Thursday, September 16, 2010

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Basics

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Basics

by D.R. Smith

Northern Lights Paranormal Studies and Investigations
Fargo, North Dakota

In recent years, many paranormal investigators have adopted Electromagnetic Field (EMF) detection devices as a plausible tool for detecting the presence of ghosts and calculating the approximate location of spirit energies. In fact, it is probably the paranormal community which accounts for a very large percentage of the sales of EMF detection and monitoring equipment gear. However, only a handful of ghost hunters can fully explain the principles behind EMF and demonstrate proper use of the detection equipment.

Hopefully, this article will help to explain the basics of EMF detection. This article is not intended to be a technical treatise on electromagnetic fields, waves and radiation, but rather is aimed towards informing our ghost hunting brethren of some little known facts and information that might prove to be useful to them.

Electromagnetic Field Detectors

During the cellular telephone boom of the early 1990's, many theories abounded concerning the ill effects generated to the human body from exposure to ELF (extremely low frequency) magnetic fields in numerous scientific and medical journals. Theories ranged from those explaining that EMF exposure could possibly effect the body's immune system to theories which proposed that EMF exposure could be directly correlated to certain types of cancer.

Although evidence proving a direct "cause and effect" link between EMF and health problems has never been established, prestigious and recognized authorities (including the United States Environmental Protection Agency) have recommended "prudent avoidance" of ELF magnetic fields on a prolonged basis until further research leads to more conclusive results.

So, to serve the public's interest, many companies began developing simple equipment to both detect the presence of ELF magnetic fields and to measure their relative strength. Almost anyone who has purchased an EMF detector and read through the directions included with the unit has an understanding of how to operate the unit and a strong idea of where to find magnetic fields within the home. Common sources for household EM readings include such mundane objects as computer monitors, cellular telephones, bedside clock radios, and microwave ovens.

There are many different models of EMF detector currently available on the market, ranging from basic EM detection circuit boards (retailing around $5 each), to limited range user friendly models (the NL-PSI members all own ELF-Zone EMF detectors purchased in an e-Bay auction for $10 each), to incredibly sensitive units such as the Natural Trifield Meter (expect to pay a minimum of $150 for the basic model up to $300 for the more advanced models). EMF detection equipment is widely available from numerous sources on the world wide web and mail order scientific supply houses such as Edmund Scientific.

General Information concerning EMF

The electromagnetic spectrum covers an enormous range of frequencies ranging from invisible fields to visible light and beyond. These frequencies are expressed in cycles per second (i.e., Hz). Electric power (60 Hz in North America, 50 Hz in most other places) is in the extremely-low-frequency range, which includes frequencies below 3000 Hz.

The higher the frequency, the shorter the distance between one wave and the next, and the greater the amount of energy in the field. Microwave frequency fields, with wavelengths of several inches, have enough energy to cause heating in conducting material. Still higher frequencies like X-rays cause ionization—the breaking of molecular bonds, which damages genetic material. In comparison, power frequency fields have wavelengths of more than 3100 miles (5000 km) and consequently have very low energy levels that do not cause heating or ionization. However, AC fields do produce weak electric currents in conducting objects, including people and animals.

In order to understand how electromagnetic fields operate within a home, we must first understand some of the basic principles of electricity. Without going into great detail, it is safe to assume that most people are aware that the electricity which powers their homes is brought to them by an enormous power system which covers most of the country.

From giant generators in plants fueled in a variety of ways (nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power plants, etc.), the voltage is increased by setup transformers in order to send the electricity over transmission lines to smaller substations. It is here that the voltage is decreased by the use of a step-down transformer and the power is carried along the distribution lines to a home, where a final step-down transformer decreases the voltage for energy consumption within the average home.

North America uses a 60 hertz (Hz) AC (alternating current) power system. Though a typical household is filled with electrical wiring, the typical wire contains three individual strands of wire which carry the electricity. Most household appliances utilize only one wire at a time, but the three wires are bundled together in order to keep the current cycling at different points in time. This, in turn, allows the charges to cancel one another out, resulting in an overall neutral charge (hence, alternating current). If these three wires are not run closely enough together or are improperly insulated, a "hot spot" is created and very high magnetic fields are the result.

When an electrical current travels through the wiring or into an appliance, it produces an electromagnetic field, which consists of the electric field which is always present (even when the appliance is switched off) and the magnetic field which occurs when the power is switch on to the appliance. While it is generally accepted that the electric field is harmless, it is suspected that the magnetic fields can be related to cancer or other health problems. Thus, companies have been quick to offer EMF detection devices to help the average homeowner locate and isolate areas of strong electromagnetic fields.

However, in addition to the EM present because of electrical wiring and appliance, EMF is found in nature as well. The earth itself has a unique magnetic field (referred to as a geomagnetic field) and anyone who has handled a compass is probably well aware of that fact. The earth produces EMFs, mainly in the form of DC (direct current, also called static fields). Electric fields are produced by thunderstorm activity in the atmosphere. Near the ground, the DC electric field averages less than 200 volts per meter (V/m). Much stronger fields, typically about 50,000 V/m, occur directly beneath electrical storms.

