By Robin Strom-Mackey
Since the beginning of the spiritualist movement, ghost hunters have sought the best combination of tools with which to search out the elusive phenomenon. With the development of high tech equipment, various instruments have been pressed into service with researchers divided on which is the best to use and when. The problem appears to be that no one device has ever been proven to work in all situations, while different equipment has worked on occasion with startling results, not to work again on another. The list of equipment pressed into service over time, by different researchers includes radiation detectors (Geiger counters), different types of temperature and humidity gauges, ion counters, EMF detectors such as Trifield Natural EM detector (designed to measure the low, natural, electric signals of the earth, DC power - changes below 0 Hz but not at 0 Hz.),EMF detectors designed to pick up household currents, (AC currents - 60 Hz), geomagnetic detectors and a whole host of audio and video and photographic devices.
One obvious problem with equipment is that it was designed for another use in mind. EMF detectors are a perfect example. EMF detectors that are designed to detect household currents for example, may register fluctuations in EMF levels when a paranormal experience is occurring, or they might be picking up the microwave oven or the walkie talkie in your pocket. And even the much vaunted Trifield Natural EMF detectors are not flawless. In a 2006 study by Schumacher and Carter, it was determined that the Trifield Natural EMF detectors, while not picking up household current, were picking up certain weak signals given off by electrical devices about the house. According to Schumacher, household electrical devices do often produce low frequency fields that are detectable by the Trifield. The transformers in televisions and other devices charge and drain, which can produce a change in the magnetic field then detectable. Relays contain electromagnets. When these devices are turned on and power flows through the device, a change in the static field occurs, which again can be picked up. Furnaces, air conditioners, washing machines and vacuum cleaners all contain a magnet in their motors which when rotating, gives off a spark caused by the brushes meeting the commutator, which then can be picked up. Malfunctioning equipment and field leaks from electrical equipment to water pipes were also detectable as was taking an electrical device and turning it off and on several times (2006 Schumacher, Carter).
Another flaw is that equipment designed for another purpose is often narrow in its range of pickup. For example EMF detectors pick up only in the 60 Hz range, but don’t necessarily do well in the higher ranges, while DC natural EMF detectors pick up in the low ranges, leaving an investigator wishing they could get something that could pick up in all the ranges, or according to Schumacher, “a meter that could sample AC and DC fields at a high rate on a multi-axis basis (X,Y,Z and SUM)“ a meter that, “has a fast sample rate of up to 250 samples per second; measures field strength; measure changes down to 0.005 nG; and measures the field strength at any given frequency. Not only can we determine changes in the field BUT we can also determine the frequency (Schumacher, Lauer pg 101).” Schumacher is boasting about the Fluxgate Magnometer - with data sampling PC interface. Those with some understanding of electricity and gadgetry are now drooling. The rest of us have our eyes rolled up in the back of their heads about now, hoping the lesson on EMF detectors will soon be over. It’s over.
Needless to say, according to Schumacher, the Fluxgate Magnometer is the baby to get (if one can afford this $1500 gadget). His research group, the P.R.G. then takes this mother of all EMF detectors, cables it to a laptop, and adds a few other flourishes to create the D.E.A.D. system.
The Direct Environmental Acquisition Data Logging D.E.A.D. System (got to love a witty acronym) is a data collection system designed and used by Schumacher’s Paranormal Research Group (P.R.G.) Schumacher admits that the idea of developing a data logging system is not unique to his group. (Other systems include the MESA, GEIST, ARCADIA AND MADS - if you‘re looking to do a little light reading.) The D.E.A.D. system is unique in the quality and type of data it can collect, especially in the area of electromagnetic fluctuation.
As I mentioned before, the group started with the Fluxgate Magnometer and a laptop and then added variety of other equipment that is also sampled directly into the laptop giving them a system that reads and records a number of different environmental data simultaneously to give a full picture of what is going on at a location at any given time during an investigation. The D.E.A.D. system also includes:
- Triaxial ELF magnetic field meter
- Fluxgate Magnetometer
- HOBO Temperature date logger
- Trifield Natural EMF meter modified to be data logged by the HOBO Data Logger
- GM-10 Radiation Detector (Geiger Counter)
- Laptop computer - they’re using a Panasonic Toughbook Laptop
Logging data directly into the laptop allows the group to Date and Time Stamp the data, which means that they can look for correlations of two or more environmental changes at a given time. It also allows them to check the data at a location when an investigator reports having an experience. They know exactly what the EMF, temperature and radiation was at any given time, which will allow them to examine the data from one or several situations, looking for correlations, not only at one investigation but across the scope of investigations. Investigators that don’t have this technology are swooning at the moment. How often have you walked into what feels like a cold spot at an investigation, for example, only to be fumbling about looking for your thermometer while the cold spot dissipates.
Schumacher concludes, “Being able to correlate at least two pieces of data (i.e. EMF and a personal experience, radiation drops and an anomaly on a photo, radiation spike and a recorded E.V.P.) provides more credible evidence AND allows us to discover what the correlations might be between paranormal phenomena and environmental changes. Ultimately, this type of quality information may help us determine how a haunting affects the environment, what is normal and what is paranormal, if environmental changes cause people to have subjective paranormal experiences, and what type of information is needed to determine what a haunting is and is not. This is the type of information that is needed in order to advance the field of paranormal investigation (Schumacher, Lauer, pg. 100).”
So what have they found with this wonderful system? While the authors don’t belabor their findings, they do point out two distinct situations with “cold spots.” In both the cases sited the “cold spots” weren’t cold. In fact, in both cases mentioned there was absolutely no changes in the room temperature, but there were changes in the radiation and EMF fields. The group includes pictures of the graphs where clear dips (radiation) and spikes (EMF) are quite obvious. Obviously I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the P.R.G. for more developments (their website is listed below) and asking Santa for some hefty presents next year.
Lauer, Jennifer, Schumacher, Dave. Investigating The Haunted; Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Printed by Lauer and Schumacher. 2007.
Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group www.SWPRG.com