01/7/16

Paranormal Technology: Failure 101

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Over a decade ago, when I first began my foray into the enigmatic and often entropic world of paranormal research, I found myself in the unfortunate (but common) situation of being reliant on the knowledge of those who came before me.  During this time I recall hearing a lot of mixed messages from various groups and investigators about the proper way to conduct a paranormal investigation. A few of those messages turned out to be good advice, some were highly questionable and others (most) were just outright outrageous. But like many inquisitive people who start out in this research, I would ultimately have to learn the truth (or at least a portion of it) for myself.

I too was once excited by photo orbs, enthralled by the pareidolic effects of white noise and easily taken in by every creak, bang and footstep I would hear in the darkened rooms of numerous “haunted” locations. I once believed that “ghosts” were intelligent, energy hungry electro-magnetic beings that could be discovered with the proper application of time, cameras and a good EMF meter. Yea I was in the dark alright (in more ways than one).

However, For me, what I have learned in the past ten years is not so much about what has been “discovered” through field investigation but more so about what has been “revealed” through proper research. I have found that much of the information that is often professed by multiple researchers as standardized knowledge is typically based on speculation, misinformation or basic belief.  A great example of this can be seen with the application technology in research.

For example, devices such as EMF meters have been historically touted for their usefulness in detecting “spirit presence” through the identification of anomalous electro-magnetic activity. However, aside from the obvious logistical holes in that concept, a little research will reveal that the meter itself is riddled with limitations that render it a very poor choice for scientific exploration. The non-frequency specific design presents an inherent inability to properly identify a true signal source leaving researchers to speculate or falsely identify anomalous phenomena as the cause of the unusual readings (and that’s just not good science). 

Additionally the concept of measuring EMF to identify or locate anomalous beings or activity is scientifically unfounded. To date there has been no significant published research to support the concept that fluctuating electromagnetic signals are indicators of an undiscovered phenomena, let alone a dis-incarnate being (which is in itself unproven). However, there is supporting research to suggest that these electro-magnetic fields may play another role in the “haunting” experience.

The modern practice of measuring EMF signals in “haunted” environments became highly popularized following research conducted by Dr. Michael Persinger at Canada’s Laurentian College during the early 1980’s. Persinger’s research demonstrated that electro-magnetic fields could be responsible for perceived paranormal phenomena (Persinger 2001) and so paranormal researchers began measuring the intensity of these fields on location for the purpose of identifying natural causes to unusual claims. (i.e. if the fields are excessive in a home perhaps they are causing induced delusions)

While the specific signals that Persinger used to induce these delusions were never officially identified as the source of paranormal experiences in a home environment,  the purpose of searching for fluctuating EMF signals got lost to history and eventually researchers simply began to associate high EMF readings with paranormal experiences.


FACT: In the world of physics the acronym ‘EMF’ represents Electro-Motive Force not Electro-Magnetic Fields. Two very different things. An EMF Meter is more correctly identified as an Electro-Magnetometer or Magnetic Flux Density Meter.


The adoption, misrepresentation, misuse and failure of electronics devices in paranormal research certainly doesn’t begin and end with EMF meters. Over the past 50 years alone researches have attempted to employ a large variety of pre-made, non-paranormal devices for paranormal research purposes. Gadgets such as thermometers,  polygraph machines, cameras Barometers,   multi-meters,  baby monitors, radio receivers, televisions, telephones,  tape recorders, computers, oscilloscopes, motion detectors and even flashlights were (and are) used by groups proclaiming a scientific methodology  to find evidence of a ghostly presence, all with the same level of applied conjecture and anticlimactic results.

But what about original equipment? When I first started out in this area of study the popular research community consensus was that  “no equipment exists that was specifically designed for the purpose of paranormal research”. In fact I heard this statement many times at several conventions I visited in 2007. Of course a little research shed some much needed light on the subject and, not surprisingly the information was simply not true.

The fact is many people through-out the 20th century had created equipment with a specific paranormal purpose in mind. In the early 1920’s the American Psychic Institute claimed to have over one hundred specialized scientific instruments many of which were purported to measure the intangible “soul force” or “psychic energy.”


Here are just a few of the mystifying devices:

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Dynamistograph

The “psychic ululometer (or howler)” –  A highly sensitive coil of 3000 finely tuned copper wires that were intended to reveal the presence of any energy, living or disembodied that comes within six feet of the coil. (Appleton [WI] Post-Crescent 28 March 1922: p. 4 – http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/76243876/)

The “dynamistograph” – A device created to measure departed personalities and communicate with the spirit world. (The Walther League Messenger, Vol. 38, 1929. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403801485.html)

The “lastrometer” – An apparatus containing a zinc sulfide screen, which glows when a person approaches. The glow varies according to the psychic energy of the person, and it is reasoned that a spirit or dis-incarnate being might reveal its presence through this glow. (Pittsburgh [PA] Press 23 April 1922 http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/76243876/)


Of course while none of these devices were ever successful in officially registering the presence of the dead, those seeking contact through this type of technology (a method known as Instrumental Trans-Communication –  ITC) were certainly not discouraged by the accumulated failures. In fact every generation has had its brand of “inventors” hoping to break the universal code and unlock the door to the other side. Many, though misguided, are sincere in their efforts while others are simply in search of  fame, fortune or both.

The 21st Century Research

With advances in semi-conductor technology and lower component costs, one might expect the twenty first century to play host to the most progressive attempts at spirit communication technology to date. However reality paints quite a different picture.  A good portion of the modern technology used for anomalous investigation relies heavily on an age old form of spirit communication known as divining (i.e. to perceive by intuition or insight)Much like the Ouija Board, rune stones, tarot cards and pendulums the results produced by these devices manifest large amounts of conjecture and present pathways for numerous cognitive biases and misconceptions that can impair the users ability to process information objectively.

Ghost in the Box

Leading the way in modern divining technology is a highly controversial device known as a Spirit Box (also known as Frank’s Box, Ghost Box or Shack Hack). The basic principle behind this device is to automatically scan radio frequencies within the AM and FM band. This is done with the hope that ethereal beings will communicate messages over the barrage of scanned signals.

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As fascinating as it may sound there are some fundamental issues concerning the logic behind the spirit box functionality and these concerns lie within the principles of radio broadcast and the design of the radio itself. I will explain…


 

How Radio Works:

The frequencies that make up music and human speech are simply not powerful enough to travel great distances on their own and the amplification of these low frequencies would require tremendous power at a great expense, two things that are not very appealing to the broadcast industry. Additionally, broadcasting primary frequencies this way would also allow for unwanted interference from other radio like devices and that means unhappy listeners.

To overcome these obstacles radio broadcasters developed a method of packaging the signal with a much higher and more easily transmitted frequency to broadcast their messages.  To accomplish this they simply combine the voice or music signal they want to send (called an input signal) with a much higher frequency (called a carrier signal).  This process is called modulation and the result is an easily transmitted hybrid of the two signals (see image below).

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The new modulated signal is then broadcast through the air and picked up by a radio receiver (i.e. a spirit box). Once it is received, the higher carrier frequency is then filtered out and we are left with only the original voice or music we were intended to hear. The process of removing the carrier frequency is called “demodulation” and because the radio or spirit box demodulates every signal it receives,  stray radio waves are not heard.  That includes the purported ghost of aunt Sally or even Robin Williams.


For stray radio waves to be heard on a radio (spirit box or otherwise) they would need to be part of a modulated signal carried by man-made frequencies that were chosen specifically by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Because the Spirit Box scans a new frequency every second  or so (depending upon the settings) the communication by a dis-incarnate being would need to change the modulating frequency for every portion of the ghostly statement it’s trying to convey. A feat that would not only need to coincide with the frequency limits of the AM or FM radio band but also with the scanning speed of the Spirit Box (as set by the user). An exceedingly unlikely scenario.

While all of this seems pretty damning in terms of logistical support for such a device, proponents of the Spirit Box argue that the vast unknowns about the spirit world may place these exceedingly unlikely scenarios (and many others) within a realm of possibility. Supporters also contend that it’s not uncommon to receive intelligible, relevant communication when the using a spirit box and argue that traditional logic may not apply when researching such an unknown subject.

Still, in spite of the unrelenting support of believers, no reliable research has ever been presented (controversial or otherwise) to support the idea that a spirit box can foster communication with any world beyond our own. According to research conducted by Dr. Lynne Nygaard, professor of psychology at Emory University, the concept of extracting what appears to be intelligent communication from random speech segments (such as those produced by a spirit box) is not uncommon. In fact the experience can be attributed a cognitive function of our brain that processes speech information from the top level down (Nygaard 2005).

In other words, our brain first works to listen for the sounds of words as a whole without paying specific attention to the vowels, consonants or syllables that may be missing. When the fragmented speech contains enough frequencies to closely resemble a word (or words) we then anticipate any missing segments using a variety of biases to adapt the communication to the context of the current conversation or environment. Essentially, what this all means is that the identification of non contextual speech is based largely on anticipation and personal cognitive biases (belief).

