Paranormal Investigation in New Zealand Part Three

26 07 2008

In part three of this three part series that examines paranormal investigation groups, Christiaan checks out some of the instruments used to detect the paranormal.

Now having read the first two articles you may have at this point dismissed some of my rationalisations of the ghost hunters claims. Why? Because these investigation groups use all of these scientific instruments like EMF detecters, infrared cameras and temperature gauges (and in the case of Christchurch’s Spooks Paranormal Investigations – dowsing) to detect ghosts don’t they?

There does appear to be variability between the different groups in the emphasis placed upon instruments in the detection of the paranormal. Brad Scott at the Wellington Based NZ Paranormal has stressed that his investigations do not rely upon instruments, whereas looking at the Spooks Paranormal Investigations videos, they do appear to place some importance on their use.

What is it that these instruments do? What do they measure? And how does this relate to ghosts? Lets look at some of the more popular instruments:

Night vision cameras are often employed at various locations around the premise in question. Active infrared cameras are the most likely cameras to be used, probably because they are the cheaper (NZ$125 – $350) compared with thermal imaging cameras (NZ$400 – $1000’s). Active infrared cameras have near infrared lights fixed to them, so they illuminate the vicinity of the camera in infrared spectrum rather than actually detecting warm and cold areas of the room, which is what a thermal imaging camera does. With this in mind it would probably serve the investigator no better if they were to invest in a normal camera with a light attached to it. What they appear to assume is that a ghost may not be detected in the visible light spectrum, but it can be detected in the near infrared spectrum. Why is this when traditionally ghost photos have been taken using normal cameras? There is also often an assumption that ghosts effect the temperature, so if paranormal investigators are operating under this hypothesis then a thermal imaging camera would be more appropriate.

Thermometers (Both laser and local). As previously seen in the Spooks video, they used infrared thermometers to measure the temperature to look for hot and cold spots that may indicate the presence of a ghost. Once again the issue arises that there is no scientific link between temperature and spirits. Furthermore, every time they take a measurement with one of these devices they are measuring the temperature of what ever they are pointing at, which in most cases would be the walls. The thermometers cannot measure the ambient air temperature. If there happened to be hot water pipes running behind a wall, or the other side of the room contained a wall that was heated, or if the house was cooling from the days warmth, there is going to be variation in the various surface temperatures in different parts of the buildings. With that in mind if you are constantly moving and pointing a thermometer at different parts of the room the reading will be variable. This in turn could be misinterpreted as evidence of the paranormal.

EMF meters are often seen being waved around a haunted location. Once again there is no scientific evidence to suggest that ghosts will emit or interfere with electromagnetic fields. Most EMF meters on the market are designed to measure in the 50/60Hz range as this is usually the range of mains electricity, although due to the unsupported fear of electromagnetic radiation causing cancer a range of meters are on the market. Spooks appear to use a product called ‘Cell Sensor’ which is an EMF meter that can measure a wide range of electromagnetic radiation and for added effect it has a red light and beep that is reminiscent of a Geiger counter from the movies. However, there are a vast range of electrical products that may emit electromagnetic fields and you are likely to detect a phenomena such as a ‘ghost’ kettle (or in the case of paranormal investigators a ghost infrared camera). A range of sources would need to be eliminated before you could then conclude that there was a field from an unknown origin – but then it would just be that – a field of an unknown origin. You could not then conclude it was a ghost. If one believes that the soul/spirit/ghost emits electromagnetic fields, then taken to its logical conclusion, if you were to agree that a soul was contained in a person when they were alive that subsequently became a ghost, then paranormal investigators could try to detect their own soul with an EMF meter. Would it be possible to differentiate between the small EMF field that the body emits and the soul that is floating around inside? If ghost hunters were looking for one way to provide evidence to validate the claim that paranormal entities emit EMF’s then that could be a hypothesis worth testing.

Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP’s) are often touted as evidence for the supernatural and paranormal investigators are no stranger to their detection. Only a tape recorder is required. This subject is lengthy and complicated due to the multiple environmental, psychological, and perceptive variables involved. But simply the most likely explanation of EVP’s is auditory pareidolia, which is where the brain incorrectly interprets random patterns as having being a familiar pattern , or apophenia, which is the brains tendency to find meaning in random patterns. To demonstrate the brains ability to make meaningful representations out of random patterns listen to this sine-wave speech (make sure that you listen to this one first!):

Click me first (Requires Quicktime)

What did it say? If you have not heard it before it probably sounded like a whole lot of random noises.

The following is the original speech prior to it being degraded:

Click me second (Requires Quicktime)

Now go back and listen to the first recording again. It just seems so clear now doesn’t it? (For more examples check out this Sine-Wave speech website and this website). Research into sine-wave speech has found that the more a person is exposed to it, the better they get at identifying the voices. A paranormal investigator who spends hours listening to the static and background noise of their audio recordings are unconsciously training themselves to improve their ability to construct meaning out of random noise. They in turn can then isolate these random noises and then communicate the meaning to another person who will immediately ‘hear’ the voice.

The general theme of these instruments is that the underlying assumptions for their usefulness are not particularly compelling. Even if one was to accept that there were spirits or energies that existed after death, none of these instruments have a scientific basis for their efficacy.

Discussion:

People all over the world believe that their homes are haunted or subject to paranormal influences. They often do seek explanations for the phenomena that they experience, so to just write off paranormal investigation groups is not a constructive approach. However, like any field there is always room for improvement based upon constructive criticism. So how could such groups improve the robustness of their investigations?

An open mind is important and one should start at the position of not knowing what has caused the phenomenon rather than going in as believing the location is haunted or being a hardline debunker.

The background research of the address is very important. Interviews with witnesses need to be detailed and only open ended questions should be used. It may be very tempting to use leading questions (particularly if you are trying to angle towards a preconceived bias). Ideally they should be interviewed as soon as possible after an event, and the facts of the event should be focussed upon, not the witnesses opinion. Interviews should be recorded with an audio device and then transcribed. If appropriate, the witness should be questioned about any medication they are taking and also whether they are suffering from any medical or psychological illness.

There are a number of psychological considerations when interviewing that relate to the tainting of memory through the repeated telling of the narrative, the impact of ones worldview, and how an event fits into the popular culture. Corroboration, where possible, of a witnesses account is important as it provides a little more weight to their anecdotal account.

If particular myths are identified then they should be thoroughly researched to establish their veracity. It is not unusual to find in cases of alleged hauntings where the person who was supposed to be the ghost either never existed or did not live at the location in question.

The investigation needs to focus on replicating as closely as possible the environment and circumstances that a paranormal event was witnessed. Then the goal of the experiment would be to see if the paranormal phenomenon as described by the witness occurs as they described it (i.e. replication is being sought). This is where items like cameras or temperature gauges could come in handy depending on what is to be observed. For example if it is alleged that there is a cold spot in a certain location, then this could actually be measured.

If a phenomenon is identified, then ideally it should be independently replicated (where possible) to boost the probability that there was an unexplained event initially observed or measured.

Depending on the paranormal event being measured, baseline measurements should be taken. Continuing with the cold spot example, then the temperature should be measured at a range of times throughout the day and night, not just at the time of the replication of the environment.

There should be standardized note taking to assist with the comparison of investigations.

When weighing up results, do not fall into the trap of deferring to a paranormal conclusion simply because it cannot be explained. If a phenomena cannot be explained, then the conclusion should be that it is unexplained. The conclusion that a phenomena is paranormal is going to require positive proof or evidence.

Finally, do away with EMF meters, dowsing rods, EVP’s, infrared cameras, and temperature gauges, unless they are going to be used to assist with measuring or recording of the replication of a previously described environment.

Happy ghost hunting!

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Cell Phones Cause Brain Tumours?

25 07 2008

Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, has come out and said that cell phone use increases the likelihood of cancer and he has based his advice upon unpublished data into the effects of cell phones on the brain.

What was intriguing was that he has made the conclusions public prior to the publication of the results within the scientific community and he appears to have a noble motivation where he says

“…it takes too long to get answers from science and people should take action now — especially when it comes to children.

Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later”

It raises some interesting ethical questions around the role of scientists and their responsibilities to the public. If a scientific study does identify a risk, no matter what it is, what is the best course of action for addressing and dealing with the risk? Ideological motivations need to be carefully weeded out when a single scientist makes such pronouncements on the basis of a single unpublished study. Particularly in the area of cell phones and brain tumours, as there have many studies that have failed to demonstrate a relationship between the two.

It is worth reminding readers that a consensus amongst the experts is rarely reached on the basis of a single study or piece of research. It can take many studies and many years before such a consensus can be reached, and for a variety of reasons there can be studies during this time that can have results counter to the eventual theory or model that is developed.

It is possible that Dr. Herberman is trying to preempt the publication and subsequent critical review by his or her colleagues through the use of the media. If the study did not reach the public in the fashion that it has, and it was subsequently published and found to have major faults in its methodology, statistical analysis or conclusions, then it would have fallen by the way side with a minimal impact. But now it has served to weave its way into the public consciousness.

Perhaps though, Dr. Herberman’s study transpires to be definitive and has identified a real risk. By publically speaking out now he could save many people from unnecessary hurt and pain. However, the public are likely to accept a small amount of risk if a product has social, economic, and technological benefits. One needs to look no further than the motor vehicle and the amount of pain and suffering it causes, but such technology is retained due to its benefits. In this respect Dr. Herberman’s advice is sound as he is advocating an approach that reduces the risk that cell phones can cause rather than taking an extreme stance of having cell phones eliminated altogether. However, unlike cars the risks of cell phones are yet to be scientifically demonstrated.





War crimes and Alternative medicine

25 07 2008

Good news this week when Radovan Karadzic, (the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the war back in the early 1990’s), was captured in Serbia. He is likely to be handed over to the War crimes tribunal in the Hague, in the Netherlands, to face up to the terrible deeds against humanity he is accused of masterminding.

I couldn’t help but chuckle though when I read about the fact that he has been working as a practioner of Alternative medicine for a large part of the time he was on the run.

Now I know there is no linkages between being a perpetrator of war crimes and practicing Alternative medicine and it would be a logical fallacy to argue otherwise. However I can’t imagine he is going to be used as the poster boy in any advertising for his chosen brand of complementary medince anytime soon. 🙂

It also got me thinking about other brutal and nasty leaders who believed in wacky pseudo-scientific ideas. Now again I am not saying the two are linked in anyway but if certain people can link great men like Einstein to wacky ideas why not play the same game in reverse?





It’s Time to Hang up that Tin Foil Hat

23 07 2008

Are you concerned about being abducted by aliens? Do you stay up at night worried about alien telepathy? Then you need the Thought Screen Helmet. For less than US$35 you can sleep at night or drive into secluded areas without a worry in the world – except that of course you are far more likely to be killed in a car accident than to have your mind controlled by beings from another world.

There has been a major development in the technology involving the manufacturing of tin foil hats. Michael Menkin runs the Stop Alien Abduction website and he has instructions on how to make your very own hat (made from a plastic resin rather than tin) that he claims that it will prevent the aliens from being able to communicate with people telepathically, which in turn will mean that potential abductees cannot be immobilised in order to be taken away for a probing.

Essentially to construct this amazing device, you take one standard hat and you stuff as many layers of Velostat into it as possible.

He has truly inspirational testimonials on the website such as:

“Since trying Michael Menkin’s Helmet, I have not been bothered by alien mind control. Now my thoughts are my own. I have achieved meaningful work and am contributing to society.

My life is better than ever before. Thank you Michael for the work you are doing to save all humanity.”

It truly requires an extraordinary worldview that is based upon either an incredibly strong personal experience (which is most likely to be explained through psychological explanations) or the reliance on a huge amount of flimsy evidence. The underlying assumptions of this technology include:

  • That there are intelligent aliens (which is in my view is quite possible)
  • That these aliens can travel vast distances
  • That these aliens visit the earth
  • That they can communicate telepathically
  • The aliens can immobilise you telepathically
  • That Velostat, a plastic resin, will prevent such communication.

The evidence supplied for the effectiveness of the hats is that:

“From 1999 to 2008 over 100 people abducted by aliens have reported using thought screen helmets and hats made with Velostat. Since 1999 only two abductees were taken when they wore thought screen helmets with Velostat. Most of the other abductees using thought screen helmets reported success. Some abductees could not be reached after they tried their thought screen helmets.”

