-3-   How To Get LESS Evidence     (Less ???)

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    The Title Of This Essay can't be right.....
    He meant to say MORE, didn't He?

    No He meant exactly what he said. Read on and it will all start to make sense to you.

    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. 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. We might say it smelled like, or tasted like something but that is only a comparison based on the assumption we all perceive it the same way.

    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.

    Let's consider 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 own 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 for comparison. 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. Also note 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 unknown source 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. This is referred to as "Conditioning". 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 is 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.

    So far we covered the basics of getting Less Evidence. In this section we will consider Audio and how it applies to EVP work and getting Less. We also assume you are using a recorder that meets minimum standards as stated below. so equipment issues are not a factor dragging you down. Now you have collected your evidence What you have gathered will be credible, and isn't that really the goal of any research? This part will deal with Audio as it relates to EVPs. It will cover both the collection and analysis of data and ways you can debunk your own work before cluttering up the field with still more poor quality evidence. It also makes the assumption you are working with your own data, consequently the possibility of hoaxing will not be considered here. That is a topic for another essay!

    Your Recorder

    Now, on to the report. When it comes to collecting the data there are a few rules to follow. The first deals with the recorder itself. It is beyond the scope of this report to give all the reasons why these apply, that can be found back in the Library in Volume 3 But as a refresher, the requirements for a recorder used in EVP work are as follows:


    • 1. Must record at a sample rate of 96 KBPS or greater
    • 2. Must use a 24 Bit A to D conversion process.
    • 3. Must use a non-lossy format in its processing (PCM, not CELP)
    • 4. Must save files in a non-lossy form (non-compressed WAV, not MP3 or other similar files)
    • 5. Should record in stereo, preferably using external microphones.

    Analog Tape:

    • 1. .1% or better weighted wow and flutter
    • 2. Frequency Response of 40 Hz- 10 kHz or greater.
    • 3. Should record in stereo, external microphones are required due to mechanical noise.

    And all recorders, whether digital or analog must include internal shielding against stray EM Fields.

    Recording Methods

    Assuming the above conditions are met for your recorder the next issue relates to placement. Recorders should never be carried while a session is being done. Instead a target area is established and microphones placed appropriately to cover it. The make and model of all equipment must be logged. A map is made showing placement of microphones and recorders as well as the target area itself. Logs must be kept of any anomalies noted during the session.

    Recording is begun and everyone should leave the target area unless the protocol calls for someone to remain behind to attempt communication. That person should stay some distance from the microphones during that phase of the project. If the equipment supports, real time monitoring of the recording using over the ear headphones may be done from a remote location. And one more thing, any time communication is attempted and any investigator is to be in the target area, always use a video camera trained on the investigator. This is not only to validate any activity the investigator might cause which inadvertently creates noise; it may also pick up any visual activity near him while attempting communication.

    Evidence Review

    Once the session is done and review of the data is begun it is time to start reducing the amount of data. First, review your logs and eliminate anything accounted for as originating naturally. An investigator may have inadvertently created a sound, something may have fallen nearby, a truck may have gone by outside. Or maybe somebody has even passed gas....That is why we keep logs while the session is underway.

    Next, consider any nearby equipment that may have turned on. Furnace blowers or refrigerators are often captured on tape! And if an EMF monitor was activated at the same time, you have pretty good evidence to support the source has been identified.

    So you have tossed out everything that does not meet the above requirements and you still have what might be an EVP. It's time to apply the "Rule of Three". That process requires three people who are unfamiliar with your investigation, and who have not heard the recording yet. Without any prompting each of them listens to the recording no more than twice apart from the other two participants. They should write down their interpretation of the voice. If any one of them fails to hear a voice in three attempts, then toss the recording out.

    If all three hear a voice then compare what each has written down. If they all hear the same thing there is a good chance you have captured something worthy of more intense study. In other words you may have a possible EVP. If two of the three hear the same thing, and the third hears something substantially similar, that is, just a word inflection or phrasing slightly different, it also may be a possible EVP. If the third person hears something totally different though, toss the recording out. And of course if nobody hears the same thing, toss it out.

    Notice too that nowhere is any form of filtering or processing of the recording mentioned. That is because any audio processing can alter the basic structure of a recording and create "words" where no words exist. All speech is a form of noise, and intelligence is simply arranging this noise into speech patterns. And considering that all processing is simply altering the sound, it is clear that using any form of audio processing can simply create speech where none exists.

    Once you have applied all the above criteria to your evidence likely very little will survive. But that is a good thing, because what does pass will be more credible and much more difficult for the naysayers to discount. Even at this point it is not necessarily an EVP. But at least you won't be wasting your time trying to study noise, pareidolia, or something that is not worth keeping. Now you can begin your analysis concentrating on that which may be valid.