In Conclusion

It’s no surprise that the approach to such a broad, widely intangible subject requires the incumbency of an open mind. After all, history has demonstrated time and time again that limited thinking or the resistance of new ideas plays poorly with the concept of discovery. But it seems that far too often researchers find themselves misguided by the practice of nonrestrictive thinking so much so that they tend to often ignore the apparent boundaries of the very tangible, logical, real world elements that can present a viable practical answer to most questions.

Sometimes the most enlightening discoveries are the ones that prove us wrong.

References:

Nygaard, L.C., Pisoni, D.B. (1995). “Speech Perception: New Directions in Research and Theory”. In J.L. Miller, P.D. Eimas.Handbook of Perception and Cognition: Speech, Language, and Communication. San Diego: Academic Press.

Nygaard, L.C., Cook, A.E., & Namy, L.L.  (2009).  Sound to meaning correspondences facilitate word learning.  Cognition, 112, 181-186.

Persinger MA: The Paranormal. Part I: Patterns. New York, MSS 16. Long T, O’Donovan C, Cabe C, et al: Relationship of daily geo- Information, 1974 magnetic activity to the occurrence of temporal lobe seizures 

Persinger MA: Psi phenomena and temporal lobe activity: the an epilepsy monitoring unit (abstract). Epilepsia 1996; 36:94 geomagnetic factor, in Research in Parapsychology 1988, edited 17. 

01/7/16

Five hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research

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– 1 –  Audio, Video or Photos will NEVER serve as conclusive proof of “paranormal” phenomena 

Oh I know that statement is bound to launch a thousand debates (and a few more hate mails), but let’s be honest here… media is not only easily misunderstood, it’s easily manipulated. Everything that is submitted as evidence on media carries with it a silent requirement to “trust” the source (a.k.a. the person who submitted it) and therein lies the problem.  If you present me with an incredible video of a ghostly being traversing the stairs of some old home,  my acceptance of this as evidence now presents me with an obligation to believe you didn’t fake it, misinterpret it or misrepresent it. I have to believe you that the conditions were as you say they were when it was captured and that everything else you present me with in support of that video is ALSO legitimate (i.e. photos, meter readings, experiences etc.).

That’s a lot of trust… Slow down, we hardly know each other. 

It’s this unstable variable that prevents any media based evidence from being considered conclusive (or even in some cases suggestive). So what DOES constitute conclusive proof?  I’m glad you asked. There is only one factor that will ever conclusively prove the existence of any unusual phenomenon and that is “demonstrability”.  Yep, you need to be able to demonstrate or repeat it to a degree that it can be studied with some element of reliability under strict controls.

You see the scientific method suggests that a concept or idea is more credible when it can be repeated. Even if only through long and tedious means. Repetition and control are key. If it’s a phenomena (and not just an event), it will or can be repeated.

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 –  2 – No matter how “in control and grounded” you claim to be, your brain can and DOES continue to fool you… you are not immune.

Oh people say it all the time. “I’m not crazy.”, “I know what I saw”, “I wasn’t hallucinating”, “I wouldn’t lie about something like that.”, “She told me she was 18”. Well maybe not the last one, but the point is people are exceedingly hard to convince when it comes to doubting their own perceptions. We all want to believe that our senses are relatively infallible, that our brains are not easily fooled and that our rationalization skills are in great working order. But the truth is utterly disappointing.

For decades numerous scientists and researchers around the world have documented the astounding fallibility of our perceptive process. Television shows, games, carnival attractions and even art have been created that specifically take advantage of the holes in our cognitive faculties. We are ALL born suckers and there’s really nothing we can do about it other than understand that the condition exists and honestly consider these shortcomings in our analysis of unusual events.

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3 – Your shining credibility does not make your experience more believable.

Groucho Marx once said, “There’s one way to find out if a man is honest: ask him. If he says yes, then you know he is crooked.”  – That statement was  only funny because it’s true.

Everyone – you, me, your spouse, children, siblings, co-workers, best friends, teachers, employers and even your sweet old grandmother have told lies. By age four, 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying (Osmols 2011), and it just goes downhill from there. According to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of all adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without telling a lie at least once (UMASS 2002). and according to the study those folks who did lie actually told an average of 3 lies during their short discussion with the researchers.

I know you’re sitting there right now insisting that you would be part of the 40% that didn’t lie but that’s what the liars in the study thought, too. When they reviewed their own conversations, they were flabbergasted at how many lies they had actually told.

Unsurprisingly, we also sometimes lie about important aspects. According to one estimate, 40% of people lie on their resumes (Forbes 2006).  A shocking 90% of people looking for a date online lie in their profile. (Scientific American 2007)   So no matter how honest you believe you are, no matter how accurate your rendition of a paranormal event is (even if it truly happened to you), the majority of the world will never simply “accept” what you are claiming with complete certainty… They just won’t.

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– 4 – Any equipment that requires the “interpretation” of non-repeatable results is complete bullshit.

Yep , I went there….bullshit.  In fact pretty much all of the marketed devices used in “ghost hunting” today  require a personal interpretation of the results in order to determine the significance of their output.  (Yes I’m looking at you spirit box, Ovilus, Paranormal Puck, Vortex Dome, Para-Scope, V-Pod, Rem Pod, Ghost Ark, Dowsing Rods, Pendulums, Ouija Boards, KII Meters, Geo-Pods and yes…EMF Meters)

So what’s wrong with personal interpretation you say?  I will explain…

Scenario 1-  In a hospital, a doctor uses a heart monitor to determine if someone is having  heart trouble. He / She interprets the readings of the heart monitor to make or assist in a diagnosis.

Scenario 2 – In an old home a paranormal investigator uses a specialized device (choose any from the list above) to determine if the home is haunted. He/ She interprets the readout/response of the equipment to make a determination.

So what is the difference between Scenario 1 and 2? They seem relatively the same right? Well not really.

In scenario 1 the doctor is measuring a tangible object – the human heart. It’s proper function has been well documented and how a healthy one should appear on a heart monitor is academic as is the comparison between the live readings and the expected readings used to help  indicate a problem. The interpretation the doctor makes is based on known and “demonstrated” information.

In scenario 2 the investigator is simply looking for any unusual reaction, especially one that ties into his / her expectations or the context of the location or perhaps even one that correlates with other experiences. This is done because he/she doesn’t know with any certainty what a paranormal experience “should” read. There is no documented historical data for a paranormal occurrence. So responsible comparisons cannot be made and interpretations are based entirely on subjective opinion. Hardly factual.

“Nobody has EVER linked EMF to actual localized paranormal occurrences in any reliable or predictable fashion….EVER.”

Question: So if that’s the case how can manufacturers of paranormal gadgetry even begin to design a device that works?

Answer: They can’t.

(They are all bullshit in my opinion):

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– 5 – There has never been any credible, demonstrable research to even suggest the plausibility of life beyond death.

Sure there have been “sciency” people in history who have attempted to prove the existence of a soul, others who tried to establish communications with those who have passed and still others who have insisted they have been to the other side and back, but in spite of the numerous attempts and claims that flood the internet, we are not any closer to officially proving life after death than we were 5000 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t love the idea of a second chance?  To see your departed loved ones again, to be free of the mortal bonds that plague our existence, to have learned from a lifetime of experience, free of illness, free of strife, free of pain. It sure is a comforting thought, but unfortunately, right now, it’s only that… a thought.  The fact is that the research conducted over the past two centuries in the hopes of proving “life after death” have chalked up a big fat zilch in terms of results. If it’s there, we haven’t proven it yet…  no one has.

So for those in search of human souls, ghosts and spirits… to officially claim that you have contacted the dear departed, you must first establish with complete certainty (not just with opinion) that life does go on beyond this mortal veil. That there are dis-incarnate “beings” there to contact. Do this and the rest will go down the scientific gullet like a candy coated gumdrop. Until then… well… you know.


So here we have it five hard to swallow facts about Paranormal Research. I’ll finish by saying that this in no way proclaims that unusual, undiscovered phenomena doesn’t exists. In fact, I’m inclined to believe it does, but once again that’s just my opinion, and you know what they say about those.

No one ever said it was going to be easy.

