Technology and Paranormal Investigations
Tug Hill Paranormal strives to maintain an array of equipment that is
current, easy to transport/use, and gives accurate results. There
are many different opinions as to which models of certain pieces of equipment
are the best, but if it isn't correctly used or the results are improperly
interpreted, none of that matters.
You may be wondering, what do all those gadgets do? The aim of all of the equipment is to register changes in the environment. Once these changes are registered, it is up to the team to determine if there is a normal source for these readings or not. A thermometer showing a drop in temperature doesn't mean there's paranormal activity; you could be standing in an air conditioning draft. It's important that as investigators we use the equipment to make logical determinations and not let the readings from equipment support false theories or beliefs.
EMF and K-II Meters:
These meters are designed to detect and measure electromagnetic fields (EMF). EMF can have a natural source (the earth's magnetic field) or an artificial source (your stereo). Most EMF meters are designed for use with artificial sources but there is a model of trifield meter that is used with natural sources. EMF meters do two things for paranormal researchers. The first is to alert teams to elevated EMF from electrical sources. This is very important as it helps prevent errors during an investigation and extremely high EMF can affect people's perceptions. The second 'job' of an EMF meter is to detect fluctuations in the magnetic field that may have a paranormal source. No one is quite sure how or why paranormal activity seems to affect the magnetic field but it does appear that this is what's happening. Not only does paranormal activity seem to affect EMF with artificial sources but it also appears to affect EMF from the earth's magnetic field. An easy (and very inexpensive) way to check for this effect is to watch a compass. There are reports of paranormal activity causing compass needles to spin out of control.
When using an EMF meter, it is important to make sure it is held away from your body. The team member that has the two-way radio should never use the EMF meter. The radio can cause EMF spikes if the buttons are pressed. The meter should be slowly moved in an arc in front of you; don't wave it around like a pompom. Remember that there is a certain amount of EMF in most places, so generally there will be a slight reading. If the meter goes up to say 10mg with no artificial source accounting for the spike, there is a chance that it could be a paranormal source. These meters do not have unlimited ranges. A good rule of thumb is 6-8 feet for detecting EMF and of course the stronger the field the farther away it will register.
There are all sorts of thermometers on the market, but they all do one thing no matter the cost- measure temperature. Thermometers are used to help paranormal investigators detect changes in the environment. It is important that thermometers are correctly used to avoid confusion. A temperature baseline of the area to be investigated must be done just prior to the investigation. It is necessary to note down any drafts especially if they come from a heating or cooling duct. This way later temperature variations will have meaning. For a long time cold spots have been associated with possible paranormal activity. These cold spots have been reported to range from a sensation like a cool breeze to frigid air in which you can see your breath. A thermometer can provide proof of temperature fluctuations rather than someone describing a feeling of coldness. It is this actual data that is needed to forward paranormal research.
There are several models of thermometers to choose from, so how do you know which one to use? Admittedly, the digital, non-contact infrared models that shoot out a laser beam look rather impressive. But the question needs to be asked "Do you really need to know the surface temperature of a wall 50 feet away?" The most useful part of these thermometers are the thermal couplers and probes that make it possible to measure ambient air temperature. So the probe can be positioned in a possible cold spot while the laser beam would shoot through that possible cold spot. There are thermometers that measure ambient air temperature without having a laser gun attached to them. Most people already have them in their homes: digital thermometers. Many models have a probe attached that allows two measurements to be taken simultaneously. Normally the probe would be outside a window or door. The base unit can monitor general air temperature while the probe can be used to verify cold spots. The most important aspect of any thermometer is how many times it checks the temperature in a second, or in some cases minutes. The faster it cycles/checks, the more responsive and accurate the data.
There is debate in the paranormal research community about what type of camera to use on an investigation. Some investigators favor film cameras because they feel that the results are more reliable. While this may have been true when digital cameras were first introduced into the mass market, it doesn't hold true anymore. Today's digital cameras are much more advanced than their predecessors and are as reliable as film cameras. It is important to to point out that when selecting a camera to use on investigations there are some features to keep in mind.
In regards to digital cameras, the more pixels the better. This will insure sharp, clear photos and help retain image quality under magnification. A camera with adjustable features can also be helpful as settings can be changed to fit the environment. And an easily viewed LCD screen, while not a necessity, definitely makes using the camera and adjusting the settings much easier.
