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Ghost Hunting Methods and Standards


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#16 Señor Hugo

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Posted 03 September 2008 - 06:23 AM

However, I'm not saying it's impossible to do. Just without the proper amount of money, anyone who attempts it would be extremely hard-pressed to get one up and keep it going.

I think starting a national or worldwide society for paranormal research and bringing under it different groups who use the same methods and equipment would be a great benefit to those who need help and those looking to further their research into the paranormal and supernatural.
"I am the bridge between worlds. I have experienced life, I have experienced death, others and my own. I am a shaman."

#17 canuck

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Posted 04 September 2008 - 07:36 PM

Since we have started down this line of setting standards for methods, instrumentation, and data capture; and establishing a corresponding data base, I have been thinking about how all this would be useful.

In addition, in all of our discussions, there is always the question of what constitutes “evidence”.

So, I have been thinking: what exactly does constitute “evidence”; and if we had some “evidence”, what exactly do we do with it?

Furthermore, how do we get meaning from this “evidence”?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume two things:

1. We have captured two minutes of “ghostly” sound at a “haunted” location.

This sound file was captured in accordance with the equipment and sampling method specified previously by Caverat.

The file is 50Mb; 32bit; dual channel stereo; wav format and 5/5 crystal clear.

2. We have a half dozen clear and unambiguous photographs of a spook; not necessarily related to the sound file.

These photos were captured on a Canon EOS 30D camera; shutter 1/100 second; exposure f8; ISO 100; 18-55mm lens; ambient natural light with fill in flash; clear, stable and dust free air.

The files are each approximately 12Mb and in RAW format.

OK. Now we have these data points.

1. Do they constitute evidence?
2. What are they evidence of?
3. If they are not evidence, why not?
4. What “analysis” would we perform on these files?
5. What, specifically, would we be looking for in this analysis?
6. What would that tell us?

Finally, after we have all that information, what do we do with it?

Anybody care to respond?

#18 Vampchick21

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 08:55 AM

I'm one of those people who is not of a scientific bend of mind (they granted me my mandatory science credits in high school out of pity. I tried so hard and nothing stuck. Same with math. Which sucks because frankly, I find many aspects of science to be very interesting), but I'll give it a go.

1. As standards are right now, these do constitute evidence. I think because EVP and photos/videos are what most investigators hope for and strive for when they go into an alleged haunted location.

2. To me, they are evidence of something outside of our current understanding happening in said location.

3. If they are not evidence, it would be because they were proved to be something in the normal realm (such as a camera misfunction, stray radio wave, etc, etc). However, for me, they would have to be proven as such beyond any shadow of a doubt.

4. You got me. lol. Analysis is not my strong point. Hopefully someone else can answer that question, because as far as I am aware, very little analysis is done in general on such evidence outside of ruling out known phenomena. I am aware of some groups and individuals focusing strongly on the EVP evidence, trying to figure out what causes it, I'm aware of one investigator who's day job involves computer forensics who has started working with a voice analysis guy with EVPs, and I know some European countries provide government grants for EVP research.

5. Specifically I think, finding out WHAT exactly the EVP or the photograph is, after ruling out knowns. See above.

6. I think it would be a starting point into understanding exactly what is behind paranormal phenomena.


In my mind, paranormal phenomena has been happening for as long as humans have been around, we seem to have always had a belief in something beyond what we know. This is evidenced when one looks at say, ancient cave paintings, reads various mythologies, looks into folklore and religions and the like. So the question now is, what is it?

I think we are now at the best time to start looking seriously into these things, if we as a community can step away from the constant infighting.

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#19 CaveRat2

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:23 AM

Canuck, you wrote:
In your comment about repeatability and EVP’s, you seem to be making the assumption that the equipment is creating the phenomenon; therefore, failure of the equipment to capture any data, would be seen as a failed experiment.

Not true: the equipment is, and always should be, a passive data capture device; the whole point of establishing standards relating to its calibration and use is to ensure that ALL it does is capture data.


I may not have been clear here, I agree about equipment being the passive element. I was refering to false EVPs created by equipment. These are cases where flaws and limitiations in equipment create EVPs, not the phenomena itself. It's those we want to get rid of. As equipment generated artifacts they cause confusion and may lead to false conclusions that actually harm the research by sending us down a dead end.