Resources:

http://www.emaxhealth.com/6705/when-children-lie-they-are-simply-reaching-developmental-milestone

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-06/uoma-urf061002.php

http://www.forbes.com/2006/05/20/resume-lies-work_cx_kdt_06work_0523lies.html

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/C1597486-E7F2-99DF-310BFD76D5647B1D/

10/13/15

Medium Can Equal a Large problem

As investigators of the paranormal we look for answers to the causes of claims of activity. We receive calls from people with claims that range from strange noises and feelings of being watched to full blown claims of demonic spirits that mean to do harm. We’ve developed various techniques for proving or debunking claims by looking for patterns. For instance in many cases where people claim to have visitations in their sleep (also known as “The Old Hag Syndrome”) it can be a simple case of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. I can’t count the number of times we have found extremely high EMF in a clients bedroom, which has been know to cause people to have horrific nightmares with waking dreams that appear to be extremely real. The reason for this article is that there is a pattern that is appearing in more and more cases. As you have deduced from the title of this article this pattern has to do with mediums and the children of clients. First thing that I would like to make clear is that I do believe there are mediums with abilities and that there are people who do not, but I don’t want to stray too far into that topic right now. What we have found popping up in several of our recent cases is children who are afraid of being in their homes. In each of these cases the client has had another group into their home with someone claiming to be a medium. The mediums all made claims that there were several spirits in each home. The interesting thing is that in every home there was an evil entity that the medium claims to clear out of the home. Isn’t it strange how every home had an evil entity and they were able to clear them? But the issues of claims persist, especially with the children. The children’s ages ranged from 12-22 years old and in every case the children were present during the investigation and witnessed the mediums and their claims. I am not writing this to judge the mediums or their techniques or to judge the parents. I am writing this with the hope that people will realize that children can be horribly affected by things like hearing that there are evil spirits in their homes. Most children aren’t comfortable with the thoughts of any spirit in their home. In my opinion it is one of the worst things that can happen when a child is afraid to be in their own home. Isn’t your home supposed to be your safe haven? I think we all need to remember to be careful around kids and remember that their feelings should be of the utmost importance.

12/18/14

The Panasonic RR-DR60 IC Recorder an EVP Legend No Longer.

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This past fall during the Tewksbury Library Tuesday night paranormal lectures that I frequented regularly. I was introduced to a legendary EVP recorder the, “Panasonic RR-DR60”. The exact date was October 14, 2014 and the speakers that night where Mike Sullivan & Karen Mossey (authors of, “Spooky Creepy New England”). Karen and Mike did a fine presentation regarding EVP’s that night but one thing stuck with me. It was a tiny little recorder that Karen had brought along with her and was by her side during the presentation. Just before they began to wrap up the lecture Karen held up the recorder and made mention that this particular recorder was one of the best recorders to use for capturing EVP’s. She pointed out that she had purchased hers back in 1998 for a mere $20 and now they are fetching anywhere between $300 & $700 on EBay! Me being a paranormal investigator I had to know more about this recorder and the legend surrounding it.

When I got home I started my research that night on the, “Panasonic RR-DR60”. I found article after article on this model of recorder. This recorder was responsible for gathering multiple EVP’s during investigations when other recorders on hand gathered nothing! Bottom line I needed to get my hands on one pronto and see what all the hype is about. Well Karen Mossey was correct these recorders were no longer $20! You could not touch one of these for under $300 on Ebay. The legend of the recorder was in full effect and my hopes of finding one cheaply were crushed. I recall reading that one lucky person found two of them for $4 each at a yard sale. I thought to myself, I don’t go to many yard sales and even if I did what were the odds of finding a recorder of this make and model? Then it hit me! Craig’s List could be an option on finding one out in the wild without a crazy mark up. I search State by State going down the Eastern Seaboard starting with my home State of Massachusetts. When I reached Florida, I hit pay dirt! There it was the legendary, “Panasonic RR-DR60” for sale in Ft. Meyers for $50.

I knew I had to act fast, as there was no telling how much longer this elusive jewel of the EVP world would last. I sent my first Email asking if the owner still had it for sale. His response Email was back quick to me, “Yes it is still for sale but it must be a local cash transaction only”. Again my hopes were dashed. I followed up with a sincere Email stating that I was not local. I even came clean with him on how I was a paranormal investigator out of Boston, MA. I explained to him about really wanting to get my hands on this model of recorder and how difficult they are to come by. I ended the Email with a link to my website asking him to check it out and get back to me. Well much to my surprise the next morning I was greeted with another Email from my new found Craig’s List pen pal. “Hey I checked you out last night on your website and you seem legit. The only way this is going to happen is if you send me cash. Once I get the cash I will send you the recorder” his reply said to me. I thought to myself, I can take a leap of faith for $50 and sent him the cash that same morning. If it he sends it, he sends it, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and I will leave it at that. Seven days had passed; the Craig’s List ad for the Panasonic was no longer up and had been deleted by its owner (I wondered if I was scammed). Then on the eighth day while retrieving my daily mail I noticed a small package with a post mark from Ft. Meyers FL in my mailbox (It had arrived)!

Like a kid on Christmas morning I tore open the package and was holding the legendary recorder in my own hands. Once in my hands I could not help to realize that this thing was light and I mean really light. The packaging that housed it on its trip from Florida to Boston clearly out weighted it. None the less, I had done it and I now owned the legend for myself. I could not wait to try it out and my first though was going to my old paranormal stomping grounds the Tewksbury Hospital pauper cemetery. Granted I haven’t had a ton of good luck there during past investigations but I did manage to get a few EVP’s here and there in the past years I’ve gone thru there. To me it was local and if I was to capture something it would be there in the Tewksbury Hospital cemetery. I made my way out to the cemetery right after installing a fresh set of batteries in the recorder. I also grabbed my Trifield 100EX EMF meter for the mini investigation and EVP session I was going to hold there.

So my first session on the recorder was a memorable one but not in the way I had hoped. The recorder turned on and was set to go. I pushed record and spoke my usual rehearsed questions about ten or so in total and paused about 10 seconds in between questions. On play back I was completely taken back by what I had heard or to put it correctly what I could not hear. I could barely understand my own words spoken into the recorder! It sounded like I was under water with cotton stuffed in my mouth! Then there were strange noises in my periods of waiting for a response! I can tell you this they were not EVP’s! My best guess is that this was static noise (sound artifacts) generated from the recorder itself. Could it be that this is what is causing folks to THINK that they are capturing EVPs?

Once I left the cemetery that day I went back online and searched for recordings of EVPs that where obtained via the Panasonic. I have to say in my own opinion the ones that I heard that were posted on line I would grade below a “Class C”. Not that this, “Class A, B & C” grading system of EVPs is official but it’s the only thing we have right now to make my judgment with and to get my point across.

In the end, whether it’s the legendary Panasonic RR-DR60 or any other cheap recorder for that matter. We the paranormal investigator community need to be more truthful with our captures and ourselves. We need to help progress the field and raise the standard in the type of equipment we use especially if we want any type of collaboration within the scientific community.

-JR

11/13/14

“One Little Brick Started It All” by Josh Weinstein.

As an independent filmmaker, I was in Las Vegas, Nevada for a film makers convention in the early 2000’s. Like many of us who were networking to find jobs within the entertainment or documentary industry, I wanted to present the best case for my former company as I could. During which time, we partied with others who were shopping their wares, and with producers for networks. And this is when I first met three guys who later became larger than life in a genre of television that was about to take off.

I was walking through the convention hall, and still remember to this day of these guys having a large sign saying, ” Will Make Any Film For Money”. I found it rather amusing three college age guys who were ready to sell their souls to make a film, but kinda wish I had that thought myself. About two years later, I was skimming through the channels, and came across a commercial for a new ghost hunting documentary called “Ghost Adventures” on SciFi Channel. And when I saw who was going to be in it, I immediately recognized the the trio from the convention, and their sign selling their wares. At that moment, I set my VCR to record it, since I was going to be in Vancouver for another project. And to my surprise after watching it, I was amazed at what they went through.

By the beginning of 2005, I was assigned to begin a documentary on gold mining, and the old west towns that began, lived, and died from the gold mining boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I spent weeks travelling the back roads of the American West. Staying in cheap motels, eating in hole in the wall diners, I would meet with historians, miners and their families, and townspeople who remained in these towns. It was on one long drive I made through the Nevada desert when I came upon the town of Goldfield. If you have never visited Goldfield, it’s in the middle of nowhere. It contains probably the world’s largest junk yard of decaying mobile homes, cars, and other rubbish. The streets are like from the Old West. Literally dirt, smelling of urine, spilled beer, and broken glass. As I drove through town, I saw in the distance a large brick structure, the Goldfield Hotel.

Put onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the Goldfield was far from the once luxurious hotel she once was. As I turned onto Crook Avenue, I remembered this was the place where the “Ghost Adventures” documentary was filmed. So I parked my rental car, and grabbing my camera, I strolled around the property taking photos.

As I made my way back to the car, I was approached by a gentleman that resembled one of the character actors who played in Hollywood’s Westerns of years gone by. We struck up a conversation, and after telling him what I was doing for our documentary for the Film Commission, he explained to me that he was the owner of the Goldfield. As we were talking, I could hear the disappointment in his voice. And later I found out the reason why.

Asking me not to video or photo our conversation, he began to tell me what really happened at the Goldfield.

He began to tell me of the troubles in getting the historic hotel reopened. The structural damage on the upper floors, lacking of heating and air conditioning, and deteriorating walls with peeling lead paint to name a few. He tried to get other investors to help, help from historic societies, and the State of Nevada. to no avail. And then they came.

