Ghosts and Haunts - Evidence Analysis and Conclusions
We began the previous section of this essay on obtaining evidence . This section will deal with what we do with what we collected. The first evidence you will have obtained in your investigation is the witness statement. In it he should have provided the reason behind the case; that is what has he seen or heard and what does it mean to him? Has he decided for himself what is responsible ahead of time? Your job is to take any preconceptions and evaluate them along with what you have been able to discover for yourself. Did the sound actually come from the furnace? Is there some mundane explanation for the ghost? If so your case may be resolved. If you can tie in the evidence you obtained by observation and show that it was responsible your job is done. Sometimes your client will be happy to hear that, others will insist tere is something else to it. They will grasp at straws to validate their haunting. But unless there are grounds to continue based on additional evidence, your best recourse is to write up your report and close the case. Only you can make that determination though. You'll have to base it on what you have found and your impression of the credibility of the client.
But what of those cases that aren't so easily resolved? The remainder of this section will deal with analyzing evidence you may have obtained from additional research. While this report will deal with evidence obtained from each piece of equipment individually, it should be kept in mind that the equipment is at its best when the devices compliment each other. Suppose the camera catches something at the same time as an EVP is recorded. While this may not be proof something paranormal occurred, it is certainly strong evidence something happened. It may be something natural and explainable, but likely it can't be ruled equipment failure. The investigator will have to take all evidence and consider it in relation to anything else that supports or refutes it. Obviously every possibility can't be covered in a single report, that is where some deductive reasoning comes in.
Photos and Video
Pictures represent one of the most common form of evidence obtained. They can also be some of the most difficult to explain or confirm. One of the reasons is the many possible ways light can reflect or bounce in an area. That is where your pre-investigation photos can be helpful. Suppose you have a strange artifact in a corner of a picture. There is nothing else obvious that could account for it. But what else was present that may be out of the field of view? That artifact could be lens flare from a lamp, or glare from light streaming in a window just outside the scope of the picture. Simply studying the picture itself will never reveal it, you have to have a layout of the room showing those possible sources.
Then there is that manifestation of a spirit; that mist rising above the ground. What is it? First, how far does it appear from the camera? Is it in focus, how much detail can be seen? How far is it above the ground? If we assume it is a night / flash photograph or night vision video, one must consider it requires very little contrast to get such a mist on camera. Most people use their camera's "AUTO" settings which leaves the aperture wide open and may use a long shutter speed. This makes any little bit of vapor easily visible. It also allows for any movement of the camera to cause motion blur. Which is why any picture taken under those conditions without the benefit of a tripod or other camera support is probably not very reliable as evidence.
Distance is also a factor. It seems most of these kinds of pictures show a mist at some distance from the camera. Seldom is it close. That puts it at the extreme range of the flash, which further lowers the overall picture detail and quality.
But the most important detail doesn't even come from the camera, it comes from the environmental readings you took at the start of the investigation. What is the temperature, humidity, and wind speed? These are crucial bits of information that will help make a final determination. If the relative humidity is high, above 80%, there is a very good chance that pockets of cooler air near the ground will be at the dew point. Moisture will condense in those pockets, and all it takes is a slight disturbance to cause that to rise above the ground. Of course, now in the air it encounters warmer pockets which cause the mist to again evaporate. A manifestation appears then vanishes before your eyes. And if you just happened to take a picture then, you got yourself a "ghost"!
And let's not forget orbs, those balls of energy that some claim are spirits. If you happen to get one that shines by its own light, possible casting a shadow or reflecting its own light in some solid object in your picture, then you might have something.
But for most of the photos and video we get, orbs are dust, pollen, or insects. They do not cast shadows nor do they glow by their own light. In a video sometimes they move quickly across the screen. Those may be small insects. Like dust particles, because they are very close to the lens it takes very little movement to cross the entire frame.
Many times you are given photos that were taken by others purporting to be something paranormal. You are asked to analyze them. The first point here is to determine the history of the photo. Hopefully you get a print, with a negative. That at least gives you a starting point. You can examine the photo and negative together.