Film cameras suffer the distinct disadvantage of film and development costs. This has become even more of a drawback because places to purchase and develop film have steadily decreased over the past few years. If a film camera is used, the following points need to be taken into consideration. A quality camera needs to be purchased, not a one time, disposable type. Adjustable settings will be of a benefit for the same reasons as mentioned with digital cameras. Be sure to choose a model with a viewfinder that is easy to see through. And finally, it is imperative that the correct speed of film is used for the lighting available.
Tug Hill Paranormal uses several different models of cameras. By doing this, any issues with a particular model can be eliminated as possible paranormal phenomena when compared to the photos from a different model. We are using cameras of 10 megapixels or higher at the current time. This can be a challenge to keep up because of the constant increase in pixels that are available as new models enter the market. The different models used by Tug Hill Paranormal offer a variety of different features which enables the group to cover a wide range of environments.
There are two types of recorders that most investigators use in the field: digital audio recorders and analog mini-cassette recorders. Digital audio recorders are extremely sensitive, and when set on the highest level of quality they will register something as low as a stomach gurgling. External microphones can be used with digital recorders to further enhance recordings in specific areas. Digital recorders are extremely easy to work with when reviewing evidence. The files can be loaded onto a computer and then reviewed with any of a variety of sound editing software. Most digital recorders will hold several hours’ worth of files in multiple internal folders.
Tug Hill Paranormal uses solely digital recorders, as over the course of time we have found them to be quite convenient for our needs. Each recorder features four internal folders and adjustable settings to allow for the highest level of quality possible. We use from three to nine digital recorders at each investigation. By doing so, possible evidence from one recorder can be checked against another recorder. This allows the team to make sure everyday sounds, which can be severely distorted by distance, are not mistaken for possible evidence. On average the team collects 15 hours of audio from each investigation. All files are stored in two places to insure that backups are always available.
Handheld Digital Video Camera with Infrared Light
Video cameras come in a variety of sizes and prices. Digital and mini-DVD cameras of very high quality are becoming more and more accessible to everyone day by day. When choosing a video camera, there are a few points to take into consideration. Low light or 'night vision' capabilities are very important as most investigations take place in extremely low light environments. Size is not an issue in regards to storing, transporting or carrying the camera but there are drawbacks to extremely small cameras. Cameras that are excessively small may be difficult to operate as controls and view screens are of course smaller on them. As with a standard digital camera, a video camera with a larger LCD screen/viewfinder will make the actual filming much easier. If using a mini-DVD, be sure to have adequate discs the night of the investigation. A spare or back up battery is also a smart investment. Smaller cameras have smaller batteries that, logically, hold smaller charges. An infrared light to use with the video camera is also a good investment. While low light or 'night vision' capabilities can use very little light and still produce a video, infrared lights can make that video much brighter. Infrared lights also make it possible to film in absolute darkness. A camera with low light or even 'night vision' capabilities must have a certain amount of light to record a picture. Another thought to keep in mind, these cameras, even if used with an infrared light, will produce only limited results in an outdoor environment.
Tug Hill Paranormal uses a digital video camera with 'night vision' capability and an infrared light. The camera can be downloaded directly to a computer and reviewed with a variety of software. Typically, the camera and infrared light, when fully charged, will last about 90 minutes. It is a valuable tool when documenting EMF and K-II work during an investigation. Extended video recordings of specific areas are better achieved by using a DVR system with infrared lights.
Digital Video Recorder with Infrared Cameras:
Digital video recorder (DVR) systems typically have four or more cameras that are equipped with infrared lights. These systems generally record to an external hard drive and may or may not have a monitor with them. If the system does not include a monitor, a computer monitor can be used. Generally the DVR system is monitored in real time as the investigation progresses. All four camera angles can be viewed at once or one at a time in order to see more detail. These systems are extremely useful when investigating a large site. They allow investigators to focus on one area while still keeping the other areas under observation. The footage that is recorded is often used to debunk questionable evidence. It helps investigators account for the whereabouts of everyone at the site whose movements may have generated a false positive. This is definitely an important part of an investigation.
Tug Hill Paranormal uses a four camera system with an external hard drive. Each camera is equipped with infrared and, currently, a 60 foot cord. The cameras can be placed on stationary objects or mounted on tripods. During review, footage can be viewed directly on the attached laptop computer, or it can be downloaded to a computer. With this system, approximately 12-15 hours of video footage is gathered at each investigation. We believe that the best way to capture any sort of anomaly on film is to collect hours of information. Events of a possibly paranormal nature tend to be infrequent so 12 hours of video footage has a better chance of capturing an anomaly than one hour of video.