Category Archives: Evidence

Pseudoscience and Paranormal Research

I don’t want to get too deep into this issue at the moment, as I think there will be other article and blog opportunities in the future to explore this more deeply, but I did want to write a quick response to an article I read recently on the Huffington Post that demanded a bit of thought longer than 140 characters.

For the past couple months, I’ve been following the Society for Psychical Research Twitter account, which retweets and shares a number of fascinating articles and stories about all aspects of current ESP research, whether these articles be positive or negative. Today as I was browsing the tweeter, I came across a really interesting article about Pseudoscience and how it corresponds to paranormal research, written by Stafford Betty. Normally, “pseudoscience” is a term thrown around by skeptics to demean research into “paranormal” or anomalous phenomena. And it bothers me to no end. A quick perusal of the wikipedia article about Pseudoscience raises my blood pressure almost immediately.

And so, reading an article that responds to this issue in support of the scientists doing serious research into this issue should make me happy, but unfortunately I have to be the guy who, while agreeing with the premise, disagrees with the justification (which usually means I get to upset everybody!).

The thing about Betty’s article is that he tries to defend paranormal research (again, the scientific work being done in laboratories rather than the ghost hunting work being done in the boob tube) as not being pseudoscience by justifying the validity of the potential for the phenomena to exist, rather than defending the science that’s being done.

Which, on the whole, the article is fine. He begins by pointing out the negative feedback in regards to a cover story about reincarnation research published in Virginia Magazine. (Most of this feedback is deeply biased and despite being promoted in the name of science, is in itself a stain on the true work of science). One such commenter called the work being done “pseudoscience”. Betty then used the rest of his article to briefly defend the topic of research (loosely, consciousness and whether its existence is a causal effect of brain biology or whether it’s something separate entirely), which I think he did well for a non-scholarly editorial defense.

The problem is that he never actually describes how the work being done isn’t a pseudoscience. He just justifies the potential for the phenomena to exist. Which is important. But, not what the article claimed to address in the headline. And, more to the problem at hand, another article pointedly defending paranormal research but missing the mark is more than fodder for the critics and these same science trolls who seek to discredit the research. It doesn’t advance much because most folks who are firmly on one side or the other on the issue don’t see past the neglected argument.

I’m not writing this blog to fill in the blanks, but simply to clarify them. I’m not a scientist, and there have been thousands of experiments executed by well-credentialed scientists over the past century into these more anomalous categories. Each set of experiments can be gauged on its own merit toward whether or not it’s pseudoscience.

To point out these blanks then, I want to first clarify the definition of Pseudoscience, (which I’ve snagged from Wikipedia, despite my frustrations with the rest of the article).

Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.[1] Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.

Now, there are some components of this definition that Betty addresses, primarily the issues of plausibility, which, ultimately, does work toward validating the the work against pseudoscience claims, especially when the commenters are disputing the plausibility of the issue. However, the real argument should be placed in defending the scientific structure of the work being done to validate or invalidate the claims of such anomalous phenomena. Because it is being done. It’s been worked on for a century now by people who know the scientific method, who trained and were educated as highly and deeply as any other scientist in any other field.

If an article is going to be written defending paranormal research against pseudoscientific claims, the real heart of such an article shouldn’t be the continued volleying of argument toward the plausibility of such phenomena (though obviously an interesting discussion, I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s useless against the close-minded). It’s the science that’s going to persuade people. It’s going to be illustrating the process, the breakdowns, the results, the recreations, the predictions, the implications.

The main buzzword in the pseudoscience argument isn’t plausibility (that’s just a buzzword in general), it’s the “scientific method”, a phrase that’s been rather unfortunately muddled for paranormal research in its application on many Ghost Hunting shows, who claim to be following the scientific method, when in reality, they aren’t. That’s undeniably pseudoscience. There are no delicately controlled, recreatable experiments. No predictions. Just lots of theory and multi-variabled experiments. It’s loosely scientific. There’s a basic structure that’s followed and is even respectable toward exploring the plausibility of such phenomena. But it’s not real science, and so falls into that pseudoscientific category.

But real genuine scientists are doing good work. And that work needs to be defended more thoroughly. The articles that need to be written are the ones that explore and break down whether these experiments that are being/have been done are good science. I’ve read dozens of overviews that suggest that yes, these scientists are doing thorough and recreatable work. They are restraining from theorizing and throwing around out-dated terms that carry folk definitions hundreds of years old. And they have results.

The articles that we need to see published on such sites as Huffington Post are the ones that go deeper than just butting heads over plausibility, but the ones that refute each of these other claims, defending the work (not just the theories or phenomena) as very much adhering to the scientific method, as producing strong evidence, as thoroughly tested, and with provable (and proven) claims.

Some experiments might not hold up. Some may very much hold up. But it’s time to move beyond the head-butting and help this well-deserving, genuinely scientific field see a positive light of day.

Karl Pfeiffer is not a scientist, but he’s deeply passionate about paranormal research. He’s the author of the books Hallowtide and Into a Sky Below, Forever. He writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and the Paranormal Pop Culture Blog, and he lectures across America about approaches to the paranormal. He graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Creative Writing and an emphasis on Religious Studies. He leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel and won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, appearing briefly on Ghost Hunters International. He’s also a photographer. 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

How to Photograph a Ghost!

Photography Follow-Up:

Hey guys, I’m back with more vlogs! Sorry it was so long, my camera got stolen, and I got a new one, but then I was busy with summer work and getting the next book out. No excuses!

