Ghosthunting Ain’t What It Used To Be


Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been busy in more ways than one for the past few months. And one of the things that I’ve been checking out is the hottest new trend: ghost hunting, or ‘ghosting’.

About a year ago, I was approached by an old friend of mine who organized a ghost hunting team that go around and check out to see if a place is ‘inhabited’. For some time, he kept pestering me about joining. ‘Here’s a chance to get out and meet new people’, etc. It seemed kind of silly (although I must admit I occasionally found watching ‘Ghosthunters’ interesting) but finally, after some time, I relented and tagged along.

As a ‘newby’ I was gradually introduced to the equipment utilized – and it is in this vein that I found the experience interesting.

‘Ghosting’ has changed an awful lot in the past 15 years or so. Years ago, everyone had the crazy relative who could ‘read’ and ‘see things’ that they’d quietly go and see, while some folks would get together with somebody who could ‘read’ a place, or they’d sit around a table in the dark and listen to what a ‘medium’ would say.

Nowadays, ghosting is a real home-brew science trip: entire conventions and industries are set up and growing around this phenomenon.  And so, after spending some time I’m here to share some of what I observed – strictly from a tech viewpoint.

It’s a remarkable confluence of technology and, er, ‘spirit’ coming together in a manner that it’s, well, read for yourself,… (Note: this is an excerpt from a coming work).

Tools of the Trade

It’s remarkable, but it’s only been in recent years folk come out in support of this trend of understanding the “psychic”. To be certain, back in the turn of the latter century (around really 1900’s or so) there was a brief spell of popularity regarding this sort of thing, encouraged by such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holme stories, among other notables – but it’s only during the early 1990’s to the present time, we’ve finally start seeing actual incidents aired on television and spoken of more openly. Some may recall the old “Unsolved Mysteries” or another television show “Sightings”, but it wasn’t until more recent television shows that we begin to see greater focus on paranormal events (another show was “Fear”, as shown – briefly – on MTV during the late 1990’s / early 2000), culminating in a growing wave of viewers interested in learning more about what is arguable becoming one of the more popular cottage industry / hobbies: ghost hunting.

It’s remarkable to watch the phenomenon of ghost hunting grow; in my time as a boy, we collected trains or shot off Estes rockets. Nowadays, it seems as though people are collecting pictures and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). Ghost hunting (or ‘ghosting’, to some) is now so hot it’s almost ridiculous. Try doing this some 15 years ago and you’d probably be harassed by the local police for being weird or worse, being accused of simply casing out homes to burglarize.

There are different levels of involvement. Folks I’ve worked with are rather sophisticated and established, having a wide variety of tools and equipment, while (more importantly) having the right attitude about going into any place.

It’s all about capture: voices, images or recoding physical interactions. Just like fishing, it’s about the proof – and never about ‘the one that got away.’

But like fishing, it’s not as easy as it seems. More often than not, ‘ghosting’ is hours and hours spent waiting, waiting – and more waiting. You move about, take your recorders, listen in for anything and wait. Sometimes you think you’ll have something: a noise, a sound, or see a shadow. Do a playback, watch the video or listen in – and it’s nothing. Sometimes it can be about as exciting as watching glue dry, knowing that you have to sit through and wait (not to mention doing the playback on some several hours of video can be real drag, but you dare not miss a single frame because that’s all it’ll take: a missed moment of something inexplicable,…).

And to those wanting to check it out for themselves, be warned: it’s hours and days of nothing, and then maybe getting something, only to disprove it. It’s when you come across those very select items, however, that will leave you wondering as I have been as of late,…

Some Suggested Equipment

Here are some suggested items to consider if you’re going to get into this.

Digital voice recorders – For some reason, there are voices captured (EVP’s – Electronic Voice Phenomenon) that the human ear doesn’t hear (at least the normal human ear) but are captured on digital recorders (although you have to be careful as the human ear can trick one into thinking that what is captured sounds like a voice). Sometimes, it’s best to take these recordings and without tampering with the original, run them through some software (say, like Audacity; there are many programs out there) and ‘clean up’ the recording: remove any hiss or background noise while taking care not to lose or distort the recording.