The use of equipment which creates the fewest amount of these artifacts, in other words high reliability should serve to minimize or eliminate such false conditions meaning that what remains is in fact valid data where the equipment simply captured, not created it.

Vampchick,
I have been contacted by several who have expressed a desire to set up the kind of database you mention. In every case the projects have failed to materialize. I believe it is the territorial nature of most groups which is the stumbling block. Many want to lay claim to a particular case and feel sharing it with others is compromising their exclusivity.

Another problem is control. I know in my case I cannot share some data because of client confidentiality wishes. In fact one of my protocols involves not placing data on any website where I lose the ability to edit or delete it should client confidentiality desires change. This is why I seldom post EVPs or other evidence, Most of my cases are private and as such confidentiality must be assured. Many do the so-called public hunts, in those cases evidence is owned by the group and as such could be posted. In my case I do very few of those, thus I have little that may be shared.

I have tried to work with a couple of these databases to set up a limited database where some evidence, just not personal data on clients, might be shared, but so far it has not gone very far. I guess it has something to do with the people doing the research in the field of ghosts and haunts that is holding them back. FYI, a couple organizations have very good data bases set up dealing with UFOs and there seems to be no problems with them. It's only with the ghost hunters that it fails to materialize.

Edited by CaveRat, 05 September 2008 - 10:24 AM.


#20 Señor Hugo

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 10:46 AM

Well, Vampchick pretty much hit the nail on the head for most of them. So I won't need to do much fancy smart talk.

If we have photos and evps like what you mentioned in the scenario, we seem to have what most people have been showing lately.

1. As they are, they do not constitute evidence as of yet. But evidence of evidence, if that makes sense. A clue. I'll explain in a minute.

2. They are clues to some event, either natural or paranormal.

3. If the photo is not evidence, it is because the photo has been shown to hold a natural occurrence, of either something weather related(like mist that doesn't show up to the eye but the droplets can be picked up by the camera giving a hint of something paranormal when it's just normal) If the EVP is not evidence, it is because we have shown that there is just too much interference to determine whether the "ghostly" voice is natural or not.

4, 5 & 6: The analysis we can perform can only go so far as our knowledge allows us. This is where my explanation for the first question comes in. A photo cannot hold up by itself unless accompanied by things that support it. For a photo, like in the digital vs film topic, the best supporting evidence is the negative. If the same phenomenon shows up in the negative and is apart of the picture and not an error made. It is the single best bit of supporting evidence one can have. With the evp we must gather supporting evidence from the people performing the evp work, what was happening around the time the evp happened.

Just the Photo and EVP alone cannot be called evidence of a ghost. However, when you gather in personal experiences, the photo, the evp, the evidence supporting the evidence. Then you have a true bit of evidence to something paranormal happening.

What we must analysis isn't only the photo or the evp, it's easy to find an expert willing to look over the photo or go over the evp to determine if what we are seeing is something natural or a legit phenomenon.

So for us, we must look at the group itself. If the group has been operating for a couple of years and produced no evidence showing ghosts or what not. Then suddenly they start coming out with photos after photos of images showing almost picture clear ghosts. Or EVPs with conversations being held with ghosts and the like. We can determine two things.

A. Either paranormal phenomenom is increasing to the point where everyone and their aunt Tilly will start getting photos with ghosts, and we should prepare for the return of Gozer the Gozerian.

B. Something phony is going on with the evidence they suggest.

Other points of analysis should be, of course what was happening when the photos were taken. When a person comes forward with a photo that they think is a ghost. They become defensive of that photo, so any attempt to question the authenticity or not agreeing with the person that it is a ghost. Very few people are open minded enough to think "well yeah, that could be mist." So asking the person who took the photo, isn't a good option. If the photo came from a group, asking another member of the group who was around at the time what was going on.

Same thing with an EVP. Going from personal experience. I did a ghost hunt with a couple of friends. One of my friends had a tape recorder, upon playback we seemed to pick up an EVP of a ghostly far off female voice repeating something my friend said about a second after he said it.

