depth to your sound. You have two ears, and by using dual channel recording both can work together to determine not only the sound but its direction and to an extent its distance from you. It is much as if you were actually present as the sound was recorded.
The second concern that applies to all recorders is frequency response. While it may be desirable to use a certain amount of voice emphasis, it should not be the recorder that applies any filtering. The recorder should faithfully reproduce anything you send to it. For EVP work it is desirable that any recorder should reproduce all frequencies between 30 Hz up to 12 kHz. Recorders which exceed this are even better, but this is the minimum range the recorder should cover.
A final consideration when choosing a recorder is shielding. The recorder should be well shielded against outside interference. Older analog recorders are often placed in steel cases which provide excellent isolation. However the newer machines which are in plastic cases can also be shielded internally just as well. This is a matter of the design and must be considered when purchasing a recorder. It doesn't matter whether the shielding is the case or an internal shield, just as long as it's there. Most mid to high end recorders will meet the shielding requirements.
If you are planning on purchasing a Digital Audio recorder the information in the box below will help you decide which to get! Otherwise scroll on down for more on Audio Recording.!
What To Know If You Are Going To Use Digital Audio
With digital recorders you have a couple additional concerns that impact the quality of the recording. It is beyond the scope of this report to give all the technical reasons why the following conditions apply. If you want to read the reasoning behind these specifications they are covered on two pages under the 'Questions Answered" Section. For now, if you are considering purchasing a recorder make certain these specifications are met.
Your EVP Recorder must:
- - Record in Stereo, preferably with External Mic Inputs
- - Use a 96 KBPS or Greater Sample Rate
- - Employ a 24 Bit Analog to Digital Conversion system
- - Use a Non-lossy recording format (PCM, not CELP)
- - Save Files in a non-compressed format. (WAV, not MP3 or similar.)
So what does this mean? Just take this to your dealer and check the specifications before purchasing your recorder! And so you know the basics of what all this means, read on.
Stereo means the recorder has the ability to record two channels simultaneously using two isolated input sources.
The number of samples made each second in the Analog to Digital conversion process. 96,000 (or 96K) per second is the minimum for EVP work. (For your Information, most digital voice recorders use from 8 to 16 K, far less than recommended.) From this it is seen that for reliable EVP work Compact Digital Voice recorders are NOT suitable for EVP work.
Another factor is the number of bits used in the Analog to Digital conversion system. The more bits utilized, the more accurate this conversion becomes. Most voice recorders use 16 bit conversion, good digital recorders use 24. Just as a higher pixel count improves images in photography more bits improves resolution in audio recording. Voice recorders using fewer than 24 bits are not suitable for EVP recording.
A final concern with digital recording is the format. Recorders should not alter the original signal while making the recording. Any compression alters the audio signal by reducing so-called "useless" data. But what is really useless? Since we don't know what constitutes an EVP who can say? Most small recorders, in order to save memory, use various compression techniques, usually Code Excited Linear Prediction (CELP). Instead EVP work requires a more intensive conversion method, Pulse Code Modulation. (PCM) Thus it is stated Recorders used for EVP work must use PCM conversion algorythms
The second way a digital recorder can alter the audio is in its file handling system. Most recorders use either a variation of the WAV file or the MP3 audio system. WAV and BWF are not considered lossy, therefore your digital recorder should use one of these two formats when creating the files. MP3 however is considered lossy, since compression takes place to reduce file size. It is not suitable for original recordings of EVPs.
Any good quality microphone can be used for EVP work. There is some controversy regarding electret versus dynamic. My recommendation is to simply try both. Results have been obtained with both types.
Earlier I mentioned inserting filtering ahead of the recorder. This is done using a mixer board, such as is often used in public address systems, between the microphones or sensors and the recorder. One important capability it requires is to be able to mix to a stereo output. (pan pots) Some smaller ones do not have this feature. Many also include bandpass filtering. If you choose to use a bandpass filter it should cover the range from 200 Hz to about 3 kHz. This is the range of normal human voice, male, female and children. If you want to be even more selective, you may use narrower pass bands. Voice is comprised of two components, vocal and fricatives. The fricatives are similar regardless of whether it is a child, a male, or a female voice. They are the sounds made by the tongue and teeth, "S", "T", and "K" are some examples. The pass band should be between 1.5 and 3 kHz. The vocal component differs somewhat. For a male voice, the recommended pass band is between 200 and 400 Hz, a female pass band would be 300 to 600 Hz. Children generally are between 350 to 700 Hz. The bandpass filter can be customized to whichever you are trying for, or simply use the wider 200 to 3 kHz range for all. The gain in performance of the wider band is noticeable, but not to a great degree.