Laptop / computer – this is vital if you intend to save any video or voice recordings. Also, if you intend to share what you’ve captured, this is also a vital piece of equipment as you may want to consider setting up a website, run a podcast or manage your email contacts.

Ovilus – The jury is out on this item, but some believe it can be used as a means to see if anything is worth checking out. The Ovilus is an electronic speech synthesis device uttering words depending on environmental readings, including EMF (electro magnetic fields). The Ovilus was created by Bill Chappell, a retired electronics engineer interested in the paranormal who creates such devices. An Ovilus has an embedded database of words, along with an EMF detector, among several other environmental sensors. These readings are combined to create a number, and this number is used to reference the database of words. The Ovilus then “speaks” that word. An Ovilus can also operate in a phonetic mode that reacts to EMF variations to create words that are not in the database. There are other types of the Ovilus device, including the Paranormal Puck, Video Ovilus, Ovilus I, Ovilus II, Ovilus FX, Ovilus X, Talker, and The PX.

This is all well and good, but who’s to say that the words that are being generated by the Ovilus are not due to, say, some type of electrical field being made by Aunt Mae’s air conditioner running in the adjacent room or the wires embedded in the walls of a typical house? Supporters argue that the words which could be uttered are consistently with what has been researched to a specific place – for example, if the words ‘hang’, ‘suicide’, ‘sad’, etc. – and thus could be used as proof of a location being ‘inhabited’. Either way, the ovilus is merely another tool and should be used with applied skepticism, and not as a final proof establishing the presence of any ‘activity’.

EMF Detector – used by electricians, an EMF detector can suggest the presence of ‘entities’ as ‘entities’ will ‘emit’ some sort of activity. Caution needs to be applied here as an EMF detector can also pick up on unshielded / old wiring or appliances that are on – such as refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. (prior to undertaking any hunt, it’s often wise to turn everything off). There have ben some instances where the EMF was so grossly wild that clearly, something was not readily explained was going down while in other cases, the readings were so low as to indicate little – if anything – was going on.

Fleer Scope – Very cool piece of equipment, but not exactly cheap, Fleer’s pick up on thermal changes. Entities can either come across as very cold (dark colors) or very hot (brighter colors) when clearly there’s no logical reason why something should be present. In some cases, Fleer’s have been known to pick up human figures / shapes when the visible eye could see nothing while in other cases, Fleers will pick up was appears to be a presence, but in fact is a draft from an open window or a poorly sealed floor board.

Digital cameras (either handheld or active video). Going about and taking pictures in the dark can capture some things: shadows, figures or strange shapes. But like anything else, one is wise to be careful what they capture as more often than not, there can be logical reasons or explanations of shadows – displaced light sources, reflections, etc.  Digital cameras can also be utilized to take different light spectrums – night vision, infrared, etc. – which can also offer different levels of vision that you normally wouldn’t capture with the naked eye. Just do yourself and everybody around you a big favor: if you’re taking still shots, let folks know when the flash is about to go off as frankly, it’s hard to go about walking in a dark place after being blinded by a series of light flashes.

Temperature gauges – usually a handheld laser, temperatures gauges can pick up on the ambient temperature of a given locale, with the presence of possible hits recorded usually in low temperature range (i.e., cold spots). Again, depending on the airflow of a given locale, such readings can lead to ‘false positives’ and thus should be handled with a degree of focus and applied skepticism.

There are other equipment other organizations use, but the equipment listed herein are considered de rigueur.

Understand, having all this equipment and their respective ‘evidence’ does not alone mean that ‘ghosts’ are definitive (although at times it’s gotten pretty weird that maybe there’s something to this stuff).

For the record, I do not believe in ghosts for they are not a matter of belief.

(Thanks to the South Jersey Soul Searchers for letting me hang out; so far it’s been a pretty cool experience – that and the beer and pizza parties afterwards have been fun!).


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