The investigation of paranormal forces is now a global pastime, with scores of ghost hunters operating all over the world. And it would seem that some modern technology supports the theory of life after death. But many skeptics have yet to be convinced, citing natural phenomena and technical anomalies as the real cause of ghostly goings-on.
Find out all about famous ghost hunters from history, the type of equipment used today and the evidence that has been unearthed.
Ghost hunting isn't a modern activity; one of the first ghost hunters was Joseph Glanvill. As the chaplain of English king Charles II in the late 1600s, Glanvill investigated the paranormal, especially ghostly activity in the British Isles. His most famous case was the Drummer of Tedworth, and he published his results in Saducismus Triumphatus in 1681.
Another investigator of ghosts was philosopher and bookseller Friedrich Nicolai. His interest in the paranormal began after he suffered from visions of deceased people. He began to investigate and try to find a cure for the condition. In 1799, he presented "Memoir on the Appearance of Spectres or Phantoms Occasioned by Disease," which not only included various experiences with the paranormal but also the view that it could be cured by the application of leeches.
It took nearly a hundred years for the paranormal to have a real investigation group. Originally called the Ghost Society, the Society for Psychical Research was established in 1882 to examine alleged paranormal phenomena. The society was founded by a distinguished group of scholars and continues to investigate the paranormal in a scientific and unbiased way.
Since the advent of digital cameras, there has been fierce debate on the authenticity of orbs. They are circular blobs that appear on photographs taken on both digital and 35-mm cameras.
The first orb photographs were taken in cemeteries in the early 1990s by American ghost hunters. They believed orbs were the souls of the dead hovering over their gravestones. Orbs were then photographed in haunted locations, suggesting that it was a form of energy associated with the paranormal.
For many years it was taken as fact that orbs were paranormal activity, but various researchers began to prove that orbs were not what they seemed. A group of English investigators showed that, depending on the camera, you would have different structured and colored orbs. And not only that, but moisture and dust in the air caused similar effects.
Tests were undertaken with various substances, including sand, dust and moisture. The results proved that the thousands of orb photographs could be easily explained away. The manufacturers began to take note of the issues caused by orbs, and recent digital cameras are now fitted with an orb-free filter, proving beyond a doubt that orbs were little more than a technical glitch.
It was only a matter of time before researchers began to apply modern technology to the investigation of spirits. Instrumental transcommunication (ITC) uses televisions to capture images from those who have passed away. Users of ITC believe they are capturing evidence from the other side.
German ITC researcher Klaus Schreiber gathered images of alleged spirits by using a video camera aimed at a television and fed the output of the video camera back into the TV. The continual loop would often show faces emerging from the mist. During one session, an image of Austrian actress Romy Schneider appeared several years after her death.
Another strange example from Sweden occurred during the burial of Friedrich Juergenson, when an ITC researcher saw an image of a man appear on his TV. He photographed it and discovered after intensive research that it was in fact Juergenson.
ITC is not limited to television; researchers are now using radios, computers, telephones and even fax machines. The application of technology is purely to obtain meaningful information such as voices, images and text.
After a decade of research into the evidence, scientists are finding it hard to simply dismiss this phenomenon.
Electronic voice phenomenon is the alleged communication with the dead using tape recorders and similar devices. The modern-day belief in EVP began in the early 1980s in the United States, when Sarah Estep claimed to have recorded thousands of voices using her husband's tape recorder. The American Association of EVP was formed and now has members in 20 different countries.
Twenty years earlier, Dr. Konstantin Raudive was an exponent of EVP and published a number of books about his 70,000 messages, recorded over decades of research. His research became so popular that EVP is often known as "Raudive Voices." In 1972 sound and radio engineers across Europe partook in the Society of Paranormal Research experiments in the advancement of research into EVP.
R.K. Shergold, then chairman of SPR, believed that the experiments proved beyond a doubt that the phenomenon was real. The skeptics were soon to highlight that the major problem with EVP is that any electronic device could pick up rogue transmissions caused by passing radio users. It is impossible to say that all EVPs are due to cross modulation, but they are likely to be caused this way.
Modern-day ghost hunting is a gadget-packed hobby that often costs the enthusiast a small fortune.
No self-respecting ghost hunter is without an EMF detector, which identifies static electricity, the alleged causes of ghostly manifestations. Another piece of equipment is the digital thermometer, used to detect fluctuations in temperature in a location. Just before ghost activity there are sharp, unexplained drops in temperature, so an accurate thermometer is important. A ghost hunter will also carry sound, humidity and light meters to monitor the location during their investigations.
Good recording equipment is essential, so tape recorders and Dictaphones should be used. The higher the quality of equipment the better the chance of future analysis of any evidence recorded. Most researchers use infrared cameras during their investigations. These are particularly good for picking up mists and light anomalies. High-end equipment such as radiation detectors and thermo-cameras can also be purchased but could cost huge amounts of money.
The famous ghost hunter Peter Greenwood once commented that he had seen ghost hunters with cars full of equipment and yet it is the man with just a tape recorder that gets the evidence. Thus is the nature of the paranormal!