There is no hard and fast rule on how to investigate the paranormal. In fact, there is no consensus that the word "investigate" is even the most accurate word to use to describe what people do. For our purposes, however, we believe that semantics are less important than intent. Paranormal BC, our investigative team< is interested in experiencing, documenting, validating and explaining the experiences people claim to have.
The explanation is the most important part of any investigation, because it will help determine whether or not something is paranormal in nature. We are not always successful in achieving all of our goals, but we begin each investigation with the same ones.
Some common phrases used in Paranormal Investigation:
Basic Definitions and Terms Used in Paranormal Investigating
This should be a black and white definition, but it is not. Evidence is data gathered by an investigator using self-defined protocols for collection. Evidence can be auditory, visual, sensory, personal experience and pretty much anything the investigator has deemed as viable and defensible. Evidence can also include anecdotal reports and historical information. It is up to the individual investigative team
The gathering and interpretation of evidence in Paranormal Studies is varied and therefore lends itself to accusations of hoaxing, gullibility or even outright fraud. Because of this, investigators attempt to maintain forensic quality protocols for gathering and interpretation. The issue with paranormal research and evidence is that generally the investigators are not ‘scientists’ and therefore are open to suspicion by those who believe that only scientists can participate in science. Also, there is no laboratory, no easily repeatable experiment. It is not the equivalent of the discovery of a gene or an animal. Most Paranormal experiences are personal in nature, in that they are spirits of people seen, heard, interpreted by other people. Personality, what causes it, what creates it, how it is sustained, is still an unknown. Science accepts that personality exists, we just are not 100% sure how, why, when or what it is.
It is the bane of the subject that the only thing to convince a skeptic is a first hand experience, which unless it is experienced BY the skeptic is dismissed out of hand. Video, audio, still images, pretty much everything can be falsified or doubted, so the investigator is in a difficult position if she expects to convince the world of something. Most investigators are wise to simply present the data, draw few conclusions and make certain to maintain his/her integrity.
Orbs are anomalous spherical ‘spots’ on still photography or on video. The current theory is that orbs either represent spiritual activity as they are the manifestation of spirit energy or they are energy that may be used by an entity in order to manifest. Others believe they are simply flaws in the photographic process (which is why they are much more prevalent in digital images). The paranormal community as a whole does not consider orbs conclusive evidence of spirits or spirit activity. There are proponents on both side of the coin and also straight down the middle of it. For our purposes, Orbs can be interesting phenomena and I leave it to the individual to determine their value. In order to be considered an ‘Orb’ the anomaly must be well defined, with a significant self -contained light source. One must keep in mind that moisture, dust particles, insects all appear in orb shape as well, so at the very least, inspect your surroundings and your results carefully!
EVP- Electronic Voice Phenomena
EVP are recordings of voices or communications on an electronic device when sounds have not been audible to the human ear. This is either because they are communicated via a frequency not audible to people or because the entity in question is manipulating the electronic device and recording directly on it (either tape or digital). As a disembodied entity, by definition, does not have vocal cords over which air can travel to produce sounds, it must then make sounds in some other yet unknown way. EVP are doubted by some, as they can be open to interpretation and post recording manipulation. It is extremely important that investigators use new clean tape when using that media and also that the original files be stored without amplification or distortion when using digital media. In my mind, EVP can be the most compelling of evidence, especially when the recorded words are in some way reflective of the investigation itself as in answers to questions. That is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect those of all of our members. As with all evidence, it is up to your interpretation.
Many people report unexplained cold spots or cold areas in places that Paranormal Activity occurs. The theory that most investigators ascribe to is that an entity uses ambient energy (in this case heat) to manifest itself. As it absorbs the heat, it leaves a cold spot. These spots should have defined boundaries and should dissipate as the phenomena decreases. An investigator should use common sense when finding and defining a cold spot as drafts, poor insulation, old windows, open doors, and pretty much any thing else can lead to a breeze.
While not proof, when a truly unexplained cold spot occurs, it can be very convincing and is usually accompanied by other phenomena, such as unexplained sounds( knocks, footsteps, etc)
Full Body Apparition
This is a pretty self-explanatory one. A full body apparition means that a person sees a human shape, recognizable as a human shape. This is not a shadow or a subtle vision, easily confused with something else. A FBA is the Holy Grail of Paranormal experiences and interestingly enough, pretty much impossible to substantiate unless the FBA also appears on video.
These are human shaped figures seen by investigators while investigating. Generally described as being “darker than the darkness”, some investigators believe they are unformed apparitions. Others believe them to have a negative intent and still others believe them to be energy beings and not human at all.