So they were still abducted when they wore the hats, but then they were not abducted. It does not make sense.

However Menkin and his tin foiled collaborators appear to be a fringe group within a fringe group, UFOlogists have distanced themselves from these claims and have described the hats as ridiculous (see here). If only the UFOlogists could turn some of that skepticism onto some of their own claims.





NZ Skeptics Conference

22 07 2008

Those people who follow skepticism internationally will only just be recovering from all the great interviews and articles that came out of the Amaz!ng Meeting in Las Vegas in June 2008. On the horizon is the New Zealand Skeptics meeting that is due to run for three days starting on the evening of Friday the 26th of September 2008 in Hamilton at the Waikato Diocesan College. The speakers they have lined up will touch upon a variety of topics including magic, immunisation, and sexual abuse. For further information click here and here.





Sensing Murder – Series Three

16 07 2008

It’s back!!! I am of course talking about everybody’s favourite show – Sensing Murder. Okay obviously the show is not to absolutely everyone’s taste and it certainly elicits strong responses from both side of the debate on psychic’s ability. It was one of the reasons I was inspired to start posting my views on paranormal and pseudoscience on the Internet. It is therefore a prime candidate for a dedicated article on this blog.

In reviewing the programme and new series I hope to avoid the whole argument over whether the Psychics on the show are genuine or not. All of the main contributors to this blog are hardened veterans of the many heated debates on the Sensing Murder and JREF forums around the lack of hard evidence for the claimed abilities. These discussions boil down to Believers believe because they have seen with their own eyes while Skeptics require proper controlled testing to convince them. The discussion’s generally deteriorates quite quickly into accusations of close mindedness, thrown by protagonists from both sides.

Instead I wish to look at the programme from the point of view of journalistic fairness and balance. Even if the Psychics have the ability they claim they could still be wrong or mistaken in a particular case. Does the show allow room for the audience to make their own mind up or have the makers decided to push a particular agenda and view and then reinforce that as much as possible?

The first two series of Sensing Murder quickly established the formula for the programme. This can best be summarised as Crimewatch lite with a couple of Psychics thrown in to the mix. Essentially a standard 90-minute programme is split into distinct segments. The first part of the show is focused on providing the background of the case and person who was murdered or went missing. Then a recreation of the known facts of what happened is shown, similar to recreations made for Crimewatch.

At this point the paranormal side of the show kicks off. The two psychics, (always two, but not necessarily the same two), are introduced. After a brief run down of the exhaustive search process the programme makers undertook to ensure only the best and most accurate psychics were used for the show they start doing their thing. While this article is not touching upon testing of psychic ability I must admit I would love to get my hands on the raw test data and test protocols for this to see how thorough and controlled this testing actually was.

The Psychics spend the next segment of the programme connecting with the ‘spirit of the murdered or missing person and allowing the audience to get the impression that they have indeed got some connection to a dead person. They then proffer up some possible scenarios about what actually happened. This is often accompanied by a scene visit where the psychics take a field trip to a locale where the crime may have occurred. This last bit is usually not much more than 15 minutes in and hour and a half programme.

Interspersed throughout are interviews with friends and relatives of the deceased. These confirm bit and pieces of the back-story and/or psychic revelations. All of this is held together with the super serious presenting style of Rebecca Gibney, use of eerie and sinister mood music and graphics for dramatic effect, and is topped off with the musings of a private investigator, (Duncan Holland), who the show employs to follow up the ‘leads’ provided by the two Psychics.

So how does the new series structure compare to the previous two? Superficially all the various elements are still there so it could be said that nothing much has changed. The background and recreation of the case, friends and family of the deceased, the two psychics, a field trip, Rebecca, Duncan et al. The producers of the show have obviously decided why mess with a winning formula and you can’t really blame them as it has served them well.