    Continuing the theme of gathering less, but more credible evidence we turn to pictures. I have also included video in this category since many of the same conditions apply to camcorders as well as still cameras. As with the audio category, I am not going to address hoaxing much. Since this is intended to help the investigator critique his own work it is assumed he is not hoaxing his own data. If he is, well maybe it's time he gets a different hobby!

    The Camera

    We will begin with a brief look at the camera itself. It is not really the intent of this essay to make recommendations regarding equipment, rather it will only point out a few features to consider when using your camera. If your particular model cannot or does not allow you the flexibility then consider that fact a recommendation to upgrade.

    One of the most important features of any camera used in investigation is the ability to shoot manually! Point and shoot may be good for ideal conditions but an investigation on a dark night is far from normal. You will be pushing the ability of your flash to its limits when you take a picture outdoors or in a large room. And the ability to manually compensate is crucial under these conditions. Automatic settings often result in Over Exposure (example) that loses resolution when attempts are made to correct for it after the picture is taken..

    One of the most limiting factors is Dynamic Range. (Explanation)    Digital images are formed by assigning a numeric value to each pixel in the picture. ( We will consider the standard decimal value here, although the values are more commonly considered in hexadecimal format.) The brightest areas are assigned a higher number; darker areas a lower. For simplicity we can assume a basic 8 bit value where a zero represents black, and a value of 255 would be white, or total saturation. A good range of contrast results when the darkest areas in the image are near zero and the brightest near 255.

    When it comes to paranormal investigating most parts of pictures are very dark. Often the entire image would be represented by only a few values near zero. Suppose for example the brightest value is only a 12. That means the entire image can only have 12 possible shades present instead of a full range of 255. The picture will have a very low dynamic range and will be very pixelated with large areas difficult to resolve. The solution here is to use more light, brighter flash, or get in closer to the subject so it will be better illuminated. And failing that, simply discard the picture. It is poor evidence and cannot provide the detail needed to aid the investigation.

    But there is a tendency among some to increase the range after the fact by altering the image. While it is true you can add brightness and contrast, that same operation will amplify any anomalies present in the initial image. For instance, where the digitizing process assigned a value of 3 to one pixel and 4 to an adjacent pixel, pushing brightness may force these values to 60 and 80. Now when the picture is saved the compression process will adjust nearby pixels to intermediate values between 60 and 80 which never existed in the original image. These intermediate values are assigned by the computer; their source values are not in the original. A false positive is born! Thus the reason to avoid any post processing of digital evidence. Toss it out rather than alter it!

    Those Orbs

    Orbs represent another problem. Much debate has occurred about them. The vast majority are dust, pollen , or other environmental contaminates. Consider , if a orb was really there, why do you need a flash to illuminate it? The fact is, an orb is simply a dust particle which has found its way to that sweet spot between your flash and the lens where it can be illuminated brightly and also be outside your camera's depth of field range. The solution is to keep that point farther away from the camera where the dust is not a factor. The best way to do this is move the flash and lens farther apart. But the trend today is smaller cameras which is exactly what we don't want. If you search, you can still find cameras which do address this problem either by providing a hot shoe for external flash or a lens shield which blocks the extraneous light.

    "I caught a REAL orb", you say. And you show this image with a baseball sized circular object clearly on display. Three tests will validate it. First, did you see it with your naked eye? If no, it's dust. Your eye can see what the camera can see, and if the orb was really there you could also see it.

    But maybe you weren't present. Then let's examine the picture. In order for the camera to capture the image light had to be present. This light is either passive or active in nature. If the flash illuminated the orb, it is passive. If that is the case consider the flash gives off an even amount of light over its entire field. Some of that light struck the orb and was reflected back to the camera. As such it did not illuminate the background behind the orb. There is a reduction in the amount of light directly behind the orb. And this reduction is seen as a shadow of the orb, the same as if you held up a baseball and photographed it. It casts a shadow of itself. If the shadow is not seen, the "real" orb was not there.

    Or the source was active, that is shining by its own light. If so it should also illuminate everything around it as if it were a light bulb glowing in the dark. It will cause other objects to cast their shadows on whatever they are near. But the most conclusive evidence of an active source would be if the picture was taken without flash in total darkness and the orb appeared. That would prove it was in fact self illuminating. So if any of the above three requirements were met then maybe you captured something. But if none are present, you captured dust or pollen. Toss the picture out, unless proof of dust was your goal!