Lastly, an area of controversy. Analog tapes may be new or reused, but only if they are bulk erased, not simply erased by the recorder. However ALL tapes, even new, should be bulk erased before use. There are residual fields left from the manufacturing process. Put a new unrecorded tape in a good quality stereo and turn the bass and the volume up. Hit play and listen for a "whomp, whomp" sound as the tape runs. Those are residual magnetic fields. They will cause false EVP when you combine them with the steady hiss you get in the field. Your recorder erase head will not eliminate all of them. For the same reason you can't completely erase a tape for reuse. The erase head and the record/play heads do not track perfectly. That is why, when you reuse a tape you can still hear a faint voice left from the previous recording, even though you recorded over it. The bulk eraser, properly used, will eliminate both problems since it erases the entire tape, not just the narrow bands where the previous audio was recorded. The bulk eraser will clean a used tape just as well as a new tape, so as long as the used tape is mechanically sound there is no reason it is any less desirable than a new tape. Use it.
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Spirit Boxes, Ghost Boxes, and Quackery
These are some of the most common devices people seem to want to get for their toolkit. And also the most worthless. They are products of TV hype, and a few have decided to try to capitalize on it. Another term I give them is "Pareidolia Boxes" because that is how they work. Considering that pareidolia is the mind's attempt to bring order from chaos, then let's look at how these things work.
First most switch across various bands gathering snippets of sounds, usually from the radio broadcast frequencies. And more importantly, note the rate they switch, usually around 5 to 10 times per second. Which, if you notice is the same cadence as most common speech. So we have set up the first requirement to simulate speech. Next add in various sounds, often with white noise or the common "hiss" heard between radio stations. The hiss sounds a lot like the sound of an "S" when spoken. That just happens to be a very common phoneme of speech. Finally throw in a few other alterations to the sounds, specifically those added by devices such as the EchoVox. (A bit of reverb with an echo, so anything that sounds like a bit of speech gets repeated!)
Now consider what you are doing; you are trying to get a response, trying to converse. Your mind is already keyed up expecting to hear a spirit talk back to you. It doesn't take much when something even remotely resembling speech patterns comes across for imagination and pareidolia to kick in.
And one more bit of evidence of pareidolia comes from the proponents of these things themselves. How many times have we been told the reason why some hear voices and others don't is because we have to "train" ourselves. Which is exactly how pareidolia works. It's called conditioning! If we are told a random sound says a certain thing and it's reasonably close, we can be convinced that is in fact what it says!
So as far as Ghost Boxes go, they are useful as boat anchors or target practice, nothing more.
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WHOA ! ! ! Pretty strong condemnation of something a lot of us believe in!
What would it take to convince you otherwise???
In a word, PROOF! And by that I mean an explanation that shows exactly how a spirit is able to manipulate the box to cause the desired output it seeks. That the tired old claim, "We don't know what a spirit can do." doesn't hold up. We DO KNOW what is required of the Spirit Box to get an output. After all, humans designed and built it! Let's look at the technical aspects and see the issues.
There are two methods employed by ghost boxes depending on which type you have. One uses a synthesizer chip to create words and phrases by assembling phonemes, the other scans through radio broadcasts and captures snippets of speech creating phrases from the phonemes and bits of words obtained when the box hits on a particular broadcast. Both use very precise voltages to select either the address from memory of the desired phoneme, or in the case of radio based boxes, to tune the desired station where the speech containing the phoneme the spirit seeks is contained. The voltages have to within a few millivolts of what is needed, otherwise an incorrect phoneme will be generated or the wrong station will be tuned. There is no margin for error. Also, in the case of radio based sources, the spirit will have to know what the announcer is going to say before he says it, and what station he is on in order to get to the source in time to obtain the speech snippet.
Another factor is the inverse square law of physics. It is simply another way of stating that the farther one moves from the source of an EM Field the weaker it becomes. Now, believers claim the spirit creates a field and that field is what triggers the spirit box. But back up! Simply creating a field is not enough; the voltage seen by the spirit box has to be very precise! That means not only does the spirit have to generate exactly the right voltage but also has to take into account its precise distance from the box to include the loss caused by the inverse square law! And it also must do this without the benefit of a voltmeter or visible means of knowing precisely what voltage is present at the control point! That feat would be difficult even with a computer and a feedback loop to maintain stability, which clearly a spirit does not have. Oh, and one more thing. This must be done about 10 times a second, matching the cadence of speech patterns. This must be done without error, otherwise incorrect sounds would be generated.
So this explains what the spirit MUST do in order to utilize a spirit box to communicate. The box itself, not the spirit, sets these requirements. So we CAN say definitively what is required. It's up to the believer to convince me and other rational thinkers how our communicative spirit accomplishes this task.
In the field of ghosts and hauntings most investigators use some form of Electro Magnetic Field meter. These are also one of the most misused devices as well. First and foremost:
EMF METERS ARE NOT GHOST DETECTORS!