Magnetic fields are thought to be produced by electric currents flowing deep within the earth's molten core. The DC magnetic field averages around 500 milligauss (mG). This number is larger than typical AC electric power magnetic fields, but DC fields do not create currents within humans and animals like AC currents can do.

Factors as subtle as water running against certain geological stratas of rock can also produce electromagnetic fields. The sun's solar flare activity can also greatly effect the magnetic fields of the earth, as well as cosmic radiation that is able to penetrate the earth's atmosphere.

No matter the source of the EM field, all magnetic fields are measured in units called Gauss (named for Charles Friedrich Gauss, 1777-1855) or Tesla (named for Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943). While these units of measurement actually record the magnetic flux rather than the density of a field, it is unimportant for our means. Here in the United States, EM fields are measured in milliGauss (mG) while the Tesla measurements are most commonly expressed in Europe. In essence, 1mG=.01 microTesla.

For the purpose of ghost hunting, most of the EM equipment used focuses specifically on the ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) range of less than 60 Hertz and is expressed almost exclusively in terms of milliGauss (mG).

Using EMF Detectors

Before attempting to use any EM detection device as part of a ghost hunt or an investigation, it is absolutely essential that the operator has read through the instruction manual thoroughly and is familiar with operating the device. To attempt using an EMF detector as part of any serious inquiry into the paranormal without fully comprehending how to properly operate the unit is an open invitation to false-readings and misleading EMF alerts.

Most of the time, operation of an EMF detector is usually considered as simple as switching on the power and moving the unit around until it registers a source of EM radiation. However, we here at the NL-PSI strongly recommend that you first use your EMF detector in your home as a training exercise to allow you to become familiar with the various sources of EM radiation in an average household. You will often find that ELF radiation is strongest in one particular area. For example, your computer monitor at work may have its greatest EM radiation level directly in back of it, a bedside clock radio may emit EM radiation to one particular side, etc.

Most of the commercially available EMF detectors are "single-axis" meters. Although even a simple explanation of what this means can confuse most non-technical users, it is very important to understand how this property affects the measurements you take.

A magnetic field has two basic properties: Its strength (or level) which is measured in mG, and its direction. Most people have no problem understanding that magnetic field levels are measured in units of mG, but the majority of measurements taken by an inexperienced operator with a single-axis meter are flawed. The problem arises from the fact that magnetic fields are directional (remember that it is the earth's magnetic field which causes a compass needle to point to magnetic north).

Most of the time, operators simply point the meter "at" the area they are trying to measure. Although it is possible that this may lead to "correct" measurements, it is much more likely that the level indicated by the meter will be lower than the actual level present. Also, try to keep in mind that all meters have different ranges of accuracy, normally ranging from +/- 1% to +/-4%. Your instruction manual will include this information and it is important to note this factor when recording your readings.

Instead of pointing the meter "at" what is being measured, the user should try slowly and gently orienting the meter in different directions until a maximum level is indicated on the display. Turn the meter clockwise, counterclockwise, sideways, leaning forward, leaning backward, and all combination of angles and distances in between. This may seem a little awkward, but it is absolutely necessary to insure accurate readings.

Hold the meter in front of and around the source of radiation and continue to orient the meter at various angles until a maximum reading is found. If you take the time to become familiar with this process, you will find that the reading displayed is greatly affected by the orientation of the meter. This is because the magnetic field not only has a strength or level associated with it, but a direction as well. Most meters respond very well to EM fields that run across the meter from left to right (or right to left), but a very strong magnetic field running in a direction from top to bottom or front to back will show little or sometimes no reading on the display of many meters.

If it is not possible to insure that you are using your single-axis meter correctly, consider upgrading your EMF detector to a 3-axis instrument such as the Trifield Natural EM Meter or the Teslatronics Model 70. These are far more sensitive units (The TriField meter can actually pick up the EM signatures produced by the human body at a distance of ten feet, through a wall!) and are able to monitor a wide range of energy patterns, such as microwave and radio wave radiation as well as EMF.

The 3-axis meters, because of their inherent sensitivity, will get accurate readings very quickly, but have many quirks unique to their very nature. For instance, trying to measure radio frequency (RF) radiation in a room with a TriField meter may prove difficult because the meter will pick up energies being reflected from the four walls, the ceiling and floor, and even the user's body. Some paranormal investigators report that they find using the TriField meter as an active "scanning" device by moving the unit from side to side a very difficult task because of the fluctuations of the readings.

They recommend using the TriField as a stationary device. Rather than "scanning" for EM activity that might indicate a paranormal anomaly, simply let the device sit in one area and its audible alarm will alert you when it senses an unusual EM source.

Once you have spent enough time to become intimately familiar with the subtitles of operating your EMF meter and are confident in your abilities to obtain accurate readings with it, it is time to switch over to a fresh battery and try it again in the dark. Think of it as a training exercise.

With the lights off, go through your home again with the meter, focusing only on your readings. Try to keep in mind that magnetic fields can travel through walls while trying to locate the source of your readings. Once you are fully confident that you have mastered operating your meter in dark conditions, it may be time to actually try it "in the field."

