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article imageOp-Ed: Ghostly encounters, are they real?

By Erin P. Capuano     May 2, 2012 in Science
A brief look into paranormal investigation, ghost hunters and the scientific methods used to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. Many new TV shows go deep inside supernatural encounters.
The Paranormal has always been a taboo among intellectuals, whether you're a scholar or a car salesman, everyone has their opinions on ghosts. Each time someone has told a story of their first ghostly encounter, there has been a skeptic there ready to disprove it. In a world where spirituality is at the forefront, why are more people not believers? The Catholic religion tells its followers, that the body is just a shell and that your spirit lives on even after death, so why is it so hard to believe that a spirit could still be here grounded to the only life they’ve ever known.
Shows like The Dead Files and Ghost Adventures on the Travel channel, are just two of many that spend their episodes investigating haunted locations in the hopes of gathering evidence to support their theories. We've seen the fake photographs, but we've also seen the ones that cannot be explained. In Hollywood we are shown different sides to the story and different views of just what the afterlife has in store for us. Movies like The Sixth Sense, White Noise, and Ghost, have all dabbled into what exactly happens when we pass on. In the Sixth Sense we are shown the afterlife from a child's point of view, a child who's special in that he can see and speak to ghosts. In White Noise we are introduced to the term EVP, Electronic Voice Phenomena, where a ghost's voice can be picked up on audio equipment such as tape recorders or digital/video cameras. In Ghost we see a side of death from the departed and how unfinished business can keep a ghost grounded in the living world until their job is done. These are all very different perspectives, on a very universal issue.
Ghosts have been reported from the time civilizations were established. The earliest known ghost sighting took place in Athens, Greece. Pliny the Younger (c. 63-113AD) described his encounter in a letter to Sura: Athenodoros Cananites (c. 74BC-7AD), a Stoic philosopher. He rented a house on the rumors that it was haunted. While there, Athenodoros did have an encounter with a ghost that rattled chains and asked Athenodoros to follow it. He followed, but the ghost soon disappeared. Many Eastern religions also believe in the existence of ghosts. The Hindu Garuda Purana has detailed information about ghosts. All religions & cultures, from Catholic to Jewish to Lutheran to Egyptian, have all accounted for various ghostly sightings and experiences.
A ghost is usually defined as an apparition of a deceased person's likeness and is experienced in association with the person's former habitats. Ghosts can also refer to any spirit or demon. A Poltergeist, made famous by the movie of the same name, is a more sinister being and will move or throw things and cause all around havoc in any household. In many cases, these are the types of apparitions that would need to be exorcised from a place. The Catholic Church will not usually perform exorcisms, unless a priest investigates and finds that the claim is valid by church standards. Classically ghosts have been seen as demons and enemies, when in fact the majority is regular people who have just found it difficult to move on. Maybe it's the media and movie studios giving ghosts a bad name and that has created so many skeptics in the world. According to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Group, from 1996 to 2009, the percent of Americans who claim to have had a ghostly encounter has risen from 9% to 18%. In fact, 29% felt they were in contact with someone who had already passed on. These numbers are on the rise since the phenomenon has become more mainstream.
With the evolution of technology, many devices have been invented to help in determining if ghosts truly do exist. Some of the various devices a ghost hunter might use are...
• 35mm Camera is preferred by some ghost hunters over digital. The enlargement quality, less ease of
image doctoring, and tendency of digital flash imagery to exaggerate light-dispersion and create false
images from airborne particles, water vapor, etc all make this camera THE camera for a hunter.
• Digital Audio Recorder is not prone to "noise and hiss" of analog tape, nor to the compression needed for
MiniDisc, which can remove parts of an audio signal above and below the range of human hearing. Spirits
are said to be audible below this level.
• Digital Infrared Camera is used to capture images invisible to the human eye.
• Digital Video Camera offers better quality than videotape camcorders, which are more limited in
• EMF Meters (Electro Magnetic Field) EMF meters measure fluctuations in electromagnet fields (or EM
fields). These fields are a direct result of electrical appliances in the home, cell phones, power lines
outside and even fluctuations in solar activity and weather. The theory in the paranormal world is that
ghosts can manipulate this device with their energy. When a ghost is present the EMF detector will spike
signaling a disruption in the magnetic field where the energy is significantly different. There are different
meters, Single Axis and TriField meters.
• Night-Vision Goggles magnifies available light by 10,000 to 15,000 times. However, this cannot be used
in total darkness without an infrared attachment.
• Thermal-Imaging Digital Camera records images of long-wavelength infrared radiation (i.e. heat), which is
invisible to the human eye. This allows the capture of images in even total darkness, or through smoke or
• Camcorders/Video Cameras are another basic tool for ghost hunters to capture any types of anomalies on
film such as orbs or mists that might signify an apparition.
