Monday, January 23, 2012

Interview with Dave Schumacher of the P.R.G.

Author, scientist, investigator, Dave Schumacher of the Paranormal Research Group discusses the scientific process that his group uses to investigate all those things that go bump in the night.

by Robin M. Strom-Mackey

Dave Schumacher, Science and Technology Advisor and Director of the Anomalous Research Department for the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group (S.W.P.R.G.) which just recently expanded to include Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, changing their name simply to the Paranormal Research Group (P.R.G.).  Schumacher granted me an interview when I was in Wisconsin for my podcast, during which time I got a wonderful education into how this organization ticks. It struck me then that the S.W.P.R.G. really was taking Ghost Hunting to the Next Level, which, not coincidentally, is the name of the book Schumacher co-wrote with fellow director Jennifer Lauer. (See the Resources at the end of this article to find out more about the book and the organization.) Under Schumacher’s technical direction the PRG was embarking on some very thorough research into the paranormal, and exploring the use of fascinating technologies.  In this interview, Schumacher discusses some of his pet projects including the use of the D.E.A.D. system and random number generators on investigations.
Strom: You’ve been with the S.W.P.R.G. since 2004, how did you become involved with the group?

Schumacher: It’s rather interesting how I became involved in the S.W.P.R.G., because I had my own group in Janesville. In about 2003, Jenn Lauer sent me an email saying, “hey, you’re another group, and what’s going on?”  At the time I read, and filed it and never got back to her. Then about a year later I was researching groups in the Janesville area and came across the S.W.P.R.G.. I called Jenn, and we went and had lunch…and we were all on the same page, so I joined the group.  I’ve always been into the technical aspects. My official training in school and graduate school was in the sciences: Biology, Molecular Biology, and Statistics. So I like to approach things from that point of view, a very scientific approach to things as well as a lot of the psychology involved.  So it was just a natural progression. I had a lot of equipment, and I was at the time designing a data logging system – and it was just about together by the time I joined Jennifer’s group. So, it just seemed natural to step into the Science and Technology role with the group.

Robin: So you say that you and Jenn were on the same page. So what was the page?

Schumacher: The page we were on is really bringing credibility to the field of paranormal research and investigation.  And really getting at what’s going on. Trying to understand what these experiences are, why people experience them and what they are due to. Not just assuming there are ghosts. There may be, there may not be. But what we’re trying to do is gather the data and evidence and then analyze it and come up with a hypothesis and then maybe a theory as to what is happening.

Strom: So much more of a scientific research standpoint.

Schumacher: I’d say definitely, more a scientific research direction.

Strom: Do you find a lot of groups out there don’t take that approach?

Schumacher: Yeah, I’d say there are a lot of groups out there that don’t take that approach.  Then there are some that say they take that approach, but when you look further into their reports and what they’re doing…they’re trying. You’ve got to learn. No one comes into this as an expert, so you’ve got to learn. But if you’re going to do science, or say you’re going to do science there is a specific way and a set of criteria that you need to follow when you’re doing things that way. But it also depends on what you’re in it for.  For me, and most of the members of the S.W.P.R.G., we’re more in it to find out the real answers. For other people it’s a fun hobby. They like to go out and like to be scared and experience some things and that’s perfectly fine. But we just approach it from a different way.

Strom:  With your background in the sciences. Do you ever feel ridiculed or do you feel derision from other members of the scientific community when you talk about that which you do?

Schumacher: Yeah.  It’s not really looked down upon but they kind of joke about the ghosts and hauntings. The reason for that is that most of them are only familiar with what they see on TV and in the movies. A lot of people don’t understand, even the hard-core scientists, that yes; you can approach this from a very scientific point of view. Not just coming out and saying, well, definitely ghosts exist and things are flying around and that’s what causes it. There’s a lot of psychological and a lot of environmental things that go into this as well. So since we approach it a little differently than most groups, once we explain it to people they’re a little more understanding and we really don’t get too much grief from the hard-core scientists.

What is it that you do professionally, if you don’t mind my asking?

Schumacher: I work for a pharmaceutical company as a clinical sciences liaison between the company and some of the physicians and specialists. And I also work with a couple of the national speakers and thought leaders in the area.

Strom: Do you tell your colleagues what you do?

Schumacher: Yeah, yeah. I have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s an interesting field and I’m comfortable with the way we approach things.

Direct Environmental Acquisition Data-Logging System (D.E.A.D.)

Strom: A lot of what you sent me was about the D.E.A.D. system, which is an acronym – and I’m not going to try and do it off the top of my head. What does D.E.A.D. stand for?

Schumacher: D.E.A.D. stands for the Direct Environmental Acquisition Data-Logging System. We have to give Jenn Lauer credit for coming up with the name. It was very clever. 
Strom: Can you tell me about it? How did it come about? Did you build your own?