EMF Detectors and Ghost Hunting

The sole reason many investigators and ghost hunters purchase an Electromagnetic Field Detector is to help them locate ghosts. This is not what an EMF detector does and it was never designed for this purpose. Its purpose is to locate sources of electromagnetic radiation and to offer a reading of the relative strength (and direction if you are a skilled and competent operator) of the EM field.

However, EMF can be a great tool to help locate possible areas of ghostly or spiritual energy if you approach the matter appropriately, because it the generally accepted theory that spirits do emit an extremely low frequency EM field (i.e. less than 60 Hz) which commonly registers between 2.0 and 7.0 mG in strength. However, these are only general guidelines, as there have been marked exceptions in field research. Some reports put the spirit energies in excess of 10.0 mG and some incidents have registered readings over 100 mG when spirits have made their presence known. Use your best judgment when recording readings!

When you begin a ghost hunt or an investigation, its is of paramount importance that you obtain accurate "background" readings of the location you are in and to make accurate notes of any source of EM radiation. If at all possible, creating a scaled map of your site and clearly marking every EMF reading you obtain and its precise location. A map like this will prove invaluable to you in helping to locate anomalies that may indicate the presence of a ghost or spirit energies.

For instance, a cemetery location is a very common site for ghost hunts. Begin in one corner of the cemetery and start taking readings approximately three feet off the ground (waist height) and begin following the first row of grave markers, taking readings as you move along. Then, follow the second row with your readings, then to the third and so forth. By the time you are done, you will have a very good idea of the EM "environment" you will be conducting your hunt in. Be sure to carefully review your map. A series of readings in a straight line may have a very earthly explanation, such as an underground power line.

The same principles may be applied to an investigation conducted indoors. While the most accurate indications of EMF which can be attributed to "paranormal" sources are obtained when the master power switch to the location is switched off and absolutely no electricity is flowing through the location, this is grossly impractical in a lot of situations. The mapping technique is highly advisable in this instance, but more care must be taken to find every single source of EM radiation in the location.

Once the background readings have been taken and the hunt/investigation is commenced in earnest, the EMF operator will continue to "scan" the area for EM readings that are anomalous. That is, you are specifically looking for any EM reading that does not have a plausible explanation or is not indicated on the map of the "EM Environment" that you have created.

Now, you must be aware that rarely does a ghost's (or spiritual energy's) EM pattern stay in one location for long. If your reading stays steady and does not fluctuate, odds are that you are reading something with a plausible explanation, such as an electrical device on the other side of a wall. The basic rule of thumb here is if the field remains constant, it's artificially generated; if it fluctuates erratically or demonstrates movement, it's "paranormal."

In any event, it is very much the responsibility of a good investigator to insure that any logical or plausible explanation is explored before declaring the readings to be attributable to a ghost or spirit energies. But, remember that you are looking for erratic fields of energy with no physical source.

The epitome of this type of phenomena are self-contained fields of EM energy that either hover in midair or demonstrate marked patterns of movement. Upon detecting such a field, it is wise to start taking photographs immediately, because these types of anomalies have a quirky habit of disappearing quickly.

The final thoughts concerning the EMF detector and the ghost hunter is it is very important to insure that the meter is maintained correctly. These are very sensitive, and often expensive, pieces of equipment that are damaged easily. Treat them delicately and take precautions to insure that your meter is not subjected to extreme shocks, like being dropped or shaken violently. Be certain to always use a fresh battery in your meter, being careful to use the recommended size and type as indicated in your instruction pamphlet. Always be sure to remove the battery if you plan to store the meter for any length of time. Also, be sure to store the unit is a cool, dry place and never, never drop your meter or allow it to be subjected to abuse. Taking the time to follow these guidelines will help to insure that your investment will continue to serve you in the field of the paranormal for years to come.

NOTE* MSSPI provides articles and links for research and educational purposes only. We make no profit from the posting of these articles. MSSPI does not claim or deny the validity of the information contained in them. All opinions and statements are purely those of the author. We leave it up to you to decide for yourself the validity of the information provided.

Camera Shake and Image Stabilization

Camera Shake and Image Stabilization

A short Introduction
by J. Andrzej Wrotniak


This non-technical article is intended to give you a brief introduction to the often-misunderstood issue of camera shake, and to image stabilization, offered in many cameras to combat this problem.

Camera shake and motion blur

Even mounted on a tripod, your camera is never perfectly still. Especially changes in its orientation (attitude, as opposed to the position) while the frame is being exposed bring a degree of motion blur to pictures. It is the movements of the direction in which the lens axis points which are much more harmful than any others.

If the amount of that blur is small enough, less than any image unsharpness due to finite lens/imager resolution and other factors, we will not see it. Otherwise we talk about visible effects of camera shake, something usually we want to avoid.

For the same variations in the lens axis direction, the amount of motion blur seen in pictures depends on (is directly proportional to) three factors:

•The lens focal length;
•Image magnification (from the sensor to the viewed print or screen size);
•Exposure time (within reasonable limits; we are talking fracions of a second).

