Recently a fellow paranormal investigator sent me a photo. The photo featured a glowing orb with wings. Yes, wings – it was clearly a moth or mosquito. There was nothing paranormal there, but when I told them what I saw, they were indignant at first, and then they acted as if they knew it all along. I wondered if they were testing me, but either way, this was a great example of what paranormal research experts term a false positive. False positives are any photograph, video, audio or equipment reading that looks like it’s paranormal, but it is, in fact of natural origins. One prime example is orbs, relatively new phenomena that most people say began with the introduction of digital photography. Many experts will tell you that 99.9 percent of all orbs are dust, pollen, bugs or moisture. Some people say that the orbs you can see with your own eyes are paranormal, but for me, the jury’s still out on that one.
Here are some other common false positives:
Hair, Fibers and Straps
I can’t tell you how many “ghost” photos I’ve seen that are obviously a stray camera strap, strand of hair, or cloth fiber that the presenter claims is a spirit vortex or a strand of spirit orbs. In some pictures, if you look closely enough, you can even see the intricate weave of each fiber in the camera strap. Most of these types of anomalies enter and exit at the same side of the photograph. True spirit energy will appear to enter the picture as if it is approaching the photographer. One sure indication of a false positive is a strand of light that appears to loop across the photo – this is most likely hair. To avoid these types of false positives, wear a hat or pull your hair back. Ghost hunting is no time to worry about your hairstyle. Remove straps from your equipment, or make sure you wrap them tightly around your wrist securely. Never assume a light anomaly is paranormal. Do your research. Be realistic. Be honest. When you finally catch a real paranormal shot, people will believe you. If you tend to “cry wolf,” at every photo, no one will believe you. Ever.
Bling and Shiny Things
It is amazing how many things can cause reflections in photographs. The main culprit is your camera flash. Most point and shot models have a flash set above the camera lens, and this causes the light from your camera to reflect back at your camera lens. If you can get by without using one, you won’t have to worry about this problem. I use a Midnight Shot IR camera and/or a Nikon L310 that I can set to work without flash quite well. Never assume a photographic anomaly is a ghostly apparition unless you have tried and tried again to debunk it. Common reflective surfaces include windows, mirrors and picture frames, but there are so many more. If you can see your reflection in it, it will shine back in your camera flash, as well as any lights that emit from night vision and video cameras, not to mention your flashlight and audio equipment. Be sure to look around carefully before you start shooting. Make note of shiny items and if you can, cover them. Highly reflective items include wet or shiny headstones, dust, rain, snow, metal surfaces, highly polished surfaces, crystals, jewelry, glassware and display cases. Car lights can be troublesome, too. Be aware of what floor you are on and how the outside light sources enter and exit it.
Breath, Smoke and Condensation
You’re looking at your photos of the old mansion, and what shows up but ghostly ectoplasm – you can’t wait to show it to the world, but hold on just a moment…that smoky mist may have a natural cause. This is why most paranormal groups prohibit smoking during an investigation. Cigarette smoke tends to linger in the atmosphere for a time, especially in a close house, traveling down hallways. If you must smoke, try to get as far away from the area you’re investigating as possible. Another problem is cold air, which shows your breath as you exhale. The lower the temperatures, the longer your breath will hover in the air. Always hold your breath when taking photos in the cold air, even if it’s video. Another problem is dew, humidity and condensation, so make note of when you are taking your photos when shooting outdoors. I caught some interesting condensation at Fort Taber that would scare your socks off, but it’s natural.
I don’t know how many times I’ve told team members to stop whispering, and then I turn around and do it myself. For some reason being in the dark makes humans naturally want to tone down their voices. This is a bad idea, but if you happen to forget, like yours truly, mark it on your audio. The same goes for any bodily sounds, from stomach growls to throat clearing – no matter what it is, or how embarrassing it may be, it is far better to admit to your noises than to show the world an audio of a suspected demonic voice that turns out to be flatulence. A recent Saturday Night Live show parodied this issue, and it was hilarious.
Other Extraneous Clutter
When conducting an EVP session, mark any noises from vehicles, airplanes, fans, motors, ice makers – anything that you hear that isn’t silence. Consider the environment – are you near a river or waterway? Is it windy or rainy? Is it possible that animals are trapped in the location, such as mice, cats or pigeons? We recently discovered the presence of a raccoon in an old factory we were exploring. Watch out for interference, too. Some experts believe that radio waves can interfere with audio recording devices, even though they are not meant to pick them up. How many times have you witnessed a baby monitor picking up a cell phone conversation? Rule out everything that you can when it comes to clean audio. As with photographic evidence, don’t assume every sound is a spirit – try to debunk, try to replicate, and get a second, third and fourth opinion before you cry paranormal
Wired for Interference
You’re walking through a house and all of a sudden, your EMF detector spikes. You excited summon your team members, but wait – there’s an electrical box next to you. Electrical boxes, cords and outlets can all cause your meter to go haywire, so take a walk around the area first, and make note of all high signal sources. Shut off your cell phones and keep your EMF meter away from your other equipment – these modern EMF meters and detectors are becoming so sensitive, they can pick up the slightest fluctuations. Ask another investigator to check using their own device and see if they match. Remember, EMF devices are only one part of the paranormal equation, so use your common sense.
If the public is going to take paranormal research teams seriously, and if we, as ghost groups want to earn respect, we must be honest and conduct ourselves in an authoritative and professional way. That means not being sloppy about evidence. Check it carefully again and again. An old newspaper adage states, “If in doubt, throw it out,” and that should go for any evidence you find that is questionable. Although there is always going to be someone who will question your class A EVP, as long as you know you’ve gone over it with a fine toothed comb, that’s what really matters. If we can all provide quality evidence, eventually people will begin to believe, to share and to join our quest for answers.