What I want to do is finish up on the photography topic that I was discussing before the break, and break down the different ways to photograph a potential spirit, and why some may be better than others.

So.

The setup: you’re in a very dark basement that’s said to be haunted, and there’s not much in the way of ambient light for any average camera to pick up at all. How do you best set up the situation to photograph a ghost?

The go-to camera of most experiential investigators?

Cell Phones.

Why they’re good? They’re portable, at-hand, and the images are easy to share and, these days, decent quality. Another less-known reason it’s good? Oftentimes, because the lenses are smaller and cheaper than your average point and shoot or SLR cameras, some cell phone cameras actually see a bit further into the UV light spectrum because they’re not as thoroughly filtered. Hence why lens flare is a little more wacky on a cell phone. If spirits do exist in this smaller, often unseen band, cell phones might be more likely to see them.

The problems with cell phones though, for one, is that they’re usually hand-held. Especially when so many ghost photos are examples of pareidolia, it’s important to take multiple photographs from the exact same position, to rule out anything environmental that you can later compare against. It’s also easier to recreate the shot later for further comparison.

They also need a flash in low-light conditions.

Flashes

And here’s the thing about flashes. The primary problem is that the intense burst of illumination, so close to the camera’s lens, illuminates tons of particulate matter right in your photograph (at odds to off-camera flashes or light sources). So if you have a finger, camera-strap, piece of dust, or bug hanging out in front of the lens, the flash is going to make it look like ectoplasm. Shooting without the flash removes something like 98% of variables otherwise thought to be spirit.

Photoluminescence

But the other problem is that the flash could be harmful to spirits. Photoluminescence is the process of a gas or substance absorbing photons of light and then re-emitting them. This process is a very specific scientific process, so I don’t want to go babbling about a process that could well be irrelevant (like those investigators who try to equate everything spirits do to quantum physics), but if this process happens, and a flash photograph illuminated a spirit, that substance could theoretically re-emit that light back toward the camera, giving you a strange photograph. That said, photoluminescence often fundamentally affects the structure of the substance, and carries the possibility that the spirit (or conscious substance) could be harmed by the emission, losing their substantial form after the photograph and photoluminescence.

UV Radiation

The same goes for exposure to ultra-violet radiation. One theory towards why spirits may be more active at night (as discussed in this vlog), is due to the UV radiation being harmful to a physical, manifested form. The same way that we get sunburned by UV light (our substantial structure is physically damaged by this radiation), perhaps ghosts too are broken down by such exposure. This may well apply to IR as well. We see shadowy figures more rarely walking directly through an IR beam, and more often they’re crouching behind objects, only peeking out.

IR Illumination

In order to penetrate deeply into the room with our night vision cameras, many investigators rig extremely bright IR illuminators beside their cameras. They seem dark to us because we can’t see them, but these lights are veritable spotlights blasting out these rooms. While IR is on the less-harmful end of the spectrum (the wavelengths are longer, and the same way red-light doesn’t hurt our night vision, IR is more gentle as well), in such incredibly bright doses, it still could be hurtful to spirits, or at the least, very intrusive to a spirit’s environment. If someone shone a couple car headlights into your room in the middle of the night, it’s altogether likely you’d duck out of the intensity too, regardless of it giving you a sunburn or not.

Visible Light

Given that the intensity of IR illuminators may be, after the fact, even brighter for the spirits than just keep the lights on, well, why not just keep the lights on? Certainly many investigators have their reasons for investigating in the dark, (which I still explore in this vlog), but it is a valid alternative for ghostly photography, and also minimizes low-light solutions which introduce too many false positives.

But there’s still arguments against such light. It’s very intrusive, often harsh, conflicts with investigators’ EMF equipment, their more subtle sensitivities, and potentially the spirits physical structure (as UV, photon emission, and IR may seem to do as well).

So. We’ve got issue with flash photography, IR illumination, visible lights, how are we supposed to photograph a spirit?

Long Exposure Photography

The immediate alternative is to shoot with a long exposure. Long exposure is automatically applied on the “night-shot” setting of most cameras, and a manual adjustment on most DSLRs. The exposure is adjusted by keeping the shutter open for different amounts of times. If photography is simply burning light onto a sensitive plate, quick bursts of exposure (a fast shutter speed) will capture quick movement as still, but the longer you hold the lens open (slow shutter speeds) the more the image will blur before the photo is over. At night, this can be as long as seconds that the lens will be open, and if the camera is hand-held or if there’s movement in front of the camera, you get motion-blur (which can look like creepy trails of ectoplasm, where in reality the light source seems fixed).

This is how you make cool light-paintings. By running around with a flashlight while your lens is open, you can create cool streaks of light.

1082292_10151776387907810_1374914187_o

The problem here is that, while you make cool streaks of light, it doesn’t also make streaks of shadow. Because the light is, in effect, burning into the sensitive plates, it masks any dark movement because that light is already burned in.

Think of giving yourself a sun-tan tattoo. If you were to drag a heart-shaped cutout across your skin at the beach, you don’t get any kind of design. But if you leave it in one place, you get your tattoo.

670px-Get-a-Tan-Tattoo-Step-6get-a-tattoo-by-just-tanning

Same goes for photography, as we’re also talking about light burning into a source. If you leave your shutter open for thirty seconds at a time and a shadow (or a non-illuminated person) were to walk across the frame, they won’t show up in your photo, the same way that the heart doesn’t show up on your skin if you’re moving it around.

