Before exploring how to gather less evidence perhaps a definition of what constitutes evidence needs to be established. Webster defines evidence as:
a : an outward sign : indication b : something that furnishes proof : testimony; specifically : something legally submitted to a tribunal to ascertain the truth of a matter.
As we define it in the investigating field evidence is that which can be used to support a claim. In and of itself it does not validate or invalidate the claim, but only provides the data which can be used by others to draw a conclusion. It should also be pointed out that evidence cannot prove a negative. Evidence can show that something did happen, but the lack of evidence cannot prove it did not. That said we can proceed to the topic of how to gather Less of it on our investigations.
By now the title of this essay has probably made you wonder, Why would we want to gather less? Shouldn't we be trying to gather more?
The purpose of evidence, as stated above is to furnish proof of a claim. Since as investigators we are trying to find answers, we must also use only that evidence which can be considered reliable. Junk science and hunches have no place in the evidence gathering process. It is the purpose of this essay to help the investigator weed out and discard that which is unreliable and can lead to false conclusions. By doing so we are left with only that evidence which is dependable; the false can be dismissed. Therefore we have Less evidence, but better quality. And more reliable conclusions can be drawn.
As with all topics in this essay, I am assuming no hoaxes are intended. The purpose of this report is to help you debunk your own evidence, not validate evidence of outsiders. It is assumed you would not hoax yourself! Now, on to the report.
All evidence comes to us via our five senses. (A sixth method, intuition, will be discussed later.) Hard evidence can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted. Two of these methods, although not unheard of, are seldom encountered when doing investigation into paranormal claims. Taste and smell can be mentioned, but usually only along with other forms of evidence. That is probably a good thing as they are also two forms which cannot be readily conveyed to others as physical evidence. There have been attempts by researchers to develop a means of "recording" smells and taste, but these have been less than successful. Thus as a part of the report they can only be conveyed as how the witness perceived them; not as real, hard evidence. One might say they smelled flowers but there is no way to actually pass that smell on to anyone else. Thus taste and smell are subjective forms of evidence at best.
Two other forms, sight and sound, account for the vast majority of types of evidence we deal with. These are so significant that they will be discussed separately in parts 2 and 3 of this essay. In fact most other forms of evidence which cannot be seen directly are converted to one of these two for our benefit. Devices such as EMF Monitors and thermometers accomplish this.
The last form of hard evidence, feeling, will be discussed here. This encompasses several factors, some of which can be readily measured and shown as physical evidence. Others cannot be so easily detected and verified.
Consider first temperature. Two of the claims of paranormal activity are hot spots and cold spots. Obviously if a thermometer was placed in the targeted area the air temperature can be measured. Either a data logger or simply taking a picture of the thermometer could provide visual evidence of the temperature. But that may be too simplistic.
The witness may feel a temperature change yet the thermometer does not respond. Several factors may account for this. The witness's on expectations may play a part. If the witness is in a heightened state of anxiety for example he may perspire. This would increase evaporation from the skin leading to a chill even though the air temperature remains constant. Air movement can also cause a cooling effect as it passes over the skin. And maybe the witness reports a hot spot. This too can be a result of his own body reaction. Blood vessels may dilate increasing blood flow near the surface of the skin. Thus a sudden feeling of warmth. This is one case where the laser thermometer might prove beneficial; the change in skin surface temperature might be detected if it were pointed at the witness. Of course you would also have to have a baseline temperature to compare it with.
Another issue regarding temperature is not so readily measurable, feelings. The body may at times react to emotional stress or conditions. The skin may flush; people suddenly feel warm. Later this can result in a sudden chill as conditions relax. They report this as such, claiming a "hot spot" or "cold spot". In reality nothing has changed except their own perception. This often leads to claims of paranormal activity even though a thermometer would register no change in the environment.
Air temperature may stratify if the air is not in motion. As a result whether the person is sitting or standing may affect what they are exposed to. Multiple temperature readings at different heights above the floor will verify this condition if it exists. But even going in to take these readings could upset the balance. Your movement may displace the cooler air near the floor and cause it to rise thus skewing your own results. The solution here would be multiple thermometers at different heights placed prior to taking your readings. All of a sudden the simplistic isn't quite so simple any more!
Another form of feeling may be an EM Field. Current studies indicate that a person's brain activity may be affected by strong EM Fields at certain frequencies. This may or may not be felt directly, but if such a field exists it can certainly be measured with an EMF monitor or meter. If such a meter is used there are two possibilities if a witness claims such feelings. If the meter detects such a change then it is quite likely the evidence points to the field being the culprit. Further investigation should reveal the source of the field.
But if the witness makes the claim and no EM field is detected then what? Does the witness feel an electrical sensation? Consider electrostatic charges. An EMF meter will not detect a static charge since there is no magnetic field present. However an ESF detector will determine if such a charge exists. If a field is detected note the type of floor covering and what the witness is wearing. Many synthetic materials will cause such a build up and can explain this form of activity. This is especially true if the humidity is low. You might also ask the witness to simply touch something metallic nearby. A spark from his fingertip would resolve that issue, just like the spark you sometimes get when you touch a doorknob after walking across the floor in winter.
Sometimes a witness reports being touched or pushed. If all you have to go on is his testimony then the claim is somewhat subjective. But if you have a video camera on him at the time you have hard evidence. If all that is reported is a light touch you may still be able to see a depression form at the point of alleged contact. If they report their hair being pulled look for any unusual movement that might account for it. Note too any movement of clothing near the contact point. If the witness is shoved a close examination of the video is required.
People respond differently if they are shoved versus falling of their own accord. A shove will require the body react to keep from falling while in internal response will require the body act in order to initiate the falling motion. Two different sets of muscles are required for each, and often a close examination of a high quality video can determine which were active. A hoaxer will often claim being pushed and will fall down of their own accord just to provide evidence. But that is not always the case either. It could also be that some source unknown has triggered this response which is why I bring it up.
The final "feeling" is the intuition I mentioned earlier. This is probably the hardest to prove or disprove. Only the witness can determine what he is experiencing. This should be discounted until all physical means have been exhausted and come back as negative. For instance one could not attribute intuition if a strong EM Field was present unless tests have ruled out the field as the cause.
One would also have to consider the witness's mind set when it comes to intuitive claims. If one has a predisposition to expect a paranormal explanation then it is likely any claims he makes will be slanted in that direction. Conversely if he he a total skeptic then he will have a tendency to overlook or even ignore anything he can't explain. Experience has shown though that you are far more likely to encounter the believer than the skeptic. The skeptic probably would not have contacted you in the first place!
By now you should have reviewed any evidence you collected. Some probably can be discounted; get rid of it. What survives is that which will aid you in getting to the source of the events you are investigating. And remember no one form of evidence should be considered proof on its own. Rather it is a collection of data from several sources which support each other that lead to valid answers.
In Part 2 we will discuss how to reduce the amount of false audio evidence obtained. On To Part 2