I did notice a few slight differences. The introduction to the programme has been ‘jazzed’ up. There is lots of flashing lights and quick cutting between shots of the Psychics and a recreation of the show tragic topic. Someone on the SM forum described these effects as if the Psychics had magic lights bursting from their eyes. There is also a bit more time ‘bigging’ up the individual psychics, (Sue Nicholson and Kelvin Cruickshank were featured in this particular episode), success outside the show, (TV shows, workshops, etc), and how much more confident they are in their ability since starting on the series. Another small variation from the majority of previous shows was the fact that it was mentioned that the family of the deceased to do the show called in the SM team.

It is probably a good idea to give some of the background of the particular case the episode was featuring. Unlike the majority of the previous shows the case in question didn’t involve either an unsolved murder, (at first glace anyway), or a missing person. The situation being investigated was the case of the death of Blake Stott, a young man who was tragically killed in his new car by a fire late at night sometime in 2006. Police and forensic/fire investigators couldn’t establish any foul motives behind the crime and the current official thinking is that his death was likely the result of an accident. The family disagreed and employed the services of Duncan Holland to investigate the case, (according to this report in the ODT). Mr Holland then recommended the family contact the Sensing Murder team.

Cases on Sensing Murder seem to me to fall into either one of two categories. The first is a straightforward unsolved murder or abduction case. The second category is one in which someone has gone missing or has been killed but there is no definitive evidence of a crime being committed. Examples of this sort of case are those involving Jim Donnelly and also Blake Stott.

On balance there is probably a lot of benefit in profiling the first category of cases on a national television programme like Sensing Murder. Even if the information provided by the psychics doesn’t reveal anything new or useful at least the extra publicity that the show provides might encourage witnesses to come forward with some additional information. The second category of cases has much less to recommend them. This is especially true if the Psychics proffer up a scenario that is controversial and at odds with the known facts of the situation. This is what happened in the Blake Stott case.

It is at this junction that I would like to start to address the shows balance. As stated the case being featured on the show was not a cut and dried situation where we could be confident that foul play of some sort had occurred and the psychics try to provide information about the perpetrator or perpetrators. The official explanation of the Blake Stott case was a tragic accident and hence no one was thought to be directly responsible. This was not what the show led us to believe however with an alternative hypothesis put forward by the both Sue Nicholson and Kelvin Cruickshank that something more sinister had happened.

The rather shocking and controversial revelations was telegraphed pretty early on in the show, in the introduction at the start of the programme, in the numerous teasers before each ad breaks, and in the various rhetorical questions made by Rebecca Gibney asking whether the Psychics had identified some other cause of his death (Hmmmmm, do you think they might have?).

How did the show handle the fact that the Psychics had come up with something seriously at odds with the Police view of the case? Well the show pretty much did all it could to support the hypothesis the Psychics put forward. Not only were the Psychics and their abilities given an awful lot of credibility during the first part of the show and presented as though they might have additional supernatural abilities (such as shooting magical lights from their eyes) but, by using of suitably eerie and sinister mood music and visuals, the audience were made to feel as though something was slightly amiss in the case.

Efforts were made to enhance the credibility of both the show and the Psychics a number of times during the programme. The most obvious way this was done was showing a great number of ‘hits’ Sue and Kelvin got and having Rebecca confirm verbally that they were indeed correct. I counted an impressive amount of factually accurate information provided by the Psychics during the show. In fact I didn’t see anything that looked remotely as though it was wrong or even a guess on their part. There was one moment that I thought they might have shown Kelvin struggling a little with describing what Blake Stott looked like however it soon became apparent that even this was turned into a hit when it was suggested that he couldn’t make out his features because they had been destroyed in the fire.

I suppose it is within the realms of possibility that the Psychics were amazingly accurate. Although I would suggest that it is highly improbably, especially considering some of the reviews their live performances get. I also accept that, given the limited time available in the programme, there is a need to edit what the Psychics are saying so that it is pertinent and fits into the shows time and format but that just highlights that the programme is an unbalanced portrayal of the facts of a case.

Unbalanced is also how I would describe the way the show handled the official explanation for Blake Stott’s death. Doubts were raised about potential accidental causes of the fire in the car. Both the car and the car stereo were brand new, (the implication being they couldn’t possibly have malfunctioned), and it was made clear that Blake did not smoke cigarettes, (Although no mention was made of whether this non smoking also included Cannabis). These rebuttals were reinforced with interview quotes from Blake Stott’s family and friends. Kelvin was especially scathing of the Police investigation of the case, basically accusing it of taking the easy road to get the case closed as soon as possible. No other evidence was proffered to support this accusation.