If the focal length is expressed not in absolute terms but as 35 mm "full frame" equivalent (EFL), then the first two factors on the list merge into one: two lenses of the same EFL magnify camera shake to the same extent, regardless of the frame size.

Avoiding camera shake

To avoid the motion blur resulting from camera shake, shorter exposure times (faster shutter speeds) can be used. The generally accepted rule of thumb is that the slowest safely handholdable shutter speed is the reciprocal of the EFL. For example, with a 200 mm lens on a 35-mm camera, 1/200 s is generally considered safe.

For a Canon APS-C the corresponding actual focal length will be 135 mm, becaose the EFL multiplier is 1.6&rimes;. For Four Thirds, the multiplier is 2× hence a 100 mm lens will be equivalent to a 200 mm one on a full-frame camera.

Therefore we could rephrase the 1/EFL rule in terms of the actual focal length, F (in millimeters). For Canon APS-C cameras the nominal handheld exposure is 1/1.6F, for Four Thirds (Olympus and Panasonic) SLRs — 1/2F. Example: 1/100 s for a 50 mm lens on a Four Thirds camera.

This, obviously, depends on the photographer's picture-taking technique: how the camera is being held and shutter released. More experienced (or just more thoughtful) photographers can often get away with shutter speeds four times (2 EV) longer than the rule suggests (here: 1/50 s), while some people will get blurred pictures even at shutter speeds faster than our rule indicates.

Following a few simple points may provide you with one or two EV advantage when photographing from hand.

•If your camera has an optical finder, use it rather than the LCD monitor. This alone may allow you to use shutter speeds 2 to 4 times longer (1-2 EV) compared to holding the camera in your outstretched hands. (Actually, the 1/EFL rule assumes you are using the camera this way.)

•Avoid holding the camera in one hand only; use your left hand to craddle the body, palm up, with fingers supporting the lens barrel.

•Use only your fingertip to release the shutter; do not move the whole hand, and dont start the move to put your camera away even before the picture has been made.

•When standing, brace yourself with your feet wide, or lean against some support (tree, door frame, etc.). Keep your elbows against your body.

•Especially with longer lenses, use breath control, like in rifle shooting. Take a breath in, partially let it out, avoid breathing immediately before and during the shutter release. DOn't hold your breath for too long.

•Before taking the picture, check the shutter speed the camera is going to use. Even the simplest compacts display this information. If the speed is slower than our rule above says, try to suport the camera ahainst something

All this may often bring more improvement than buying a camera with image stabilization.

Image stabilization

Higher shutter speeds are not always feasible. At low or moderate ligh levels they will require a higher ISO settings in the camera, but this is possible only up to a certain limit, and at the expense of degrading the image quality. This is why many current digital cameras come with the image stabilization feature.

Solutions used here can be divided into two groups. Both use a motion sensor to detect in real time changes in camera/lens attitude, but then the information is used differently.

•Lens-based IS: the signal drives a micromotor which then moves rapidly a dedicated group of lens elements; this group changes the direction of the light leaving the lens towards the sensor, counteracting the camera axis movements; the image created on the sensor is more stable.

•Body-based systems: instead of "moving" the light before it reaches the sensor, the signal drives a micromotor moving the sensor itself; as if "chasing" the constantly moving image. The result is similar to that above.

In lens-based system the sensor itself is also built into the lens, so you pay for the IS every time you byi a new lens. The range of stabilized lenses may be quite limiter, too.

Makers of such systems (Canon, Nikon) claim that it can work better, because each implementation can be tweaked best to the lens in which it is contained. Those who offer the body-based approach (Pentax, Sony, Olympus) say that their way works just fine, thank you.

I suspect that the true reason behind Nikon's and Canon's approach was the exiisting investment in lens-based systems from the film era. In a few years we may see them adapt the body-IS technology.

There is no doubt, that being able to use image stabilization with any lens is a very attractive option for many camera users. Canon and Nikon offer IS only in some lenses, mostly with longer focal lengths (where this is most useful, anyway), and mostly at a premium. In other systems, every lens gets the benefit of image stabilization, regardles of when andd by whom it was made.

Some camera makers use the term "image stabilization" to describe program modes in which the sensor sensitivity (ISO rating) is set higher, to allow for fasters shutters. This is a misleading abuse of the term.

There are also solutions, mostly seen on low-end models, based on taking a number of motion picture frames and merging them together, shifted to compensate for the differences; they are not rarely satisfactory and remain out of scope of this discussion.

How much does IS help?

The manufacturers usually come up with some numbers describing the benefits of their IS systems. This is usually done in terms of how much longer shutter speeds become handholdable with IS than without, often expressed in terms of EV (exposure values). One EV means doubling (or halving) the shutter speed, so, for example, 3 EV means a factor of 8×.

Unfortunately, with no information whatsoever how these numbers were derived, they are worth no more than anecdotal evidence or ones generated off the ceiling in the marketing department.

The only reasonable approach to all such claims is to just ignore them. They are certainly not comparable between manufacturers.

We have to remember that camera shake is largely a stochastic process, one drawn by chance. You may get an umblurred frame at 1/15 s without IS, and the next one, shot under identical conditions at 1/30 s with IS may show motion blur; bad luck. In the transitional area of shutter speeds where IS really maters, it does not give you a guarantee of success; it only raises the probability.

