Are you a ghost hunter? How many times have you sat in the dark, waiting for something to happen? How many of your ghost-vigil videos are recorded in green IR induced hues? Most importantly, how open-minded to change are you?
Often times I am criticized for writing, well, just about anything going against the status-quo. My team, BSPR, has been around since 1999. The Paranormal Investigators Coalition has been around since 2002. I have been doing this for more than ten years. I learned from people like Dale Kaczmarek who have been researching ghosts and hauntings for more than 30 years. Still, I continue to refine my beliefs and practices. When I started ghost hunting years before BSPR existed, I read everything I could and researched authors/investigators like Troy Taylor, Loyd Auerbach, and Dr. Barry Taff. Today, we are friends and colleagues in our never ending search for the truth.
After nearly a year of forming BSPR, even after self-training with friends, we believed wholeheartedly that orbs were always ghosts and our breath in the winter was specters from the “otherside”. Now I almost always discount orbs and have a three second “hold your breath rule” for photographing in the cold. I am ever evolving in my practices and have become very critical of the operations of paranormal investigative groups across the country.
Turning off the lights and turning on delusions.
The dark plays tricks on your eyes. Okay, I’m done. Alright, maybe I should elaborate a little.
Closed-eye hallucinations and closed-eye visualizations (CEV) are a distinct class of hallucination. These types of hallucinations normally only occur when your eyes are closed or when you are in a darkened room. They are a form of phosphene. One form is thermo-receptive noise. You actually “see it” all the time. It is always in front of you. When you close your eyes, it becomes more obvious. Sometimes in a bright room, you see a reddish hue from the blood vessels in you eye lids. It is the TV static like movement you see when your eyes are shut tight.
We also cannot discount paradolia. Paradolia is the tendency to see human-like features in non-descript patterns (like seeing Elvis on your toast!). In dark rooms, you will see heads, legs, arms, and even faces. Your brain will trick you into thinking there are shadowy figures in the darkness. Make sure when you are looking for “shadow people”, there are other witnesses seeing the same thing. This is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “matrixing”.
Of course, you can never discount the power of suggestion and self-delusion. You spent $100+ to go to the Waverly Sanatorium and dammit, you want to see a ghost! Common sense tells you that with lights out, the darkness will play tricks on your eyes. Only in Scooby-Doo cartoons does someone saying, “It’s just the dark playing tricks on your eyes…” a foreboding statement of things to come. But people will ignore common sense for the thrill of the “haunt”. Not long ago, a team consisting of myself, Ron Peacock, Russ Noratel, Beth Ford, and John Wisniewski were investigating the Moundsville West Virginia State Penitentiary with some fellow ghost hunters. When we would turn the lights on, a “guest” kept complaining about our desire to get better, high-definition pictures. Always remember, the most well known ghost photographs were taken during brightly lit situations! They happened in broad daylight during midday, late afternoon. Why taint your evidence with crappy photos?
Conclusion: Lights out is for TV drama, not serious paranormal investigating!
The trouble with IR
Paranormal investigators love Sony Handycams! They are reliable, come from a notable manufacturer, and have lots of cool bells and whistles. One such “whistle” is the Sony NightShot. NightShot uses a form of night vision technology to see in low-light conditions. Night-vision devices (NVD) enhance available light. Without a projected infrared light or some light source such as moonlight or starlight, NVDs will not be able to function. They can only see in low-light environments, not zero-light environments, which is fine. The NVD in your video camera takes in light (photons) and converts the photons into electrons. The electrons are then sent into an image intensifier tube where more electrons are released, magnifying the
image intensity by several times. The electrons then hit a phosphorous plate that converts them back into photons of light and onto the CCD. NVD images appear green when displayed due to the phosphorus plate.
There is a major flaw with NVD cameras: they need to project a beam of infrared light that is reflected off nearby objects in order to work. Worse still is the fact that the IR emitter is less than two inches below or to the side of the camera. Anything flying (i.e. insects) or floating (dust) will appear on the tape as luminescent orbs. This may be okay for orb-a-philiacs (those who love orbs) who don’t care for science and any orb is a paranormal one. For a scientifically minded researcher, this is unacceptable. Caution must be used when utilizing this feature. If you are videotaping an area that has light in it already, do not use IR, use the lamp. If you are filming outdoors at night, be mindful of insects.