These may all be valid criticism of the official position but at no time did we get to see someone from an alternative viewpoint from that expressed by the Psychics. Duncan Holland did look to take on the role of presenting the facts of the official case but he was employed much more in confirming whatever the Psychics came up with. Duncan also identified there were potential ‘suspects’ that fitted the general description of the two perpetrators who had started the fire ‘as a joke’ (according to Sue and Kelvin view). Duncan helpfully advised that one of the two had subsequently left the area. The implication seemed to be that his departure and the death of Blake Stott were somehow linked.

Given the controversial nature of the Psychics accusations and the fact that two potentially innocent people were being accused, (if not actually publicly identified); did the programme makers give various parties a right of reply? In short – No they did not.

To be fair though they did mention during the programme that the Police were offered the opportunity to participate and turned it down. The makers to the programme responded to questions about this with the following reply on the Sensing Murder forum –

“Dunedin Area Command ordered Balclutha Police not to take part in Sensing Murder because, as far as police are concerned, Blake’s death was an accident. Police were informed, prior to broadcast, of the psychic’s findings and were given all of the investigator’s research and a copy of the programme in advance. We have ongoing communication with the police over the case.”

However it is not clear why there wasn’t more input from potentially neutral parties such as forensic investigators or local journalists.

I accept that the Police can be incredibly unhelpful and are probably their own worst enemy when it comes to defending their actions. I myself contacted the local Police about the case to ask them what they thought about the allegations made by the Psychics on the show. The response from the Dunedin and Clutha area command was frankly disappointing.

“Police will investigate any new evidence raised in the Sensing Murder programme screened on TV2, said Area Commander: Dunedin & Clutha, Inspector Dave Campbell.

“While this case has been investigated thoroughly, as with any investigation, we are open to examining new evidential information that comes to light,” he said.

At this stage, police have no further comment to make about the programme, Inspector Campbell said.”

What can be said with a high degree of certainty is that Police did not find the additional ‘evidence’ provided by the show compelling enough to warrant the case being reopened immediately. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the show. So, while sympathising with the Sensing Murder team in their lack of support from Police, it doesn’t really excuse the complete lack of balance in the production of the programme, More of an effort could have been made to present the other side of the debate even without Police buy in.

When it comes down to it does it really matter if the show lacks balance and pushes the view that the Psychic ‘revelations’ are one hundred percent accurate? The show after all is classified as a light entertainment reality show and as TVNZ argued during the recent complaint to the NZ Broadcasting Standard Authority it is ‘not a news, current affairs or factual programme… there was “an expectation in society that programmes about mediums are told from a particular perspective”’.

To an extent this is a fair enough position to take however I would argue that, given the subject matter, an unbalanced show does matter. As stated at the beginning of this article, the programme does elicit strong responses. Whether the makers of the show choose to acknowledge it or not many people are going to blindly accept that a crime has been committed and two individuals in the local area are guilty. As a journalist from the Southland Times said to me the community in question is incredibly small and throwing accusations around like they did can have devastating effects.

The sensitive nature of the subject matter, they are dealing with real events and real people after all, suggests to me that Ninox has a duty of care in their production to at least inform their audience of the dangers of jumping to conclusions about the case. Even if they don’t have the time to present both sides of the debate fairly they can at least downplay some of the emotional manipulation that they engage in.

The makers obviously have a desire for the show to be taken seriously given references to steps they undertook to test and control the Psychic readings, (coupled with how they spun the whole Nigel Latta experience with the show). If they really want to be taken seriously then they should start acting a little more responsibly.

In the interests of fairness and balance I will attempt to get a response to this article from the makers of the show and will post them on the forum if I am successful.





Ghost Hunters New Zealand Responds…

13 07 2008

There have been some interesting comments made by active paranormal investigators in the comments section of the first post that examines Paranormal Investigation in New Zealand. Dave Clipson, the founder and lead investigator of Ghost Hunters New Zealand recently e-mailed me with his thoughts on the two posts and with his permission his response has been posted along with my reply:

Hi Christiaan

Thanks for letting me know about your report. I’m happy with what you have written as everyone has a right to an opinion.