Which is what makes THIS picture recorded by the Ghost Hunters International team at Port Arthur Penitentiary in Tasmania so strange. Shooting thirty-second exposures outside at night, they captured the image of a man walking across the hill. Why that’s weird? Because a silhouette of a person walking, for thirty seconds across a hill, shouldn’t show up at all — even if it were a living person. But the fact that this figure shows up as a perfect, non-transparent shadow, suggests that, though it appears to be striding, did not move for the entire thirty seconds.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 5.16.41 PM

Though this was indeed captured by a team, it should be a pretty rare occurrence, because everything we know about spirits is that they appear to move at normal speeds, and for the most part, it’s very rare to see a spirit in one place for as long as thirty seconds. They often seem to be fleeting. And so, unless they’re bright or producing light, they’re not going to show up very well on a long exposure, even if it gives you a nice bright photo in the dark.

So if exposures and flash photos are out, how are we supposed to take photos? And if IR illumination is out, how do we shoot video?

Great questions.

Low-Lux Cameras

One alternative is to invest in Low-Lux camera equipment, or light-amplifying night vision. Most cheap night vision cameras are so today because they’re essentially using invisible flashlights to light up a room. It’s the expensive stuff that doesn’t illuminate a room, it amplifies what’s already there. Night vision goggles? There are no little IR illuminators on the sides, they’re amplifying the light that’s already there. Consider the difference between these two IR images.

night-vision-pt2-920-32 Ghost_Adventures_-_Season_7_Episode_30_-_Kings_Tavern

Light amplification is great, but it’s also expensive as shit.

Back-Lighting

Your other alternative is back-lighting. Rather than setting up your light right beside your camera, blasting out the room (and, potentially, the spirit), you instead set up your illumination along a back wall in your shot, so that you can see the back of the room, and you have a bright surface to differentiate a shadow or figure moving through your shot, without blasting that figure out with intense, possibly-harmful light.

And the best light to use? Investigators like Barry Fitzgerald suggest that red is the most welcoming for spirits. The same way photographers use red light in dark rooms, because it’s the least intense of the visible light wavelengths. Where UV is very harmful, red is as far as we can get, and doesn’t effect the photographic chemicals. Same goes for our night vision. Red doesn’t  burn into our eyes as badly.

The best way to capture a ghost? Red light, splashed up over a back wall, or light-amplifying equipment. No flash, shutter speeds that aren’t too long, and tripods.

Then, go ahead and see what you might get.

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He now leads the weekend public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, he travels the nation lecturing, and he writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and the Paranormal Pop Culture Blog. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide and the book Into a Sky Below, Forever. He’s also a portrait and landscape photographer based of Fort Collins. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Tagged , , , , ,

UV Light and Spirit Photography (Feat. Barry Fitzgerald)

You’ve done a lot of work with full spectrum photography. A lot of teams are trying to do the same. What are some of the nuances of this kind of photography?

You have to understand that what we’re trying to do is to film into those light frequencies without projecting unnecessary light into those frequencies. So these lights–full spectrum floodlights–they really go against what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to observe phenomena that occurs within those frequencies. So producing UV light starts to break down the manifestation of spirit as it starts to come into this form that we understand. So that light starts to hinder on both sides of what we appreciate as the visual spectrum.

What would you suggest then as an alternative for the floodlights?

The alternative that we’ve been using that’s shown to be successful is a low lux full spectrum video camera. This is something that’s like a security camera, but it runs at sixteen frames per second, so it gets much more light into it and you’re able to see those breakdowns of energy as they collapse in on themselves, and we’ve been able to see some amazing stuff in that low lux range.

Spirit find it easier to manifest in RED light…

So a small amount of red and with a low lux camera capturing a wider range of the EMF spectrum yields greater success in capturing something that truly is of the supernatural realm.

So for folks at home, with money worries, are there any more manageable options available? 

There are alternatives on eBay but you want to make sure you’re going for a generation 3 or 4. They will run you around 300 dollars. Compared to what we have on the market at the moment, which are claiming to be full spectrum, they don’t actually film in low light conditions. You have to use extraneous light, lighting these places up, trying to capture something that will not appear because of the light being used. 16 frames per second can really go down into those low lux areas. When you have a hand held camera converted to full spectrum, it shoots in 35 frames per second, and it needs a lot more light, which doesn’t work in the field.

So in terms of flash photography versus long exposures, pros and cons to both?

You do have pros and cons to both. It’s one of those things, the flash itself can present–if there’s no filter on the flash–it can present the UV that can illuminate the manifestation and bounce back the light to the camera, but of course when that happens, the materialization pulls back altogether and you get a one shot deal. The open shutter uses existing light already there, not being blasted with other light sources, but of course you have the problem as well that on a thirty second exposure, you have something that walks straight through your shot, leaving a blur, so you have no idea what it was. Or you could be lucky enough to get that one solid shot, but those are rare deals.

You’ve only had it happen the one time?

One time.

With the flash, if the physical form is broken down, can they not affect the world? Or only not materialize visually again?

Understanding that materialization and the structures required for a spirit to materialize, you’re able to understand what they can interfere with and at one time. They can pull back in a fully lighted environment but still have the ability to influence. That’s something I wrote about in my book, The Influence. That in itself can be quite a dangerous little subject on its own.

But really it’s practice and getting a good knowledge base behind you and understanding what you’re dealing with.

