"A lot of times, it's not an entity at all," says Tyas, whose group will discreetly investigate a haunted home for free. "It could be anything from leaky pipes banging in wintertime to someone [taking] too much of their prescribed medication."
Rick Fisher, a Lancaster, Pa., resident and founder of the PGHS, says
serious investigators actively try to rule out all ordinary explanations for
what appears to be paranormal activity.
A pioneer in the use of digital cameras for ghost investigation, Fisher
says he doesn't shoot in dusty conditions or when it's raining or snowing. He
says he follows strict protocols for capturing data on cameras, camcorders and
Fisher, who lectures on paranormal activity and publishes a magazine on the
supernatural, says he has nothing against psychics but works with them
"A psychic can tell you that they're feeling something, but I can't verify
that," he says.
So he, like many ghost hunters, relies on a variety of tools in addition to
cameras and voice recorders such as:
Electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors ($35 to $150) to pick up ghostly
Infrared temperature -- measuring devices ($70 to $150) to find cold spots
in homes and other locations that might indicate the presence of ghosts.
Camcorders ($800 and up) that have the ability to shoot video at night. The
ability to shoot infrared images is critical to some. Fisher discovered that
by turning up the volume during playback of video, he could even find EVP.
Having the equipment is one thing; using it properly is another, ghost
hunters warn -- one reason why newcomers should hook up with someone who has
Emil Detoffol, who owns Less EMF Inc. in Ghent, N.Y., and sells most of his
equipment to people concerned about electromagnetic fields in their houses,
says a careless ghost hunter can pick up EMF readings from a variety of
sources, ranging from refrigerators to cars passing by on the street.
"For example, if you're going to do ghost hunting in a home, you should
turn off power at the main," says Detoffol, who doesn't hunt ghosts himself
but fields constant inquiries from amateur paranormal investigators.
Infrared thermal detectors can even be fooled by pointing them at glass or
the sky, he adds.
Tools detect -- what?
With those caveats in mind, I recently accompanied Rick Fisher and two
companions to the Hans Graf cemetery about 14 miles northeast of York, Pa.,
where a German immigrant and his descendants are buried. There he demonstrated
each piece of equipment.
His infrared thermal sensor measured a temperature of 18 degrees in one
corner of the cemetery -- far below the ambient temperature of 48.
His EMF detector also went off -- on a side of the cemetery away from his
parked car. There were no electrical lines near enough to affect the device.
An inexpensive motion detector I brought along chirped twice when all of us
were standing well back from the graves.
Armed with an Olympus E-20N digital camera, I snapped about 260 photos that
produced eight pictures of orbs -- spheres of light against the wooded
background. All were shot after one of the ghost-detecting devices had alerted
us to a presence.
Fisher deemed the orbs to be genuine. I then asked an Olympus
representative to take a look.