You awake in the middle of the night and glance at your clock, it’s 3:00 AM. The sheets are soaked in sweat, your can barely see in the dark, and you swore you heard something that brought you to this state. The only thing you can hear is your heart pounding and the sound of your lungs inflating and deflating as you try not to breath. You’re afraid to even move but you try anyway and find that you can’t. Inside you begin to panic and you suddenly see the shadows begin to converge on you. Just before anything happens you find yourself free and scream out in horror as you sit up and turn on the light. As you look around the room the demonic entity is gone, but the room now feels cold. You didn’t believe in the supernatural before, but having this experience, now you do. You’ve just been attacked by evil spirits in your own home. Or, you may have just experienced a medical condition known as sleep paralysis, a condition that affects one out of every five people.
All over the world people have experiences like this that are so profound their lives are forever changed. Some run from it, some look for help from paranormal investigators, and others silently suffer. Even less frequently will you see people actually consult a doctor about what is going on. The fact is that when something strange is going on; “Who you gonna’ call?” most people really don’t know unless they’re listening to the song at the time. But, this isn’t the only example.
As an investigator using the scientific method, I look at all paranormal cases with a very healthy dose of skepticism. People tell me all the time about their experiences expecting a very enthusiastic response as if I have never heard anything like it before, only to be disappointed that not only have I heard that exact story before; but I have debunked it several times. It’s very hard to tell a client who is one hundred percent sure they’ve had a life changing paranormal experience that they really just need to take better preventive care of their house. It’s also even harder to explain to someone that, their personal experience (even if not paranormal) is still a very valid and important one even if there’s no proof that it was actually paranormal. Or worse yet, debunked outright. People take from these investigations what they want to take from them.
Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMF)
Everyone has seen the ghost shows at this point. We all know that ghosts manipulate the electromagnetic fields in the environment and that it can be measured with an EMF detector. But, how do we know that? Who even came up with this experiment? Search the internet for an hour and you may still not find the answer. I saw one article that suggested that the entire concept was simply inspired by the 80’s movie Ghost Busters and their use of the fictional “PKE” meter. While not to far from the truth, it turns out that EMF fluctuation as a connection to the paranormal was first put forth by Hans Bender in 1967.
Hans Bender was a German lecturer on the subject of parapsychology, who was also responsible for establishing the para-psychological institute Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg. For many years his pipe smoking, contemplative figure was synonymous with German parapsychology. He was an investigator of 'unusual human experience', e.g. poltergeists and clairvoyants. One of his most famous cases was the Rosenheim Poltergeist. It was during this investigations that Bender made a connection between paranormal activity and rapid fluctuations in EMF. Initially his statements about the case suggested that the connection could be made between psycho-kinetic energy and EMF fluctuations, but would later expand that to be connected with more kinds of paranormal activity after he began doing studies with Konstantīns Raudive.
In all the discussions that Bender participated in, it was never suggested that these fields were being purposefully manipulated for means of communication. But, rather, that it was more of a side effect of the activity that was happening. He did theorize that ambient static, and/or EMF could help energize an area giving these manifestations energy to materialize the events.
Over the years the original theory was lost in translation. Somehow those ideas were misinterpreted as EMF Meters were actually Ghost Detectors. Since the late seventies and early eighties inexperienced ghost hunters have been waving the units around claiming that they have experienced activity at every spike they see on the meter. It’s this inefficiency and misunderstanding of how to use the equipment that has made EMF documentation little more than a joke in paranormal studies. I challenge you to find an EMF detector on the consumer market that isn’t somehow branded as a paranormal instrument.
The truth is EMF is important to paranormal investigation, but probably not in the way that you think. Fluctuations on a static environment are the only fluctuations that actually have any meaning. By holding the meter, moving around, and disturbing the molecular structure of the location, you are altering the electromagnetic waves just by moving. What you are likely detecting isn’t a ghost, but more probably your own electromagnetic signature.
Detectors used for this type of experiment should be placed flat on a table with participants either as far away as the room will allow, or out of the area completely. There should be no movement in the room, and only fluctuations over a baseline average should even be considered as recordable data.
Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP)
EVP is the smoking gun that the paranormal is real and that it’s happening in your house right now. Well, at least for thirty percent of the population anyway. The origins of EVP is rather surprising. The first instances of recording or contacting the dead through the means of audio are a little fuzzy. Typically credit goes to parapsychologist Konstantīns Raudive. And, while he certainly advanced and popularized the work in the field of EVP communication, the real credit should probably go to Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
I’m not here to debate history. But, the story of these two men will forever be one of the most fascinating (and infuriating) stories of our history, and the industrial revolution. I could probably bore everyone with the debate over who came up with what first. But, I don’t have that kind of time.
Edison is credited with the invention of the phonograph. Even on his first recordings it’s rumored that he would sometimes record the voices of people who were not in the room. He himself put forth the theory that he was capturing the voices of the deceased. It was not the intent or design of this invention but, more of a curious side effect.
Nikola Tesla, however, lived on the fringe. He actually had a number of inventions he claimed could communicate with the dead. Using his knowledge of electrical engineering he invented and developed what is commonly known as the Tesla Spirit Radio. With the use of copper coils and an electrical charge he could pick up on frequencies and voices that he credited to being the voices of the deceased.
In neither case do many actually think that these men captured the voices of the dead. Like all new technology, it’s often developed without the full understanding of the results and it’s potential. But, this is the literal beginning of the thought process that this might be something that is possible. Finally, in the seventies enters Konstantīns Raudive. It’s his work that would actually add at least a few levels of legitimacy to the claims that the paranormal could be recorded into an audio format.
Raudive conducted several experiments and demonstrations using standard magnetic reel to reel tape recorders, which were the most advanced forms of recording at the time. With the help of various electronics experts he recorded over 100,000 audiotapes, most of which were made under what he described as "strict laboratory conditions." He collaborated at times with Hans Bender. Over 400 people were involved in his research, and all apparently heard the voices. This culminated in the 1968 publication of Unhörbares wird hörbar (“What is inaudible becomes audible”) Later published in English in 1971 as “Breakthrough”.
This is the research and basis that most investigators are going off of today in an attempt to reproduce those results. However, where most people go wrong is the conditions in which they are performing these experiments is not controlled. It’s almost impossible to make a valid case that a collected EVP is paranormal when it was collected in a public location, there were multiple people on site, or you weren’t properly tracking outside noises. There are over a hundred variable to consider before a conclusion can be made that the source was paranormal. Random radio transmissions, short wave bursts, and even long-wave can contaminate your audio. Sound waves have been known to travel for miles in the right conditions to be recorded my sensitive equipment.
With in advances in technology we have discovered that many of the sounds which cause EVP can be easily identified and have reasonably explainable sources. And, while although there are a select few recordings that could actually have some merit as evidence; because of the conditions they were recorded in they could never be accepted as scientific proof, our own recordings included. Even in our own EVP, put ten side by side and I will probably flag ten of them as the investigator subconsciously talking under their breath.
I could go on much longer about how your evidence is really just documented proof of your inability to use equipment properly. But, I won’t. I think you get the idea. The thing is, our experiences tell us that things like the paranormal could actually be happening all the time. But until we get better at documenting the activity properly in a controlled setting and stop making inaccurate claims about the evidence we have found, we will never get to a point of providing proof. This in experience and misinformation that is constantly passed around is only pushing us further from our goal. How much longer will the public let ghost hunting shows continue to not find anything season after season without actually proving anything of value before the entire field becomes irrelevant?