Friday, March 13, 2009

Detector School Dropouts...

You're at a haunted location. You want to check to see if there might be a ghost around. So, what do you do? You whip out your trusty EMF meter. Why? Um... well... because everyone else does. As the old argument goes, "and if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?"

EMF (a.k.a electromagnetic frequency, electromagnetic fluctuation) has become the must-have gadget for any "serious" investigator of paranormal phenomena. Most ghost hunters will tell you that these devices react to ghosts and spirits, which "give off higher readings" of electrical and magnetic energies. It's failproof and reliable. Right? Well, not really. But before you prepare the fire to burn me at the stake for "heretical nonsensical talk", take a moment to listen.

Our world is a noisy cacophony of electricity, magnetism, and waves (radiation, radio, round, microwaves, etc.), most of which we cannot see, hear, or sense. Some is man-made, some natural. If we could hear all the energy constantly around us, it might sound like rush hour traffic in New York City. And this is the world in which we try to fiddle with a Gauss meter (or EMF meter). Many people using these devices don't know what they're detecting. Cheap models cannot filter out natural energy from interference caused by our own technology. But to ask most investigators, they "work".

In reality, they don't. I'm sorry, but they don't. I don't even own one because I've experimented with them and found them about as useful in the pursuit of ghosts as a rubber ducky. Yes, they do indeed note fluctuations in energy on occasion, but in the chaos invisible to our senses, what's really happening? It is that power line or cell phone? Am I sitting on a meteorite? Or did the CIA just fly a covert plane overhead giving off powerful radio signals telling me to invest in the Bank of America? I just don't know.

The sad fact is there is no definitive correlation found between unexplained phenomena and EMF readings. Some say ghosts cause spikes. Others say powerful bursts of energy make us hallucinate. But each is just a guess. A thought. I've witnessed unexplainable sights, sounds, and smells while Gauss meters remained silent and inactive. I've seen them go wild while nothing out of the ordinary occurs. And you're trying to tell me that EMF and paranormal phenomena are connected? No, thank you; I'm not interested in that prime Florida swampland.

If I'm trying to pick up a toothpick, a magnet won't work no matter how hard I try. It doesn't mean the toothpick isn't there; it just means that the magnet isn't a valid method of detecting it. And that's largely how I view Gauss meters in the field. You'll pick up on something alright, but not a ghost. So, you say, what does work, you mean, cranky, pessimist? Well, I don't exactly know. That requires more experimentation. But we need to look beyond one possibility to make any headway. What about a Geiger counter, or a photometer?

And yes, there's a reason I suggest these gadgets. Research in telepathy, which might be related to "psychic experiences" and hauntings, has found that whatever mechanism is being used to convey information is not governed by electromagnetic principles. Psychometry works in shielded environs and Faraday cages. Whatever we're looking for lies outside the known particles, waves, etc. Perhaps it's like a photon, allowing it to be visible yet behave like a wave. Whatever the answer, it exists outside the box.

For an interesting piece of reading material, I suggest Steve Mizrach's The Superspectrum Hypothesis.


Evan~ said...

Good read. I always love word certain things.~ :)

Judy AKA "Spookannie" said...

This brings up the question what sets off the EMF meter on the Ghost Hunters show? They have videos in which they seem to get answers to questions on the EMF meter. I believe I heard them say on one show that they never say a place is haunted based just on the EMF meter (and I said to myself why not?) Do you think they are faking it somehow?

Ken Summers said...

I think it's this uncertainty that makes them wary of relying solely on EMF readings to determine a haunting. Sometimes, we can hear mobile phone conversations through ground telephone lines or radios, so it's possible for other devices to capture other things aside from what's intended to be heard. I've seen people use Gauss meters as a yes/no answer device when asking ghosts questions. Knowing that ghosts may be able to interfere with electricity (lights going on and off, appliances turning themselves on, etc.) it might be possible to communicate with ghosts using one in the same manner as a pendulum or Ouija board. I don't think they're "faking it" in any way, but I'm not convinced that it only has a paranormal answer.

Jeanne said...

Mentioning the Ouija board brought back a memory from years ago when my husband, at that time my boyfriend, and I visited a friend who had been dabbling with a Ouija board and had received responses that indicated information of which she should have had no knowledge.
Steve had her try it with us present and he then made her promise not to use it again.
He considered it a conduit that was just a bit too risky for someone who didn't know what they were doing!

Cullan Hudson said...

Great post. I have never purchased an EMF meter myself, for all those same reasons. It's not proven technology. So to use it without the controls of a laboratory experiment to determine its efficacy, is just silly. But it makes those who sell them some cash doesn't it? (BTW, the word verification is "obless" - are they telling us something? It's a "J" away from "Jobless"). :-(