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APRIL 8, 2011

Whether you use traditional film or digital cameras there are standard anomalies you need to be aware of when taking pictures so you don’t think you have captured something paranormal.

Always take camera straps off your equipment. Literally thousands of photos have been misrepresented as paranormal phenomena because they have a glowing or fuzzy band, or bar —they are camera straps that fell in front of the lens.The only exception to this rule is camcorders that have hand straps permanently attached to the side.

If you see a photo that has one of more streaks of light in the frame more often than not this phenomena is not paranormal. “Light Lag” has actually occurred. A long exposure (shutter stays open longer than normal) combined with the camera being moved, even slightly causes this. Point and Shoot cameras are often the main culprit for Light Lags.

Orbs are circles of light that show up, they are transparent, and come in all colors. Orbs are not paranormal. They are caused by pollen, dust particles, moisture, and static, etc. in the air. Regardless of how they appear they are still not paranormal. “Orbs” are the most common mistake made.

Cigarette smoke is often misidentified as paranormal in nature. Smog, fog and mists caused from moisture in the air are often misidentified as paranormal in nature as well. Ghost investigators avoid taking pictures outside in rainy, stormy weather because of this.

Here are a few more common mistakes: flash reflections, reflections from shiny surfaces, and “Lens Flare” which occurs when the camera is aimed at the sun or bright lights. Bugs are often mistaken for paranormal activity. The light from the camera makes them appear to be solid white and glowing. Long Exposures besides causing Light Lags also cause this effect-- if a person moves even a little bit while the camera’s shutter is open-- they will appear semi-transparent.

MAY 3, 2011

Ghost Hunters who use EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Meters always take a baseline first of the area they are investigating. This allows them to determine if there is wiring, electrical boxes, etc. that cause their meters to spike. These man-made electromagnetic fields sometimes are mistaken for paranormal activity. Some people are extra sensitive to these stronger fields. Hence the term “Fear Box.”

Ghost Hunters (TAPS) refers to this phenomenon as a “Fear Cage.”

A Fear Box can cause a person to feel they are being watched. It sometimes causes such intense vibrations that people feel they have actually been touched. This intense field sometimes causes feelings of paranoia and some people literally become physically ill.

As I mentioned in a previous post EMF Meters were developed to detect man-made power sources and determine if there is a leak or extra high reading-- etc. These spikes or leaks can cause Fear Boxes. Paranormal groups should be aware of this and test for man-made power sources first. If there are none around but there are still spikes (high readings) on their EMF Meters it is at this point an investigator should take note and determine if there is other evidence in the area that points to paranormal activity.

JUNE 8, 2012

One question I am asked a lot is “What digital voice recorder is best to use when trying to capture EVP’s?” Any basic recorder will capture EVP’s—this even includes analog recorders. But if you want a good quality recording a digital recorder is your best bet. The Constantino’s were asked this question at a conference I attended. Their response was basically that any recorder works. But they suggested the use of digital recorders as well.

The reason that ghost hunters should use digital recorders over analog recorders is simple—analog recorders often pick up their own internal workings so the sound quality of the recordings you capture on this type of equipment often is contaminated. Having said this I do have a more traditional recorder app on my phone called “Tape Machine”. There have been times when I have used this app when I didn’t have a digital hand held recorder handy—and I have picked up some good recordings on it.

Another type of voice recorder you should avoid using is a “voice activated” one. The reason for this is because since they don’t turn on until noise occurs they miss the first few seconds of the occurrence. Considering EVP’s are often short in duration this can mean not picking up an important part.

Even though most recorders will pick up EVP’s I do have some suggestions if you intend on sharing these recordings. A must is to have a handheld voice recorder that has a computer interface. A digital voice recorder that has a UBS port allows the user to upload their recordings to a computer. This is important because this provides a way to save parts of recordings to a CD as opposed to keeping them on a recorder that will be erased and reused. But I have to admit here that the Class A EVP’s I have captured I tend to keep on the original recorder as well—so I have proof I have not enhanced them in some way.

Another reason a UBS port is handy is because it allows the user to upload interesting recordings they capture onto a computer so they can put them into a program like Audacity or WordPad.A sound editor allows the user to clip out parts of their recording without keeping hours of recordings that have nothing of interest on them. Sound editors also allow the user to turn the volume up etc., which helps the investigator determine what is actually being said.

Two good digital voice recorders on the market are Sony and Olympus. The investigator can’t go wrong using these two brands—they come in a variety of models. Look for ones that have buttons, for off/on, volume etc. that can be easily found and seen in the dark. The more expensive models have backlit displays.

APRIL 23, 2013

The use of Laser Grids became popular with ghost hunters in America after a popular ghost show highlighted them on several episodes. When using them the basic concept is to set them up in a room or hallway with a video camera pointed in the same direction in order to capture any shadow, movement, shape etc. that passes by. If this grid of dotted lights is broken or blocked out it might mean that something paranormal has been captured.

The best-case scenario is that the lights that are not blocked out in this light grid will outline some kind of human form. More often than not the evidence that is captured does block out some of the lights within the grid but I have never seen anything that looks like a “human form”. But this does not necessarily mean something was not captured especially if you believe like I that paranormal activity does not necessarily take on the standard stereotyped human form. For instance, it could be a thick mist etc. that is blocking out part of the laser lights.

Having said the above let me note that the “kind” of evidence these grids may capture is not valid evidence from my perspective. The images that are captured on video have too many factors that make them questionable. In a darkened room with this grid displayed-- the play of light and shadow alone can trick the observers’ eye. There are also too many iffy factors when this play of light is filmed.

Whether you agree with me or not these grids present several basic drawbacks to the investigator. The cheapest version of these laser grids is the “Laser Pen” which has become a popular choice. This option has some Pros but more cons. They are small and lightweight so they are easy to transport but I feel the cons outweigh these positive features.
These pens where not developed for continuous use. This is why the button on them only can be pushed down for brief periods of time there is no on/off switch. Laser pens basically are a “diode pumped solid state frequency doubled”. The laser runs through a series of diode crystals and dielectric mirrors that pass through a resonant cavity. There is a filter placed behind the mirror in order to block IR radiation that eventually passes through a collimator lens.

These pens diode crystals overheat after ten minutes of continuous use. So the pen needs to be shut down for three to five minutes in order to let it cool down. When overheated these pens begin to fail which causes parts of the grid to start to fade--which can result in a false positive. This last factor reinforces my belief that laser grids cannot be used as valid evidence. If you disagree, here are some basic tips to follow when using a Laser Pen on an investigation.

Of course, you never direct the beam into someone’s eyes for this can cause damage. When placed on a table make sure the surface is flat so it will not roll. Place the tip out over the edge of the table so an insect cannot land in front of the beam causing a false positive. Never direct the beam at a mirror or other reflective or shiny surfaces. You should buy a pen with at least 30mW. If your pen didn’t come with a rubber ring to hold the button down you can tape the button to keep the laser on--remember to shut the pen off after each ten minutes of continuous use.

If you really love your laser keep this option in mind, there are plug in lasers on the market that have internal cooling systems so they don’t overheat. But these models are larger and much more expensive.

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