New Interviews with Loyd Auerbach

This past week, a few interviews with Professor Paranormal himself, Loyd Auerbach (yes, that’s me!) hit the web.

The first is a special clip from Audioburst from an interview with me by Art Bell, in which I talk about one of my favorite cases in relation to Psychokinesis (Mind over Matter).

Next are two segments of an interview conducted for a local web series, “The Haunted Bay.” First up, an interview for their episode 10, “What Are Ghosts?”


Next is for The Haunted Bay, episode 11, “Can Ghosts Travel?”

A more recent webTV interview, done at the production company that is the legacy of the old cable network TechTV — where I did many appearances — happened on Halloween 2015 for their show “The New Screen Savers.” The webTV network is TWiT.TV (This Week in Tech), hosted by Leo Laporte. My interview comes in at 1:05:43 — it’s a really good one!!

 

Learn what Parapsychologists and Psychical Researchers have learned about “INVESTIGATING APPARITIONS, HAUNTINGS & POLTERGEISTS” in the 8 week online class starting January 26th, 2015, through the Rhine Education Center. Taught by parapsychologist/paranormal investigator and author Loyd Auerbach (and web-guy here at Mindreader.com), this course covers the basic skills and concepts needed for investigation of ghosts, poltergeists, haunted places and related psychic experiences from the scientific (parapsychological) perspective, as well as the theories and models of the phenomena. Also covered are techniques for resolving cases of ghostly phenomena and experiences.

This is an online class with a weekly webinar — recorded for playback so you can watch/listen live or at any time after. It is also a class on a more academic model, meaning there are weekly discussion questions (to discuss with your fellow students and the instructor), and a couple of quizzes.

Pass the class and you’ll be added to the network of investigators for the Office of Paranormal Investigations.

Members of the Rhine Research Center get a discount!

For more info and registration information, go to http://www.rhineeducationcenter.org/edu/index.php/component/content/article/85-courses/course-description/106-field-inv-desc-winter2014

Coming in February: The Science of ESP, an 8 week online class from the Rhine Education Center!

September 4, 1984-2014: 30 years a “real ghostbuster”

It was 30 years ago yesterday (September 4, 1984) that I had the fortunate experience of being the subject of a big article starting on the front page of the Oakland Tribune’s Lifestyle section. “Who you gonna call? Real ghostbusters” by Mary Ann Hogan focused on my work as a “real ghostbuster” — field investigator — and on the contrast between what was in the movie GHOSTBUSTERS and how we really conduct investigations as parapsychologists.

The article was written a couple of weeks earlier in August, and started with a call by the reporter to the Graduate Parapsychology Program at John F. Kennedy University (an accredited Master’s program that ran from 1977 to 1987). The reporter had heard about the program, and someone she knew had seen me on local news in June as a “real-life ghostbuster.” (see the video here).  Fortunately for me — and unfortunately for the other core faculty members, I was the only one in town, as the rest were at the Parapsychological Association Convention (in Dallas, that year). I simply couldn’t rustle up the money. But this was indeed serendipitous for me, as it happened.

I did have the reporter speak with Dr. Karlis Osis at the American Society for Psychical Research in NY. Besides the fact that he, too, had foregone heading to the convention, he was a many-decades experienced laboratory and field researcher, and was a bit of a mentor to me when I worked at the ASPR only a couple of years before.

The article ran in the Tribune on September 4th. It was picked up immediately by the Associated Press, and began running in various forms/lengths over the next few weeks in hundreds of newspapers — including one of the tabloids. Our department was inundated with requests for interviews, and I and other faculty members did hundreds of them in total. We were also hit with print interview requests and some for TV, including a fun piece for HOUR MAGAZINE which you can see on YouTube here.

I was even flown to NY for CBS’s morning show that Halloween, where Dr. Osis and I were to be interviewed. We never made it on the air (though we made it to the studio oh so early in the morning) as that was the day Indira Ghandi was assassinated. “Real” news trumps the paranormal every time.

But my media profile had jumped so much that not too long after, I was contacted by a literary agent (a friend of one of our grad students), who was so impressed by how much coverage I had that he “already spoke with several publishers” about a book I could write. I’d always been interested in writing a  book, and so the proposal for a book with the tentative title “I Ain’t Afraid o’ No Ghosts” was born and marketed to the publishing world.

