Ghost hunters, in their attempts to verify paranormal activity, rely on technology. Some of their equipment records images or deciphers mysterious sounds, and other pieces of gear produce an abundance of energy to prompt a ghostly apparition to manifest. However, although paranormal investigators use tech tools to provide evidence of a suspected haunting, their results offer alternative explanations for supposedly spooky activity. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, click on for a skeptical look at ghost-hunting equipment.
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An electronic voice phenomenon detector is a staple in any ghost hunters' toolkit. Marketed for recording paranormal communication, EVPs are digital audio recorders that are supposed to pick up sounds of formerly human speech that are inaudible to the human ear. Due to the high occurrence of noise transmitted from radios, cell phones, walkie-talkies, and other devices, though, chances are good that EVP detectors are simply picking up static, radio transmissions, and background noise--not whispers from the beyond.
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White-noise generators, which create a static sound by combining different audio frequencies, supposedly attract electronic voice phenomena when placed next to an EVP detector. Some ghost hunters claim that white noise provides a base to help filter out background sounds so that only spirit communication is received--but in actuality, radio and television transmissions still bleed through.
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Once EVPs have been recorded, they must be reviewed through sound-editing software, such as Audacity (shown here). At this point, ghost hunters amplify, slow down, speed up, and analyze strange sounds to try to pick out speech and other mysterious electronic voice phenomena. Of course, it takes heavy manipulation of a recording--not to mention creativity and wishful thinking--to make fuzzy noises sound like voice communication from the other side.
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Ghost hunters link sudden spikes and changes in electromagnetic radiation in a given spot to a ghostly presence, so no paranormal kit is complete without an EMF detector to measure electromagnetic fields. (Hint: If you're looking to test this out, a compass will spin in areas of high EMF.) However, household and industrial appliances generate electromagnetic fields, and obstructing these fields will cause a spike on an EMF meter. A paranormal investigator might note such a change and consider it ghostly evidence, when in reality they're just walking between two fields from other equipment.
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Handmade ion generators charge the air with negative ions, supposedly to provide spirits with enough energy to properly manifest, move objects, or communicate. Ghost hunters report sudden changes of energy during a haunting, which is how these tools came into play. Measuring ion levels can be difficult and inaccurate, as ion concentrations tend to vary over short distances, especially indoors. And, of course, connecting a spike in ion levels to a spiritual presence is a leap of the imagination.
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People often describe the presence of ghosts through feeling a sudden drop in temperature, or a "cold spot." They use digital thermometers to locate areas with a dropped temperature or to monitor a sudden decrease in ambient temperature. The team of paranormal investigators on the SyFy show Ghost Hunters explains cold spots as ghosts drawing the heat out of the air so that they can manifest. Or it could just be the natural convection process of hot and cold air separating.
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Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera
Infrared thermal imaging cameras show heat and temperature fluctuations. They display supposed "cold spots" that ghost hunters use as proof of paranormal presence. However, like the cold spots that digital thermometers find, the low-temperature areas these cameras pick up could be the result of convection, wind chill, poor insulation, or an air leak.
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Full-Spectrum Digital Camera and Camcorder
If you want to try to take a shot of your spooky friend, you need a digital camera or camcorder modified to capture full-spectrum photos. This is how ghost hunters claim to take photos of apparitions in infrared and UV light spectra. Apparitions appear as opaque orbs, mist, or smoke--all of which can be explained by normal camera tricks. The reflection of rain can create orbs in a photo, as can dust on the camera lens or reflections off of unnoticed shiny surfaces.
Image: Courtesy of The Ghost Hunter Store
Photo-Editing Software and Tricks
Creating phony ghostly effects through photos has been a common practice throughout history. In the late 19th century, William Mumler, the first professional spirit photographer, created fake images using multiple exposures to make it look as if a spirit were present in the photo. Today, anyone can create ghostly illusions using basic photo-editing software, such as Photoshop. The image here is a Photoshopped combination of two photos, with special effects added to give it a more realistic appearance.
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