Schumacher: it is a multi-computer based system where we hook sensors into the computer such as electromagnetic field, natural magnetic field, radiation, temperature, humidity, ions, light intensity; pretty much anything we want to measure in the environment. It’s all fed into a computer system which date-time stamps it. That way, if someone has an experience or we pick something up on video or audio, we can go back and try to correlate any changes in the environment with those experiences or pieces of data. We use some very specialized equipment. One of our electro-magnetic field sensors runs at a rate of about 300 to 400 samples per second.  So not only can we see any changes in the field real-time, but after it has happened we can go back and analyze it to see which frequencies are present.  We also run random-number generators. That’s something a little new to the field.  It’s preliminary, but we are getting some interesting data from that as well. 
The reason that we’re doing this is because a lot of people report changes in the electromagnetic field, temperature drops, and radiation changes. But if you go back and really dig into how that information was gathered…I do not doubt anyone. However, hand-held equipment just doesn’t have the sensitivity and the ability to date-time stamp or correlate with an experience that were happening.   So we’re really trying to understand what was going on in the environment when people experience these things.  And of course, just because there was a correlation with an experience and something that was going on in the environment doesn’t necessarily mean that it was caused by a ghost. But this is the type of good, hard, data that we need to make those determinations. And of course, with electromagnetic fields, there’s a lot of research out there to suggest that exposure to fields can cause people to experience things that might seem “ghostly.”  But in reality it’s the electromagnetic field and your brain trying to make some sense out of it.  So we’re really just trying to pick apart the environment and see what’s going on. That also helps us rule out natural causes for various experiences as well. 

Strom: So how long have you been using this system?

Schumacher: I’d say ever since I joined the group. I’d say since 2004 or 2005. It’s changed a few times. We started out with very basic, and the sensors and equipment wasn’t as sensitive. It was better, cost-effective wise. But now it’s become much better. We’re always looking to improve and upgrade the equipment that we have.

Geomagnetic Field Detectors VS Electromagnetic Detectors

Strom: In the book you were talking about the D.E.A.D. system and the different types of detectors that you were using. You were talking about a geomagnetic detector, as well as the age-old electromagnetic field detector. And because I’m not a scientist, can you explain, what is the difference between a geomagnetic field and an electromagnetic field?  Are they not interrelated?

Schumacher: Well, they’re both magnetic fields, but that’s about it. With the electromagnetic field, that is the field that is controlled by the flow of electricity. That is the man-made stuff. When you turn your lights on…

Strom: But there are certain natural electromagnetic fields as well aren’t there?

Schumacher: Exactly. Right, and that’s D.C. and you measure that with your electromagnetic field meter, your little digital ones or the cell sensors. They’re basically measuring the man-made stuff within the 50-60 Hz range. Everything we use in America is at the 60 Hz level. So that’s mainly what those are picking up. But with the natural ones, the way that they are supposed to work – and you’re probably familiar with the Tri-Field Natural Meter – that one has a filter on it. The idea is that it filters out all those other frequencies in order to keep you at 0 Hz – anywhere between 0 to 5Hz.  And that is more of the natural or DC current of a normal magnet.  So the Earth, of course, has its own magnetic field, and those sensors are so sensitive that they are able to detect changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.
Strom: so there at a much lower frequency?

Schumacher: Yes, they’re supposed to filter out all of the man-made stuff. Right. So it’s a very, very low frequency basically 0 to .5Hz at most. So a geomagnetic field is the Earth’s magnetic field or a certain location.  A lot of people change out the terms geomagnetic and actual magnetic field – but they’re basically measuring the same frequencies. A lot of people have the Tri-Field Natural meter, and that’s very sensitive. But they also make much higher-end, expensive meters and they’ll call them natural field meters or sometimes they’ll call them geomagnetic meters and they are very sensitive. They can detect a change in the Earth’s magnetic field of about .05 %. So even if it changes just a little bit they’ll pick that up.

Results of D.E.A.D. System

Strom: So you’ve had the system in place, and over the years you’ve done numerous investigations. So, what have your findings been?