Warner Books picked up the proposed book, it went through some changes (positive ones, thanks to my excellent editor Brian Thomsen) and a title change (since the line we wanted to use was trademarked) to the book so many know: ESP, HAUNTINGS AND POLTERGEISTS: A PARAPSYCHOLOGIST’S HANDBOOK, appearing in the early fall of 1986 (and to more media coverage as a “real-life ghostbuster” — see my YouTube Channel for more video).

And launched me in a direction that has continued for 30 years.

All because of the popularity of GHOSTBUSTERS, which celebrated it’s 30th Anniversary this year.

Download the Oakland Tribune article HERE

 

 

 

What Do We Know (or Think We Know) About Ghosts?

What Do We Know (or Think We Know) About Ghosts: A Summary

Loyd Auerbach, MS

Possibilities we consider, and models we work with…

 Do people only “see” ghosts?

No.  They hear, feel and smell as well, often in combinations (seeing and hearing, feeling and hearing, etc.).

A ghostly figure can be:
a real person
a haunting (an “imprint” of people; a “recording” of sorts)
an apparition of the dead
an apparition of the living
a psychic perception
a trick of memory
a trick of perception
a blur brought on by infra-sound
an image caused by phantoms of the brain

 A ghostly sound can be:
a real sound
a haunting (an “imprint” of people; a “recording” of sorts)
an apparition of the dead
an apparition of the living
a psychic perception
a trick of memory
a trick of perception
an auditory hallucination caused by phantoms of the brain

 A ghostly smell can be:
a real smell
a haunting (an “imprint” of people; a “recording” of sorts)
an apparition of the dead
an apparition of the living
a psychic perception
a trick of memory
a trick of perception
an olfactory hallucination caused by phantoms of the brain

 A feeling of a presence or being touched by a ghost can be:
a misinterpretation of something going on in the body
a haunting (an “imprint” of people; a “recording” of sorts)
an apparition of the dead
an apparition of the living
a psychic perception
a trick of memory
a trick of perception
a kinesthetic hallucination caused by phantoms of the brain

 “Cold spots” and temperature drops, contrary to popular folklore, are not common with the presence of ghosts or in hauntings. The physical measurements of local temperature over the past 130+ years in investigations has yielded very few cases where an apparition or haunting was being experienced and the temperature has dropped. In fact, there have been some where the temperature rose a bit (though that could also be explained by the presence of too many investigators/bodies).

 People have experienced “cold chills” when also experiencing/perceiving a ghost or haunting, even though there was no measurable change in temperature in the room/location. That is attributed to either a psychic perception or a psychological perception resulting from otherwise experiencing something out of the ordinary.

 Why do some people become ghosts and not others?
Psychological need or desire (or fear of death, of what’s next) or denial (of death/dying)
Emotional drive to “stick around”
Appropriate environmental conditions (still under investigation)
Something related to spiritual/divine design????? (No way to know)

 What about hauntings?  How common?
If everything “records” info through time, there are haunts everywhere.

If environmental conditions need to be right for the signal to be recorded, there may be fewer haunts than we expect.

Environmental conditions ought to affect when and whether a signal is:
recorded “loud” (often meaning with lots of emotion at the time)
replayed “loud”

Psychic perceptions of the individual ought to affect when and how a person perceives haunting info

Environmental conditions and psychic perceptions together likely affect how and when a person experiences place memory/haunting phenomena

 What’s a typical ghost look like?
Generally Solid, almost always 3 dimensional, and always clothed (at least in our culture).

Hauntings may only provide part of a “picture” of a past person/event

Both apparitions and hauntings might only be processed/perceived partially by the witnesses. On occasion, this means sometimes people will see out of focus or even shadowy figures.

Apparitions often look better (younger and even sometimes healthier) than the person was at the time of death.  This appears to have to do with “self-image,” or how that consciousness that is the ghost thinks of himself or herself

Sometimes apparitions are seen from the top of the head down to mid calf or even just the knees.

Try this:  Close your eyes and picture yourself for about 10 seconds;

Note:  Don’t read any further until you’ve done that

Now recall what you visualized.

Do you remember the clothing you had on?  Interestingly, very, very few people in Western society would picture themselves in the nude.  Interestingly, ghosts are always “seen” with clothes on.

Do you remember what shoes you were wearing?  Were your feet even part of the visualization?  Probably not.  Again, this is interesting because occasionally ghosts are not “seen” all way down to their feet, which follows along with how we visualize ourselves.

 
Apparitions and hauntings are not seen with the eyes, heard with the ears, felt with the body or smelled with the nose.  In fact, it appears that the signal from the apparition and haunting is sent directly to some perceptual center of the brain or directly into our Consciousness, and added to the input from our senses.