You must also be careful when using IR emitting devices when taping. Cameras that have auto-focus use an IR beam to calculate the distance to the nearest object. This beam can be seen as a spot projected onto the wall or any object in its way. TV remotes and handheld computers also emit IR beams. As of recent, I admit I have become a bit anti-night-vision. Before I tell you why, first let me ask you a question: Why would a company like Sony develop a product that allows people to see in the dark? Essentially they are selling spy cameras! Now, this may come in handy for private detectives on a budget, hunters wanting to record their nighttime exploits, or jealous husbands/wives. However, the marketing for these devices is clearly aimed at the general public. Here’s a little trivia for you – did you know that the first generation night-shot camera developed by Sony could see through synthetic clothing like bikinis? It’s true! After doing some… um, “research” on the Internet, I found you can still find some of these voyeuristic images on the net. Is it possible that the developers were perverts? Who can say? I have never interviewed the developers.
The x-ray ability of the night-shot cameras has since been removed. The main reason I am anti-night-vision is not because of why it was developed for the public, but what you actually get from this technology. When you use most modern high-tech video cameras you get the following:
- High definition video
- 30 to 60 frames per second
- 16 million colors or more
What do you get with the same modern camera when you switch to night-shot?
- 15 frames per second or less (even worse when set to super or enhanced night-shot mode)
- Blurry, fuzzy, low definition video
- I hope you like green!
So, why are we so hooked on night-shot when we get crappy video from
A couple of years ago, a colleague of mine showed a video at a conference that was taken in a well known haunted prison in West Virginia. It seemed to show an unaccounted for human-like figure swaying back and forth in the lower level of the prison. The video became a huge hit in paranormal circles and was featured on several TV programs. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but wonder how well the video would have looked if they had turned on the lights. There is no evidence to suggest that ghosts are seen more often with night-vision than with the lights on. Don’t tell me that ghosts are affected by light – IR is light, it’s just infrared light. If you are going to tell me that it’s a different wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum, fine. Now prove it makes a difference. All
these videos that pop up in infrared could have been better –maybe. If you think that green, fuzzy videos are going to prove the existence of ghosts, you are fooling yourself. Don’t forget the fact they are great for orbs on video!
I will repeat my opinion on orbs and apply it to IR video: I think that 99.999% of all orbs in night-shot videos are just air particles. Yes, even the ones that “move really fast” and “change direction suddenly”. You think that because the orb in your video changes direction suddenly at a sharp angle, it makes it paranormal? Sorry, but no. I have heard investigators get very upset at the idea that their video did not have anything paranormal on it. “But we checked for any sources of moving air! Look how it changes direction!” So, what is the theory here? Mini-phantom orb pilots? Living (for lack of better term) 1” balls of light?
Any meteorologist will tell you that air moves. Air is moving at all times and lots of things can move it. If you are outdoors, I shouldn’t even have to explain why you can toss out your IR orb video. Bugs and millions of little air eddies are all over the place. In the colder months and even on low wind days, there is still air movement. You are dealing with microscopic particles. The slightest breeze can affect these tiny little bits of matter. In a house, walking downstairs will move air that can effect, although very slightly, air movement in other parts of the house. Cold air moving into warmer areas will move the air. Cold air is denser than warm air. Hot water pipes in the walls will warm that spot lightly and cause air to move. Vents and drafts obviously must be taken into consideration. Cold temperatures outside will affect air near windows and doors. Even your breath can cause dust to move at very sharp angles. Once again – get off orbs! Focus on human-like figures.
Conclusion: Nite-Vision is for pervs and TV drama, not serious paranormal investigating! At the very least, don’t use it as your main video source.
The psychology of ghost hunters
I am not sure how every person thinks about certain aspects of paranormal investigating when it comes to those who choose to partake in it. But I do know that some people don’t take it as seriously as I and some of my colleagues do. That’s fine–as long as you don’t claim otherwise. If you think turning lights out or orbs are ghosts, make sure you define yourselves as hobbyists.