This statistical improvement may depend on a number of factors. My experience strongly indicates that at higher shutter speeds IS is more effective than at lower ones. What this means is that shooting with unsteady hands and/or with longer lenses will benefit from IS more than shooting steady and/or with shorter ones.

A beginner using a moderately long lens may, for example, have a 50/50 chance of getting a no-blur picture at 1/125 s; with IS this may move down to 1/30 s, a gain of 2 EV. With the same lens, a more experienced user may get away with 1/30 s without, and with IS — 1/15 s, which is just 1 EV difference. Don't get it wrong: he still gets sharper pictures (or is capable of using slower speeds successfully), it is just that he benefits less from image stabilization.

A reasonable procedure to determine the advantage of image stabilization would involve taking a large number of pictures in two series: one with, ans one without IS. For each focal length both series would have to cover a wide enough range of shutter speeds, to determine at which speed the success (no-blur picture) rate reaches some agreed upon value, for example, 50%. The difference between these speed values (expressed in EV) with and without IS would be a good measure of the advantage gained. (I am assuming, obviously, that both series are taken under otherwise identical conditions, or with identical statistical mix of such conditions.)

The disavantage to such method is that it requires hunreds of frames to be shot, but this cannot be avoided. You cannot estimate a statistical property using just a few readings.

I have developed such a procedure and used it to test image stabilization on two Olympus SLRs: E-510 and E-3. The IS benefits ranged from about 1 EV at wide angle (EFL of 24 or 28 mm) to more than 2 EV (at EFL of 300 mm). Compare that to manufacturer's claims of "up to 5 EV" improvement.

This is not just Olympus, the practice is common in the camera industry.

Technically such claims may be true, because up to really means "we know of at least one such case". This is the same as promising "up to $30 million a year" earnings at Wal-Mart: it may happen, but don't expect it.

For a reasonable range of focal lengths (EFL 28 to 300 mm) and an average operator, I would expect the IS to bring in a difference ranging from 1 to 3 EV, regardless of the solution type, brand, or model, but depending on the factors discussed above.

How not to evaluate IS benefits

I have seen this error committed so many times, that it I feel it deserves a separate section in this article.

A reviewer says: "With IS we were getting sharp images at 100 mm EFL and 1/10 s; at this focal length the normal handholdable exposure is 1/100 s, therefore the IS briings an omprovement of 10× or 3.3 EV".

Wrong. This means nothing. DO a small experiment: turn the IS off; you'll be probably having good pictures at 1/40 s or so. Does that mean that a disabled IS gives an improvement of 2.5× (1.3 EV)? Just because your camera has an "IS" sticker on it?

The only right way to do it is to perform a with/without comparison, keeping all other things equal, and then you have to catch the region when the change occurs (i.e., the pictures start getting blurred); something similar, if not necessarily identical, to my procedure described above. Anything else is old wives' tales.

Posted 2009/02/28 Copyright © 2009 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak
See more camera and photography related articles here:

Note*Mississippi Society of Paranormal Investigators posts articles and links  that might be of interest to the historical researcher and paranormal investigator. We make no profit from the posting of these articles and attempt to give credit of authorship were due. We post this information strictly for information, education and research purposes.

False-Positive Agents- Series

About the Author

Kenneth Biddle is the Founder of the Paranormal Investigators & Research Association (PIRA) and The Explorers Club (TEC).He has also co-founded the United States Paranormal Alliance. Ken is a member of the Bucks County and Montgomery County Historical Societies. His Web site is:

MSSPI recommends researchers to read Mr. Biddle's books and guides. His website is a good source for information. We use some of his information in our training of new members pertaining to field investigations and evidence review. Read his work and form your own opinions. We recommend his book "A Guide To Paranormal Investigations" Book one in the Investigation Series, Published by WHG-PIRA Productions, Levitown, PA.

False-Positive Agents- Series

By Ken Biddle, Founder of PIRA

When I first started the hobby of ghost hunting, I knew very little about what I was doing or what I was looking for. (This is definitely a "learn-as-you-go" kind of hobby!) I remember being so excited to get my photos back after my first investigation to see if I had gotten an orb, an ecto, or even--dare I say--an apparition. When I looked at the photos, I didn't consider that they might actually be something other than what I believed them to be. I didn't want to hear anyone telling me that my pictures were of dust or a camera strap. What did people know? I was a ghost hunter, and I took these photos while on a ghost hunt! They must be real, and that was that!

Well, I was wrong. I've been investigating and researching paranormal activity for several years and have learned a lot since my first ghost hunt. I like to say that I have a lot of experience and experimentation under my $7.99 leather belt. The so-called "experts" who told me my photos were "false-positives" were right. What I have learned is how the environment can play tricks on us, our cameras, and just about every piece of our equipment. I've learned, too, that I have to look and listen to my surroundings and avoid many of the things that would ruin the kind of work I do.