About a year before the GA documentary appeared on SciFi, three film makers came to Goldfield and approached Red. They came to film a documentary about haunted places, and after hearing of the tales behind the “hauntings” at the Goldfield. They offered to pay him $200 to film there. Never looking at a gift horse in the mouth, he took them up on the offer. They set up to begin filming. They interviewed the townspeople, and interviewed him. They came back with hardware to install a padlock on the front door. This was used for filming. He later told me that even though for filming purposes that they were “locked in” the hotel, in actuality, the rear employee entrance was unlocked so they could go to their vehicle. He locked them “in”, and went home. The next morning, he entered the rear of the hotel, where all three of the film makers were sitting around joking about their night. They left later that morning, and went back to a nearby motel to sleep it off for a few hours.

Red went through the property to make sure it was secure. And then he waited to see what was about to transpire. The documentary later aired, and much to his disbelief, saw something that was unnerving, a brick allegedly being “thrown” across the room. That sent up red flags, and never again he thought, would allow such shenanigans be done in the hotel again. After the show ended, the next morning he went to the basement, and searched for any bricks that would have sailed like the one in the documentary. After searching the basement room thoroughly, he came upon a brick with two holes drilled in at differing angles. It looked as if it was battered, with gouge marks and chips. And that’s what hit him, that this was the “brick” that was used in the documentary. And he was livid. Is this to say that it was used as a stunt? Was there fakery involved? You decide. For now the brick resides on a workbench as a souvenir to a supposed “paranormal event”…..

He later explained that the attention has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that numerous paranormal events and numerous groups book events and investigations there, but the curse of having to fend off vandals and trespassers. I can fully understand his frustration about all this unneeded attention. As we walked through the former lap of luxury, the grandeur is long gone. Broken walls, decayed flooring, peeling paint, and the smell of vermin takes away any vision of return to the former elegance this historic hotel once had. And he was reluctant to allow for a second “investigation” by GA. But needing an influx of cash, Red made it known he was not happy with the “flying brick” debacle. No flying objects have ever been encountered with I was assured…..

So if you go go the Goldfield Hotel, be respectful to the folks in the town of Goldfield, Red Roberts, the spirits that may haunt the hotel, but especially respect the hotel itself. Don’t break in, or trespass.

No matter how may smedium shirts you may wear, how many Mark McGuire laden armcurls you can do, or how much hair gel you use in your faux hawk, your little secret is out there.

So here’s to another ten years of laughing your way from the small screen, to the convention floor, to the bank. All at the expense of young, impressionable teenagers.

Oooo wee yooo, dressed like Buddy Holly……..

Permission to post granted by its author Josh Weinstein on 11/13/2014

07/18/14

The McGurk Effect – You See What I’m Saying?

For many years I have been studying the perceptions of people. I do this to understand the limitations we face when witnessing or relaying our experiences to others. This activity is very common in paranormal research and knowing the pitfalls can certainly help.

One of the interesting idiosyncrasies I have come across involves the impact our eyes have on the things we hear.  This effect can prove to be damaging in certain cases where both visual and audible senses are stimulated under chaotic conditions. For example: A witness claims that in a busy room with many people talking, they witnessed the apparition of their father saying their name. Of course there are many elements to investigate here and there may be many causes of the experience, but first we must make sure we are recording the facts of the claim correctly. The idea of whether someone “saw” an apparition is only part of the claim.  What the apparition was saying is another, and it’s that element that we are addressing here today.  The audible interference in the room could have an affect on the perceptions of what words are heard.  Our eyes have an influence on our hearing.

Social interactions depend not only on quick, unconscious physical judgments, but on smooth communication through speech. Understanding what someone is saying requires the integration of many types of information: body language, facial expressions, speech sounds, and lip movements. But if these inputs give contrasting information, it can lead to some weird stuff.

Consider a 1976 study by Scottish psychologists Harry McGurk and John MacDonald. They showed volunteers movies of a woman’s mouth forming the shape of the sound “ga” paired with a dubbed sound of “ba.” The volunteers reported hearing “da”, showing for the first time that visual inputs strongly affect speech perception. This so-called McGurk effect has since been repeated in many experiments. Even when people know about it, as you do now, it doesn’t go away. See for yourself:

06/28/14

Why People Believe Weird Things

Why do people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”? Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer shows how we convince ourselves to believe — and overlook the facts. Michael Shermer debunks myths, superstitions and urban legends — and explains why we believe them. Along with publishing Skeptic Magazine, he’s author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Mind of the Market.

Here he gives (what I think) is a great presentation on why people believe strange things.  Our minds are truly the center of our experiences. Understanding our own behavior and fallibility will help us understand what’s real. We can also learn how not to contaminate our own memories and experience.  The real search begins inside. Understand yourself and your world before trying to understand an experience that is so far out of the ordinary. You may be surprised.

 

06/28/14

Don’t Believe Everything You Read Online.

For as long as there have been cameras, pictures of ghosts have swamped our newspapers, television programs, and over the internet.  Some of these pictures have been taken surprising the photographer, while others were maliciously made to trick you.   So how do you believe what’s real and what’s not?

In the early days of photography there have been popular pictures of apparitions such as “The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall”.   This particular photograph can be duplicated after a few tries by a mere smudge of Vaseline on the lens or perhaps double exposure. We may never know the true story behind the picture.

Other pictures thru the years were taken unexpectedly and found apparitions, orbs, streaks of light, and the list goes on.  Usually it’s caused by inexperience of the photographer on proper use of cameras. Allowing too much light or not enough in the camera, slow shutter speeds, and as simple as not using a tripod.  I urge you all to search our website for more information on this. It’s quite fascinating!

Today’s technology offers so much more to our photographs than we could ever thought was possible ten years ago.  There are so many apps and digital options on our iPhones and cameras that purposely allow you to fake pictures taken to look like ghost.

Fake ghosts are a lot more agreeable than real ones. You don’t have to worry that your fake ghost is going to go floating off through a wall, leaving nothing but a puddle of ecto-plasmic goo behind for you to slip in. Fake ghosts do what you tell them to do, because they’re fake. That makes photographing them infinitely more enjoyable, and a lot less scary. If ghosts actually exist,  do you think they are only found in cemeteries, basements and other spooky areas these pictures portray?  Why haven’t  we not gotten more pictures in amusement parks or other areas that are more of a happy setting?

Before you ooh and aah the pictures posted online getting thousands of hits, ask yourself if this picture has the settings to make you believe it could be faked and how could it have been done.  Ask someone more knowledgeable and credible to give you the right answer.

 

05/24/14

Stargate Project…. “Men Who Stare at Goats ?”

Imagine being able to receive information psychically that was valuable to public safety, public protection, military security and with ability to spy on enemies .  All done in a remote place.  The personnel would be trainable, experiments repeatable and accurate.

The Stargate Project A code name for projects initiated by US Defense Intelligence Agency investigating psychic phenomena for the military or domestic applications.  Viewing or to “psychically see”  events, sites or sense unknown information, to detect current events for domestic or military intelligence.  the viewer would attempt to predict things to happen in the future by precognition.

Precognition is future sight or second sight, extrasensory perception.  This information cannot be deduced by present available knowledge.

Russia was already seriously researching  ways to explore psychic functioning .  A book was published Psychic Discoveries from Behind the Iron Curtain, causing great interest in this area.  1972 Stanford Research Institute (SRI) began to research ways to experiment psychic techniques that were repeatable, that could be teachable and used for intelligence purposes. Russel Targ and Harold Puthoff, the team at SRI, worked on expanding remote viewing techniques over vast distances and trained American Military in 1985.  Their early results were impressive.  Ingo Swann accurately described a uniquely designed magnetometer buried in six feet of concrete.   Hella Hammid was able to accurately describe five out of nine target sites.  Ingo Swann became bored with the repetition of these experiments and stated he could time travel psychically to any place on the planet.  He(Swann) and Pat Price, a police officer in Burbank CA, were provided with geographic longitude and latitude coordinates and was said to give a “remarkably accurate view” of the stated location.  Swann’s tests were so amazing that he convinced SRI of his abilities.  Swann believed that any one could be taught this technique and these persons did not have to be psychic.  Swann’s best Remote Viewing trip was the planet Jupiter done at SRI in 1973.  In 1977 Targ and Puthoff published his findings in a book Mind-Reach.

Unfortunately Swann and Pat Price did not get along and “psychic contests raged” out of control.  Swann’s  contract ended in early 1973 and he left SRI.  Pat Price left SRI late 1974 going to work for the CIA.  He was well know for his map photos claiming to retrieve information from behind Soviet lines.  His sketches appeared to confirm intelligence photographs at that time.  The two reunited and eventually worked together creating techniques for  Controlled Remote Viewing (CRV) that could be teachable with 5 step protocol.  Project research included  clairvoyance and out-of-body experiences.  The described Remote Viewing as a more structured approach to clairvoyance.  The “viewer” would receive a mission only after all other intelligence was exhausted.  Using over 22 active military and domestic viewers to provide data.  In 1995 three viewers remained in the program, one using tarot cards readings.

