Welcome Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Investigators -- especially you armchair ones. Happy Halloween Weekend!
What a great time to run the second article in my Haunted Pizza Series, Hunting for Hauntings: Equipment for Paranormal Investigators.
I know, I know. Ghost adventures?! Where do I get these blog ideas?
Well, the Fantasy writer in me absolutely HAD to attend Austin’s first annual Central Texas Paranormal Conference. (And folks wonder why I’d EVER dream of setting my Urban Fantasy in Austin, Texas.) I wanted to meet real live ghost hunters and find out if it was true that paranormal investigators buy their high-tech gizmos at Wal-Mart.
Yep, a couple weeks ago, celebrity ghost hunters were prowling all OVER this town: people like Dustin Pari from the Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters International; The Klinge Brothers, from the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab, and Jeff Belanger, who writes for the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures.
Plus, Aron Houdini spoke at the conference. Like his famous uncle, Harry Houdini, Aron is a professional magician and escape artist. You just KNOW I had to meet Aron.
As if having a Houdini in Austin wasn’t cool enough, some of the ghost hunters from the Paranormal Conference led tours to investigate two of Austin’s reputedly haunted, historic landmarks: the Neill-Cochran House (one of the city’s most important residences), and the Rosewood Center (our first African-American high school.)
Yes, I've been brave enough to visit the Cochran House by day, but I wasn't brave enough to snoop around some freaky haunted landmark in the middle of the night to have my own ghost adventures. (Sorry, folks. I know how disappointed you must be in the ol’ deWolfe Gal.) But honestly, would YOU want your back electrostatically scratched by a ghost?
(Read account of the claw mark on the back of Brandon Stephens, one of the paranormal investigators featured in my post, The Haunting of Austin Pizza Garden: Ghost Hunters Investigate Historic Oak Hill Restaurant.)
‘Sides. I have a freaky, haunted printer in my office. AND I eat haunted pizza. My life is weird enough.
Speaking of ghost adventures and technology, all you armchair ghost hunters can find the second article in my Haunted Pizza Series, below.
Hunting for Hauntings:
Equipment for Paranormal Investigators
By Adrienne deWolfe
(Note: This article was originally published in the Oak Hill Gazette on October 29, 2008.)
Professional ghost-hunters need special instrumentation to document their ghost adventures.
But their equipment is more basic than you may think.
“We use common technology,” according to Lance Brooks, co-founder, lead investigator and technology manager for Texas Spirit Seekers (TSS). “Our equipment isn’t sold as ghost-hunting equipment; it has other uses. For instance, our DVR (digital video recorder) is part of a security system, and I purchased our night-vision camera at Wal-Mart.”
TSS investigators dismiss information that is provided by psychics, séances, and Ouija boards, Brooks explained, because “this evidence can be tampered with by the individual giving the information.” Brooks also noted that these individuals “have preconceived ideas about the paranormal before they start an investigation. They believe the place to be haunted before they go (into) the home.”
Technology is a vital component of TSS’s scientific-based paranormal investigations. “If we didn’t have the technology,” Brooks said, “all we would have is our feelings,” such as uneasiness or nausea in the area of a suspected haunting. “Feelings are not quantifiable,” Brooks said, nor are physical sensations that a researcher might experience (for example, detecting a cold spot in mid-air with his hand.)
While TSS does document personal experiences in official reports, Brooks said that personal experiences are not accepted as paranormal activity, unless they can be confirmed by instrumentation.
In the case of the Austin Pizza Garden (APG) investigation, the following equipment was used on Sept. 27 (2008) by the TSS team to determine whether paranormal activity was present at the site:
Fujifilm IS-1 Digital SLR Multispectral Camera
“If you can see it,” Brooks said, “you should be able to photograph it. It's the unseen (example: infrared) that we need to adjust for. ” While TSS uses many types of cameras to photograph paranormal activity, digital cameras have become the investigators’ preference, due to the expense of film-development, Brooks said. The Fujifilm IS-1 is capable of shooting in both the infrared and visible-light spectrum.
Olympus VN410PC, HP DV9000 Laptop computer with Adobe Audition
Sometimes, a ghost will grunt, growl, groan or respond intelligibly to the questions that a researcher is asking. Brooks described one investigation in which his teammate spoke aloud, asking the ghost its name, and the entity responded with the word, “Gil.” A ghost’s answers, which paranormal investigators call electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), were not audible to the human ear, but Brooks said that they could be heard through TSS instrumentation.
The investigators later learned, according to Brooks, that a physician named Gil used to “hang out” at the site and that he was a friend of the building’s former owners.
TSS uses a variety of digital audio recorders to record EVP's, but the Olympus VN-4100PC is a favorite, Brooks said, because of its cost and because it can be directly downloaded for computer evaluation.
Video Camera: Sony HDR-SR1
Digital Video Recording System:
1-24IR, 1-54IR, 2-104IR, 1-150 IR Lamp
Operating from the theory, “if you can see, it you can videotape it,” Brooks said that TSS investigators prefer digital video cameras, because they reduce the time and expense associated with buying and cataloguing tapes. With the appropriate light-bar attachment, the camera “will make you think you are walking around in the daylight.”
Data Loggers: Lascar Electronics
Thermal Camera: ICI ToughCam
Eddy Current Meter: New Gravity Media Inc.
Data loggers (such as a digital thermometer) and a thermal camera (which provides an analogue, pictorial representation of temperature fluctuations) help TSS track dew point, temperature, humidity, and heat emissions in areas that are under investigation. “Evaluations of changes in the environment can correlate to paranormal activity,” Brooks explained. “The theory is that an entity or spirit needs to pull in energy from the environment or from some power source” as the entity tries to manifest. “I call this a (ghost-wake), as the area you are really looking for is a warmer spot in the room.”
K-II Meter (modified):
Paranormal Systems Inc.
According to the re-seller’s website (www.ParanormalSystems.com), this meter was originally designed for checking electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that leak from microwave ovens and cellphones. The meter has been converted to “respond to the frequency ranges most likely to be generated by paranormal causes.”
Brooks said that EMFs have resulted in skin rashes, electrical shocks / tingling sensations, and hallucinations – symptoms which might be interpreted as paranormal activity by uninformed laypeople.