This series of articles will deal with all the things that will cause false-positive results. First things first though. Let me explain just what a false-positive is. "False-positive" is a term used by investigators to describe any photo, video, audio recording, or technical reading that appears to be of a paranormal origin but is in fact caused by a natural occurrence. Sometimes it takes a lot of poking around to realize that a piece of evidence is actually a false-positive. Other times it's painfully obvious to others that you have a reflection, instead of an apparition. This is why we need to really REALLY look at the evidence we get.

Now, there are many false-positive agents out there, as you'll see in these articles. Some of them you may already be aware of, while others may come as a surprise to even the seasoned investigators. So, read on. Learn, experience, and share.

Reflections of the Camera Flash

When most people think of reflections, they think of seeing themselves in a mirror or catching a glimpse of themselves in a window. The types of reflections we're going to talk about here include these and many more we get in photographs. Keep in mind that since most of our investigations take place indoors or during the evening, the flash is almost always used.

What can cause a reflection to be caught on film? Your first thoughts are probably going to be of mirrors, glass windows, and picture frames. Well, that's just the beginning. You really need to look around at the surroundings you're filming. If you can see yourself in it, it will reflect the flash on your camera as well as the lights on your video camera and night-vision equipment. (This includes infrared light.)

Let's look at some of the things you'll find with reflective qualities that may cause false-positive results: Dust, brass, chrome, marble, china, silverware, high-polished wood surfaces, crystal, jewelry, glossy headstones, many light fixtures and glass in windows, picture frames, glossy painted surfaces, liquids, entertainment centers, and display cases.

The reflective surface is only part of the problem. Most point-and-shoot cameras in use today have the flash positioned just above the lens. This is both good and bad, the "good" being that many investigators believe this better helps catch those slightly transparent energies, and the "bad" being that this gives you a very high probability of getting a flash reflected straight back at the camera lens.

Glass is probably the second worst reflective object (with dust being in the number one spot, which we'll get more into a little later on). In a residence or any indoor investigation, glass seems to be everywhere. The television set, the entertainment center, coffee tables, and some shelving can contain glass panes which can bounce the flash back at your camera, not to mention the windows, picture frames, and mirrors. When the flash hits a reflective surface head-on, it will appear as a bright star. If the flash bounces off one surface and goes onto a wall, the reflection will be the same shape as the surface reflected. Okay, that sounds a bit confusing, so let me give you an example. Let's say that you take a photograph with your camera aimed down a hallway that has a picture frame on a sidewall. While looking down the hall, all you can see of the picture frame is a rectangular sliver, due to your angle of view. This "sliver" shape is what the reflection on an opposite wall will look like. When looking at photos, you'll be able to match up the shapes. I suggest you experiment at home by following the example above.

Now if the surface is close enough, you may get an "apparition" in your photograph. This happens a lot in museums or historical buildings where so many rooms are behind glass. People get right up on the glass and snap a picture. Boom- they just got an apparition of themselves! I often get e-mails from people sending me a picture with the caption, "I took this photo and it shows a face with a very bright orb!" This would be their own reflection and the reflection of the flash. In some photos, the room is bright enough that an automatic flash will not go off. That's when the "apparition" looks better, but it's still the photographer's image. In some cases, I've been able to make out what type of watch the person was wearing!

The best advice I can give is: Be aware. Look, and I mean really LOOK, at what you're about to photograph. Make a note of the reflective surfaces and understand what might happen (i.e., the flash will bounce off the polished brass bedposts and may cause a gold colored orb streaking across the photo, so it's better to cover them first!). By doing this, you'll keep the number of flash bulb false-positives down.

Camera Straps and the Vortex

My all-time favorite false-positive agent is the camera strap. There are so many photos of these plastered all over the net with captions like, "Genuine Vortex." It really bugs me to no end. Many ghost hunters just starting out find these types of photographs while going through old pictures. They see a white streak and immediately think they have a vortex. Now, stay with me here because these newbies have jumped full force into ghost hunting. Many of them believe that they've never had a strap on their camera. Presto! You have the ingredients for a camera strap vortex. Let me tell you, when you can see the braiding of the strap, it ain't no vortex!

There is a theory called "many orbs following each other." It tries to explain a vortex as many orbs following each other in line. This theory is severely flawed as well. Take a look at most of these vortex/straps. Make sure to notice how many of these usually enter and exit the same side of the photo, always looping around. Most cameras straps are attached to the right side of the camera, since the shutter release is also located on that side. Once again, look at the majority of these "looping" vortexes and ask this question: What side does it come in out of? The answer will mostly be the right side.

Now, some of you are probably saying, "What about the ones that don't loop around, but go across the picture?" Keep in mind that most cameras have a lens opening about a quarter-inch wide. When something is only a few inches in front of it, it doesn't take much to reach from one end to the other. The majority of these photographs are also taken vertically (with the camera turned on its side), which allows the camera strap to fall down in front of the lens. Well, they still show the same thing. They show a braided strap that gets bleached out by the camera flash. Usually the camera strap is connected to the same side as the shutter release.

I have only seen two photos that show what looks like a genuine vortex of energy. One was by a member of the Paranormal Investigators & Research Association (taken by Bob R.), and the other was from another team. In both cases, the energy actually came in toward the lens of the camera, ruling out a bleached strap. With Bob's photo, I know for sure there was no strap attached to his camera, since I was on scene to witness the event. Other than those two, I have yet to see another convincing vortex photo.