It’s important to remember that ALL perception resides in the brain’s (or mind’s) information processes.  Data comes in from the senses.  Our minds/brains can add additional info to that data, or take data out or reshuffle it, so that what we perceive is not exactly what is really there.

So, additional information can be added to the mix from the senses and processed as sensory input.  Our eyes don’t see the ghost, but our mind does.  Our ears don’t hear him, but the mind does.  And so on…

Ghosts are typically not seen as orbs of light, as in the photos.  Generally, any visually perceived floating lights are looked at for other, perhaps unusual, explanations (such as ball lightning or earth-lights), mainly because there is no other apparitional experience/perceptions.

Most photos of “ghosts” on the Internet are actually photos of globe shaped orbs of light.  If these orbs are related to ghosts, they are more likely some effect the ghost has on the film or digital media than anything like a reflection (since cameras capture images from reflected light) of a ghostly form. Just like the camera captures images of reflected light bouncing off living people and other physical objects – which is how our eyes see as well.

However, with rare exception the orbs are reflections of the flash off some reflective, semi-reflective or even barely reflective (like a wet leaf or wood) surface or dust particle that does not even have to be in the frame of the image – just needs to be in range of the flash to provide a reflection back to the lens, or dust or insects in the air too close to the lens to see through the viewfinder.

Most of the photos now being identified by many as “ectoplasm” – apparent unusual white mists or even white smoky streaks and shapes – do not fit the original application of the term ectoplasm (spirit matter, usually extruded from the body of a spirit medium, and usually greenish and glowing). Again, they are taken with rarely any other apparitional experience/perceptions.

Most such photos are much more likely flash reflections of water/humidity in the air, or even the flash reflecting off moisture from the breath of the photographer (or other nearby investigator), especially when the external temperature is cool enough for the breath to be condensed (as it seeing your breath in the cold).

If an apparition/discarnate entity were involved, they are more likely some effect the ghost has on the film or digital media than anything like a reflection (since cameras capture images from reflected light) of a ghostly form. Just like the camera captures images of reflected light bouncing off living people and other physical objects.
For more information, see Loyd Auerbach’s books:

The Ghost Detectives’ Guide to Haunted San Francisco, by Loyd Auerbach & Annette Martin, 2011.

A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium, 2005

Hauntings & Poltergeists: A Ghost Hunter’s Guide, 2004

 Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal, 2004

 ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook, 1986 (out of print, but a PDF version is available from Loyd Auerbach – email profparanormal@gmail.com)

 

 

Ghost Hunting / Advanced Ghost Hunting Courses

This week, I’m starting up the four week “Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal” course. Offered live in the Bay Area and via telephone for people anywhere in the US and Canada, with supporting text, audio, video and more (mailed to you on a disk or available for download), the course is offered by HCH Institute in Lafayette, California, for four Thursdays starting April 10, from 6:30-9:30 PM Pacific time.

If you’re not local to HCH, you can take the course by phone live or listen to the class recordings. Distance students also get some one on one time with me (Loyd Auerbach) via phone or Skype.

Also offered in distance format only right now is a second level, Advanced Ghost Hunting course.

Here are the descriptions of the two courses. If interested, contact me at profparanormal@gmail.com or call the Office of Paranormal Investigations at 415-871-0175.

GHOST HUNTING: $200.00 ($100 for materials alone, which include past recording of the class in mp3): This class is offered by one of the acknowledged leading experts in the field of Parapsychology, Loyd Auerbach.  The course will provide attendees with the skills and understanding for investigation of ghosts, poltergeists, haunted places and related psychic experiences.  The class will include the models of what these things are (from the field of parapsychology), how the scientific and psychic approaches can mesh together, and how to assess a situation, investigate it, and resolve the case to the satisfaction of the people having the experiences (and hopefully to the satisfaction of the ghosts).

Based on the field of Parapsychology’s 130+ year experience with such investigations, the class will cover: Apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists: differences and similarities;           What else can make a “ghost”; The investigative process, from initial call to resolution; Technology & Psychics in ghost hunting; How the techniques of the professionals differ from those of the amateurs and hobbyists (and TV ghost folks); The ethics of paranormal investigating and legal issues that can be involved.

Also important: the deep (and necessary) connections between apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists and other psychic experiences and abilities, and why a ghost hunter or paranormal investigator needs an understanding of the findings of Parapsychology in order to both conduct a thorough investigation and come to at least a range of reasonable conclusions – and to understand the “why” of the phenomena.

