Matthew Didier - April 2001
For about the first two years of the GHRS, we really chomped at the bit to get an EMF detector... Yup, we wanted to sus out those magical ghostly electromagnetic fields because as we all know, obviously, ghosts produce EM fields a-plenty! "Who said that ghosts produce EM fields?"
Well, leave it to me to say AFTER purchasing one in 1999 (NOT from a 'ghost site' but from Efston Science)...
Then, after multiple "runnings about" with our acquisition, I started to realise that indeed, as far as we could tell so far, there was no correlation to ambient, non-ghostly control EMF readings then there were in 'haunted' places and, add to that, we actually had 'ghostly phenomena' happen and again, no magic EM reading jumps.
As stated ad infinitum here, TVs, microwave ovens, radios, computer monitors, fluorescent lights and many other things sure do register EM readings that are off the scale but did ghosts???
So, I started doing my homework...
It seems that the origin of electromagnetic Fields (a theory suggested by Michael Faraday in the 1830's and proven, more or less, by James Clerk Maxwell in the latter nineteenth century) and the paranormal come not from ghostly origins but from UFOlogy. Bernard Newman's "The Flying Saucer" (1950) put forward that electromagnetic energy would be a good idea to propel saucers. The human brain also has it's own emissions of extra-low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves at a frequency between 1 and 30 hertz but then again, so does the planet Earth as a whole.
UFO Researcher Paul Devereux put forward that playing with the brain's EM fields would cause one to hallucinate and therefore make the person see all kinds of nifty things.
Adding to this, Dr. Michael A. Persinger has done a whammo job of lab studying folks and subjecting them to high EM levels and indeed, they did hallucinate.
Update: January 2003 I've just found out that the same experiments that Dr. Persinger completed and proved were successfully repeated by the more neutral Project Hessdalen (Erland Strands work within Østfold University College in Norway) a year back. Therefore, a "sceptic" and a more "pro-paranormal" set of investigations has seen a correlation between electromagnetic energy on the brain's temporal lobe and hallucinations of a 'negative' type. Just FYI...
Then again, using these theories would show that everyone living in spitting distance of hydro lines or "cancer clusters" as they are known should be literally up to their armpits in ghosts and aliens... granted, only the hallucinatory type and to the best of our knowledge, they aren't. Also, I point out that if I locked you in a lab and suddenly bombarded you with high EM and started watching you, after a time, I'm sure you'd start reacting and I bet it wouldn't be positive.
A few people have put forward the concept (with hauntings) that EMF must play some factor as lights, televisions, phones and a plethora of electrical equipment CAN be affected. I capitalize "CAN" as our data says that this is not always the case and mysterious lights going on and off as well as TVs and sundry items make up less than 25% of our submissions. Also, the majority of these cases revolve around a single light or TV or whatever and not a room full which means a massive EM flux (like that out of a Tesla coil) is not really a possibility. And as far as explaining these events without using EMF, physical energy (ie: The item was physically turned on or off) and generic AC/DC power surge could also explain this.
So where did the concept of EMF = Ghostly Activity spur from?
Well, other than CSICOP and like "so-called-sceptical" groups using Dr. Persinger's work to say we're all hallucinating, it seems that the REAL first account comes from the 1970's movie "The Legend of Hell House" in which a scientific researcher vows he can clear a haunted mansion by the use of this enormous machine he has set up that he says will send out an electromagnetic pulse through the home thus clearing the ghost.
Well, this wasn't terribly satisfactory so off to some fellow ghost researcher's websites. Sure, they had EMF data that seemed to show some indication of 'hauntings = high EMF readings" but when I asked for what the controls were, none seemed to be used.
So, assuming we do continue with EMF reading, how does one say there was an EMF jump when they didn't take a full set of control readings?
Next, I asked if there was any normal things that could occur to account for the elevated EMF readings. This, most of them, didn't know. Things like forced air vents, equipment that could be a few rooms away (but within spitting distance) being switched on, radios and or television monitors and the like. Again, not many answers were forthcoming.
Well, maybe the 'professional' ghost-hunters on TV could help! Well, certainly, they all had EMF equipment and all got nifty readings and they all pretty much waved their EMF detectors willy-nilly without taking "standing" readings. This is BAD as how do you know you're own movements aren't creating false readings? How do you know that you haven't passed near a power line of some sort? Again, what were the control readings???
On a recent television show, the researchers got all excited about heavy levels of increased EMF readings on a site and followed them to a door to discover the site's circuit breaker panel behind it. All caught on camera and happily shown on TV with the researchers going "Whoops!"
In one book on a scientific look at poltergeist activity we recently acquired, we noted that the researchers used the poor (read: smart) man's EMF detector on their assignments... a compass. They also said that they witnessed (and believe in) poltergeist activity in action and the compass was totally unaffected.
In Niagara Falls, Sue and I were waiting at the "Floral Clock" for a shuttle bus to Niagara-on-the-Lake. While there, I whipped out the old EMF detector and took readings. No, it's not that the Floral Clock is a known haunt BUT it is right next to Sir Adam Beck Power Generation Stations A and B and there's a "cancer cluster" right above the site. Literally, moving less than a few feet in either direction with these cables between 30 and 50 feet above our heads, I got spikes of 3 to 6 full points and then down to regular readings! Was the Floral Clock smothered with ghosts? No, not that we could tell. Were all the tourists there hallucinating? Well, they could have been but if they were, they were VERY quiet about it.
Update: January 2005 In regards to Dr. Persinger's work... scientists from Uppsala and Lund universities in Sweden are calling into question how his experiments were set up and therefore questioning the results. Their study involving identical magnetic field equipment produced no such relationship. They feel a "double-blind" experiment (with proper controls) was not carried out and therefore, Dr. Persinger's work may be questionable.
Hopefully, soon, maybe by going through my collection of old Harry Price notes I'll find out WHEN and WHO first got us all running about with our gizmos... I really want to know if we're all desperately trying to justify someone else's hypothesis with some folks taking the hypothesis as fact without proper study.
So, seeing all this and wishing to test the theory, one has to ask, HOW do you get a stable reading?
My only answer is to keep it still, take a CAREFUL reading over a few seconds from a central point. Then, match that to readings over a course of time watching all electrical items in use and for other things that may interfere with the device. This may be very difficult.
Then, and only then would you be able to correlate EM Fields and ghosts IF something ghostly happened and your readings varied heavily.
We are currently running a series of experiments with our EMF detectors which for various reasons, I don't wish to publish right now, but hopefully it will finally be some hard data on the whole "Ghosts = EMF" routine.
I don't think we're all being duped but I do think one person a long time ago said "Hey, I bet ghosts give off a wicked EM Field!" and sadly, we all went "Cool! Let's look for ghosts using EMF Detectors!" and no one... until now... said "Wait a tic... why?"
Are there any studies, any experiments, any controlled EMF experiments on ghosts??? Honestly, not that we've found yet.
So, if you're going to start your own research, remember, a compass will do the trick detecting EM Fields and the EMF detector we bought (from a science store, not a 'ghost' outfitter) was under $50 Canadian and when compared to a $200+ item, it did the same job to a fraction of a single millihertz.
So, don't blow money needlessly and above all, don't assume that just because a whack of people say something is "so" makes it that way.
To use an argument paranormal researchers often use against themselves, many people assumed the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the Earth...
Save your money, make sure your readings are controlled and documented and remember, maybe you'll prove to me that EMF = Ghosts... or maybe prove to yourself, EMF does not equal Ghosts.