To explain regarding the ‘write-ups’ issue you have with us, we all have day jobs etc and currently there are about 5 investigations which are overdue for proper write-ups but the review of footage is the hardest thing as each camera recording for 8 hours or so during an investigation makes approx 48hrs+ of video to look at, this means looking at 1 camera for the full 8hrs stopping the playback when you need to turn away or get a drink etc. Because each camera has sound that means that there is also 48hrs of audio to listen to plus audio recorders and of course then you have the digital cameras to look through each and every photo graph with different filters and of course the background work into setting up, speaking to the clients, breaking down the equipment afterwards and gathering the history of a place we are going too etc. When your day job pays the bills that has to come first as without that money I would not be able to help other people but above all other things I have a family and they take priority in my life. If I had more time I would write more on the website but currently I am working 2 jobs to make ends meet for my family and then in the time I have left I try to answer the many emails we receive from people asking us to look at pictures or asking for advice.

Helping people and trying to understand what we don’t understand is the main goal for us and I don’t really care much for Media attention but its a double edged sword as you need to promote that there are people out there who others can turn to when they are experiencing things that are beyond traditional help and we have letters from people in all walks of life, prison inmates, doctors, solicitors and many many more. In the normal world most of the people we speak to would be credible witnesses if it were a crime report but because it is of a paranormal nature then suddenly they are all crackpots?

If you want to know who the people are who do it for the right reasons those are the people who do things with no want of recognition or payment. We only show locations on the website which we have been given the ok to do so but there are also places we have been too which we do not publish as requested by the parties involved.

In regard to what equipment we use to try to detect paranormal activity the main focus is on filming. Firstly putting locked of cameras into rooms allows you to be able to have eyes watching for the whole duration of the investigation rather than just going in, looking around and taking a few pictures. Obviously if something is appearing regularly to one or more people (which there have been documented statements all over the world of whole groups seeing ghosts / paranormal activity) the question then becomes how can you measure something you cannot see, predict or fully understand? It reminds me of the old days when people thought the world was flat, now there are people creating devices to punch holes 1 particle at a time through the 4th dimension to try to travel back in time, by bending light and forcing the particle to follow the light bend. Their theory is that they quite expect when they start the machine to suddenly pickup particles that were not there which could have been sent from the future in there lab as an experiment but showing up not long after they switch the device on. Now this was science fiction not so long ago but with the growing field of quantum mechanics and technology now these scientists who could only ‘theorise’ about how to do it are now getting a chance to actually build a device which allows them to do exactly what they have been thinking about for so long. Doesn’t this then also ring true for the paranormal? It’s only paranormal when you can’t explain what it’s causing the event or what the event is, but when you can then explain it this then becomes normal.

“Paranormal is an umbrella term used to describe unusual phenomena or experiences that lack an obvious scientific explanation, In parapsychology, it is used to describe the potentially psychic phenomena of telepathy, extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, ghosts, and hauntings. The term is also applied to UFOs, some creatures that fall under the scope of cryptozoology, purported phenomena surrounding the Bermuda Triangle, and other non-psychical subjects.”

The body in its normal way produces electrical impulses as well as chemical signals (significantly in the brain, nerves and muscles). The body has its own Electro Magnetic Field and this is Science Fact. Now we use EMF meters as it is a ‘theory’ that you may be able to pick up on something which has an electro magnetic field (i.e. unshielded electric wire, some electrical appliances or hopefully an ex-living person), cold spots are a ‘theory’ that something is drawing heat energy (endothermic process) out of the location to try to gain strength to show its self or do something that we can see / hear (exothermic process).

Now these are all theories that we ourselves have not claimed or come up with but are the consensus of many investigators, paranormal research groups & parapsychology departments at universities around the world.

This argument reminds me of the scientists not so long ago who said that “the bumble bee cant fly” and yet there it was flying around all the time for the whole world to see, it was only because they did not understand part of the mechanics of the bee flight but when they found the missing factor they were then able to scientifically tell the world that bumble bee’s can fly and this is how, but of course we all knew that before they made a statement to the world saying that the bee’s could in fact fly.