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, works with investigative teams across Colorado, lectures across America, and leads the public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Tagged , , ,

Turns out ESP has SCIENTIFIC PROOF

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 9.20.38 AM

But Karl. You have no photos in this blog. Your only video is you talking to a camera. Where’s this proof you speak of? Dammit, I’m going back to Facebook.

Unfortunately, that up above is the way too many of us would-be “ghost hunters” do think. We operate under pop definitions of “proof.” Our “proof” is a distillation of a personal experience. We think that because we’ve experienced something (a certain kind of proof in its own right–but not one without its own flaws), that if we can recreate that experience for others, we have proof. Unfortunately, recreation seems to stop at video, audio, and photography.

In the scientific world, “proof” is different. Proof is an experiment, rigidly designed so that it can be recreated by anyone. Proof is a statistical, mathematical reference. It’s an argument based on a series of facts distilled from an experiment. Proof is then presented in scientific journals. When other scientists read them (skeptical or otherwise), they recreate the experiment, and report back in other scientific journals. If the results are consistent enough, this indicates that the scientists are on to something. If the results are consistent for seven decades, there comes a point where the phenomenon is, in a scientific sense, “proven.”

Is there room for error here? Is there room for misinterpretation? Absolutely. It’s in early stages. And problems arise when too much theorizing happens without enough facts. But after several decades of scientific study, scientists familiar with the researchers do confidently say:

ESP HAPPENS. What it is yet, they don’t know. How it works, they don’t know. Further experimentation is required.

So, before giving you an overview of what experiments were done, the reports published, the recreated experiments and the modifications, I wanted to give you an oversight from the scientists (no, really. Real life scientists with degrees and University funding and everything) who have interacted directly with the research from this past century. If you want to read the legitimate “proof”, start here first, and then begin to reference the bibliography.

“Telepathy, for example, had been extensively studied and documented for a century. The work of J.B. Rhine, Rene Warcollier, S.G. Soal, and many others, including the astounding experiment between Harold Sherman and Sir Hubert Wilkins in the Arctic, could leave no doubt about its existence.” -Edgar Mitchell

Psychic research officially began nearly a century ago, in 1882, when the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London. Three years later, the American Society for Psychical Research was organized in the United States.

“The subject of the societies’ concern can be broadly classified as Extrasensory Perception (ESP, psychokinesis (PK), and survival phenomena (theta). Collectively, they are referred to as psi, the twenty-third letter of the Greek alphabet and the first letter in the Greek word for “psyche”, meaning “mind” or “soul.”  -Mitchell

“ESP is a psychic event in which information is transmitted through channels outside the known sensory channels, either in waking consciousness, trance, or dreams.” Mitchell

“PK is a psychic event in which objects or organisms are physically moved or affected without direct contact or use of any known force that would allow a conventional explanation. PK includes teleportation, materialization and de-materialization, levitation, psychic surgery and psychic healing, thought photography, and out of the body projection.

Theta are events due to the agency of supposed discarnate personalities. Theta include the phenomena of mediumship, ghosts and hauntings, apparitions and poltergeists, spirit photography, spirit possession, and reincarnation.” -Mitchell

“There appears to be a continuum along which we may place occult, psychic, paranormal, and mystic phenomena–a continuum of consciousness. But it is not easy to draw lines of demarcation between them.” Mitchell.

I mean, where does one end and the other begin? Are spirits actual spirits, or are they projections of our minds into someone else’s mind? Do spirits manifest by appearing in our brains psychically, accounting for why sometimes only one or a handful of people “see” them? Look at PK versus clairvoyance. Do you know what is about to happen, or do we create it? On the flip side, do we create something happening, or just know what’s going to happen?

Now, on the scientific side,

Mitchell points out that science is made up of two components: objectivity and materialism. Objectivity being that the human being should have no necessary relationship with the world around it. Materialism in that everything fundamental to science is made up of matter.

So, according to Mitchell:

“Psychic research is leading to an extraordinarily challenging conclusion: science’s basic image of man and the universe must be revised… Science will have to divest itself not only of some deeply cherished “facts” but also of its philosophic foundations — the whole intellectual outlook upon which our present civilization is based.”

This isn’t an attack on science. It’s not a revolution, it’s a revelation. This IS science. Science is constantly updating to new facts, new realizations. This one has been pushed to the side for long enough because it doesn’t fit the framework. As soon as it becomes credible, we may see a shift more radical than any discovery in the past couple hundred years.

“The only possible bias for rejecting the evidence of psychic research is prejudice and diehard stubbornness born of insecurity.” -Mitchell

S.G. Soal of London University writes:

“It would be interesting to meet the psychiatrist or psychologist who has perused every page of the 49 volumes of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, and who remains a skeptic. It is no coincidence that those most skeptical of ESP research are almost invariable those who are the least acquainted with the facts.”

H.J. Eysenck, head of the Department of Psychology at Maudsley Hosptial in London, answers the charge of fraud like this:

“Unless there is a gigantic conspiracy involving 30 University departments all over the world, and several hundred highly respected scientists in various fields, many of them originally hostile to the claims of the psychic researchers, the only conclusion the unbiased observer can come to must be that there are people who obtain knowledge existing either in other people’s minds, or in the outer world, by means yet unknown to science.”

Dr. Montague Ullman of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY:

“If the only answer to the vast amount of solid experimental evidence is incompetence or fraud on a global scale by men with credentials equal to those of their scientific peers, working in academic surroundings, and whose work extends historically in time over at least three generations, then the adherents of this position would seem to have adopted a stance that is even more difficult to defend than the psi hypothesis. In fact, it would seem to represent a last ditch stand–in short, the bankruptcy of the critical effort.”

