Image courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr
Talks of paranormal activity are commonly met with skepticism, but the subject remains ever in popular demand.
A 2013 study found that there may be more believers than expected. The study, which drew results from 2,250 people in the United States ages 18 and older, found that 42 percent of those people believe in the existence of ghosts.
While paranormal investigation is a practice largely regarded as a pseudoscience due to a lack of evidence, modern investigators are incorporating technology into their ghost hunts to add a note of credibility to an otherwise unfounded line of work.
Alongside basic equipment, like digital cameras, audio recorders, night vision, and motion sensors, paranormal investigators also use these special gadgets to attach data to their findings:
Digital EMF Meter:
The electromagnetic field (EMF) meter is a common handheld tool used to diagnose electrical problems, like faulty wiring. By measuring fields produced by alternating current, an EMF meter can detect abnormalities in electrical systems. Paranormal investigators use EMF meters to track drastic fluctuations in electrical current, which they say indicate ghost activity. In reality, these spikes in electrical current can be caused by microwave towers in the area, sunspot activity, or even the electronic equipment carried by an investigative team.
Infrared thermometers are used to measure thermal radiation given off by a particular object without making contact. In a paranormal investigation, these types of thermometers are used to detect cold spots, a sign of a haunted site, according to ghost hunters. Cold spots can actually be the result of specific drafty areas, like windows or chimneys, or locations with lowered humidity.
A Geiger counter is an instrument used to detect ionizing radiation, including alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays, which can cause an atom to become charged. Investigators use Geiger counters to detect disturbances in radiation levels, which they attribute to paranormal causes. This type of radiation is not uncommon and can be traced to both naturally occurring and manmade sources, including radon, the sun and stars, and radioactive material in rocks and soil.
Another effective tool for establishing credibility is not technology, it’s skepticism. Investigators often assess a claim of paranormal activity by first looking for common natural explanations that have caused the reported disturbance.
Despite the use of specialized technology from investigators both professional and amateur, they have yet to produce any tangible evidence to indicate that ghosts exist, and there is no confirmation that they have any real purpose in a paranormal investigation.
Benjamin Radford of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry writes that such equipment is “only as scientific as the person using it; you may own the world’s most sophisticated thermometer, but if you are using it as a barometer, your measurements are worthless.”
The equipment is all subject to outside interference as well as human error, and whether or not the readings tell of alleged ghost activity is at the discretion of the investigator, lending the conclusion that the credibility of this pseudoscience is about as elusive as its subject.