ADVANCED GHOST HUNTING: $250 which includes 2 hours of one on one phone/Skype time with Loyd Auerbach (materials alone, $125, including mp3 of last presentation of the course).  This course is a follow up to the HCH Ghost Hunting course and to the Rhine Education Center Investigations course taught by Loyd Auerbach.
In this course, students will:
1) Delve deeper into the field investigations methodologies and models of the phenomena in Parapsychology.
2) Delve deeper into dealing with clients (living and dead) during investigations, resolutions and follow-up.
3) Delve deeper into the investigation of public-haunts.
4) Delve deeper into sorting through evidence, and look at how/when technology, including EVP, and psychics/mediums fit best into both private home and public site investigations.
Note that there are prerequisites to taking the Advanced class, but no prereqs if you just want to purchase the materials.
Happy to send out the actual course outlines to anyone who contacts me for this. profparanormal@gmail.com
To register for courses, or purchase the full course or just materials, contact HCH Institute at info@hypnotherapytraining.com or 925-283-3941.
The Ghost Hunting course counts towards the Certificate in Parapsychological Studies offered by HCH Institute, www.hypnotherapytraining.com/parapsych.cfm

Harnessing the Paranormal Community: New article in EDGE OF SCIENCE

EDGE OF SCIENCE, the quarterly newsletter of the Society for Scientific Exploration, just published a new issue, which includes my article “Harnessing the Paranormal Community.”

http://www.scientificexploration.org/edgescience/edgescience_14.pdf

While directed at parapsychologists and other peers, colleagues and academics who are generally aware of the rise of the ghost hunting groups, paranormal enthusiasts and even the “paranormal community,” it should also be of interest to people in that community.

There is a great disconnect between the scientific community and the paranormal community.

Time to bridge the gap!

Loyd Auerbach on HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE, January 7, 2013

Back in September, I visited the Hotel Leger in Mokelumne Hill, CA (in the Gold Country), at the invitation of the Travel Channel, to participate in the shooting of an episode of HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE.

While the show focuses on helping hotels that need both a facelift and other work to bring them back from a financial brink, as the Hotel Leger had a reputation for being haunted, they’d asked me to do a brief investigative assessment and something more.

With the crew of the show and the entire town working on physical renovations of the hotel, it was really tough to do a great job of investigating. Fortunately, I also had some information from a colleague, Mark Boccuzzi of the Windbridge Institute, who’d done an investigation several years ago. Maria Lagana-Sales, a psychic who has worked with the Office of Paranormal Investigations, came along for a bit to provide her insight as well.

The show aired on Travel Channel last night, and there was no mention of the haunting at all, which also meant I was not in the episode. Given the focus of the show and the oh-so-enormous job they did renovating, it makes sense that the ghost story was simply something that could not fit in the time they had allotted for the episode. That’s Show Biz (and at least I got paid a fair fee for the shoot).

Of course, I was disappointed, especially since I appeared in a couple of photos posted on the show website. I am also disappointed on behalf of the hotel, as the haunting was yet one more marketable point in its favor, and even a brief mention would have gotten curiosity going which would draw more people to stay there. In fact, besides having me do my assessment (challenging, with all the work going on at the time), the other reason they’d asked me to come was to discuss best ways to “market a haunted hotel,” something I’m familiar with.

However, the Travel Channel did post a video clip about the ghosts and does include me (along with host Anthony Melchiorri and hotel owner Ashley Canty). Watch it at http://www.travelchannel.com/video/hotel-leger-haunted

It’s a good piece, though what’s missing is a short bit on the brief experience host Anthony Melchiorri had in one of the basement areas (which was originally an old jail cell). On the clip, you see me with an EMF meter that’s reacting — you don’t see that this was connected to Anthony’s experience (which is the only thing that made the anomalous magnetic reading have anything to do with a potential psychic/paranormal experience).

More on the Hotel Leger will follow, and I hope to announce an event I’ll be hosting there in the next couple of months within the next few days.

Go to the episode page for the Hotel Leger and check out Anthony Melchiorri’s photos for a  couple of snaps of me as well.

“How are you different from the TV ghost hunters/investigators?”

When Ghostbusters came out in 1984, the most common question I was asked by media people (and so many others) was an important one: “We know real parapsychologists don’t do what the guys in Ghostbusters did, so what do you do?”  That question was the absolute best one folks in Parapsychology could be asked, and allowed us to respond with clear answers that we could contrast against the fantasy of the methodology, equipment and phenomena from the film.