• Full Spectrum Camcorders and Cameras are modified to see further into the light spectrum than we can
see with our naked eye. On one end of the spectrum is Infrared (or IR) while on the opposite end is
Ultraviolet (UV).
• Laser Grids, Motion Detectors, Geiger Counters, Thermometers, REM Pods are just some of the other
advanced equipment used by today’s ghost hunters.
Throughout the years, engineers in the field of paranormal investigation have been making great strides in creating equipment to better access the existence of apparitions and rule out the possibility of real world contamination. One such engineer, Gary Galka, most recently seen on an episode of Ghost Adventures, was motivated to create such equipment after he lost his 17 year old daughter in a fatal car crash. According to Gary, Melissa began communicating with the family right after they came home from the hospital and he has been compiling evidence ever since. Gary’s creation the Mel Meter, named after his daughter, is a standard instrument now used by most paranormal investigators. He has created over 30 devices used in investigations today. He recently demonstrated some of his devices on that episode, capturing what appears to be his daughter’s voice communicating with him saying, “Daddy, I love you.” and “Miss you guys.” The device he used to capture her voice is the exclusive P-SB7 Integrated Spirit Box, which is an AM/FM scanner with glow in the dark buttons for easy use in the dark. The P-SB7 utilizes a milli-second adjustable Forward or Reverse frequency “sweep” technique in partnership with high frequency synthetic noise or “white noise” distributed between frequency steps. The idea is that a ghost can use the white noise or frequencies to communicate with a person in real time rather, than recording on a digital recorder and having to wait for playback. Since its debut, it’s been used in various investigations by the Ghost Adventures team and Psychic Kids investigations. Gary Galka lives and has his business in East Granby, Connecticut and donates one third of the profits from the sale of all of his paranormal devices to bereavement groups, including The Cove Center for Grieving Children in Wallingford and Mary’s Place, A Center For Grieving Children in Windsor, both groups help children deal with the loss of a brother or sister.
The Dead Files, another show on the Travel Channel has recently been gaining more attention for its investigative premise rather than it being a ghost hunter’s show. Amy Allan, a psychic medium and Steve DiSchiavi, a homicide detective are not in the business of capturing ghosts but rather investigating your unusual activity within your household. Steve being the skeptic looks at your issues from a logical at times scientific standpoint looking into the history of your location and the events that have happened there while Amy uses her psychic abilities to find out what is going on in your location that could be considered paranormal and causing any of the issues you might be having. They do not communicate during their investigations and are not aware until they arrive exactly what or where they are investigating. At the very end of each episode they will get together with the owners of the location and look through their findings for the first time together. Each time they sit down to discuss their findings I am continually blown away by the similarities in what Amy is able to see with her abilities and what Steve finds out from local historians and historical documents as well as witnesses, if any. It’s a very interesting take on Paranormal Investigating.
It is said that some of the oldest places in the world will find the most activity. A place that holds severe trauma such as a war or murders will be extremely active with spirits. The old south is said to hold many ghostly phenomena, because of the civil war and slavery. Within history there is place memory, objects, houses and buildings that hold on to events and emotions that may have happened in another time. Place Memory or Residual Haunting is like a recording of a past event that has imprinted itself on the environment. You may see the same apparition doing the same things over and over again, hearing the same sounds. It is a playback of an event that happened in the past, this is not a spirit, but a recording of an event many hauntings are said to be Residual and not a spirit communicating in real time.
Throughout history, photographs have captured of what appear to be ghostly apparitions, The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana is home to the spirit of a slave maid who is said to have poisoned the wife and two children of her master, with whom she was having an affair with. She is said to haunt the home along with the spirit of the wife and two children. EVPs of soldier's voices have been captured at a military base in Europe. We are constantly surrounded by reminders that what happens after we die. Is just as much a mystery as how life begins. For the next hundred years, we will still be investigating and researching what truly happens when a spirit leaves the body and how we can live hand and hand with ghosts. As our culture grows more fascinated with the afterlife, it pushes technology to advance at a faster rate and we are able to test the limits to what modern day technology can do to further capture the unexplained. Interacting with spirits gives people the closure that they need, the peace of mind to know that after we die it might not be the end, maybe one day we will be with our families again and our body really is just a shell to house our spirit until it’s ready to move on. Right now we don’t know the truth but we are getting closer to finding more evidence and that is a start. Being curious and wanting to know more are part of the human spirit, it’s what drives us to invent and create and it has helped us to make some of the biggest advances in technology in the history of the world. At one time space travel was deemed a thing of SciFi novels, yet in 1972 we had our 11th and last man mooned expedition. There are many things in this world that continue to be a mystery to us, but it’s the explorers, those that brave the unknown, that allow us to discover new and exciting truths to our existence. And hopefully with all of this newfound knowledge, we can help not only to understand our future but to reconstruct our past.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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