This is exactly what it sounds like. It is a non-intelligent visual or auditory experience that is simply a replay of past events. Most people refer to this as a ‘place memory’ or a videotape haunting. There is no spirit present. What is experienced is simply a recording of an event, such as a door opening every night at 4 am or horse riding past a window each Fourth of July. There is no entity present; it is merely the play out of a recorded moment when circumstances are perfect to allow the moment to be viewed. The best way to think of it is as a tape recording of an event that plays continuously, but we can only see it when the TV is turned on.
It is also part of the ‘Stone Tape’ Theory, which states that events and experiences can be recorded on the environment, much the way sounds and images are recorded on magnetic tape. It is a pretty cool theory and worth some consideration.
This is when there is a spirit present. The spirit is a sentient being, capable of communicating intentionally. This is not a judgment on the spirit’s I.Q.
In an intelligent haunting, you are dealing with a being with a mind and the ability to reason. With a residual haunt, you are merely looking at a picture, with an intelligent haunting; you are having a conversation with a person (or entity, or spirit, etc.).
Intelligent hauntings can be exciting and frightening because there is a mind and personality attached and therefore they should be treated with respect and sound judgment.
These are the most widely reported of paranormal experiences. The personal experience is an event that has not or cannot be validate by the equipment present on an investigation. These can include sounds heard but not recorded, being touched or even seeing activity such as apparitions. They can also include feeling “a sense of presence”. This is when a person instincts and body sense that another person is present despite their being no visual or audible confirmation that a physical person is present.
Equipment & Techniques
Why do we investigate at night?
There are several reasons for this. The human body is a wonderful tool for paranormal investigation. When deprived of one sense our bodies shift focus and strength to the other senses. Because of this, if you put an investigator in the dark, he or she becomes much more aware of the surroundings and is able to note subtle change in temperature, sound, even electrical current of magnetic field. Many argue that darkness simply heightens the fear factor and makes people more likely to imagine frightening scenarios. We have found this to be the opposite. As investigators gain experience, they become much less fearful and capable of locating natural explanations for occurrences when these are available. Another reason is that most Paranormal Investigators have day jobs.
People report paranormal experiences at all hours of the day and night, through all kinds of weather and throughout the year. There is no one place or time where a person is more likely to experience something. Investigating in darkness merely makes the investigator more aware of and invested in his or her surroundings.
Infrared or Night Vision Cameras
We place these in areas that have a history of paranormal activity. It is believed by some Paranormal Researchers that ‘spirit energy’ is not visible to the naked human eye, but is visible under infrared light. Additionally, this allows us to record events that are occurring when and investigator is not present.
This is a thermometer that uses a beam of light to read the temperature of an object. This does not read ambient temperature (unless a scope has been attached). This is useful in reading temperature changes reported by investigators and in defining cold spots.
Used to detect the magnetic field in a given area. EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field. An electromagnetic field (also EMF or EM field) “is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are gravitation, the weak interaction, and the strong interaction).” (Wikipedia)
One of the theories in current paranormal Research is that “Spirits” are energy and as such cause a disruption in the Electromagnetic field of an area or object when they manifest. We use EMF detectors to monitor and attempt communication. When an anomalous fluctuation is detected in conjunction with an experience or other evidentiary event, researchers consider this validation of the theory.
Digital Voice Recorder
Generally these are handheld devices carried by an Investigator. An Investigator asks questions and leaves 15 seconds for possible response. In some cases, on play back, answers to questions can be heard on the device. These are sounds not generally head by the investigator at the time. This is called Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP.
An investigator may take 100’s of pictures during the course of an investigation, hoping to capture an anomaly or a full body apparition. Additionally, the photographs will help the investigator keep an accurate log of the investigation and location for reporting at a later time.
Light anomalies, like true orbs, that occur in tandem with another event i.e. cold spot add a certain weight to the claims of paranormal activity.
People often ask, “Who does this kind of thing?” The answer might surprise some. Our core team includes Moms, Dads, Police Officers, Doctors, Actors, Artists and yes, Professional Psychics. The truth is, the interest spans all demographics. There is no singular accepted curriculum for Paranormal Studies, but we try to always maintain an open mind while also educating ourselves on contemporary theories and approaches to research.
The use of a psychic or Medium on an investigation can be very interesting, but we do not rely entirely on the information gained through the psychic. We consider it a tool, like a camera, helpful, useful, but not definitive. Often we will take the information gleaned from a medium or psychic and search for historical evidence. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes not. Our goal is not to identify the “spirit”, although that is nice, but rather to authenticate and record the experiences being claimed, whether they originate paranormally or not.