Prior to that, the media seemed to always ask “Can you take us to a place like the house in The Amityville Horror…with stuff flying around and walls bleeding?” Or “Can you discuss cases you’ve had like the girl in The Exorcist?” Or even “How much of the movie Poltergeist was based in reality?” I had lots of pat answers for those questions, and being more of a New Yorker early in my career, many of them were more than a little sarcastic.

These days, thanks to so much paranormal TV, I’m constantly asked either how much our investigations “resemble the folks on TV?” or “how much of what’s on TV is faked?” Those questions come often from folks in television themselves. Considering the fact that for the most part, what one sees on the screen is under the control (and editing) of the producers not the investigators, that’s actually a pretty odd question to come from others in the same business.

If you’ve read any of my books, heard me speak on the numerous podcasts and radio shows I’ve done, or explored the material on this website, it should be clear that what parapsychologists do when conducting field investigations is somewhat resembled by what people see on television, but that there are dramatic differences. Rarely does the media rarely goes into any depth of coverage (if at all). These range from:

  1. How we approach the cases: always starting with and staying with people’s experiences.
  2. How we use equipment: it’s for looking at potential connections between the environment, the experiences and the phenomena, not to detect anything paranormal.
  3. How we do not conduct our investigations in the dark: partly because that’s not when most folks are experiencing things and partly because it’s been shown quite clearly and repeatedly that people are terrible observers in the dark.
  4. How we base our work in the work of our predecessors: most ghost hunters seem blithely unaware that a) there’s a real history of investigation, documented, back to the late 1800s and b) there’s a field of science, Parapsychology, that deals with the research and investigation of these phenomena and experiences and c) how ghosts, hauntings and poltergeists relate to each other and more importantly, to other psi phenomena (ESP and PK).
  5. How with family-based cases especially, where the goal of helping the family/individuals in their reported paranormal situation/experiences is more important, ethically, than following scientific data-gathering protocols. In other words, many of our investigations end up being more artful than scientific, even though there’s decades of science behind them.

Want to know more? I am teaching an online course on Investigations of Apparitions, Hauntings, and Poltergeists for the Rhine Research Center beginning January 30th, 2013. For more information, including a syllabus, go to http://www.rhineeducationcenter.org/edu/ — pass the course and become part of my own network of investigators.

Or consider a self-paced distance learning course (or our entire series of courses) with the mp3 based Parapsychological Studies Program classes offered by HCH Institute. Visit http://www.hypnotherapytraining.com/parapsych.cfm  Again, work through the courses (mainly the investigations course), and become part of my own network of investigators — and much more.

Or consider a mentoring session, one-on-one, with me via phone or Skype. Email me at profparanormal@gmail.com for more information.

 

 

Guest post: Measuring the Immaterial

Measuring the Immaterial: Ghost Hunting Devices, Theory and Skepticism

Guest post by (with a little editorial assistance from Loyd Auerbach)

One could certainly argue that the 21st Century is the “Show Me” era. For any argument to hold water today, tangible evidence must be presented that can be tested and verified through many levels of scrutiny and peer review. This holds in any science in contemporary Western culture, including the study of the paranormal and the serious study of ghosts.

In the words of novelist James Houranin From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity’s Search for Spirits, “Unlike other cultures, which readily accept belief in ghosts—as either mystical phenomena or culturally useful folklore—Western culture needs to analyze and codify the spirit world.”[1]

These are the fruits of 300 years of scientific labors and unprecedented advancement. Without some form of video or audio evidence—the “Show Me” factor—people will generally think a ghost sighting was a convincing hoax put on by someone in a ghoulish costume sooner than an actual brush with the paranormal.

As a result, in our efforts to codify paranormal activity, ghost hunters have begun to rely on technologies like digital recorders, cameras, temperature measurement devices and the like in increasing numbers. But this begs the question, how “scientific” are our modern devices for measuring actual paranormal activity? And what are the underlying theories justifying their use in such arenas?

The Modern Ghost

Ghosts, in modern times, are often associated with phantom temperature changes, light orbs, vortexes, spikes in electromagnetism, disembodied voices caught on tape (electronic voice phenomenon or EVP) or ghostly apparitions caught on film in either the visible, infrared or full color spectrum.[2] Much of these associations are the result of lingering folklore, hobbyist ghost hunters, and certainly the paranormal TV shows, rather than the evidence gathered by researchers and investigators of the field of Parapsychology (and its predecessor Psychical Research) over the last 130 years.