Schumacher: Well there are two things that seem to hold true in places where people report a lot of activity. The first is changes in the electromagnetic field. And it’s not just how much of a big spike you get, but there are certain characteristics – how it’s pulsing, the frequencies that it is at. And those tend to correlate; these changes tend to correlate with areas that are reported to have paranormal activity. And we’ve also detected big spikes in the EMF when somebody has an experience and when we’ve captured EVP’s as well.  The other thing we’ve found is that in some situations is that radiation will drop. Usually you will have a background radiation level, and when there’s an experience – and we’ve even seen this with EVP’s – at the time of the experience it dips from a background level of maybe 10 counts per minute down to  zero.  But then when the experience is over it goes back to normal.
And one good example is a case in Milwaukee that you can take a look at on our website. Cindy Heinen, our EVP person, was sitting in this upper flat of a location where people said all kinds of things had happened.  And all of a sudden she said that she felt a cold breeze or draft going down my neck and my arm. So one of the investigators took a picture. The picture before all of this was fine. During the time she reported all this, there was a black form or mass kind of covering where the cold spot was and further up. And then when she said the cold spot was gone the black mass wasn’t there, the pictures were normal again.  We went back and looked at the data. The time this happened the axis or direction of the electromagnetic field had flipped around and the radiation had gone from around ten to twelve down to zero.  And then when she said it was over, and the normal pictures were taken, the electromagnetic field flipped back to the direction they were before and the radiation bounced back up to normal as well. So there were a bunch of different things that correlated, so that’s great for us. I mean if you’re looking for science.

Strom: Yes! From a scientific perspective…that’s got to be an exciting moment.

Schumacher: Yeah, it’s great. We got a personal experience, we got some pictures with anomalies, and we got two other environmental changes that correlated with what happened. So we were pretty excited about that.

Radiation, Random Number Generators and Haunted Locations

Strom: Why is it, and I’m sure you’ve got some sort of theory about this. But why is the radiation connected to the electromagnetic field. Or is it connected to the electromagnetic field, and why would it drop?
Schumacher:  If you look at that historical case “ The Entity” that the movie was based on from the U.C.L.A. investigators investigated it. They also found drops in radiation when things were happening.  So, what is going on? Some people hypothesize that whatever is there is drawing upon energy in the environment and it may be using that radioactive decay to manifest or do something.  I’m not sure if that’s it. I don’t know yet.  The other thing that we’re finding is radiation is…what you’re sensing is radioactive decay which is a very random process.  And a lot of people use that as a means to generate random data or random numbers.  The interesting thing is that now that we’ve moved on to using a random number generator that we’re starting to see deviations from randomness in locations where people report things.  So it’s almost like there’s something there controlling the randomness in the environment.  And the very basic tenet of information is that you kind of put things together it’s not random. You put things together to give information.  We’re not really sure what’s going on there yet.  It could have something to do with a quantum physics level phenomenon as well. We’re just not sure. It’s everything from it’s using that energy to manifest to something changes in the environment that causes a reduction in this randomness.

Strom: So this random number generator that you’ve started to use. Tell me a little bit about how that works. I mean do you count the number of times 100 comes up during an investigation?

Schumacher: How it works, basically, it’s like flipping a coin.  But it bases it on circuit noise or a quantum process. So it’s completely random. It’s not like one of the ones in the software where it just knows to spit out equal numbers of ones and zeroes.  So when you flip a coin you either get a head or a tail. With this thing you either get a one or a zero. And what it does, every second, it’s like flipping 200 coins. And then it tells you how many ones and zeroes there are. Then by doing this for a certain period of time there’s a cumulative add-in amount of deviation. And there’s certain parameters that if it’s truly random you’re going to see a little fluctuation within the line.  But the way that the program is set up, and the way you can do the statistics is you will be able to see over time if it deviated from its normal, random output. And you can see it in the graphs and some of the statistics we run as well.

Strom: So you’ve found that it is completely random except when you take it to a location that is supposedly haunted and then how much does the randomness decrease?

Schumacher: Sure. We usually use something called a standard score or a Z score which measures how far it deviates from a certain level, or from a certain level where it should be random. Normally if you’re getting a Z score of anything from a 0 to about 2 that’s pretty well within…it’s still pretty random.  But anything beyond that we start taking an interest in. And we’ve seen things as low as 2.5 or 2.4 all the way up to 6. And one of the ones – we’ve got a paper that’s going to be published, hopefully in the next issue of Psi Journal of Psychical Research – we ran a random number generator in a location that we thought there was poltergeist activity or RSPK.  And when the person was not paying attention to the random number generator and was just going about their normal business there was a poltergeist experience – a loud banging on the wall – it deviated significantly from random. And when that activity wasn’t going on the random generator worked just as it should.  So we’re still playing around with it, still trying to collect data, but it seems to be very interesting.  But it also goes back to the research done out of the Princeton Engineering and Anomalies Group, the Global Consciousness Project where they had these random number generators all over the world, and they’re looking at what happens when there is a world-wide event. So we’re taking that and trying to put it in more specific locations.

Understanding Transliminal Personalities

Strom: Ok, transliminality. The definition I had found defines it as a concept envisioned by the Parapsychologist, Michael Thalbourne – an Australian psychologist at the University of Adelaide. It’s defined as a hypersensitivity to psychological material, imagery, ideation, affect and perception originating in the unconscious and/or external environment. High degrees of this trait, it has been shown by Thalbourne, tend to be associated with increased tendencies toward mystical experience, greater creativity and greater beliefs in the paranormal. Thalbourne also found evidence that transliminal personalities may be connected with increased chances of developing psychosis or a psychotic personality – in particular schizophrenia. All right, so that’s the textbook definition, but can you explain a bit more about what it is and why you feel the theory is important to the study of the paranormal?