A vortex is a column of energy, usually running through several floors of a house or building. It is believed that this vortex represents a doorway between our world and the world of the dead. The key word here is "column" because a column goes up and down, not from one side of the camera's lens and then looping around and going back to the same point. We need to keep this in mind when viewing these types of photographs.

Another point to remember is distance. When viewing these types of photos, pay attention to the scene. Some have a vortex that is between the camera and a doorway five feet away. When you compare the relative size of some of these vortexes to known objects in the photo, these things should be a good one to two feet wide. In reality, when you actually figure out the distance in many, you'll find that the "vortex" is only about an inch or two away from the lens.

Ectoplasmic Mist

Ectoplasmic mist is the smoky, mist-like substance sometimes photographed and caught on video during investigations. It is still an unexplainable phenomenon to us, but we try to explain it anyway! Many theories have been tossed around about dealing with what ecto really is and what it represents. That is not what we're going to deal with here. After all, this article it a part of the false-positive series. This time around, we'll look into the natural causes that can duplicate the image of an ectoplasmic mist.

When you look over protocols and procedures of many paranormal groups, you'll always find the rule that states: "No smoking is permitted during an investigation." Have you ever wondered why? Well, just in case you have, here's the answer. The smoke from any cigarette or cigar can and will make its way in front of the lens, giving you a false-positive image of an ecto. I had the unfortunate experience of working with an individual who always seemed to get dozens of ecto photos no matter where we went. Time and again, cemetery after cemetery, she always got at least a dozen ectoplasmic mist photos. After some checking, we found out how this was happening. One night during another cemetery investigation, I photographed her walking around the middle of the cemetery--camera in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. Every few feet, she was snapping another photograph. She never realized that she was creating her own ecto mist each shot.

The white smoke just does not dissipate in a few seconds. It lingers on in the air for a while. If you're anywhere near a smoker, there's a good chance you'll catch some in your photographs or on video. It's just as bad when you're indoors. The smoke can linger for many minutes in a closed house, moving into hallways and other rooms. During any investigation, a smoker's place should be established for those with the "habit." If you're indoors, take it outside; if you're outdoors, go far away from any area that is being investigated. This is a simple but serious precaution to keep the skeptics off your back.

An experiment I performed a while back involved a cigarette, an incense stick, and my camera. When the cigarette and incense stick were lit, the smoke from both traveled well beyond what I thought they would. I took several photos from 13 feet away, and the smoke came up just as if I had been three feet away.

Another false-positive agent for the ectoplasmic mist happens to be your own breath. Yes, during the colder months of the year, your breath freezes as soon as it passes your lips. The colder it is, the longer it lasts. We've all seen this, and we've all played with this neat effect when we were kids (some of us still do!). This is bad for two reasons: One, when you snap a photo of teammates, the teammates may appear to have an ectoplasmic mist around them or just near them. Of course, this depends on how close you actually are to them. To be technical, it actually depends on how close the flash on your camera is to them. From a good distance, you'll barely be able to see your teammate. When you're pretty close to them, their frozen breath will be illuminated as well as they are. Surprisingly, some teams actually post pictures of ghost hunters, standing in the snow, with the caption, "Look at the ecto around his head." (No, I'm not making this up.)

The second "bad" reason is that while you're taking a picture, the camera is usually held up to your face so you can see through the viewfinder (or just in front of your face when using a LCD screen). Most of you don't think about holding your breath, which will freeze and float in front of the camera lens as you take a photo or two. A good idea to keep in mind is this: hold your breath for three to five seconds before taking a photograph in cold weather. This should give ample time for the air to clear and allow you to snap a picture free of frost breath. Remember that you don't have to be huffing and puffing or just breathing heavy. Any camera will pick this up, as will video cameras. So, when you're out on a chilly night, take a moment and breathe into the light of a flashlight. If you can see your breath, so can the camera.


I would take the chance in saying that 80 to 90 percent of orb photographs are of dust. This is because dust is always in the air and most of the photos you see are by amateur ghost hunters or people who aren't even looking for spirits! If you're not actively looking for ghosts, then you're not following any protocols or precautions that experienced investigators do.

I mentioned that dust is everywhere. Think that's a little overdoing it? Well, take a seat in any room of your residence on a bright sunny day. Take a look at that sunbeam streaking through the window and hitting the floor a few feet away. What do you see in that beam of light? Dust. You'll see little, tiny particles of dust that are just floating every which way. They move at different speeds, float in crazy patterns (up and down like a roller coaster), and yes, they even change direction.

These little particles will get in front of the lens of your camera. Being so small, they are "blurred," like when something gets too close to your eyes. The flash of the camera will light up the dust particle, actually bleaching it white. Poof! You've got an orb. Take note that during experiments, I've found that most white colored orbs were attributed to dust. We have yet to duplicate the orbs of various other colors, such as yellow, red, and blue.