Underpinning the ‘science’ behind these theories is the unproven assumption that spirits leave behind energy signatures that can be measured in some capacity, with an alternative hypothesis that whatever ghosts are “made of” is something that can affect the local environment, which can be measured. One way to imagine this phenomenon is to picture an invisible boat on a lake. While you can’t directly see the boat, you might be able to see water breaking on its hull or other environmental perturbations caused by the boat. With the proper instrumentation, you may even be able to document the anomalous behavior of the water and conclude, “There’s a boat there.” In the same sense, measuring environmental factors and finding inconsistencies or anomalies is crucial to ghost hunting.

But our boat metaphor leads to one critical question: Why couldn’t the invisible boat be an invisible hippopotamus or an invisible log? While this may sound a bit overly metaphorical, it hits on the ultimate impasse facing ghost hunters once evidence is in hand; where do we draw the line between correlation and causation?

A good place to look for answers is within the devices themselves, and the theories postulated by the paranormal community for the underlying application of each. Unfortunately, many of the “theories” put forth by these folks are either not supported by or contradicted by the evidence (including the actual experiences with ghosts that are reported), field work and research by parapsychologists and psychical researchers.

The Devices in Action

It seems that every year the ghost hunter’s tool belt gets a little more versatile and advanced. In The World of Horror: Ghosts and Goblins, author Sue Hamilton points to a host of devices used in paranormal investigations. Electromagnetic field (EMF) meters, thermometers, thermal imaging scopes, motion detectors, compasses, cameras and digital recorders are all essentials in the ghost hunting utility belt. [3]

Director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations, parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, M.S., who is also a Professor at Atlantic University, an Adjunct Professor at JFK University and an instructor at the HCH Institute, Parapsychological Studies, provided his expert opinion on each of the major devices listed in the chart below:

Device

Paranormal Use/Theory

EMF Meter

Whatever a ghost is “made of” is something that can interfere with (or otherwise affect) the local electromagnetic environment. If a ghost were made of EM energy, and was radiating it, there would be all sorts of issues with that ghost interfering with all types of electrical appliances and devices (and other materials). However, parapsychology research has shown that psychic abilities are not electromagnetic in nature, and it’s highly unlikely that our presences after death, which use such abilities to perceive the world around them (and move things) would be electromagnetic.

Thermometer

The idea that ghosts can affect room temperatures by drawing from surrounding energies to manifest is an explanation mainly  from the mediums and spiritualists of the past, and posits that spirits can change the temperature in a room by absorbing or giving off energy. Hot spots are sometimes reported, and most often no temperature changes are reported. However, in many reported cases that include “cold spots” or perceived temperature changes, thermometers show no physical temperature change at all. The “cold” is felt, but more of that cold chill we all sometimes get may be psychological or something we’re picking up psychically. Or it may be a misperception of something else physically happening in the environment.

Thermal Imaging Scope

The theory posits that ghosts may even take a shape in the form of a temperature differential, which though invisible to the naked eye, may be visible with a thermal imaging scope. However, these devices typically do not pick up floating temperature differentials (they need a surface), unless certain types of gases (i.e. carbon monoxide, for one of the devices) are floating around in blobs – highly unlikely in a well-ventilated or occupied room.

Motion Detector

The theory is that ghosts can trigger a motion detector the same as any other moving object. Most devices are IR and some are acoustical. There’s been no evidence that ghosts interrupt IR sensors or generate sound to affect them. However, there has been research showing that some people can mentally interrupt IR beams.

Compasses

Ghosts, able to affect the electromagnetic environment in some way, can also disturb the needle on a compass, though this could also be a result of psychokinesis (PK).

Cameras

People once believed that ghosts can leave impressions on film, even though the ghost may be invisible to the naked eye. Cameras, however, cannot pick up things invisible to the human eye in general. Most film is not sensitive to such things. Some digital cameras may pick up small traces of the infra-red spectrum (mostly reflections of the IR sensor that is used for auto-focusing) or ultra-violet light (which is extremely unusual), but this does not explain why some people in a room can see the ghost and most people (at the same time) cannot.Today, the theory has evolved and states that in the case of both cameras and recorders, an apparition consciously directly affects the recording media to have an image or voice (either film/tape or digital media) or causes the actual device to create the image/voice (in the case of digital cameras or recorders). However, because we know living people can unconsciously do this as well, it’s also possible the affect is caused by the unconscious PK of an investigator.