1995 this project was then transferred to CIA control the panel appointed Jessica Utts and Ray Hyman.  Mr. Hyman stated test results were “nothing striking or surprising….reported matching reports, data generated by viewers is general and vague and way off target“.   With recommendation of tighter control of projects with more critical research.  CIA terminated the $20million dollar project in 1995 secondary to lack of evidence.

 

 

 

05/7/14

The Challenge is prove it……3 Envelopes….One Million Dollars….The Envelope Please

Not too long ago, in the month of May 2009……..10 volunteers entered the room dressed in an odd array of clothing:

  •  a ski mask,
  • large dark glasses,
  • a large black graduation type gown
  • white socks

These ten volunteers took their seats facing the back wall of the room.  They were to sit and do nothing for 15-20 minutes.  Mrs. Patricia Putt enters the room, sits at a table 12′ away from the volunteers and begins the reading.  The seated volunteers were asked to read out loud pre-specified short passages.  Putt stated this “helps the spirit to enter and make contact by hearing the sitters voices“. All of the readings were written down and given to the volunteers , they exited the room, changed clothing and came back in, for their results.

This experiment is was conducted by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Mrs. Putt, a Psychic featured in newspapers and magazine articles and on several TV shows, accepted this challenge in hopes of collecting a $1million prize.  The only stipulation for collecting was to “prove and demonstrate paranormal powers under a controlled environment”.  All testers agree to stipulations prior to testing and sign a waiver stating that test are conducted fairly.  Preliminary tests are conducted prior to the final experiment.  Preliminary tests included were a double blind testing of dowsers featured in Enemies of Reason hosted by Richard Dawson; Derek Ogilvies reading minds of babies and animals in Extraordinary People on Five.  Both tests offered no definitive proof of paranormal evidence.  Mrs. Putt was the first person to pass this first round of preliminary testing.

Professor James Randi, a magician and debunker, offered $1000 of his own money in 1964, to anyone who could prove paranormal claims under a controlled experiment.  Many claim to have this power, very few came forward to accept this challenge.  Many cite that the experiment is fixed by Randi and cannot be won.

The Test…..

10 readings, each written specifically for one of the 10 volunteers, all volunteers dressed in the same attire, sitting with their backs to the tester, had never met or spoken to Mrs. Putt.  After the Readings were completed, each individual got a complete set of all the readings, presented in random order, volunteers were to pick out a reading most applicable to themselves.

The test would be deemed successful if, 5 of the 10 volunteers selected the reading written specifically for them.  Mrs. Patricia Putt felt completely confident that she would be issued the $1million dollar prize.

The Result…..

All 10 volunteers selected a reading that was not written for them.  Putt made no excuses, was kind and professional accepting the final outcome.  One day later, Putt decided that the protocol she had agreed to prior to the test was too difficult, laden with many barriers preventing her to exhibit her psychic abilities.  “volunteers being bound head to foot like black mummies felt tied so were not free to link to spirit, making my work a great deal more difficult“.

The prize is still there waiting for you, (IS) the proof  is out there?!

05/6/14

“Vultures Who Prey on the Bereaved.”

I have always been fascinated by Ehrich Weisz. Who you ask? The Great Harry Houdini that’s who! We all know the name and it instantly conjures visions of straight jackets, hand cuffs, or of the Milk Can Escape also known as the “Chinese Water Torture” trick. There are numerous articles, books and even movies that taut his magic acts and abilities, but what I think of when I hear the name Harry Houdini is Spiritualism.
The 1920’s in America is often thought of as “The Roaring 20’s” and of us think of jazz music, prohibition, speak easys, and gangsters, but what about the Spiritualist Movement? People from around the world were reeling from losing an estimated 15 million people in the World War One and 21 million more to the Spanish-flu pandemic and they were searching for ways to connect with the dead. It was in this era that so called “Spirit Guides” emerged to help the bereaved contact their loved ones who had passed. The media of the time wrote glowing reviews and highly dramatized accounts of communication with people’s departed loved ones, and the people believed! If it was written in news papers it had to be real! It seemed as though the more famous they were, the more they charged. (Sound Familiar?)
In 1913 Houdini’s mother Cecilia, passed on and Harry was so distraught that he hadn’t been there at the end, that he consulted spiritualists in an attempt to communicate with her spirit. Harry soon realized that these so-called spiritualists were con-artists. While traveling the country and the world for that matter, Houdini met scores of mediums and witnessed 100’s of seances only to come away upset at what he knew was fraud. Houdini at one point even proclaimed that these people were “Vultures Who Prey on the Bereaved!”
With Harry’s back ground in illusions, he set out to figure out how the Mediums and Psychics tricked the public, which he did. Houdini then aligned himself with O.D. Munn, editor of Scientific American. Scientific American offered $2,500 to anyone who could prove that they had psychic powers. In the summer of 1924, Houdini targeted Mina Crandon of Boston. Followers called her “Margery”, non believers knew her as the ” Blonde Witch of Lime Street”. She was renowned for conjuring the voice of her dead brother, Walter, whose spirit rapped out messages, tipped tables, and even sounded trumpets. Walter was unfriendly, answering questions and quoting scripture in a gruff disembodied voice. Margery, by contrast, was charming and attractive—at least when she wasn’t showing off her most convincing psychic talent: extruding a slithery, viscous substance called “ectoplasm” from her orifices. Photos show this otherworldly substance flowing from her nose and ears, but mostly it emerged from beneath a sheer kimono like a string of entrails—an “ectomorphic hand” that Walter used to carry out his commands.
A panel from Scientific America visited Margery and was all but convinced that she was the real deal . When Houdini learned the committee was prepared to endorse Margery, he was outraged. Having already exposed the tricks of other celebrity mediums, Houdini was sure the committee was about to be fooled, so he canceled his shows and headed for Boston.
Margery met with Houdini and the panel from Scientific American for a séance and she took her seat infront of a three-sided Chinese screen. Soon the lights dimmed and an eerie whistling filled the room. Then the spirit of Walter whispered his arrival, even touching Houdini on the inside of his right leg. After a break, Houdini ordered an electric bell enclosed in a wooden box brought to his feet. Then Walter levitated a megaphone and boomed: “Have Houdini tell me where to throw it”.“Toward me,” Houdini said, and the megaphone flew through the air and landed in front of him. That was just the beginning. Throughout the evening, Walter produced a sequence of spectacles, ringing the bell box on command and tipping over the wooden screen. Houdini had done his homework. He knew that Dr. Le Roi Crandon, Margery’s husband, always sat on her right. He was a Harvard-educated surgeon and her promoter. Houdini also guessed correctly that he would be seated on her left in the circle, with hands joined, feet and legs touching. In anticipation to the séance, Houdini wore a tight bandage under his right knee the entire day leading up to the show. It had been so tight and was so painful that it made his skin tender to even the slightest touch. The sensitivity paid off. He could feel Margery twist and flex in the dark as she moved her left ankle slightly to get to the bell box under the table. Later, he felt her shift again to tip the Chinese screen with her foot. The flying megaphone stumped Houdini for a few hours, but he eventually figured out that Margery had placed it on her head, dunce-cap-style, with a momentarily free hand. She then jerked her head in his direction to send it crashing to the floor.“I’ve got her,” he said when the evening was over. “All fraud. Every bit of it. One more sitting and I will be ready to expose everything.”
A second séance at a Boston hotel featured a levitating table. Houdini reached out in the dark and found Margery’s head lifting the table from beneath. He again felt her legs move as she reached to ring the bell box. “The slickest ruse I ever detected,” Houdini said later, in something close to admiration. But when he announced his findings to the committee, he was asked to hold off on a public denunciation. The committee was conflicted. When it refused to award the prize after several additional séances, the Spiritualists became enraged—as did the spirit. “Houdini, you goddamned son of a bitch,” Walter roared. “I put a curse on you now that will follow you every day for the rest of your short life.” No Matter what Houdini said 1/2 of the panel was still firmly under Margery’s seductive spell and continued to report that she had supernatural powers. In October, Scientific American published an article that described the committee as hopelessly divided.
The dithering angered Houdini. In November, he published a pamphlet called Houdini Exposes the Tricks Used by the Boston Medium “Margery,” complete with drawings of how she produced her manifestations. “She certainly was clever in her maneuvering to pull the wool over the eyes of the committeemen,” he said, admitting the ingenuity of her techniques as he debunked her show. Houdini’s pamphlet humiliated Margery, but he wasn’t done yet: The “scourge of Spiritualism” wanted to make the religion disappear. But the spiritualist caught on and eventually banned Houdini from their shows. Imagine that?

04/26/14

The Philip Experiment – Can You Create Your Own Haunting?

Disclaimer:  The article shown here is for information purposes only. Para-Boston does not specifically recommend or condone the use of séances as a tool for investigative research.