I can understand you taking a view point on what your writing but also be aware that people are out there putting everything they have into these organisations trying to find the answers, I have my own theories on certain things and I maybe wrong but I’m trying to find out and trying to help as many people as I can.

I will never tell someone that what they believe is wrong, its there right to believe in it. I only think that it’s wrong when people start hurting others in the name of there beliefs or wanting to get paid for it.

I guess I always remember the teaching from years ago when I went to Sunday school and church when I was a young boy “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus, Matthew 7:3 there was a lot of wisdom in that one comment. I personally believe in a supreme being, I just have faith that my life will have meaning and that I will die knowing that I have been the best person I could be.

After all the reports from around the world for thousands of years I would love to be able to catch something to show people, and say “look this is strange and we got it on camera”. But you’re going to be challenging all religions and even those people who don’t believe in the “mainstream” religions but they still believe that there family members past and gone are still looking over them. What harm is there for people to have that comfortable feeling that they are being looked after/over by there family members past?

As I stated at the top I don’t really care much what you say about Ghost Hunters NZ, I know in my heart and mind that I do everything I can as best as I can in order to help people and not pocket money for the privilege and for me that’s all that counts.

I would be interested to know your background in parapsychology and the study of paranormal phenomenon, or are you just commenting on a personal level in your blog report? It may be an idea to point that out so that people know that this is your own opinion and is not based on any scientific fact. That way you are being completely impartial.

Good luck in your career and kind regards from Ghost Hunters NZ.

Dave

Founder
Lead Investigator
Ghost Hunters New Zealand
http://www,ghosthunters.co.nz

My reply to Dave’s e-mail was:

Hi Dave,

Thank you for your prompt, thorough and open reply. You are to be commended on your commitment to the investigations in light of your busy life and appreciate that it a very time consuming endeavour.

As you are aware I have one more post to publish which addresses issues around the use of different equipment, and once it has been posted feel free to leave any comments on the blog as I appreciate feedback from all perspectives.

You use particular experiments within quantum physics as an analogy for the paranormal by effectively arguing that due to the counter intuitive nature of these experiments it somehow validates the paranormal due its unknown or unexplainable qualities. The principle difference is that quantum mechanics is well grounded branch of physics that has been supported by numerous observations and it has well developed models that can make accurate predictions. There has been a steady scaffolding of hypothesises, experiments, and models since its inception at the turn of the 20th century.

While there have been a range of scientific experiments conducted to detect the paranormal since the 1880’s, the results have been dubious, occasionally burdened with fraud, and positive results have very close to the point of statistical insignificance. Furthermore, not one single well established model or theory has survived any form of peer review process.

You go further and mention a couple of theories that underpin your approach namely:

1. An EMF meter will detect the electrical impulses and chemical signals.

2. That there are cold spots where something is drawing heat energy out of a location to gain strength.

I can appreciate that there is probably a lot of anecdotal evidence to support these propositions, but I have yet to encounter any rigorous and repeatable scientific experiments that have shown that spirits exist, what the qualities of a spirit are, and that the many instruments employed would be able to detect those qualities. This is why I have taken the position that I have, but my mind remains open to the possibility of spirits – in fact it would be fantastic if our consciousness continued to exist once our bodies have died. But I guess that through the application of scientific rationalism it sets a high standard of proof, and therefore I currently am not convinced of most paranormal claims.

I agree with you that as long as you are not harming anyone else that you are free to believe in what ever you want and I know that there are many people in the community who are peddling paranormal abilities at the expense of others both emotionally and financially. But I am also interested in why people believe what they believe, as people can be irrational and allow a variety of emotional and/or psychological factors influence what they believe. From what I have observed in the area of paranormal investigation there does appear to be a number of unstated assumptions or premises that currently do not hold up to scientific scrutiny such as the existence of spirits and the ability of certain instruments to detect spirits.

If you are interested in my background you can click on the about the authors button on the website. The contents of the blog are my opinion, but it is an opinion that I try and have informed by a scientific and rational approach.

Regards,

Christiaan.