Mar 13, 2011 I Micah Hanks

Ghost Busters, or Just “Ghosts Busted”

Let's face it: seldom does the evidence provided to support claims of the supernatural present clear, coherent proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that what is being represented is real. Among shaky videos of alleged "UFOs" with prolific in-and-out zooming, blurry photos of "blobsquatches" hiding out behind thick undergrowth, and inconclusive images of what may be logs, wind rippling the water, or nothing at all offered as proof of throwbacks to the Jurassic period living in our larger water bodies, perhaps no "proof" of the unexplained is more consistently lacking--and prone to hoaxing--than those pertaining to ghosts and hauntings.

Granted (and so as not to sound too abruptly and unfairly skeptical here), there are some remarkable photos that exist which purport to show ghosts and disembodied spirits of the dead, among other things... consider, for instance this demon muppet which allegedly "dogged" a recovering drug user a few years ago. Another famous ghost photo is that of the so-called "Specter of Newby Church," which features an odd looking hooded wraith standing on the alter of a church in Newby, England. Although "expert analysis" supposedly concluded long ago that the image is not the result of a double exposure, the photograph has remained in question since its creation in 1963; some images, after all, just seem too good to be true. But could some of the best evidence of ghosts be just the opposite: something so poorly constructed and ambiguous that it leaves only question--rather than sheer doubt--as to its veracity?

A recent headline appearing at the UK This is Glouchestershire site includes an image purporting to show the ghost of a former nineteenth century pub manager named Margaret Gunter, captured on film by the Forest Paranormal Investigations team, which formed in the area in November. Investigator Paula Meek described for TIG the moments leading up to the discovery as follows: "There was a lot of banging and tapping going on. Then Adam saw it with his own eyes. The second time, it tapped the camera which drew our attention to it." The article also offered that "using scientific equipment, the team's forensic approach failed to uncover any natural explanation." The image (which, admittedly, looks rather vague) can be seen here, in addition to further images and footage made available at the FPI team's website.

Perhaps the image captured by the FPI isn't the very best-looking footage ever offered as proof of a ghostly presence. However, I'd argue that some of the best alleged "ghost footage" shows no apparitions at all, but instead the apparent presence of energetic forms interacting with the environment.

One video depicting this sort of phenomenon was made by researchers Joshua Warren and Brian Irish several years ago, during an investigation of a haunted property in South Carolina. The video (a clip of which I've included below) shows a TriField natural EMF detector being knocked over as what appears to have been some kind of transient energy field moved close to the device. Though there is no audio available with the clip below, the original footage detailed how the device's audible tone increasing steadily, proportionate to the source energy field's proximity to the meter. In other words, the stronger the EM field being measured (or, as in this case, the closer that field is to the TriField meter), the higher the pitch of the tone the device emits will get. In the moments leading up to the meter being knocked over (see below), the pitch increased sharply, as though some energy source were indeed moving directly toward it.

Of course, there is no way to prove that the energy source we see knocking over the device in the clip above is anything "ghostly." In fact, why exactly the detection of anomalous electromagnetic fields has become synonymous with "ghost hunting" is perplexing in itself, and for a number of reasons. Typically, the association may have first been made between EMFs and ghosts since the human body produces electric fields measurable by some conventional devices (the TriField EMF detector is one of these). However, it seems obvious to me that any measurable fields a human body can produce are the result of the physical presence of a body; in the absence of that body, it would stand to reason that no physical processes resulting from a living body and its biological processes would remain. Still, for some reason, the notion that a disembodied human soul might be capable of producing electrical fields the same way a physical body tends to do has become a mainstay of modern "scientific" approaches to ghost hunting. In truth, the methodology here seems inherently illogical, given the above considerations.

Thus, offering conclusive proof of what may be "ghostly presences" becomes a difficult task, especially since we know so little about what actually causes the appearance of "ghosts." If we were truly to consider how electromagnetic phenomenon might be a part of all this, to me the notion of "imprints" could be a more logical approach in some cases. This would essentially constitute moments in time that are captured and somehow "replayed" at a later date (perhaps as a result of stored geomagnetic or electrical potentials within an environment, though I offer these solely as speculation), which are projected spectrally into the present. The notion seems more likely, perhaps, than literal disembodied souls strolling around haunted houses; and yet this explanation fails to comply with the weird interactivity associated with many reports of hauntings, like those where ghosts themselves speak to and interact with individuals in the given environment. Obviously, if witness testimony is accurate and reliable, there are a multitude of considerations worthy of exploring before any conclusions can be drawn about exactly what ghostly phenomenon represents to the human psyche in such circumstances.

That said, I'll leave you with this little gem (see below), showing purported ghostly activity in a household fitted with hidden cameras. I think you will share my enthusiasm so far as what they managed to capture (and fear not, there is no goblin that will jump out at the end and threaten to reset your pacemaker... I hate those):


Micah Hanks
Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

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