Monday, May 5, 2008

It's that one about ghosthunting... part 1

So a conversation with an old friend who often accompanied me on my ghost hunting trips brought up one of our investigations the other day. I realized that I had forgotten many details of my trips, only because I haven't been active in a ghost hunting group for about two years now. If something was so interesting to me, why would I stop doing it? For one, money. Like everything in the economy, booking a ghost hunting trip became way more expensive. When I first started going with the Midwest Ghost Hunters Society, it was on average $25-$30 a person, depending on where we went. By the time I stopped going, it was $50 average, even $90 for a place or two. Some of you might wonder how I got into this and all I can say is the X-files had a lot to do with it. I've decided that although I've explained much about ghost hunting to some of you, I would tell you some of the basic theories, my thoughts, and even tell the stories of some of the investigations I went on in the next couple blogs, only because I think this subject is interesting to most, whether they believe in ghosts or not.

First some scientific theories and equipment (with the cheaper versions I used) on ghost hunting.

Types of ghosts and haunts:

Active haunt: A haunting where the entity seems to interact with people and the environments, seemingly has a personality.

Residual haunt: A haunting where the entity seems to have no idea that there is anything in its surroundings. This has been compared to a film loop, where the entity lives its life how it did when it was alive. A person can pass through this ghost and not disturb its routine. Popular places for a residual haunt include stairways (because you use them everyday to get from place to another) or forts. (Soldiers that had to do rounds can often leave energy behind that seemingly continue to do those rounds)

Poltergeist: Hollywood's favorite type of haunting, although the most rare by far. Poltergeist are not only an active haunting, but they disturb and sometimes harm people and animals around them. Some ghost hunters don't believe this type of haunting is truly a haunting because in something like 95% of the cases, a young woman starting puberty and dealing with a large amount of stress can be found on these sites. The theory is that some sort of chemical and psychic reaction can mess physically with things in the immediate environment.

Entity: Entities are ghostly figures that have the appearance of a body, shadow, or outline. Sometimes accompanied by fog.

Orb: Unimpressive balls of energy that can't be explained as insects or glares, but move in patterns that suggest they have some intelligence. Most ghost hunters disregard orbs because they don't impress non-believers and the goal of ghost hunting is to convince as many people as possible that ghosts do exist. The theory behind why they are just balls? Ghosts take in energy and are essentially just energy. This is why when ghost hunting many times all the batteries in the equipment will die quickly, or why ghosts seem to attach themselves to certain people. The ghosts are zapping the energy.

Some equipment, the cheap version, and the reason for them:
Camera: Sometimes when the light is just right or the ghost has enough energy you might see the entity with your naked eye, but most the time (in theory) entities exist on a different light wavelength than the human eye can pick up on (like ultraviolet or Xrays) but cameras can catch them. True hunters turn the flash off (unless environment is pitch black) so as not to create reflections that might destroy evidence, and use a fast film speed to catch what they need to. Digital vs film is still up in the air with ghost hunters. While digital cameras catch the same images, the credibility of the evidence comes into question because it is much easier to manipulate digital photography than it is film.

Sound recording: The thought is that ghosts speak on a different sound frequency than the human ear can hear, like a dog whistle. However, tape or digital recorders can pick up sounds and voices. These are called EVPS. (Electronic voice phenomena) The movie White Noise, although a real crapper of a movie, is true to what EVPs can be. Search the internet. You're bound to find hundreds of sights with posted MP3s of captured EVPs, and this is by far the most frightening/exciting part of ghost hunting.

Thermometer: The cold chills running up a persons spine when they encounter an entity isn't all nerves, ghosts usually register far below the environments temperature. (On rare occasions above) A good digital air thermometer is a great tool to help you find where to point the camera.

EMF detector or gauss meter: Both of these devices were built to measure radiation in the air, but soon ghost hunters discovered that there was some validity to their theories that ghosts where energy. These detectors will often (like the thermometer) point you in the direction of possible paranormal activity. For the cheap man, because these can be expensive, you can also use a compass. Since the ghosts are energy, they will affect the needles orientation.

Alright, enough of the science. I just wanted to give everyone a basis for the next couple posts so I don't have to explain the theories over and over again.

The TV shows that have recently come on have done some good and some bad things for ghost hunting. For instance, many more people are hunting, but they come wanting to find something. Thats not a great way to align your brain when trying to prove something exists. These are the type of people that will suggest every little sound and "orb" they find is the missing link. Some of the shows have also brought criticism to ghost hunting. For instance, a show that usually only happens a couple times a year called "Most Haunted Live" is obviously fake. Why do I say this when it appears that they find evidence all the time? Its that exactly. They do a live show only a few times a year and they always end up running into ghosts, books fly off shelves, sounds come from nowhere. There's no way you're going to find evidence on every outing. I went to the Lemp Mansion and brewery, supposedly one of the most haunted places in the midwest, played with a Ouija Board in the very spot one of the Lemps committed suicide, and secluded myself from the rest of the group trying to get something to happen. I spent 6 hours in the mansion, and collected no evidence.

So, starting in the next blog, I will reaccount one of my trips: The Lincoln Theater in Decatur Illinois.