Debunking the Myths

Unearthing the Truth

A pioneering scientific approach to Paranormal Investigation

Misconceptions

Temperature (Hot & Cold Spots)

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Some of the most classic symptoms of a reported haunting are hot & cold spots. These are small areas (usually a lot smaller than a room) that feel significantly colder than the surrounding area, and considered by some to be a sign of a spirit presence. When a thermometer is placed in in a location where cold spots are reported they generally fail to register any drop in temperature. Furthermore, only certain people seem to feel these cold spots, whilst others can stand in the same place and feel nothing.

Some people see this as a sign of a paranormal origin with some people more 'sensitive' than others. Others see it as a sign that cold spots are purely subjective.

Some people suggest that the coldness of a cold spot indicates that heat has been abstracted for some paranormal process. However, there are natural phenomena that have a real physiological effect on someone without a change in the air temperature. Draughts are the obvious example but there are others...

 

Humidity

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There is another way where you might feel cold without any measurable change in temperature. Curiously, you might feel cold and damp in warm air conditions with a low relative humidity. In this situation moisture evaporates from your skin making you feel cool and clammy.

 

Suggestion

Never underestimate the power of suggestion. Tell someone that they are standing in the 'cold spot' and they may start feeling it. It is best not to tell anyone where the cold spots are supposed to be and then see if anyone reports one.

 

Convection

 

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Air is almost always on the move in a room, even with the door and windows closed. This is because the surfaces of some objects are at different temperatures to others. Heat will be exchanged between the objects in an attempt to equalise the temperature. This is done mainly through convection. This is an air flow whereby warm air (which is less dense) rises towards the ceiling, cools and drops back towards the floor.

There is obviously even more scope for draughts where the room connects to other areas eg. through an open door, window, hatch, fireplace or gaps in draught-proofing.

When moving air is in contact with human skin it will generally feel cool (windchill). This is because the moving air removes heat from the skin. It also cools by causing evaporation from the skin. This cooling will NOT show up as a temperature drop with a conventional thermometer.

 

Radiative heat loss

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When you stand directly in front of an electric fire or radiator, you will feel heat. Ppeople can LOSE heat in the same way. If you stand directly in front of a cold object, such as an uncurtained window on a cold night, you will feel colder. Your body is radiating heat in all directions. However, it will radiate more, to maintain its temperature, in the direction of cold objects. This additional loss of heat will be felt as cooling. Generally, you need to be quite close to a cool object to get the radiative loss. Like a heater, if there is anything between you and cool object, you may not feel the effect. Like convection, a conventional thermometer will not register this apparent temperature drop.

 

Equipment Malfunction

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Within PSI , we have found equipment, although normally reliable and recently checked to give false readings during investigations. This can be due to interference, in particular from 2-way radios. This has been seen recently to show fluctuations of as much as 50°C.

 

Frank's Box

An example of technology developed with the intention of spirit communication is a device created by Frank Sumption which he called the "Ghost Box". This device scans AM and FM frequencies continuously. The theory being that on certain frequencies, spirits may be able to leave messages which can be heard as they are being communicated. The problem with "Franks Box" is the fact that the results achieved can never be submitted as paranormal evidence. The possibility of contamination is 100%. The possibility of stray radio signals is 100%. The possibility of Auditory Pareidolia is considerably high. This is another popular toy used by the hobby ghost hunter usually lacking the knowledge and expertise to operate audio equipment in order to obtain true EVPs.

The purpose of a paranormal investigator is to submit evidence of the paranormal in a fashion which eliminates any known domestic or scientific possibility for the phenomena being captured. When using a device which is capable of receiving electronic transmissions while working on the basis of audio contamination and stray radio signals, there is no possibility of the results achieved ever being considered evidence of the paranormal. In scientific paranormal investigation, Franks Box is considered no more than a hobbyist, electronic version of the Ouija board. The planchette may move to a letter but this can never be used as proof of the paranormal because it is required that the participants place their fingers on it. This creates the possibility that it may be conscious or subconscious movement of the participant’s hands on the planchette. Franks Box may pick up a voice which may even seem to be in response to a question asked, though this is hardly surprising being that it is designed to scan and receive stray radio signals which carry thousands of broadcasted voices. Results from this device are much more likely to be the effects of Auditory Pareidolia rather than paranormal occurrences.

A true EVP must be captured on a device which is not technically capable of receiving radio signals of any kind. The session must be controlled and the environment monitored and controlled as much as possible. All domestic and scientific possibilities must be considered and eliminated and the session should be overseen by a trained audio expert.

Franks Box, though a fascinating concept, is more likely to end up on the shelves of toy stores across the world than in the hands of the serious paranormal investigator.

 

Research & Evidence Gathering

The subject of the paranormal, particularly in the field of spirits, is a very difficult one to research and investigate. With no government funded projects, or real evidence offered by a research team or by an alleged medium, the search for evidence of the soul surviving the physical death can be a long and soul destroying process (excuse the pun). I have been involved in paranormal research since 2002, and to be honest I am not much further on in capturing that which we know in this field as, 'the holy grail’, that is a full apparition forming on camera. I have over the years, witnessed many apparitions and been left confused with what I perceive to have been paranormal experiences. Unfortunately none of these sightings were caught on camera. I know many would feel frustrated as I have with this, but isn't it typical?

