Ghost Hunters 6.4: "Phantoms of Jersey"

This is another “meat and potatoes” episode, which is a good thing. After the promotional circus that was the season premiere, the series needed to get back to the basics. Recent episodes may not have had much in the way of “evidence”, but they have been interesting in their own way. In this case, it helps that the locations were all in familiar territory.

This episode also brought to mind a conversation I recently had with a fellow investigator. We were discussing the use of EMF meters, specifically models like the K-II Meter and the Mel-Meter. The popularity of such meters has increased in recent years. The fact that they show up on many of the most popular paranormal investigation television shows doesn’t hurt.

I’ve mentioned before one of the key problems with the K-II, even in terms of using it as a simple EMF meter: the lack of calibration. But even the better meters that are calibrated are designed to detect AC electromagnetic fields in roughly the 40 – 60 Hz range. Various models have ranges far beyond those constraints, but accuracy begins to fall off as the frequencies stray from the calibration range.

The first problem is that these meters, if calibrated, can provide plenty of information regarding amplitude. If there’s a spike, the meter can detect it. But they give absolutely no information about the frequency. Because the meters are designed to detect the most common type of EMF, the 60 Hz of the power grid, and because nearly every power grid is known to have the occasional spikes and fluctuations, what is the likely frequency being detected?

The second problem is that there’s no solid theory for what kind of EMF might be meaningful to detect. There’s some experimental data that EMF and EVP are connected, for example, but what EMF frequency? Measure the frequency, and if one correlates EMF and EVP, one could exclude the possibility that it was an intercepted RF signal, for example.

But most meters, as noted, as meant to detect the common 60 Hz AC EMF, and while the meters can detect other frequencies, there’s no way to distinguish what is causing a spike. And while there are relatively expensive “natural EMF” meters that are designed to exclude AC EMF sources, they are less commonly used and also fail to display the frequency.

Some say that the likely EMF frequency would be a DC source at around 10 Hz or so. This roughly corresponds to the brainwave frequency of the typical human being. If one believes that the energy of a human being persists after death, then the idea is that the frequency would likely be around that familiar brainwave frequency. Of course, there’s no real evidence that this is the case.

And that was the crux of the discussion: if there’s no way to know what kind of EMF frequency and strength will result from a true paranormal event. Therefore, the best one can do is look for true anomalies that correspond with a recorded paranormal event. But if the current meters used in the field are designed to detect the most common AC frequency around, and are also often susceptible to RF interference, how can one prove that a “spike” is truly an anomaly? Never mind one with a paranormal source!

Our conclusion was that the current technology in use is great for detecting strong EMF fields that can induce unusual perception effects in those sensitive to EMF. Beyond that, it’s hard to argue that there is much meaning in the data being generated. From a scientific and technical point of view, an EMF “spike” tells the investigator very little. And if the underpinning of the data is not well understood, a number of false and misleading conclusions can be drawn. (That said, the proof is in the pudding; if correlations between standard EMF meters and recording paranormal activity can be drawn with scientifically meaningful data, then who could argue the point?)

This is hardly the first time that this kind of discussion has taken place, and it’s hardly the first time that this criticism has been noted. I’m sure that someone will point out additional details or correct me where my paraphrasing hasn’t been quite right. And frankly, this is probably not going to change too many minds on the matter. The assumptions and traditions within the paranormal investigation field run deep, after all.

Case #1: Absecon Lighthouse, NJ

This investigation was interesting for the location and the weather. There wasn’t much in the way of “evidence”, and the team did a nice job of debunking the “footsteps” and reports of conversations. Between the rattling windows, the wind, temperature variations, and the usual acoustic issues within a lighthouse, it would have been hard to justify a paranormal explanation!

The movement of the camera was offered as anomalous, though it should be noted that the team never said that it was a paranormal event. They did, however, let the client run with the ball on that one. I’m not convinced that it wasn’t due to the weather conditions.

Case #2: Stephen Crane House, NJ

It was the fairly random EMF spikes captured during this investigation that reminded me of the discussion on EMF meters. I think the team made the right call in dismissing this particular instance as normal.

The EVP that was captured is a bit hard to take as solid evidence. It was hard to hear in the background. I suppose that the EVP matches the report of an old woman, given the type of singing, but it was awfully hard to take as a strong piece of “evidence”.


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