    Other Concerns

    Much of this is covered in greater detail in Volume 3. But it doesn't hurt to bring it up again here. Shutter speed and motion blur are two more concerns. Pictures taken outside in daylight generally use a shutter speed of 1/60 second or faster. Under those conditions motion blur is usually not a major concern. But when we take a picture at night things change. Low light may cause the shutter to remain open for up to several seconds. Obviously any movement while the shutter is open will cause motion blur. There are two solutions. Either use a tripod or set your camera to shutter priority and force a 1/60 second or faster shutter speed. Doing so will eliminate a lot of the "rods" and "streaks" in your pictures.

    Finally consider that many digital cameras when used in the flash mode will open the shutter before the flash and may hold it open after the flash for an instant. Thus any bright areas in the picture may exhibit motion blur if the camera is moved shortly before or after the flash goes off. Again, use a tripod to prevent movement, and allow time for the entire picture taking process to complete..

    Latency is a peculiar problem for some digital cameras. Not as common as it once was, but still worth mentioning. Some CCD imaging chips may pick up and retain a charge if exposed to bright light. If that occurs, the next picture you make may have certain areas of the frame overexposed or strange patterns present. The solution is to prevent pointing your camera at any bright light source even if you aren't taking a picture at the time. But keep in mind, even if you do your best to do so, accidents will still happen. So always take two pictures of each subject. If latency gets you the first time, taking that picture should discharge the imaging chip and the second image should be good with no latency present.

    As stated earlier use a manual camera that allows you to turn off most of the automatic features. A big offender here is the red eye feature. It can sometimes cause problems, especially if you get into a situation where the red eye flash occurs while the shutter is open!

    Auto focus is another area of trouble. Since most investigators operate lights out, the camera will have to illuminate the scene prior to taking a picture to establish proper focus. This too can create problems if it conflicts with other camera operations. The solution here is the manual camera setting where the photographer focuses the camera based on his own distance measurements. Turn off the auto focus.

    I won't go into this too deeply here but it needs brought up. Many investigators want to use IR or night vision for their photography work. There are a couple considerations if you plan to do so. First is to get a camera with the specialized lenses needed. IR requires the use of special quartz glass in the lenses because of the longer wavelength present. The focal length will also differ. You must compensate for these factors if you expect to get valid evidence. Some manufacturers claim their cameras are good for wide spectrum use; I have not seen any that really do a good job unless they were specifically made for those wavelengths. If you are going to branch out to this area, spend the money and buy the right camera! And as a side note, simply modifying the camera by removing the IR Filter does not work! That does nothing to correct for the refraction index problem with the lens. It only turns your pictures purple!

    Also be aware that different materials may react differently in UV or IR. Some become brightly iridescent under black light. Consider what a lint fiber from one of these might look like floating past your camera in the dark! If you are going into this type of photography know what to expect and be ready to debunk your images when it happens!

    Evidence Review

    So now that you have taken your pictures and video it's time to critique it. Images should be examined individually, in the case of video that means frame by frame. Most contain nothing significant. But let's assume you found something that caught your eye.

    For digital images examine the EXIF data. Note whether any extended shutter times are present. Also determine if the flash was fired. You can also determine the F Stop setting and ASA rating used for the image. Confirm that all of the conditions discussed above have been maintained. If severe deviations are present, toss it out! And if no EXIF data is available don't waste your time with the image.

    Check your log from the investigation. (You kept a log, didn't you?) Note whether any environmental conditions might account for what you captured. Temperature and humidity are first. How close to the dew point was the temperature at the time? If you captured a mist, was anyone nearby whose breath might account for it? Perspiration can also create mists as evaporation takes place from clothing. And don't forget the possibility of dust blown by wind if the event was outdoors.

    Also consider anything else in the area. Might a stray head light beam from a car on the highway have interfered? Sun or street light nearby, is it lens flare? Any investigators with flashlights in the area? Anybody else taking pictures causing flash interference? All pretty obvious, but also the cause of most so-called "ghosts" in pictures.

    Next step is to use Photoshop and zoom in on the edge of the anomaly. Follow along the edge of it and notice if it follows the same row or column of pixels. If it does it likely is the result of a camera problem. It is highly unlikely that you would be able to hold the camera perfectly aligned with any particular row or column of pixels. Even less likely the object would remain at the exact same distance from the camera over its entire surface to counteract the effect of parallax.

    In the case of video determine the frame refresh rate. (Most in the US are 30 per second). If the target object is in motion, you can determine its speed if you know its distance from the camera and how far it shifts position in each frame. Also note that unless the anomaly is moving very slowly, a certain degree of motion blur should be present in each frame. If not, unless the video was made on a stop action security camera, throw out the video.

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    Now that you have very likely discounted your image for one reason or another it is clear why the title is obtaining LESS evidence. But consider too that what you did get, and what does survive the debunking process is much stronger and better supports the reasons you are gathering data in the first place. And applying what was discussed in this essay, you certainly have less, but much more valid evidence!

©    May 2024 - J Brown