They all thought it was evidence. However since my mind is like a steel trap when it comes to remembering things that happen with something I care about and take seriously(in this case that would be the paranormal), I knew that as that evp was going on. Our other friend with her boyfriend was about 50 feet away, and was actually the source of the evp. As I remember she did say the exact same thing just as my other friend with the recorder said it. I can't remember the conversation since I don't have the audio recording on my computer. But it turns out it was her, even though she didn't think it was at the time.

So that is another thing we must always look at when looking at evidence. The group itself. When we take things at face value, it makes the whole paranormal community look like retards when something comes out as false. Case in point: Most Haunted, The guys who faked the bigfoot corpse.

So not only must we analyze the evidence the group shows us. But the group itself, to see if they are at least trustworthy enough to not falsify photos for their own personal gain.

After doing all of these steps, finding that the group is legit, that the photos and EVP's seem to show that something paranormal is happening.

We slap them in the pile along with the other evidence until we can gather enough evidence to show not only the science community but other disbelievers that there is something going on, it may be natural, but as of right now our technology and our science is at a point where we cannot classify this phenomenon we are seeing in the evidence we present, and that it warrants a deeper looking into from not only the paranormal community but the scientific community as well.
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#21 CaveRat2

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 05:04 PM

All good points. The presence of collaboratting evidence does serve to strengthen the overall case. But consider that it may also serve to debunk. For example suppose you had a video camera going and a recorder doing EVP. At the same time your EMF meter suddenly spiked. Many would consider that strong evidence, but of what? In fact if that happened it would very likely be nothing.

Why? The EMF is the give-away. Suppose a moter stared up somewhere nearby. Ths certainly would cause a spike in the EMF field. Likely it also would cause a surge on power lines which could easily interfere with the electronics in a video camera. And the sound of the motor may cause a strange change in the background audio on a recorder at the very least. At worst it ctualy induce voltage into the audio cable and cause intermodulation or hetrodyning with whatever noise is already there. All in all this scenario would yield a lot of false evidence.

It strikes me as odd how some are so forgiving of their equipment when it comes to EVPs, yet are very tough on photographs showing orbs. Fact is that low sample rate digital recorders will generate false EVPs just as readily as a 2 megapixel camera in a dusty room catches orbs. Yet some defend their recorders and continue to get this level of evidence. We recognize that a cheap camer is subject to capturing false ghosts and anomalies, so we upgrade to a better one. Why do people not see the same holds true with a cheap digital recorder? Certainly both COULD catch the real thing, but we know the chances are great it captuires something else so why do we use them? this is my complaint about equipment, we know a camera's weaknesses and recognize them, why can't we do the same with an EVP?

My thoughts are it comes down to education. Pictures and light as it applies to orbs is easy to understand. Sample rates and resolution, along with aliasing and conversion errors are not so easily comprehended. Maybe some research into how a digital recorder works, including some theory behind them, might some day move that area forward. For now though, most continue as they have in the past.

#22 Señor Hugo

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 12:00 PM

One question for cave before my main brunt of input. What is your position on the FLAC(Free Lossless Audio Codec) format?

For the EMF, I didn't think a motor starting would be able to cause that big of an effect on the surrounding area. I figured it would cause a small spike right in the vicinity of maybe 5-10 feet but thats it.

With the EMF, I don't trust spikes anyway. A spike is just that, a spike. It doesn't mean much, which using Geiger counters, a spike in radiation isn't something to worry about. It's the constant high-levels that you should be looking for.

I like how TAPS approach(the 1st and 2nd season seemed to be their legit seasons) EMF. If the EMF is constantly high, with what seems like no source(no exposed wiring, badly shielded circuit breaker box). Like if you move the meter up, the emf level drops, you move it down it drops, you keep it in the middle it stays high. Thats the type of reading you can look towards for evidence.

It really does boil down to education. Teaching ghost hunters about the best tools to use, the best methods for ghost hunting, and what to look for.

The problem I've seen a lot is people looking at orbs as evidence. Anything like dust, or condensation, or bugs aside. An orb in a photo doesn't mean that you caught a ghost. What an orb means is that you caught a naturally occurring event. Orbs are not evidence, but more along the lines of support that the energy in that area was so high that not only could orbs be picked up by either the camera or the human eye, but that means there was a possibility of paranormal activity in the area.