When it comes to digital photography, any picture submitted which does not contain its EXIF data should be discounted. Thus it is imparitive that you require an original image file, not one reduced in size or otherwise altered. Remember, most attempts at faking them will lose this data as layers are added to the image. Always be suspect of such pictures, and insist the client provide you with an original file from the camera
Back top the TOP of This Page
This is an area where more false EVPs are created than any other. Some run them through many layers of processing trying to get something they can recognize because they "know" there is a voice there. Well hold the phone, chances are there is nothing there! If you have a lot of noise, hiss, and other problems on your recording that is telling you one thing, you need a more sensitive recorder and microphone system. You can review more on that under the "Equipment" subject.
There will always be a point where you can't quite hear the voice, but after the recording is made is not the time to boost it up. That is best done during the recording process using high gain, low noise amplifiers and sensitive mics or sensors.
That said a little bit of filtering in playback is not going to be a problem. I use an analog filter system which consists of a 19 band equalizer and 3 stage parametric filter. Note that this filtering is applied only to the audio as I hear it, not to the EVP being played. That remains in its original unaltered state. The only reason to filter at all is to bring out those one or two words which you just can't quite make out. Once you hear them you should be able to make them out in the original unaltered version as well. The filtering is just a little nudge in the right direction; it's not to drastically alter the audio.
So how do you listen to an EVP? Begin by using headphones which cover your ears, not those little ear-buds common with music players. You want something which both gives good frequency response and blocks out any outside noise. An EVP session should not last over 15 minutes at a time. Longer and you become desensitized. You are listening to what is essentially a blank recording with a small amount of electronic noise in the background. This has a hypnotic effect after a short time. It will be hard to stay focused and should something come through you may miss it. So give yourself a 10 minute break every 15 minutes.
I go through the entire recording the first time listening for anything at all out of the ordinary. Changes in noise level, thumps, pops, voices, hum, everything. The first time through I don't try to pick out anything. I just note the time where it is heard. As far as any filtering at this point I use none. If I can't hear there is at least something present it is not worth trying to pull it out later. It will still be at best a poor class C level.
Then once I get through the recording I go back and pick out each segment where I heard something. Here I will try some bandpass filtering, headphone phase reversal, and possibly additional amplification. Each of these techniques can sometimes improve on the clarity of the audio at times. Most of the time I find that there is nothing there worth going further. Maybe an investigator made the sound, maybe a car outside, or maybe it was just a noise from the structure itself.
Anything that might possibly be an EVP is then subject to the Rule Of Three Test. This is an evaluation by others who have never heard the recording before. Each participant is allowed to hear the audio and is instructed to write down its content without any consultation between them. If all three hear the same thing it is considered worthy of additional study. If two of the three hear the same thing and the third substantially agrees it is also kept for further evaluation. If two agree and the third hears something completely different it will be tossed. And of course if all three disagree the recording would be dismissed. By definition, "substantially agree" means that words or phrases are similar in sound. For instance, the words "hog", "dog", and "fog" would substantially agree; The words "ball" and "house" would not. If it passes the Rule Of Three, I Grade it using the following scale.
Grading Your EVPs
Most are familiar with the common Class A, Class B, and Class C designation used to grade EVPs. It seems to be the one many use because it is simple. But it is also not very descriptive. The system is a two step process which works by simply selecting the appropriate designations. First select the type of media used to obtain the recording:
- _TAPE_ Recorded using analog Tape. Never converted to digital format at any time.
- _DIGCOM_ Digital Recorder using MP3, compressed, or lossy format. CELP recorder format in conversion.
- _DIGNON_Digital Recorder using WAV and uncompressed non-lossy format. PCM recorder format.
- _DIGCOMP_Digital Recording made direct to DVR or computer
Then choose the appropriate letter and number from each column in the table below:
- _A_ All Hear and understand clearly without any signal processing at all, Like a normal voice (rare)
- _B_ Analog or High qulaity digital recorder employed. Analog bandpass filtering to bring out voice. Passes Rule Of Three Test.
- _C_Analog or Digital Voice recorder. Hard to hear but passes Rule of Three Test with minor disagreement by participants. (Most common valid EVP)
- _D_Digital processing employed to make out anything at all. Disagreement over content, Fails Rule of Three Test.
- _E_Most hear nothing; some may claim to hear a voice. Processing may result in different messages being heard. Fails Rule Of Three test.