Digital Recorders

A common misconception is that ghosts can create vibrations that leave disembodied voices on tape. It  has been clearly shown over the last 40+ years by actual researchers looking at the question of EVP that “vibration” or “sound” has nothing to do with this phenomenon. Recordings have been made with no working microphone in both analog tape and digital recorders. Recordings have “appeared” on devices with backups attached to them not getting anything, and no one hearing anything. Not to mention that the term EVP – electronic voice phenomena – refers to voices created in the device/recording medium itself.
With EVP it’s been noted that certain people seem to always get EVP, while most of their teammates get nothing. Why should that be? Two possibilities: (1) The person is unconsciously affecting the recorders or (2) that person is a kind of medium, unconsciously working with the consciousness that is the ghost to cause the affect.

 

*Important Note: Psychokinesis (PK) is another major piece of the puzzle to consider. PK is essentially “Mind Over Matter.” The reality is that, while unexplained itself, the idea that a mind affects the devices directly, or physically affects film/tape/recording media, has lots of evidence from both field work and better evidence from laboratory work over the last several decades –though the latter is of course focused on the minds of living people.

PK – by the mind of a living person or a deceased one — is what moves objects, whether a book or chair or compass needle (even, perhaps, the needle on an EMF meter, in which case there really is no EM change – something we have yet to really consider). PK could also effects the workings of a thermal imaging device, or any other device. Unless one has human detectors who can correlate their perceptions with the measurements, all you have are a bunch of anomalous measurements. Without the human experience of ghosts, there’s no context or connection.

Parsing Out the Evidence

Once an investigator believes in a device and that it is measuring the phenomenon they intended to capture, the next thing they need to do is tease apart the situation to the best of their abilities. Essentially, investigators will ask, is there a natural explanation for the phenomenon I’m documenting? Many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators use something like “debunking phase” to describe this. But the word “debunk” has been misapplied by the guys on GHOST HUNTERS and adopted by their fans (and spread rampant through the paranormal community).

The word is related to “bunk” (the earlier word “bunkum”) which is “fraudulent” and used for example to describe the work of con artists. The skeptical movement/community used that word appropriately (for them, given they don’t believe in psychic anything) to “debunk” psychic experiences, phenomena and research coming from the assumption that it was “all bunk” – in other words, fraud (either purposeful or more often self-deluded). It is absolutely the wrong term to describe the required activity for any investigator or research to look for alternative explanations for the reported experiences and phenomena. In other words, science looks for explanations. Science doesn’t go in to situations looking for fraud (though fraud may be found), which is what “debunking” would be. Use of that term is insulting to anyone who has reported phenomena or had experiences with the phenomena, and some parapsychologists have seen clients of ghost hunter groups get upset when the “team debunker” is introduced (as if it’s not the responsibility of everyone in a group to look for alternative explanations).

Several devices, including EMF meters, thermometers, compasses and even cameras need to be treated with careful, unbiased scrutiny because of their environmental and mechanical sensitivities; and it is the responsibility of investigators using them to know what else might affect them.

Consider the case of the EMF meter. “Because EMF meters detect magnetic and electric energy,” writes Amy Rockwood of the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science, “it is more feasible that the high EMF readings suggest electricity nearby, rather than a ghost.”[4]

Indeed, since many of these devices simply measure environmental factors, one should certainly look for sources of electricity in a building when an EMF spike is detected. Looking for sources of magnetic interference (even kids’ magnets) is also important. Some of the EMF meters – specifically the ones that measure natural fields – often work by detecting the strength of a fluctuation or change in the local field, and even living people can affect such changes. In fact, merely moving such a meter causes a shift, and a measurement.

In the case of thermometers and other temperature reading devices, caution should definitely not be thrown to the wind. Cold spots are often associated with the presence of a spirit. But again, correlation does not necessarily equal causation, and in some cases hot spots have been reported instead of cold. Countless environmental factors can lead to pockets of colder air in a building. Simply put, like water in a lake, the convection of heat in the air is a fluid transfer from hot to cold. Hot and cold spots can come and go as air moves through a drafty home, so this type of evidence should be carefully scrutinized.  In addition, over the last 130 years, parapsychologists/psychical researchers have found that many reported cold spots are actually psychological (like a “cold chill up the spine” one feels watching some horror movies), as no physical temperature change could be found.