Some paranormal researchers theorize that some ghostly manifestations and poltergeist activity (footsteps, door slams, moving objects) are products of the human mind.  In the early 1970s, a Canadian-based group set out to test the theory by conducting a fascinating experiment. The Toronto Society for Psychical Research (TSPR) wanted to see if they could create a ghost.  They wanted to get a core group together to concoct a fictional character and then conduct séances to see if they could contact him and receive messages from him. They theorized if they were really lucky maybe they’d see an apparition.

They “invented” a spirit named Philip.  Would you believe Philip actually made contact with them through a series of possible psychokinetic phenomena? Read on…

Dr. A.R.G. Owen, the leader of this study group in the TSPR, gathered eight people from their membership. All claimed to not be pychics. This group, often called the Owen Group, were comprised of the good doctor’s wife, an accountant, a designer, a housewife, a bookkeeper and a sociology student. Also there was a psychologist, Dr. Joel Whitton, in attendance as an observer.

To create the fictional “Philip Aylesford”, as a group they began Phase One: Creating Philip’s Life. They wrote a short biography about him. He was an English aristocrat who lived in the mid-1600s. He was a supporter of the King, and was a Catholic. He married the Dorothea, daughter of a neighboring nobleman. She was a beautiful, but cold and frigid wife.

One day Philip was riding on the boundaries of his estates and he came across a gypsy encampment and saw Margo. She was a beautiful dark-eyed gypsy girl who he fell instantly in love with. He brought her back to his land, secretly, to live in the gatehouse near the stables of his family home -Diddington Manor.

He managed to keep this a secret from Dorothea for awhile, but eventually she figured out he was keeping someone in there, she found Margo and Dorothea accused her of Witchcraft. She also accused her of stealing her husband. Philip was afraid of losing his reputation, his wealth and possessions if he protested, so Margo went to trial and she was convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake.

Talk about guilt. Philip was overwhelmed with remorse that he never spoke up to defend Margo. He used to pace the battlements of Diddington in utter despair. Then one morning his body was found at the bottom of the battlements. It was assumed that he threw himself in after a fit of agony and remorse. He died at 30 years old.

The Owen group called upon one of their members with artistic talents to sketch a portrait of Philip. Now the Owen Group was ready. They had an image and a detailed background which was firmly set in their minds to focus on and they were ready for Phase Two of their experiment – Making Contact With Philip.

In September 1972, the group began their “sittings”. These were informal meetings in which they would discuss Philip and his life, they would meditate on him and focus to try to visualize their “collective hallucination” in greater detail. These sittings were conducted in a fully lit room and went on for about a year. Nothing happened. Some group members would occasionally claim they felt a presence in the room, but it was just a personal experience and there was no result they could consider any kind of communication from Philip.

Then they changed their strategy and began conducting classic spiritualistic séances. They lowered the room’s lights, sat around a table, sang songs and surrounded themselves with objects from Philip’s time period, pictures of the type of castle they imagined he would have lived in, etc.

That worked! One evening, during a séance, the group received its first communication from Philip in the form of a distinct knock on the table. Soon Philip was answering questions asked by the group – one knock for yes, two for no. They assumed the communication came from Philip because, they were attempting to communicate with only him.

The sessions escalated and produced a range of phenomena that couldn’t be explained scientifically. The group was able to learn more details about Philip’s life through the table-knocking communication. It appeared as if he had a personality and he conveyed his likes and dislikes and his point-of-view on various topics. This was deduced by how quick and enthusiastic, or plain, his knocking responses were. They joked with Philip, teased him, even flirted with him.  When Philip was asked if Dorothea, his wife, didn’t want children, the group heard scratching sounds coming from the walls. One member asked if the question was too personal and one loud rap was heard (a strong Yes!) His “spirit” was eventually able to move the table and slide it from side (even though it was on a carpeted floor). Sometimes the table would “dance” on one leg.

Philip was a creation of the group’s collective imagination and had his limitations. He accurately answered questions about events and people of his time period, but it did not appear to be information that the group was unaware of: meaning Philip’s responses were coming from the group’s subconscious – their own minds. At some point some members thought they heard whispers in response to certain questions, but no whisper was ever caught on their audio recordings. Dr. Owen later stated that if the entire team were in agreement to the answer to a question, the responses would come very quickly but if one or more people were uncertain in the answer then Philip’s responses would be hesitant, taking some time to reply.

There was no explanation for Philip’s amazing psychokinetic powers. If the group asked Philip to dim the lights, they would instantly dim. When asked to brighten back the lights they would brighten instantly as well. The table that the group sat around was quite often the focal point of odd phenomena. They felt a cool breeze blow across the table and asked Philip if he could make it to start and stop. Yes he could and he did so. The group observed that the feel of the table was different to the touch whenever Philip was in their presence — it felt electric or “alive”. There were a few times when a fine mist formed over the center of the table. Quite unbelievably the group claimed that the table would sometimes be so animated that it would quickly slide over to meet latecomers to the session, and sometimes even “trap” members in the corner of the room!

The climax of the Philip Experiment was a séance conducted before a live audience of 50 people. This session was also filmed as part of a television documentary. Philip performed above expectations. There were table knockings, odd noises in the room, lights blinking off and on, and the table became fully levitated. It only rose a half inch above the floor, but this incredible feat was witnessed by the group and the film crew. Because the lighting was dim at this point – the levitation was not caught on film.

In a later session during an especially active night, one of the members jokingly told Philip that he could be sent away and replaced. After that, Philip’s activity began to decrease until it stopped altogether and the experiment was stopped.

The Philip Experiment was a success in all ways but one – the spirit of Philip never materialized into an apparition.

Because the Philip Experiment was such a success, the Toronto organization decided to try it again with a completely different group of people and a new fictional character. After just five weeks, this new group established “contact” with their new “spirit,” Lilith, a French-Canadian spy. Other similar experiments conjured up such entities as a medieval alchemist named Sebastian, and a man from the future named Axel. All were completely fictional, yet all produced unexplained communication through their unique knockings.

A group in Sydney Australia attempted a similar test with “the Skippy Experiment.” Six members created the story of Skippy Cartman, a 14-year-old Australian girl. The group reports that Skippy communicated with them through knockings and scratching sounds.

Conclusion

What the heck does one conclude about these experiments? A hoax? Real communication with a made up character? Real communication with another spirit posing as the character?  There is no such thing as hauntings – just a psychokinetic manifestations of our minds? One thing is for certain – the experiment did not and can not prove that there are no ghosts.

In any case, the what the experiments did prove is that paranormal phenomena are quite real. These experiments leave us with more questions than answers about the world in we live in.

Want to try and create your own experimental ghost? British psychologist Kenneth Batcheldor and engineer Colin Brookes-Smith, back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, developed a methodology for educating psychokinesis as a group-skill, to provide phenomena for their research on the physical operating-mechanisms of psychokinesis. The key parts of their methodology was published in the Journal of the (British) Society for Psychical Research, Vol.47, No.756

Below from the June 1973 pages 69-89 are notes adapted from Batcheldor’s “List of Rules for Sitters”.

1. At least three but not more than six sitters 
2. Only those capable of friendly co-operation 
3. No extreme sceptics seeking convincing evidence 
4. No inflexible Spiritualists or scientists 
5. Both sexes, no age limit 
6. Agree to meet once a week at the same place and time 
7. Use a comfortable living room with familiar surroundings 
8. Sit in any preferred order 
9. Use the dimmest possible light tolerable without discomfort (unless extremely confident of success in stronger light) 
10. Use total darkness for advanced phenomena (unless unusually confident of success in dim light) 
11. Hands on table – not necessarily touching each other 
12. Never change conditions even slightly, unless this is essential to relieve tension or increase expectancy 
13. Avoid arguments – sense and resolve even covert disagreements about procedure 
14. Avoid immobility of posture – move freely, behave naturally 
15. Don’t worry about accidentally imparting movement to the table 
16. Be relaxed – engage in light-hearted talk, jokes and laughter 
17. Smoke initially or during breaks if you wish 
18. Avoid long silences and boredom 
19. Be patient, just wait calmly and cheerfully without irritation 
20. Don’t comment on the time, weather or topical news 
21. Don’t become too interested in any particular conversation 
22. Don’t say or think anything that implies doubt 
23. Don’t do anything that implies or arouses doubt 
24. Don’t perform tests or impose controls in half-hearted belief 
25. Don’t try to ‘will’ the phenomena 
26. Cultivate an attitude of serene confidence 
27. Avoid all thoughts of any particular experiment ‘failing’ 
28. Avoid both long-term skepticism and ‘instant’ doubt 
29. Don’t explain away every little happening 
30. Don’t express (surprise or) astonishment at any PK display 
31. Don’t concentrate your gaze – even in the dark – where PK is imminent 
32. Don’t focus your thoughts analytically on specific phenomena 
33. Encourage a generalized idea or image of the experimental task 
34. Don’t apply critical analysis during or after a PK display 
35. Keep your mind in ‘neutral’ – be an uncritical observer 
36. ‘Pigeon-hole’ your observations for future consideration 
37. Let the spokesman give all the commands 
38. Use wording unambiguous in its intention 
39. Use a tone of voice implying unquestioned obedience 
40. Don’t comment on or distract attention from specific commands 
41. Start with what seems easy and plausible 
42. Grade the tasks commanded 
43. Maintain plausibility throughout the experiments 
44. Practice each step sufficiently – but don’t let it become tedious 
45. Don’t hurry the steps – wait for each response 
46. Go back one step if no response is forthcoming 
47. Don’t repeatedly call for something not forthcoming 
48. Revive interest and excitement by some free uncommanded action 
49. Call ‘STOP’ if free activity ignores commands, then regain obedience 
50. Briefly express approval for successfully performed tasks 
51. Don’t consult ‘the table’ on procedure or theories 
52. Don’t ask for spiritistic messages 
53.A void being led astray by the offer of prizes 

[The above table is copyright ©1970 Kenneth Batcheldor.] 