Photo/Video of Orbs = Nothing

Photo/Video of Orbs + EVP + EMF Readings + Personal Experience = Paranormal Evidence

By itself, an orb is nothing more than an orb. It's only supporting evidence that needs to be paired with any other type of evidence that was captured to be considered true evidence. If that makes any sense.

But I ramble and rant. Anyway, it does come down to education. Knowing the best methods/tactics or just having a greater understanding of what can be counted as evidence is priceless in our field, it supports you even when you may not be using the best equipment for whatever reasons(lack of funds etc)

Knowing that allows you to weed through the muck to find that one gem, that one bit of evidence that really makes everyone stand back and say "well, I'll be damned."
"I am the bridge between worlds. I have experienced life, I have experienced death, others and my own. I am a shaman."

#23 canuck

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 09:38 PM

The current discussion is excellent stuff for the development of standards and methods for the collection of data.

But so far it is still all aimed at the one thing: proving that spooks exist.

How about if we go one step further: we stipulate that spooks do exist.

Taking that stipulation, and assuming that we have a database of sound files and photographs which have been gathered in accordance with standard methods and equipment, what do we do with that data?

Ie: what further information can we get from a sound file; what more can we get from a photograph?

I am pretty sure that if we did a spectral analysis of a spook sound file, we would find that it is no different from any other sound file; ie: it would probably be an unremarkable distribution from about 50Hz to 20,000Hz with a couple of peaks.

Does this tell us anything? Does it say anything about the processes involved in spook manifestation?

Similarly, if we examined the metadata and histograms of a spook pic, I think we would find them pretty unremarkable; both the composite and the individual channels would all look pretty much like any other photo.

So what can we get from a photo?

If we had some infrared pictures of a spook, the temperature distribution would be useful. It may lead to some insights into the manifestation process. Has anyone ever captured a spook in infrared?

So, back to the basic question: assuming we have a huge pile of credible sound and photo files, what information can we get from them?

#24 Señor Hugo

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Posted 06 September 2008 - 11:06 PM

Well, with that stipulation in mind.

What we can actually gather from those audio files, video, photos and personal experiences. Is a good chunk.

We can actually start to classify the paranormal more so than we already have.

Right now we have the classifications of "Poltergeist, Demon, Residual, Intelligent"

We can't classify the haunting's any more than that currently.

Upon gathering this we'll be able to look at the different residual hauntings and figure out what caused them to replay the same moment over and over. We'll be able to put groups together to narrow down the entities allowing for a more effective investigation.

It would get the to point, that we may be able to classify "class 5 full-roaming vapor" and the like.

For those trying to help people get rid of the worst kind of spirits and demons. Knowing this will give the exorcist the knowledge he/she needs to perform the proper type of exorcism or cleansing.

Or at least that's what I see us getting out of it.
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#25 CaveRat2

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 08:31 PM

One question for cave before my main brunt of input. What is your position on the FLAC(Free Lossless Audio Codec) format?


I am aware of this format but have not used it in actual service, so my comments are based on my reading of research by others. From specifications I see it does provide much higher quality than MP3 or the other lossy formats. This would likely allow that any EVP captured under the FLAC format should be capable of in depth analysis using spectrum analyzers or oscilloscopes. Likely I will download and test it one of these days when I get some spare time. For now since I use primarily analog for all my applications though I just haven't done so.

I do see two possible areas of concern though. First it does require more processor usage. While this may not actually be a problem in many cases, should it be used in an environment where processor time is already stretched, certain artifacts or errors may be created.

Secondly, compression ranges of only 30 - 50 % are claimed. 35% being about average. This is less than half the original WAV file. While this may be beneficial the benefits are somewhat limited. One would have to question whether a small reduction in file size like this is worth it. (MP3s by comparison compress up to 80%) If filesize is so critical a factor then I would see no problem using FLAC. But otherwise I would likely just go with WAV for simplicity.

Edited by CaveRat, 07 September 2008 - 08:32 PM.