Devices like thermal imaging scopes take this type of measurement to the next level. Utilizing infrared technology, a thermal imaging scope allows the investigator to see the size and shape of a cold spot. Should a cold spot suddenly take on humanoid form, while this could still be coincidental, it would certainly seem to be harder to devalue. But the real problem here is that thermal imaging devices need surfaces to “read.” While some will pick up certain pockets of gas floating in the air (as the IR beams reflect back), a typical cold spot or hot spot in mid air cannot be detected by such devices. A passive sensor thermal imaging device would pick up heat being given off, and technically could pick up something in mid-air, however such heat sources would be felt and could be otherwise measured.

However, that does not mean such devices cannot be otherwise affected by a ghost, as parapsychologists/psychical researchers have gathered imaging data that cannot be explained by even the manufacturers. The issue is figuring out how the camera is being affected, as the normal operation of the device is not responsible. Parapsychologists consider psychokinetic effects (mind over matter) as responsible for not only this kind of result but also for EVP and film/digital images of apparent ghosts (and of course, for object movement).

Everything in Moderation

 

When talking about investigations, there are two types of phenomena where tech can be possibly useful: ghosts (apparitions, or consciousness/spirit of someone deceased) and hauntings (referred to as residual hauntings, or place memory). As hauntings are essentially imprinted in a local environment, this phenomenon is most likely to be repeating, and therefore measurements are more likely to be reproducible.

Keeping that in mind, an open yet skeptical attitude will generally keep you on the straight and narrow when ghost hunting. While there is no way for us to know for certain whether our “invisible boat” is a boat at all, through discipline, repetition and verification across different groups and ghost hunting organizations, the case for these devices will ultimately be built. If modern explanations and science cannot explain observed and documented phenomenon enough times, the link between correlation and causation becomes stronger.

In this regard, by carefully considering all of the environmental factors at hand, looking at evidence critically is perhaps the handiest tool in the ghost hunter’s utility belt. Moreover, a responsible paranormal investigator will always be sure to consider the psychological factors of a case and the possible perceptual mistakes that could be made along the way. These psychological factors may not be responsible for what the devices pick up, but certainly are a part of the witnesses’ experience (which is what the investigators should be investigating). Again, one tries to explain anomalous measurements, not ‘debunk’ them. In fact, if there is any fraudulent activity going on in relation to the devices, it’s going to be on the part of the investigators and not the clients.

At the end of the day, it takes countless hours logged in the lab or field, numerous instances where the same circumstances gave rise to the same or similar outcome, and eventually, exception by the community at large that the prevailing theory is justified beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence presented. However, there is one key difference we must remember to consider when studying the paranormal versus certain other (physical) sciences where outcomes are often identical and repeatable.

It is important to remember that there are many natural phenomena which are not necessarily reproducible on demand across many sciences and disciplines, such as astronomical occurrences or even earthquakes – one has to wait until they happen again. On the social science front (and Parapsychology/studying the paranormal is mainly a social science), Psychology, for instance, has an incredibly low replication rate. Similarly, if the ‘phenomenon’ we are studying is ghosts, the only way ghostly phenomena (as opposed to residual hauntings) are going to be reproducible is if the ghosts themselves cooperate. After all, if ghosts are/were people, then they are not “phenomena” per se. They are acting, deciding entities who can choose to produce evidence or inversely, avoid detection if they so choose.

Perhaps even more crucial to remember is that paranormal studies have a constant human element – both through the living and the dead – which must never be overlooked. The question arises: based on what the paranormal community seems to be doing most of the time, it’s not the experiences of humans they’re necessarily interested in. When you take pause, this is rather counterintuitive, since a report by a human of an experience is what is actually being investigated in the first place. The human element is key in this way, as “paranormal” is actually defined by the human experience of it.

Works Cited

Hamilton, S. (2007). The World of Horror: Ghosts & Goblins. ABDO & Daughters.

Houran, J. (2004). From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on humanity’s search for spirits. Scarecrow Press.

Martin, M. (2011). Ghost Hunters. Capstone Press.

Rockwood, Amy Lynn. “On the Hunt for Ghosts.” Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science.

 

[1] Houran, J. (2004). From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on humanity’s search for spirits. Scarecrow Press.

[2] Martin, M. (2011). Ghost Hunters. Capstone Press.

[3] Rockwood, Amy Lynn. “On the Hunt for Ghosts.” Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science.

[4] Hamilton, S. (2007). The World of Horror: Ghosts & Goblins. ABDO & Daughters.