Happy haunting!

04/20/14

Spatial Awareness


When investigating unusual claims or even experiencing paranormal activity our spatial awareness plays a key role.  Understanding the abilities and disadvantages of the human brain will help to understand the accuracy of not only claims, but our personal experiences as well. The human mind is fallible and should not be trusted implicitly. This Brain Games episode demonstrates this principle quite clearly. Check it out!

04/20/14

Is Reality TV Destroying Our Perceptions of Real Life?

Television today is full of shows from reality programs to police dramas. There are many shows on investigating paranormal activity and unfortunately the producers have too much of a hand on what happens. Yes, people I am saying that in order to keep the ratings up they fake or exaggerate the truth. Does this make good television? If so, for whom? Of course I am preaching to the choir. If you’re on this site you obviously have interest in the paranormal and or its investigation process.

My question is for the average Joe out there. Would you rather they find evidence every week knowing it’s faked or could you watch a program that they keep everything truthful knowing that most likely you’ve spent an hour of your time watching a paranormal team come up empty with their investigation? Does it make it more exciting when you hope that maybe, just maybe this week they see or hear something? Would it still be exciting knowing you’re not witnessing TRUE evidence?

Have all the shows out there taken the wind out of finding real evidence if every week they find something? Has it become one big yawn? I guess my one question became several but I’m curious what your views are?

04/17/14

Rocks Will Remember….

A term heard often in paranormal field is The Stone Tape Theory.  Term was first coined in a BBC film of the same name. What is this theory, is there anything to it? I am Researching this because the inquiring mind wants to know.  This theory was first proposed in the 1970’s.  Hypothesis was, that in times of high stress or high emotions could somehow help transfer memory to an inanimate object, and actual recording of the event.  This energy would playback in a non-interactive way (a residual haunting).

Researcher Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick claimed objects could retain, record or absorb the “psychic energy” of a tragic event.

William G Roll, Parapsychologist and Professor at State University of West Georgia, agreed with this stone tape theory.  Believing the mind can create apparitions from “psychic traces of the past”   by their “psi field”.  psi field is defined as subtle energy that unites the mind and body, a universal life force running between all things.  Energy in Chinese medicine– Qi;  in Indian Yoga–Prana or Kundalini  energy is also described as an aura, rays, field, audible or tactile vibrations.

Barrett stated that certain cases were imprints or “echoes”somehow become “perceptible to those living”.  He became interested in the paranormal in the 1860’s after an experience with Mesmerism (hypnosis).  He hypothesized these echoes were thought transferences or“place memories”.  Suggesting that hauntings are memories “lost” from an individuals mind, attaching itself to the environment, showing up and replaying back as hallucinations in sensitive people.

Barrett was a member of the Spiritualist movement and was said to be duped by a medium.  later founding The Society of Psychical Research in 1882.

I have not found a reasonable explanation for this theory of stone taping.  Some claim it is geological,  iron oxide, or rust particles, with electromagnetic fields acting as a recording device changing a persons perception of what is seen.  Others refer to the water memory theory (see Water, a Ghost Essential Element) and plate tectonics, an electromagnetic charge caused by quartz in earth that carries  an electric charge from movement of a fault lines.  Fascinating tales of phantoms, echoes and spirits all on the rocks. Cheers !

04/16/14

The Near Death Experience of Dr. Eben Alexander

Dr. Eben Alexander III is a neurosurgeon and author of the best selling book, “Proof of Heaven”.

Dr. Eben Alexander graduated from Duke University in 1980 and was a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and American College of surgeons. He has been employed at some of the top hospitals in the world. These hospitals include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Boston, Dana-Farber Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Alexander comes from a scientific background and has followed in his fathers footsteps in neurosurgery. Once a true believer that there is nothing after death, which his upbringing and education taught him, Dr. Alexander now questions everything he has learned since suffering from a meningitis induced coma in 2008.

His book claims that our consciousness is independent from the brain and that death is simply an illusion. He also says there is a perfect life after death that includes butterflies, Angels, clouds, and our departed loved ones.

Dr. Alexander slipped into a coma as a result of severe bacterial meningitis. Having no brain activity he was considered “brain dead”. His journey began in a dark formless place without memory, language, or time. He was saved by a spinning melody of light that came closer and closer until it opened up to a world full of vivid colors and millions of butterflies. Flowers blooming and blossoming as he floated by. By his side was a beautiful girl with blue eyes. She would look at him without saying a word and the thought would mystically enter his mind that she was telling him he was loved and cherished but he must go back, it was not his time. After seven days in a coma, he miraculously opened his eyes. Due to his amazing experience Dr. Alexander had a different view of life and life after death.

After going public with his story prior to the publication of his book, he has been terminated or suspended from multiple hospital positions and subject to several malpractice lawsuits. Other medical professionals claimed that Dr. Alexander was in a medically induced coma and was conscious and hallucinating.

Although Dr. Alexander states his near death experience occurred while his cerebral cortex was shut down and inactive, neuro-scientist Sam Harris disagrees. He states Dr. Alexander’s claims are not only inadequate but insults him by saying he doesn’t know anything about the relevant brain science. Neurologist Oliver Sacks states that it was impossible to establish a near death experience while the brain was shut down. The most plausible explanation is that it occurred not during the coma but as he was resurfacing from it and his cortex was returning to full function.

What is your opinion? Do you believe in life after death or is it just a hallucination?

04/8/14

Show Me The Money !

I’ve thought a lot about the paranormal world lately. It makes me sad and sometimes angry to see all the scams that are going on.  Are we our own worst enemy? Have we allowed ourselves to be sucked in to the hype? TV shows tell us that there is activity everywhere and that you too could be experiencing phenomena. Gee, isn’t it funny how a certain paranormal TV show used to air episodes where they would debunk the claims and rarely find anything worth mentioning in their first season, but now they find multiple pieces of evidence every episode. Would it have anything to do with ratings (which equates to money), Hmm???  Or how about psychic’s? They are telling anyone who is willing to buy what they are selling, that they can communicate with late Aunt Pearl, all for the measly sum of $200.00 an hour. Its no wonder that a certain psychic who has a popular TV show, lives on Long Island and drives a Land Rover, Hmm? Or how about the  guy and his wife who bought a money pit of an old Victorian mansion in central MA and  charge admission to investigate their home. People line up with money in hand, waiting to get in and snap their very own picture of a full body apparition. Well at least that’s what the last TV show they were on said. Funny how that TV show was shot in Canada and not MA, Hmm??? Or how about the Hotel on the Cape that claims to have activity in a certain guest room. The story has it that the original owner was a sea captain. One day he sailed off only to never return and his wife’s ghost waits for him in that room to this day. Funny how that room number changes every time you call for a reservation.

I find it amazing that the haunted room is always available! It’s really nice that they quote you a special discounted rate too, funny how its $10.00 more than the sign in the lobby says, Hmm???  My favorite of all is the multi-million dollar Ghost Hunting Equipment Industry. There’s a multitude of boxes sold today that use electronics to allow a ghost or spirit to communicate with you. Funny how a spirit that passed away 50 years ago can manipulate today’s electronics. I’d be surprised if they could even turn on a TV.

Technology and science are advancing at a tremendous rate.  We are living in a society that is highly educated, but we are ALL susceptible to being scammed. I suppose if we want to believe bad enough, the wool can be pulled over our eyes. I must admit, I have been scammed! I believed! I spent my hard earned money! But hopefully I have learned something along the way. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I’ve got a box full of old ghost hunting equipment for sale, if you know anybody?

My real reason for writing this is to challenge everyone to be skeptical, and have fun with your paranormal research. That’s what Ghost Hunting really should be,  FUN! I do believe there is something to all of this, and hopefully someday, someone will figure it out!