New Scientist Magazine did a questionaire on parapsychology in 1973. It’s first conclusion reported that

“parapsychology is clearly counted as being exceedingly interesting and relevant by a very large number of today’s working scientists.”

25% of the respondents held ESP to be an established fact, with another 42% declaring it a likely possibility.

“This positive attitude was based, in about 40% of the sample, on reading reports in scientific books and journals. Moreso came from a majority whose convictions arose from personal experience. There was a strong undercurrent among respondents that too much time was being spent proving the existence of ESP, when the real need was to “get on with finding out how it works.”

By that same note, Gerald Feinberg points out:

“I believe it would be appropriate for researchers to emphasize detailed studied of psychic phenomena rather than to concentrate on further efforts whose primary purpose is to convince others that the phenomena exists.”

This Advice is good for paranormal researchers too. Stop trying to “prove it”, start trying to figure out what is going on.

As you try to figure out what’s going on, you might just stumble across some real science on your way.

As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Tagged , , , ,

Ghosts and Flares and Mists and Photos

Following last week’s blog about Orbs and photography, I want to use this week to talk some about other issues in photography, primarily camera flares, mists, and the importance of paying attention.

So what is a lens flare?

Most of you guys are familiar with lens flares if you’ve seen the movie Star Trek by JJ Abrams. It’s called “anamorphic lens flare” because it’s a lens flare on an anamorphic wide screen lens, so it’s very wide and very dramatic. He uses it because he loves this idea of the future being so bright that the light can’t be contained outside of the lens.

Lens flare though is when your camera is set up and you have a really bright light source either in the shot, or just outside of it. The light then strikes your camera lens and it’s redirected into your camera, giving you glare and often illuminating odd-looking artifacts.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 1.25.29 PMIf it’s off the side of your shot, you will see evidence of this object in the photo even if the object is not in your shot.

You might sometimes get dusty looking elements, a washed out effect, and sometimes a mirroring of the lens, in which you see curves and orb-like shapes.

The first thing you want to do then if you get one of these bright glowing oddly-shaped objects, is to look for bright objects just off to the side of the shot. Lens flare is not always a crazy disruptive streak of light. Sometimes it’s only a  haze, bad contrast, or strange orb anomalies.

CCTV_Lens_flare

What else shows up in pictures aside from flares?

Mists. And the easiest way to experience a false mist is to be taking pictures outside in the winter. You’ll be holding your camera in front of your face, or near your face, and your breath is illuminated in the flash.

Most people claim to not remember seeing their breath while taking pictures. Which can be true. Normally we don’t look immediately in front of our cameras when using a flash, and the flash can sometimes illuminate vapors more brightly than whatever ambient lighting is around at the time (the way that afternoon sun illuminates the dust floating through your living room).

It’s important to also remember that seeing your breath does not necessarily only occur in freezing temperatures. Sometimes, with the help of additional environmental factors, it can appear on a humid day with temperatures as high as forty or fifty degrees. Cold is important because what you’re seeing is condensation of water vapor as you breathe out. If it’s cold enough, it turns the vapor into a more dense form, and you see breath.

But this segues into the third part, which is observation.

This is a hard topic to discuss with people who are enthusiastic about their ghost photo. Why?

Because everyone thinks that they’re very observant.

I see a fair amount of photos that people have taken with figures in the background. Oftentimes this is from my stomping grounds, the Stanley Hotel, in which folks on a tour will capture of a photo of something eerie.

My problem is that I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how controlled the situation was. I don’t know for sure if that room was indeed locked down and if the photographer was as alone as they thought they were. Without a video setup or having been there myself, it’s too hard to make that call.

Oftentimes though this is seen in reflections. Most people will be taking a picture of a shiny surface and later find a figure in the background of the reflection. What’s challenging here is that most times, you don’t pay attention to what’s in the reflection itself. You pay attention to what’s in the space between you and the reflecting surface.

But think too about the time it takes to snap three photos, the delay between each photo, and then the time it takes before you study the photo. By the time most people have found a strange figure, zoomed in, and realized it is significant, when they look up again, if that person who was in the photo was on the move, often times they’re gone. Mysteriously vanishing.

And further still, we think observation and experience is the best form of evidence. However, what’s interesting is that it’s actually  not.

I worked for the cops for a couple years in their explorer program, and we studied this idea about the unreliability of witness testimony. In fact, if you want to run the same experiment that we did, put a bunch of friends in a room together. Have one person walk into your group and say something to you briefly. Then, after they go, give a few minutes delay, and ask everyone in the room to (first without talking) record what they remember the person to be wearing and what the person looked like. Emphasis on colors of clothes, hair cut, types of clothes.

It’s incredible the amount of radically different answers you will get.

In fact, it’s interesting to consider how unreliable this testimony is in court, despite how high we hold it qualitatively.

Look even at some of your childhood memories. Compare them to old photos.

Try this.

So be as observant as possible if you’re trying to actually capture a ghost. Such “evidence” should not be presented lightly. And it shouldn’t be acquired lightly either.

That’s all I got this week! Thoughts? Leave them in the comments down below, AND, as always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Tagged , , ,

CRAZY GHOST PHOTOGRAPHY!

First of all, what are orbs? Orbs are theorized to be concentrated pinpoints of energy that have manifested intensely enough to present as a small ball of light, or as a small pocket of matter.