Schumacher: Sure. The basic concept is that there is a threshold between your subconscious and your conscious mind. And transliminality is a measure of how ideas pass between the two. So people who have high scores on a transliminality scale, they tend to have more flow of information from their subconscious to their consciousness and back and forth. And all the other things Dr. Thalbourne talks about: imagery, things in the environment you might be picking up on. Now what they found is that transliminality is a key factor in a lot of the different parapsychology question sets that people use to assess experiences like belief scales or schizo-typal personality disorder. Schizo-typal is not schizophrenia, but there’s a spectrum of it. Magical ideation…these are all different sorts of concepts and question sets that have been used in research and they’ve found that transliminality basically contains components of all of it.

So, why is it important to ghost hunting? Well for paranormal investigating and ghost hunting, obviously if there’s nothing really going on, there is no real haunting, but you have information flowing from your subconscious to your consciousness you may think it is actually coming from the Great Beyond. You’re not aware of it, but then it pops in and suddenly you become aware of it. So that’s one thing.

The second thing is that if you look at some of the older literature by William James or G. Tyrell, some of the original founders of Parapsychology, they speculated that what ghosts are, what apparitions are, are actually telepathically induced hallucinations and they hypothesize that the signal from (chuckle) the dead guy’s consciousness out there is telepathically picked up in the subconscious of the living and then it processes out and then you become consciously aware of it. So transliminality would fit very nicely with what their model was.

Strom: Ok. And this would also explain – and tell me if I’m right or wrong about this – why people would have dreams about dead people because they would be in a…state in which their subconscious would be taking control?

Schumacher: Yes, and that’s an interesting comment. That’s very true, because they found that there is a correlation between the scores on these transliminality scales and people who have a lot of dreams and who like to interpret them and the meaning in them. So, a lot of this stuff that is out there as far as the psychology of the supernatural you can really bring most of it back to transliminality in one way or another. So it’s an interesting concept to look at. We just had an article that was published in the spring 2009 issue of Haunted Times Magazine which was basically a two-pager on transliminality, and it reviews all the history and why it’s important to the field of paranormal research.

Strom: So would you say that mediums or people that are sensitive are highly transliminal?

Schumacher: Yes the studies have shown that the people who do or do not say they’re psychics but have a lot of paranormal experiences, they tend to be good at figuring out what people are thinking, they do score significantly higher on that transliminality scale than people that don’t do that.

Strom: So there is a test for this?

Schumacher: Yes, it’s called the Transliminality Scale, or there’s the new one called the Revised Transliminality Scale which is better and has a little more internal consistency.
Strom: So, and this may seem like a strange question, but is this scale readily available?

Schumacher: Yes, it is readily available. You can find it in the research literature.
Strom: Because it might be a good thing for a paranormal investigator to have to give to clients before an investigation.

Schumacher: Yes, I reference it in the paper I was just telling you about and you can find it in the journal. So they can get their hands on it.

From Scooby Doo to Auerbach – How Schumacher Got Hooked

Strom: So everyone that ends up in this area seems to have a story to tell. Either they had a paranormal experience or they knew someone. So would you be kind enough to tell me what got you into the field?
Schumacher: I was really interested in this field ever since I was a little kid. I watched all the scary movies, of course I started out with Scooby Doo. The ghost was always fake, so maybe that’s where my scientific skepticism comes in. In time I would pick up and read every book on haunted areas and local haunts, haunted locations in America, watch the movies: Entity, Ghost Busters, Poltergeist. And I just loved it. But instead of it fading, going from pure excitement and fear, instead it kind of switched. Something hit me, and I wanted to know why. Why are people having these experiences and what is really out there? And one of the key books that really got me hooked from wanting to look at it professionally versus just pleasure was a book written from a parapsychology standpoint. It was a book by Loyd Auerbach, ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologists Handbook. I got that in either 8th grade or freshman year of high school. I read that book and I was like, “wow, there are actually people who study this stuff seriously, and you can get degrees in it!” So I went from a standpoint of being scared to a, “let’s figure on what’s going on out there.”

Strom: It’s so much better than Scooby Doo!

Schumacher: Yes, it’s much better than Scooby Doo, although I have sometimes thought about getting an old van and painting it up.
Strom: And getting a really big dog!

Schumacher: It would be awesome.

Lauer, J., Schumacher D. (2007) Investigating the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Xlibris Corporation. Additional Copies of the Book can be ordered at

You can check out the S.W.P.R.G.’s (now the P.R.G.) at website

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