04/8/14

14 Degrees – A Paranormal Documentary

In 2007 myself and two great friends (then known as New Gravity Media) released our first full length documentary “14 Degrees”. The film which took two years to complete involved nearly 6000 miles of travel and investigations with dozens of teams across the northeastern U.S. This film, which now tops out at a whopping 2 hours and 16 minutes was intended to be a short film no longer than 15 minutes. However, after receiving interest from so many teams, we just couldn’t stop. Because of the overwhelming response the project was produced “backwards”. Instead of having a plan for a beginning, middle and end, we instead simply filmed everything and put the pieces together into a documentary format. The raw footage features over 275 hours of film footage and took 6 months in post production. Some popular names appear in the film such as John Zaffis, Steve Gonsalves and Keith Johnson. It was a first attempt that won us the 2008 Aegis film award. That film in it’s entirety is now available to the public for the low price of FREE. I hope you enjoy!

04/2/14

Water: A Ghost Essential Element ?

The human body is made up of 70 % water and the earth is made from 70% water….ghost or apparitions are often associated with places close to water. Can water be imprinted upon and hold a memory? Several theories are out there, here are two.
Japanese researcher Masaro Emoto states that if positive words are spoken to water, and then a water sample is frozen, the water crystals will form in a symmetric pattern. If negative words are spoken to a water sample, then the water sample is frozen the water crystals form will form in a chaotic manner. Remembering words that are spoken.

Water memory was first proposed in 1988 by French Immunologist Jacques Benveniste. Benveniste proposed that a serial dilution, used in homeopathic treatment would “remember” what substances/molecules were added in. During treatment a Sample would be diluted until not a single molecule remained. His test used Human antibodies. Those tested had an allergic response to the dilution.

These serial dilutions are made with distilled water or alcohol, vigorously shaken in a process called succussion. Succussion was believed to activate the “vital energy” of the diluted substance, thus increasing potency of the homeopathic treatment.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine which involves treating the individual with highly diluted substances, given mainly in tablet form, with the aim of triggering the body’s natural system of healing.

The findings were published in Nature journal in 1988. Colleagues of Benveniste challenged the findings calling it pseudoscience. He stated that tests defied established laws of chemistry. The publisher, John Maddox, demanded replication of this experiment. Under direct supervision of a hand picked team they called “ghost busters”. These “ghost busters” included Maddox himself, James Randi, a paranormal researcher and physicist, Walter W. Stewart. Multiple complaints of distractions, magic tricks and witch hunting plagued all future tests.
A $1 million dollar prize was offered for any party that could replicate positive results to the same test.
A chemist from the University of Belfast, Madeline Ennis almost claimed $1million dollar prize in 1999. In 2010, years later, Ennis’ point of view is still that: (…) there appears to be some evidence for an effect – albeit small in some cases(….)

Their theory is that water is in all substances, bricks, wood, human etc. and much like residual hauntings water somehow can help retain a memory from any surrounding.
I really enjoyed reading the article. It makes some sense to me. Could it be that simple??? Probably not.

waterdrop

03/18/14

A Tall Case Of Fraud

IMG_3942

On July 24th 2010 we conducted a joint investigation of the Freetown State Forest in Massachusetts.  Our team was invited to attend per the courtesy of PRI-ME. Maine (A scientific research group from the Portland area).  They had purchased an “investigative” tour of the forest which had been the subject of many paranormal claims throughout the years. The tour was to be conducted by man named John (last name omitted intentionally) a very tall heavy set man who happens to be the founder of a New England paranormal research group located on the Massachusetts south shore.  The charge for this tour was $300 which included two guided SUV rentals and unlimited access into some of the more restricted areas of the forest.   You see John had access to these areas because of a family lumber business that happened to have associated interest in the area.

During the course that night’s investigation,  KII Meter activity was rampant and at several points these moments of activity were audibly and visually recorded.  Just what any good team might do right?

It should be noted that later on in the evening (near the end of the night) the KII meter was placed into a Faraday Cage and subsequently all of the KII activity had ceased. We were suspicious of radio interference and one particular curiosity stood out. In-spite of our splitting into several varied groups throughout the night all of the activity seemed to occur in the presence of only one person…John.

Video containing cell phone pulses:


Upon reviewing the recorded evidence, members of PRI-ME noticed a peculiar pulsing which occurred during and preceding each KII event. These files were sent to us for analysis and using spectrum analysis software we were able to determine the frequency of the pulses as 22Hz. On further investigation it was found that the iDEN cell phone network, (Nextel/Sprint) which is known for its audio electronics interference in hearing devices, just happens to produce a leader signal of 22 pulses per second (i.e. 22Hz). The only individual in attendance that night with an active Nextel Sprint phone was (you guessed it) John.

fraud1

A frequency is determined by calculating the number of occurrences within a one second period. One wave or pulse in one second = 1hz. Within the Freetown sample files we see pulses like the ones shown here occurring during each of the KII hits. To determine the frequency of these pulses, I have measured the time elapsed for each group of pulses.

fraud2

The sample I used above contains 9 pulses which have an approximate total duration of .4 seconds (that’s just over one third of a second.) If we take 1 second and divide it by .4 we get 2.5 which means that this set of 9 pulses can occur 2.5 times per second. If we then multiply that by 9 (the number of pulses) we will see that within a one second period this pulse occurs 22 times making the frequency of the pulse approximately 22hz.

The pulsing signal certainly raised serious questions about the authenticity of the KII hits, and many agreed that it did sound like cell phone interference. However, this discovery was noted and put aside and a second investigation was conducted on July 30th.

For this investigation I decided to test the hypothesis that radio frequencies indeed caused the excessive KII activity. To achieve this I built a KII meter directly into a Faraday Cage and utilized a Radio Frequency Meter along with a standard KII meter. If this activity was caused by a radio frequency, it would be detected on the RF meter and would not affect the KII inside the Faraday Cage.

For the majority of the night on July 30th activity was scarce. We found out that John had purchased a new phone prior to this investigation and we were wondering if the possible charade of foolishness was over. Later on in the night however, KII Activity started once again. As suspected the RF meter peaked with every KII hit and the meter inside the cage wasn’t activated at all showing that radio frequencies were in fact causing the KII spikes. Like before, all of the activity occurred within the presence of John.

When the night ended, one of the leaders of PRI-ME was given the old Blackberry phone (previously owned by John) as a gift. He said he had no further use for it and she took it home in the hopes of using it herself.

Evidence for the investigation on the 30th came up clear of any unusual sound anomalies (i.e. pulsing) but what did pose a question were the records contained in the Blackberry phone.

When the PRI-ME member reviewed the call records in the phone for July 24th she found seven calls to a number labeled “Ghost Phone”. It was later determined that the times of these calls coincided with the KII hits from the July 24th investigation. The number called was 207-618-1454.

When the team called this number it was answered by an automated service which expressed the importance of your call and abruptly put you on hold for a one minute period until it eventually hung up on you. It was also discovered that this number belonged to a land line phone in Portland Maine. The call times were very short (2 minutes and under) and the shortest was only 13 seconds in duration. It should be noted that no one on either investigation ever saw John speaking on his phone (which was in his pants pocket), and the Bluetooth earpiece he always wears was placed in his shirt pocket.

These discrepancies (pulsing and phone records) were brought up to John during a group phone conversation. He had no real explanation for the pulses that were found surrounding the KII activity, but conceded that they could have been caused by radio waves. When asked to explain the seven calls to the mysterious “Ghost Phone” his reply was that his phone is voice activated and he must have said the word “ghost” at some point during the night and the phone auto dialed from his pocket.

This statement came across as false since the Blackberry model phone used at the time requires that you push a button on the phone to voice dial and there are audible cues to this feature (which no one heard). Also the calls were in such staggered lengths that it was clear he was aware they were being made and stopped them at various times. Yet as it was mentioned before, no one saw him with a phone that night so it is assumed he triggered the calls using his Bluetooth earpiece. Everyone on the team agreed that any honest investigator who was aware of their phone dialing accidentally during activity spikes would mention something to their team. Yet John never mentioned a word about it.

John then claimed the phone number was part of an application which could be used through Skype and worked in a similar way to the Ovilus (paranormal divining equipment). He also claimed that his group partner had the same application on his phone and assumed everyone knew about it. Of course we asked and his partner knew nothing of this application. Also upon inspection of John’s phone there weren’t any applications installed. The “Ghost Phone” was simply a phone contact entry.

I personally tried to replicate the voice dial feature and even when pushing the correct buttons, the phone did not dial the “Ghost Phone” simply by saying “Ghost”.  It was painfully clear that John was lying.

The specific details of exactly how John committed this heinous fraud is something we will never truly know, but it is our suspicion that since John kept his Bluetooth earpiece in his shirt pocket and often crossed his arms, it would have been easy for him to redial the last number called and hang up when needed simply by pushing the Bluetooth button through his shirt pocket.

Again we will never truly know.  Sadly John is still in the public eye, volleying for his 15 minutes of fame wherever he can get it. If you ever decide to take a tour of the Hockomock Swamp, the Freetown State Forest, or anywhere in the Bridgewater Triangle – do yourself a favor and steer clear of one of scariest and most infuriating elements you may have yet to encounter – a lying giant named John.