Often confused, orbs are not evidence of–nor even indicative of paranormal activity. Energy orbs are just that, balls of energy floating around in the air.

Scientists have been concerned with balls of energy for many years now, including ball lighting–which is a phenomena naturally occurring but so rare that scientists have a hard time studying it. They’ve managed to reproduce the phenomena in a laboratory, but whether or not the process is anything similar to what happens in nature is still a mystery.

However, some people believe that in the same way that we track anomalous and often-times communicative sources of “energy” on a ghost hunt, these balls of energy may well have something to do with ghostly activity.

But if we’re gonna talk about orbs, we first need to break down some photography.

First of all, DEPTH OF FIELD. What is it? Depth of field is the depth that your camera keeps objects in focus.

This varies depending on the lens. A narrow depth of field creates very blurry backgrounds, where the object in focus is only a very shallow part of the image.

300348456

With a deep depth of field, objects in the foreground are mostly in focus, while objects in the far background are also mostly in focus.

Also FLASH. Okay, we all know what a flash is: an intense burst of light from your camera to illuminate the room. But also keep in mind that holding a flashlight or other bright light source (including those invisible to the naked eye, like IR illuminators) are all in essence the same thing.

Now, the common explanation in paranormal research is that supposed “orbs” that appear on camera are actually dust particles. The dust is illuminated by the flash on your camera, and then, because your camera has focused on something deeper in the frame, farther away, the dust that is close to your camera lens is out of focus, forming a pretty sphere.

Consider this video here, in which out of focus lights turn to pretty, perfect circles with sometimes strange little squiggles or swirls inside.

These little squiggles are the product of the out of focus object. Play with the focus on your cameras. This very easily becomes the MATRIXING effect, also called PAREIDOLIA. Our human brain is trained to recognize facial features as part of our psychological development. So when you think you see a face because you’re zoomed in to the pixels, it’s not a ghost. The “orb” is a perfect sphere because it’s out of focus. Even if that was a spirit manifesting, they’re not going to manifest so that the more out of focus your camera is, the more in focus they are. If the “orb” was far enough away that your camera could focus on it AND see a face within it, everyone in the room would be aware of that orb.

The key is also this: Most orbs, if they are self-contained energy, would be characterized by their PRODUCTION of light, and the brightest point would be the center, radiating light OUTWARD, and in best case scenarios, casting that light onto another nearby object.

Most dust particles captured in photography are REFLECTING light. You can clearly see an outer edge is illuminated, or the orb is for the most part simply transparent.

House_Dust_Orbs

This is oftentimes witnessed on video camera too. Video usually utilizes a powerful light source, the IR light, that investigators use often. Think of it as a constant flash. Anything drifts in front of the lens, you have an orb. Often because this light is so powerful and direct in an otherwise dark room, insects and floating particulates, when they hit the light beam, are brightly illuminated, and move in odd patterns.

Sometimes they’re close enough to the camera to see wings. Sometimes they’re far and small enough they seem only like a small dot.

Why are they sometimes in colors? I was told that if they were purple, it’s my uncle. Oftentimes, the flash illuminates the room and bounces off the dust particle. If the particle looks red, it’s usually because there was something red in the room that the flash bounced from, and this is what illuminated the dust.

This can also be due to water particles, insects, and dust. All of which are around us constantly. If you show me a picture of an orb from a dusty tunnel, old attic, or outside during a snowstorm, I’m obviously going to rule it out.

If you show me an orb from anywhere else, let’s face it, I’m gonna rule that out too. Dust is everywhere.

HOWEVER. Let’s play some devil’s advocate here.

Orb’s DO seem to be a recurring phenomena. I’ve seen then with my own eyes in a dark room. Often they seem to be a trick of my eyes, those semi-supernova-esque type appearances that oddly enough are often validated by other people in the room. I’ve seen them under chairs, near people’s bodies, floating by the ceiling and along the floor.

I’ve never seen one photographed.

However, there is something to be said too for the idea that if a spirit concentrates its manifestation to an individual point, perhaps it can come through as MATTER in a very tiny space. In which case, wouldn’t it look just like a dust orb on camera?

Certainly so. If that’s what’s happening, if matter is actually forming before your camera, close enough to the lens to be out of focus and illuminated by the flash, maybe it is indeed a ghost. My problem is that if it in all likelihood is a piece of dust or moisture or bug(which are all EVERYWHERE), what are the chances you’ve captured proof positive of a ghost?

Cropped_Chromatic_aberration_with_cats_eye_effect

In my opinion? Slim. Very slim.

Other ways to try to capture orbs then would be such:

Set up an experiment in which you put two cameras a few feet from each other, on tripods. Using the flash on both, and rigging a remote to set both off at the same time, an orb should appear in both of the photos if it is indeed deeper in the room.

However, this also supplies problems. In a dusty room, you might get two separate orbs in the photos. So, I’d trust using an SLR camera with no flash or bright light source close to the camera, and a lens hood.

If you get an orb in one of those photos, check to see if it seems to be producing light or reflecting light. If reflecting, where is it coming from?

But that’s all I’ve got this week. Disagree? Agree? Let me know more down in the comment section down below!

As always,

My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Tagged , , ,

Flashlight Technique: Friend or Foe?

Last week I talked with you guys about K2 meters and the rule of five. This week I want to piggyback off of that and talk to about similar pitfalls with the flashlight technique.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out last week’s video, you can click right HERE to visit the video.