#26 canuck

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 09:53 PM

This would likely allow that any EVP captured under the FLAC format should be capable of in depth analysis using spectrum analyzers or oscilloscopes.


So what exactly are you looking for when you perform “in depth analysis” or spectrum analysis of a sound file?

Ie: is there something specific you are looking for; why are you looking for this; and what does it tell you?

#27 Señor Hugo

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Posted 12 September 2008 - 11:51 PM

This would likely allow that any EVP captured under the FLAC format should be capable of in depth analysis using spectrum analyzers or oscilloscopes.


So what exactly are you looking for when you perform “in depth analysis” or spectrum analysis of a sound file?

Ie: is there something specific you are looking for; why are you looking for this; and what does it tell you?


Well, the same reason we'd be looking at a full spectrum analysis of anything. To see if there is something out of the ordinary.
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#28 CaveRat2

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 09:28 AM

This would likely allow that any EVP captured under the FLAC format should be capable of in depth analysis using spectrum analyzers or oscilloscopes.


So what exactly are you looking for when you perform “in depth analysis” or spectrum analysis of a sound file?

Ie: is there something specific you are looking for; why are you looking for this; and what does it tell you?


This goes back to your earlier post regarding quality evidence where you mentioned a scenario whereby we have evidence obtained under high standards. We can assume the evidence is genuine, at least we can safely rule out the mundane causes of false evidence, (RF interference, alising, dust in a photo, etc. This leaves only something truely unknown, not some mundane fault masking itself as paranormal. So for a moment we'll assume we have such a recording, what to do with it?

That said we have a point to begin an investigation into the nature of the evidence. You mention the spectrum analyzer so I will concenntrate on that area (EVP) rather than photography. The same standards however may be applied to pictures as well, only obviously different analysis techniques and equipment would be used.

In the case of the spectrum analysis, of course we can hear what the EVP is saying. But beyond that there may be subtle frequencies present that might be indicative of an EVP. (Hypothesis of course for now.) The use of high quality allows me to scan various frequencies present within the EVP to determine if possibly some pattern may be present. Exactly how or what frequencies are subject to various theories that may be proposed. I have tested for some, I am open to suggestions of other factors that might be looked into. We really don't know what may be buried in the background on an EVP recording unless we look for it.

The point is these tests require a recording with very high standards to be conducted properly. Simply listening to what the EVP says is not enough, the spectrum analyzer is a tool that allows it to literally be disassembled in various ways and studied to detrmine what its make up consists of.

As to any specific thing to be looking for, that varies. If someone puts forth a hypothesis that something may exist in an EVP, the spectrum analyzer is a way to go in and search for its presence. There is no one thing I look for, rather I may think of a possibility then go back into some of my older EVPs and test for it. All ideas are worth considering, the fact that the evidence quality is maintained simply means I can go back and take a look at it from a different perspective. It's the same context of NASA and the lunar samples returned from the moon 25 years ago. They are still valid evidence, and new research is still being done on them as new ideas are formulated and tested.

Also the use of an oscilloscope is valuable to as an analysis tool. For instance, using spatial analysis between channels on a stereo recording it becomes possible to determine noit just the presence of an EVP, but its direction and possible its source with respect to the mics which recorded it. Of course that also assumes proper logs were made at the time the EVP was captured. Comparisons can be made between the ambience of the room and those present on the EVP as well to possibly learn something about the characteristics of what generated it.

Just a few examples of what might be obtained. Of course we don't have all those answers yet. If we did the solution to the paranormal field might be a lot closer. But by using this level of research, we can be assured that the quality of evidence is such that it may be usable as new ideas and discoveries are made in the future. It goes beyond just hearing a scratchy voice say "Get out" on a recording. The use of such high end equipment allows us to look at EVPs more in depth.

#29 canuck

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 10:28 PM

The various comments here have started me thinking about the finer points of the data analysis

I imagine that normal sound recording equipment would be capturing sound within the human audible range of around 40Hz to 20,000Hz.

Has anyone captured any spook audio from outside the audible band?

Assuming that a file has been captured within the audible range, does the spectrum show a conventional distribution over the whole range, or is the sound confined to a band somewhere within the range?