I hope that came through loud and clear. There has never been a case where an EM Field has been caused by a spirit or ghost. That idea actually originated back in the 1970s in a Hollywood movie, and the plot somehow made it into paranormal investigating. I will have to concede however that there may be cases where strong EM Fields have allegedly caused reactions in humans. (The studies are ongoing and so far unconfirmed.) So it may well be that while ghosts don't cause fields, fields may cause ghosts!
So with that in mind, there is a very obvious reason to monitor such fields. Many sources of EM fields exist; they are generated by man made and natural events and can affect other readings we may be taking during the investigation. They are responsible for many false positives when it comes to evidence.
Most researchers use a meter type of monitor to conduct an investigation. These provide a reading, usually in milligauss, of the field present. If you choose the meter method, be sure to select one which is tri-axial. That means it employs three sensors and detects fields in the X, Y, and Z axis. Single axis meters are subject to false readings since unless you know the source, which you usually don't, you can't be certain the meter is aligned properly. However I prefer to use two monitors instead of a meter. One is a Dynamic EMF monitor, the other a Static Field Monitor. I will cover the actual method of using them under the "Techniques" topic. The difference between the two monitors is the types of fields they detect.
The Dynamic Field Monitor consists of an inductive pickup, amplifier, and headphones and is used to locate the presence of alternating magnetic fields. These are often associated with power lines, televisions, computers, or radio transmitters. They can interfere with EVP recordings and some camcorders causing false positives. Thus it is important to know where these may be and avoid placing equipment in those areas. The Dynamic Monitor allows the investigator to hear the nature of the field rather than being concerned with its relative field strength. I believe this information is more useful than simply knowing its strength since with a little experience you learn to identify the source by sound rather than having to hunt it down watching a meter reading.
The Static Field Monitor keeps track of long term changes in the steady state background magnetic fields associated with the earth. It will also respond to any abrupt level shifts caused by any other source as well. It has a meter which is set to a center position. A deviation will be reflected either plus or minus, and an alarm sounded if such a change is detected.
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Thermal Imaging Systems
This is one of those expensive systems that has not been shown to be of any real benefit on an investigation. I've used one on several occasions and found it very effective at picking up other investigators at great distances in total darkness. It will also detect the warmth left over on a seat long after the investigator got up. Or even a shadow of warmth where someone has leaned against a wall some minutes before..... But no ghosts or spirits.
In all fairness though they can come in handy for detecting some mundane sources of phenomena often alleged to be spirits. Poor contacts in switches for example may arc and create various sounds at times. They also create heat and may actually be a fire hazard. A thermal imager will spot the source of heat without any difficulty at all. So it really depends on what your expectations are before purchasing one. If you have a specific project in mind to test a particular hypothesis then maybe you can justify it, otherwise it's an expensive toy that has not really proved its worth in paranormal research to date.
I would also add they can be a legitimate source of income. People will pay you to scan their houses for heat loss to allow them to improve their heat retention capabilities and lower their fuel bills!
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This is another of those misused devices. They do serve a purpose, but again there is no proof they detect the presence of any spirit. Cold Spots not withstanding. There is much conjecture about how spirits absorb energy and heat. But to date no one has actually proved anything to that effect. However a temperature drop CAN cause condensation of moisture. And this has been the source of many ghost sightings. So you be the judge,
But regarding what type to get, you will need something to measure the actual air temperature. The infrared handheld laser type measure surface temperature of whatever the beam strikes. They do not measure the air temperature until such time as the change in air temperature has affected the surface. So the idea that they can measure a cold spot is generally false.
If you want to measure air temperature you need a probe type. These consist of a meter and a handheld probe which is placed in the area you wish to monitor. It is also possible to use multiple sensors with some of these to permit several areas to be constantly monitored. You may connect these to a data logger to keep a record of temperature over an extended period of time. It all depends on how elaborate you want to be. But at the very least you should have a thermometer. Even if it's just a small basic outdoor type. You can get along very well without the infrared gun type though. These are generally not that helpful on an investigation
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Ultrasonics and Infrasonics, Motion Detectors, Ion Detectors, ....
These devices are placed together for a reason. None has been shown to be of any specific value when it comes to ghost or haunting cases. Of course individual cases may have applications, for instance a motion detector may be useful if you suspect someone of entering your target area and interfering. Or infrasonics may apply if you suspect vibrations could be responsible for some activity. But those are specialized cases and the benefits would have to be weighed against the type of activity being experienced.
And a word about so-called ion pumps. Some employ these while doing their investigation. However it has been shown that breathing ionized air may interfere with one's thought processes. Thus it might be assumed that any evidence of activity obtained under those conditions could be tainted. There is no hard evidence that ionized air or ion presence in any way contributes to spirit or ghost activity, only the perception of such activity. It may lead to false positives, so I recommend avoiding the possibility.
So unless you doing some specialized type of research I would not recommend you invest in any of these devices. This is especially true for those just getting started in investigating.