I want to break this vlog down into parts like last week. This week it’s FOUR PARTS.

Part ONE: How the flashlight technique works, if you don’t know.

You’ve probably seen it on all the ghost shows if you’re not an investigator, so I want to give you some background. Now, when the flashlight turns on during these investigations, it’s not turning on purely on its own. The flashlight is set up to encourage this happening. The flashlight technique is NOT just setting up a flashlight and hoping it turns itself fully on. That happens very rarely on cases and is usually completely unexpected.

What you do is you take one of these small maglight flashlights with the twist-on caps, and you turn it so that it’s just barely off. A good rule of thumb is to then tap on the flashlight to ensure it’s not too delicate. (Some investigators will tell you that it’s best practice to play with the flashlight at home and make markings on the cap and the body to ensure you have the most reliable position every time. Which is good advice, Marty).

Now the theory is that spirits can either twist the cap ever so slightly to get it to turn on, or, more likely as it seems to me, they can somehow complete that connection inside that’s already almost barely completed.

Which leads into Part TWO: Why this is important.

Some people will say that with these flashlights, they’ve called the company and if the light is off it’s off, and there is no in-between. This is inaccurate. I’ve seen these flashlights turn themselves on from this delicate position more times than I can count. Whether it’s because of a static buildup or a kind of heating up and cooling down of the parts involved, sometimes these flashlights will turn on, then turn off a number of seconds later. Usually they’ll go thirty seconds or a minute or two in between turning on each time, and often they’ll continue to do this for any period of time between ten minutes or an hour.

This is why, point THREE, we use more than one flashlight at a time. This way, we can so direct the spirit to turn on specific flashlights. When consistency is gained, you can trust better that it’s beyond coincidence.

If one flashlight should turn on, I like to first see if the spirit can turn on the other two flashlights. Best case scenario, the flashlights are set up in a way that if a spirit can turn one on, you’d think that the spirit could also turn the other two on.

Once all three have turned on, you can direct the spirit to individual flashlights. Like say “turn the blue one on, now the red one, now the gray one. Okay now the gray one again.” And if you can specify an order with a bit of a twist, the odds of that happening on chance begin to drop significantly.

I had the mis/fortune of getting perfect interaction exactly like this the very first time I used the flashlight technique with three flashlights.

I was at the Stanley Hotel last spring, filming with the AdventureMyths team. It was around three in the afternoon in the Billiards room. The team was setting up lighting for an interview and I’d just purchased my three flashlights. So I was trying them out with a couple friends while waiting.

For the next fifteen or twenty minutes, we were receiving perfect on command interaction, well beyond coincidence. (Video of some of the interaction is embedded in the vlog)

But, point FOUR, I want to again reference last week’s rule of five.

If you’re speaking to just one flashlight and not double checking your answers constantly, it’s going to be very difficult to trust the interaction. Because these flashlights DO go on and off on their own, you could build a whole interaction with a single flashlight that is not genuine.

Always hold the spirit to at least two flashlights, and if you do only have one or two, keep the questions very specific and double check.

“Are you a man?” Yes. “Are you a woman?” No. “So you’re a man.” yes.

Now again, keep in mind to be understanding of the spirit. Asking the same question multiple times can be annoying, so be sure that the spirit knows you’re not just making it jump through hoops, but it’s a validation process to help be sure.

Again too, this isn’t exact. We don’t know if it’s very hard for a spirit to jump so quickly between flashlights. We don’t know if on many nights only one flashlight is in a position that a spirit can use it. Or if it’s very hard for a spirit to expend energy this way to multiple lights.

But because we’ve seen it happen in perfect communication before, we need relatively perfect communication again if we’re to trust not only the phenomena, but the information then gleaned from it.

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found atwww.KarlPfeiffer.com

Talking to a Dishwasher With a K2 Meter!

Today I want to talk to you guys about K2 meters and the Rule of Five. Odds are you’ve probably heard of a K2 meter, but you haven’t heard of the Rule of Five (Probably because I made up the Rule of Five, but I’ll get to that in a second).

First the K2 Meter, ghost hunting device, electrician’s tool. It measures EMF.

Scientists would like to say that if you’re going to measure EMF on an investigation, you have to know your sources, think critically about it, and get down to the heart of what’s actually sending out that signal.

I like to say that if you’re getting responses for twenty minutes in perfect answer to your questions, you’re probably not talking to a stray signal from a washing machine. (Unless of course it’s a really smart washing machine, which would be paranormal in its own right, but not quite what we’re looking for).

But this opens up problems between the Experiential Investigator (the person just doing it to have an experience of the paranormal) and the Scientific Investigator (the person writing a proof, or trying to understand what’s happening empirically).

Quick secret, you don’t have to be a “scientific investigator” to do a paranormal investigation.

Quick secret about the secret, you should probably learn as much as you possibly can about the subject anyway.

Which is why I’m doing this vlog right now. We have a huge trend right now in experiential investigators. We have to educate ourselves. I’ve seen way too many people go through the Stanley Hotel believing every little thing is a spirit. (Which isn’t to say that I blame them, most have never done this before, but there is a trend in that SO many people now are joining teams, creating teams, and investigating as a hobby EVERYWHERE, that we need to cover our basics).

So, speaking about the K2, we need to cover the device and this idea of  justified “perfect answers to your questions” as an acceptable substitute for “scientifically investigating.”

So the rest of this will come at you in five points.