- _1_Easily related to surroundings. For instance: A soldier who was killed mentioning the battle, etc.
- _2_Unrelated but meaningful, such as a statement "I love you". Could be for anyone or maybe no one present.
- _3_Gibberish. Meaningless groups of words but still recognizable as words or phrases.
- _4_Utterances. Vocalized sounds not words. Includes grunts and groans. Before classifying here make sure you are not dealing with a foreign language which should actually be in categories 1-3.
- _5_Non vocal sounds. Thumps Bangs, Pops, Footsteps, etc.
- _U_ Multiple voices heard, unable to differentiate.
- _V_ The gender or age cannot be determined.
- _W_The voice is clearly that of a child.
- _X_ The voice is clearly that of a woman.
- _Y_ The voice is clearly that of a man.
- _Z_ The recording is of an animal sound (Barking, Meowing, Vocalizations only)
To Grade your EVP, select the appropriate letter from the first column, number from the second column and finally letter from the third. For example, if you got a male voice with aconsiderable other noise, on a digital voice recorder, at a battlefield say, I hurt!" the classification would be, DIGCOM_C-1-Y
Note that many EVPs may contain portions falling into multiple categories. Parts may be clear then fade out. Vocalizations may be preceded or followed by non-vocal sounds. Thus a particular EVP may have multiple classifications. If you are classifying the overall EVP, use the most predominate characteristics.
But suppose I got something good? Then I set that tape aside as evidence in the case. I also make a second generation copy from it for any non-evidence type use such as posting or distributing to other investigators. The second generation is of good enough quality some research could be done using it. And if anyone has a definite reason or need the original is still available.
EMF and Other Evidence
With the exception of witness testimony, the only evidence I consider as standing alone is either visual or auditory. Consequently data from EMF detectors is not valid evidence of anything paranormal. Rather it is a mitigating form of evidence which can be used to either help validate or discredit something from another source. For instance, if a large EM Field spike occurs at the same time as an EVP is captured, that EVP is probably a result of that field. By knowing the nature of the field, since I monitor it audibly using a dynamic EMF Monitor rather than just field strength meter, I can correlate the two. This is the primary reason I don't use the meter method.
Strong EM Fields can also disrupt the operation of video cameras. They can alter the sync signals responsible for keeping your picture stable. They can also affect the time stamp on some video system. Thus it is important to keep track of any EM Fields which may cause problems.
Regarding the source for such fields, they can come from many, some man made, some natural. Any wireless device by nature generates a field in the form of radio frequency energy. That includes walkie-talkies, wireless intercoms, cell phones, broadcast transmitters, garage door openers, and a host of other devices we all use. Any of these could present a problem if the field interacts with our equipment. Thus the importance of all investigator equipment being well shielded.
But it doesn't stop there. Solar flares generate tremendous levels of EM Field radiation as they pass by earth. These can affect the earth's natural fields as well. They cause the ionosphere to alter its reflective characteristics. This can cause RF propagation changes which can be detected by our equipment. The charges they create cause the auroras (Northern and southern lights). Just an indication of the levels that exist out there, ready to disrupt our investigations. The EM Field monitor can alert us to these possibilities. And an example of why, unlike the TV ghost busters claim, EMF calls into question any other evidence rather than serve as a sign of paranormal activity.
There is One More Thing To Do !!
If the investigation is wrapped up, and conclusions drawn, many would say we are done. NOT SO FAST! If this is an investigation for a client, you have an obligation to provide him with your summary report. It should include his original report of the activity, what you found, AND how you arrived at those conclusions. If it was caused by some natural event, that is what you report. If he disagrees, that is his perogative. But if that is your conclusion, then so be it. If you find yourself unable to draw any definitive conclusion, then state that in your summary. You may want to discuss bringing in another investigator as a consultant. There is nothing wrong with that. No one is an expert on everything, and sometimes you need to get outside help. We all do.
Many times an investigation is ongoing. Things continue to happen. If yours is one of those then you should periodically provide the client with summary reports of where the investigation stands to date. That is also a good time to reevaluate your direction and determine if things are going forward. If not you may want to reconsider the objectives or your methodology.