In multi-channel recordings, do they show the sound is a point source or does it come from a broader area. If it is a point source, does the file track any movement of the source?

If it is an area source, that would be pretty interesting in itself. I wonder how would you create an area sound within a confined area? Interesting.

A similar kind of reasoning could be applied to a photo file. A hard copy from film probably wouldn’t provide much beyond the immediate content. But the histogram from a digital file might show some unusual peaks in one or more of the channels.

What I would really like to see is some infra-red pictures of a spook in action. It would be really interesting to see its thermal profile, and whether or not there are any heat effects in the immediate vicinity of a manifestation.

The jackpot would be an infrared movie of a spook as it manifests and fades. I would be willing to skip lunch to see that.

#30 CaveRat2

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 09:02 AM

The various comments here have started me thinking about the finer points of the data analysis

I imagine that normal sound recording equipment would be capturing sound within the human audible range of around 40Hz to 20,000Hz.

Has anyone captured any spook audio from outside the audible band?

Assuming that a file has been captured within the audible range, does the spectrum show a conventional distribution over the whole range, or is the sound confined to a band somewhere within the range?

In multi-channel recordings, do they show the sound is a point source or does it come from a broader area. If it is a point source, does the file track any movement of the source?

If it is an area source, that would be pretty interesting in itself. I wonder how would you create an area sound within a confined area? Interesting.

A similar kind of reasoning could be applied to a photo file. A hard copy from film probably wouldn’t provide much beyond the immediate content. But the histogram from a digital file might show some unusual peaks in one or more of the channels.

What I would really like to see is some infra-red pictures of a spook in action. It would be really interesting to see its thermal profile, and whether or not there are any heat effects in the immediate vicinity of a manifestation.

The jackpot would be an infrared movie of a spook as it manifests and fades. I would be willing to skip lunch to see that.


This is the kind of reasoning that will push the level of research forward. More of us should be asking these types of questions. I can address a few of these, although in most cases additional research might also be needed to bring out greater details.

1. You are correct, normal audio recording equipment covers from 20 - 20,000 Hz. Most will not go much above this due to bandpass filtering in the circuitry. It becomes difficult to prevent IM distortion when higher frequencies are present, and those frequencies are not needed even for good quality audio. Thus they are generally filtered out. For those who may want to try direct audio above there are a few techniques which will allow this to be done using higher bias frequencies and tape speed, but they are rather complex and not something most investigators could readily accomplish unless they had some electronics experience.

2. It is much easier to view directly a sound above the audio spectrum on an oscilloscope. I have done this type of viewing (I have no recorder capable of recording the signals directly, maybe someday...) I have seen frequencies in that region, mostly caused by certain insects and bats as well as a few man made noises. Nothing to indicate paranormal though, although certainly with the limited amount of research nothing to rule it out either.

3. Yes some EVPs seem to be confined to certain frequencies. Mostly they are in the normal voice bands, often the vocalizations are suppressed or entirely missing (as in a whisper). I have to date seem no evidence of a valid EVP outside the normal audio spectrum, although there are variations in frequencies present within that range.

4. Most recordings I have made using stereo and spatial analysis seems to indicate a point source. This source has at times indicated movement while the EVP was being recorded as though the source was moving. Often movemet is lateral to the microphones, less often toward or away. What this means is open to conjecture, it is simply a factor that has been observed using spatial analysis techniques.

5. Those EVPs which seem to come from an area source often exhibit a lack of ambience. This is also noted if an EVP is recorded using an inductive pickup instead of conventional microphone. Possibly indicative of another mode of EVP, that being an EM Field source. Since the fields are not limitied by thye speed of sound spatial analysis is not possible on them. They occur at the sam time on both sensors if stereo is employed. Of course they also could be attributed to a radiated RF field, although this may be discounted if a non-demodulating probe and low impedence inputs are used. this is an area for more research to be be done.

6. Photograhy is something I have not done as extennsive work in as EVP, so I won't address the properties outside the visible spectrum other than to say what work I have done using IR and filtering on video has not revealed anything outside the visible light portion of the spectrum. IR has detected certain anomalies, but they have also appeared within the visiible spectrum as well. An area for more research.




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