My experiences over the years have left me believing that there must be life after death, or am I jumping too quickly to this conclusion? Is it merely the brain playing tricks on us? I could easily buy into that idea. However, on one occasion, myself and another person both seen the same thing at the same time, a woman standing on stairs looking at us, vanishing after only a few seconds. The possibility of it having been my eyes or brain playing tricks was certainly ruled out on that occasion. It is all too easy to label everything we experience as a spirit or paranormal and I believe to give this type of research any credit, you must be big enough and mature enough to admit being wrong on some of your life time beliefs and thoughts. There shouldn’t be any fear in doing this, as it doesn’t mean the idea of an afterlife not existing, it simply puts you on the right track with research, rather than wasting time on something that turns out to have a completely normal explanation. If proper balanced research had been applied, many years may not have been wasted. A good example of this is the whole orb phenomena, many still get excited by pictures and videos, believing that what they have captured is the first manifestation of spirit. The hype around orbs got us interested a few years back, as we were also getting these orbs, or better referred to as light anomalies on our own footage. After some thinking and research it soon became clear to us that what we were picking up was simply dust, and other airborne particles (see research section below). However, others still believe this to be of a spiritual nature. Before looking for that evidence, you have got to understand the surrounding environment first, what can cause you believe you are communicating with the dead, or experiencing spirit activity.

The side effects of EM fields, infrasound and low levels of carbon monoxide are amongst those which can fool an individual into thinking they are having a paranormal experience. You then need to understand yourself and your own mind, before going to a location. You may already have preconceived ideas, and every little sound then becomes spirit making themselves known. When the lights go out it takes a while for the eyes to adjust. Many see little lights or even mists, which can be of varying colours and can also be further affected if you have any form of colour blindness, but it can all be explained. Can the subconscious mind fool you and lead you to believe that spirit is communicating through the use of a glass on a Ouija board, or are you tapping into a higher form of consciousness? Then of course you need to be sure you know your equipment properly and understand that even these can contribute to false readings, or images and sounds on your recording equipment that can be mistaken as that of a ghostly one. Only after getting to grips with all this, can you then start to form an educated and balanced opinion in your research and investigating and believe me, even then, once one question is answered, another ten need answered. Below you will find some of our own research we have been involved in and areas we plan to look at in the future.

Darren Ansell

 

Effects of the Subconscious Mind

The Subconscious mind refers to the hidden area of the mind where information may be stored without our conscious decision to store and process such information; the phrase was coined by a psychologist preceding Sigmund Freud, ‘Pierre Janet (1859 – 1947). In spite of years of extensive research there is still much to learn of the effect the subconscious mind can have on behaviour and perceptions. Any research into the paranormal would have to take into consideration any information a person may hold in their subconscious which may then distort or alter their perceptions of environmental stimuli. 
It is important to understand that when visiting an area where apparent paranormal activity has taken place each person will bring with them a different set of beliefs and experiences. Those who believe in the paranormal are more likely to attach a paranormal consequence to stimuli whereas those who would consider themselves as sceptical may search for. Wiseman et al (1997) stated that “Prior experience could increase the likelihood that people report unusual experiences”
The power of suggestion must also be taken into consideration when analysing the role of the subconscious in paranormal investigation. Information may be presented subconsciously to an investigator before they visited a particular paranormal site. For example if an investigator was to read that cold spots are common in a paranormal experience they may subconsciously begin to attach the two together and relate significance to each cold spot they encounter. Television and films in particular may cause a person subconsciously to expect such scenarios, or attach particular significance to events when investigating a particular paranormal area. 
It is generally thought that in a heightened emotional state, such as fear, depression or happiness a human may be more likely to attach significance to stimuli to factors outside of human control. An example of this may be winning a lotto because one’s particular numbers were ‘Lucky’. When approaching a paranormal scene it will be very possible that based on prior knowledge and suggestions the investigators sense of fear and anticipation may be increased without the investigator being fully aware of this. Subconscious fear of: the unknown, of the dark, of having no control of events will further add to this heightened emotional state.

Consequently in the field of paranormal research the areas of Suggestion and Perception are fundamentally linked. It is important that one considers the effect their subconscious mind may have on the investigation, and by realising this one can investigate objectively and not jump to unsubstantiated conclusions.

Cormac Donnelly.

 

 

Oujia Boards, Glasswork, Table-Tipping, Dowsing & Pendulums...

What do they all have in common? Well, in our experience it is the fact that with each, direct human contact with the implement is required in order for any results to be achieved.

Now, this does not mean that we are straight away dismissing claims that these phenomena can also be attributed to paranormal causes, however it does raise many questions as to why direct human contact is necessary. Afterall, the collective energy of a group of say sitters in a Ouija board session shouldn't need a solid medium, (excuse the pun) to travel through, should it? The energy is "all around us?" Why is it also that when some movement is achieved, and contact is broken, movement immediately stops?