Point ONE: If you don’t already know, some people theorize that as a spirit manifests, it produces EMF at the frequency that a K2 registers, or they can take this EMF from somewhere else, and reproduce it to communicate back and forth.

But, point TWO: Just because your K2 is going off, doesn’t mean it’s a ghost.

Which leads to point THREE: K2 meters are set off by EVERYTHING. Cell phones. Wireless signals. Walkie talkies. GPS. All of these communication signals that we have around us all the time, K2 meters pick up on those.

Point FOUR: The Rule of Five. Storytime. So I’m sitting up at the Stanley Hotel a number of months ago, we’re sitting in Lucy’s room with a group of about fifteen people, and the K2 meter starts going off. Now it’s going off a little different than normally. It flickers eight times in succession, then pauses for twenty or thirty seconds before going off eight times again.

Now I’m thinking mechanical. My gut instinct as a technical investigator, if it’s that repetitive, it’s probably mechanical.

Meanwhile, I start timing the intervals in my head, then with my iphone, and about the time I realize for sure that there’s twenty or thirty seconds between each flicker, I decide to write it off. But in the time it took me to do this, the group had already built up a whole story. Which isn’t hard to do.

By getting “yes” confirmations at every twenty seconds, you can build a conversation. Are you a woman? No. Are you a man? Yes. Okay. Are you a spirit from the Stanley Hotel with us? No. Are you the spirit of someone in this room with us right now? Yes.

What I’ve seen from enough instances like this though, is that the spirit stops making sense around four or five questions.

Why?

Because for one, it’s not a spirit. But for two, it’s because you’ve built up enough of a specific story that you start to expect answers around then, and then it stops giving you the answers that you want. You start asking more, targeted questions that you’re expecting a “yes” answer to, and less questions you’re expecting a “no” answer to. So you’d expect that the frequency of the “yes” answers would increase, but it doesn’t, because it’s on a specific, twenty to thirty second signal.

So point FIVE, ask good critical questions. Ask the same questions in a different way twice and hold the spirit very accountable for those answers.

Now, is this a hard and fast rule? No. Maybe the spirit takes a little extra time to rebuild their energy again before they answer you again so quickly. Maybe it takes them some time to get their bearings back before answering the second question. Maybe they can only answer five questions before losing their energy and maybe it’s really hard for them to come through on one of these devices.

But because information is so crucial in this field right now, and people think we’re crazy enough already, we have to be as specific as possible.

Now, unfortunately for the spirits, this could get a little bit annoying, but as is the nature of the beast, we have to hold these spirits to a standard that we can get this “evidence” as specific and sure as possible.

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

Taking a brief aside from all the Hallowtide publicity, I thought I’d post my answer to an interesting email I got last night.

This group [I might join] in particular uses a lot of different equipment, but seems to focus a lot on dowsing or divining rods. I was just curious to get your take on dowsing rods and whether or not you’ve used them.

-Karen

I have been around dowsing rods a fair amount these past few months. I’m still very skeptical about them, but they seem to be onto something just the same. The critical side of me points out that they’re incredibly easy to manipulate, consciously or not. I think that as people try to hold their hands steady, they’re not nearly as steady as they think. They never move for me. On the other hand, I could very well be working against any “spiritual energy” in my effort to try and stay as steady as possible, and causing the opposite effect.

But they have seemed to provide some pretty accurate information for those that use them. And I’ve heard many times that when they do cross, the pull is *significant* and stands against any natural drift. Whichever is the case, I’m most compelled by good evidence, which is to say employing double blind techniques. Assuming the spirits can manipulate two sets at the same time, have investigators sit back to back and see if responses align. Or have one investigator wait out of earshot and then bring them in and ask the questions a second time. (Just make sure the spirits know what you’re up to and don’t get annoyed at the hassel. They’re people too!)

(There’s also that idea that spirits might have to get very intimate with your own energy to use them, so be sure to keep yourself protected just in case).

No matter how much I trust an investigator, I’ve still got too much doubt in one set of responses alone. And I’m always for validation. But definitely go for it! They certainly seem to be an interesting tool when used critically. Good luck!

Dowsing Rods: Friend or Foe?

A Warning

Scientism is this belief that any and all information, facts, and phenomena are ultimately reducible and can be expressed in the form of science. And, closely related, anything which is not reducible to physics, chemistry, or biological investigation, is not a legitimate area of pursuit. Science does not equal scientism. 

The field of the paranormal, at least as far as ghosts are concerned, inherently deals with this realm we call the spiritual, in which spirits exist, sometimes detected but often undetected by human beings.

The question is then whether this spiritual realm can be documented by science, or whether it follows the path of mysticism and exists by definition beyond the realms of physical experience. The question is whether what we experience as paranormal phenomena (moving objects, voices, apparitions) are themselves spirits appearing, or are manifesting from a spiritual realm into this physical realm.

If the latter is the case, then our science can only go so far, can only measure the manifestation, and never reach the source itself.

But if indeed we, as human beings, carry some kind of soul or connection to the spiritual, then it’s through spiritual pursuit that will get us closer to the source, these entities that we pursue.

Which isn’t then to say we should stop pursuing science. Science will lead us to new discoveries, we’ll push at that edge of the veil, we’ll be able to find proof of the manifestation.

But we should stop the scientism.

We should stop condemning people for going on investigations for personal enjoyment, for trying devices that have no real “scientific” value (or even sense), for not using a row of technical devices connected to computers. Stop all the bickering and stay open minded. And smart.