These are the questions we are currently asking whilst experimenting with all the classic direct communication tools. Could it be that human contact is necessary simply because it is ourselves that are subconsciously providing the physical inertia required to cause movement? This is something known as the 'Ideomotor Effect'

The ideomotor effect refers to the influence of suggestion or expectaton on involuntary and unconscious motor behavior. The term "ideomotor action" was coined by William B. Carpenter in 1852 in his explanation for the movements of rods and pendulums by dowsers, and some table turning or lifting by spirit mediums (the ones that weren't accomplished by cheating). Carpenter argued that muscular movement can be initiated by the mind independently of volition or emotions. We may not be aware of it, but suggestions can be made to the mind by others or by observations. Those suggestions can influence the mind and affect motor behavior.

Scientific tests by American psychologist William James, French chemist Michel Chevreul, English scientist Michael Faraday (Zusne and Jones 1989), and American psychologist Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious "energies," are actually due to ideomotor action. Furthermore, these tests demonstrate that "honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations" (Hyman 1999). They also show that suggestions that can guide behavior can be given by subtle clues (Hyman 1977).

Tony Armstrong.

 

Mediumship

Psychic predictions and phenomena can be traced back throughout history, but the first professional mediums date back to 1848. The Fox family of Hydesville, New York, were visited by friendly spirits eager to prove life continued even after death. The daughters realising a talent for this communication, travelled to further demonstrate their unique talents and before long similar groups sprang up across the country. This was probably the beginning of the Spiritualist movement which has become so popular today.

As a professional investigative group we employ the use of scientific equipment and methods of investigation. However, it is the nature of the field we work in that we will come across those who profess to hold the gift of psychic mediumship and can communicate directly with Spirit. In our experience there have been only a very few who have been able to demonstrate some level of ability. We have found that very often it is the lucrative enticement of financial reward and greed which draws otherwise 'ungifted' people into the business of spiritualism.

It is therefore the unfortunate truth that with the excepted few, this area of the paranormal is riddled with cases of deliberate fraud. The most common method used by charlatans is Cold Reading, a technique which entails observing the subject's body language and vocal intonation when presented with a suggestion/question, asking vague questions and then making even more vague pronouncements. The person having the reading can often remember the 'hits' or occasions when the medium provides information which seems, all be it vaguely to be true, but overlook the comments which mean nothing to them. This in itself makes the reading more believable in that person's mind.

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Frauds will also often research the subjects/locations they intend to carry out readings for, and drop pieces of information into the conversation to make it seem more compelling. This is known asWarm Reading, of which there have been a number of well documented cases. These so called mediums have even been fed deliberately false information by investigators in a bid to expose their devious ways, and as expected, recite or even channel the given names etc. as though it were coming from the spirit world.

All this inevitably places a question mark over this and other areas of the paranormal and frustrates the cause of those groups, such as PSI genuinely aiming to uncover the truth behind the claims. The group's stance on the subject is not to rely on pre-conceived notions but to treat it as we would any other paranormal phenomenon, looking for evidence such as verifiable names, dates etc. We would also encourage anyone who believes they have a genuine ability, and would like to demonstrate this to PSI,  Contact Us as we are always eager to investigate all claims and would be keen to monitor these individuals for the purpose of our own research.

Any such testing/research would of course be carried out with discretion and the wishes of the individual respected with regard to the publishing of any findings.

Tony Armstrong.

 

Light Anomalies (Orbs)

Orb is a term coined only in recent years by the paranormal community to describe the spheres of light often caught on camera, predominantly with digital cameras with the advent of CCD and CMOS lenses and the instantaneous capture method of the photosensitive diodes used, lending further weight to the argument that they are merely a product of the lens itself. 
Orbs are captured often during a paranormal investigation or where there would be perceived to be paranormal activity and some believe them to be the early manifestation of spirit.  In most cases however, they can be quickly identified as having a natural cause and can be categorised as:

  • Solid orbs - Dry particulate matter such as dust, pollen, insects, etc.
  • Liquid orbs - Droplets of liquid, usually water, e.g. rain.
  • Foreign material on or inside the camera lens.

Combined with the above, the proximity of the camera to the object (behind the camera’s point of nearest focus, yet in front of the camera’s point of visibility), camera resolution, and light intensity from camera flash or the sun illuminating the object are all factors which play a part in determining how the orb image will appear.

The team at PSI have seen many variations on the above, both from images taken on our own investigations and of those submitted by other groups and members of the public for analysis.  However, there have been a small number which have necessitated a closer look, particularly where there is corroborating evidence such as a significant drop in temperature, fluctuation in other equipment readings or a spiritual presence detected in the same area by a psychic medium when the photograph was taken.  Other things the group find intriguing is the size and shape of some of the orbs caught and also sometimes patterns, colours and circles within the orb itself.

Less frequently, anomalous lights are caught on video. Footage was taken at a private house investigation, again where a presence was detected in precisely the same area at the same time.  Always wanting to take a balanced view based on evidence, PSI is currently carrying out its own scientific study into Orb activity with the aim of drawing closer to a conclusion on their origin.  Further details of such to be posted in due course...

Tony Armstrong.

 
 
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