Being outside is not nearly as bad as being indoors. Walking around an old cellar or basement will kick up tons of dust, causing a picture with "multiple" orbs. Brushing your hand on a doorknob or railing will do likewise. These photos are the types that contain many (about 50 or so) faint, white orbs. Many photos will turn out completely covered in orbs. These are not paranormal at all--only dirt.

You may ask me this, "Why are the orbs transparent then?" Good question, and I have an answer and an experiment you can try at home. Dust particles are very small, so much so that humans normally don't see the particles all the time. (There are some passing between you and the screen or magazine you're reading right now!) However, the lens of the camera is small enough to pick up these particles when they're close enough AND with the use of the flash.

Okay, try this out. Take a pencil and hold it so the point is straight up (yes, you can use a pen too). Hold it out at about arm's length and look at the point, with one eye closed. Nothing special, right? Right. You can clearly see the pencil (or pen) point. No big deal. Now, focus on the wall that's across from you. What happened? The point got a little blurry. Ok, still no big deal. Now bring the pencil point (carefully) up to about an inch from your eye (still pointing straight up and focusing on the far wall with one eye). See the difference now? The point of the pencil in your vision has now become transparent and blurs out to the sides. When moving it side to side, you can actually see "through" it. That's because your iris is larger then the pencil point and also curved, allowing you to be able to see the background around the pencil point. The pencil point represents a dust particle, and your eye represents the camera lens. The difference is that the flash bleached the dust particle white.

My advice to you is this: When reviewing photos of orbs, make it a common practice to accept only those that have some type of reading to back it up. If you can get an EMF spike or temperature drop (of course, that can't be explained) to back up the moment you captured the image of an orb, then it can be acceptable. It doesn't mean it's definitely a genuine orb, but at least you have some scientific reading to help it along. Oh, and the color is also taken into account. White orbs can easily be duplicated by dust, but I've been unable to get other color to come up naturally.


Measurements are scientific, pictures are good, and video is better. But when it comes down to it, this investigator thinks that EVPs are just about the neatest form of evidence we can get. But, as with all of our evidence, there are natural things that can cause us to record false-positives. And since this is a series on false-positives, we'll be diving into some of these things!

The biggest cause of false-positive recordings that I've seen is that well-known habit of whispering. Although most organizations have rules against it, many amateur ghost hunters overlook this when investigating. Whispering happens. It's just a fact, and we sometimes don't realize it or are more often "sure" that the recorder won't pick us up. It can, it will, and it did happen. The best way to avoid causing a false EVP is to be aware of what you are doing. When you start recording, make sure to vocalize the rule. Tell everyone, "Okay, the recorder is going on. No whispering!" If someone does, make sure to note it, in a clear voice, on the tape. This rule also applies to noises from passing cars and trucks, airplanes, trains, or someone walking into the room. If you can hear it, you can be sure that the recorder did as well. Make note of it by stating in a clear voice exactly what you heard and what it was (i.e., a passing car). This will at least cut down on "mysterious" voices and noises.

When you use any type of analog recording device (cassette), I strongly recommend the use of a microphone. The internal gears and mechanisms of the recording device will cause static, white noise and some clicks and pops. Many amateur ghost hunters hear this and claim they have an EVP. Unfortunately, it's not. It's easy for the imagination to "pick up" words or noises in the replay. EVPs should be clear and understandable, without having to guess at what's being said.

Another possibility exists for false-positive EVP recording: radio waves. Radio wave interference has been a suggested false-positive agent by many skeptics and investigators alike. The possibility does indeed exist. I say this because I've experienced answering machines that have picked up cordless telephone conversations, clock radios that have picked up CB communications, and even a TV that picked up a radio broadcast. I know many of you can relate. So, even though our tape recorders, micro-cassette recorders, and digital recorders were not meant to receive radio waves, being an audio device makes them subject to scrutiny. When conducting any kind of recordings, be sure to ask specific questions that will have specific, short answers. Usually any EVPs that we get are just a few words anyway, so keep them that way. When the answer to your question comes just after you ask and it is an answer to that specific question, then it can be used as an EVP.

It's amazing how much a recorder will pick up. Simply walking across the room above where a recording is taking place can turn up "mysterious" footsteps. A soft, quick intake of breath can be heard as a "sigh" when a tape is played back.

In closing, there are two points I've tried to make with this article. One, be aware of what's around you when conducting an investigation. LOOK, LISTEN, then LOOK AND LISTEN some more. Two, not every piece of evidence is genuine simply because you think or want it so. If you're part of a team or know those on a team, use them. I send my evidence out to other members in case they can pick up something I missed. It saves me time and embarrassment. Do yourself a favor and do the same!

Note* MSSPI provides articles and links for research and educational purposes only. We make no profit from the posting of these articles. MSSPI does not claim or deny the validity of the information contained in them. All opinions and statements are purely those of the author. We leave it up to you to decide for yourself the validity of the information provided.

A Scientific Case Study: The Orb Zone Theory

A Scientific Case Study: The Orb Zone Theory
from the AA-EVP Website

( ) formerly AA-EVP

It can sometimes be difficult for those without relevant training to appreciate how science works. Science works differently to everyday life. In the world of science, for instance, it is evidence that counts over everything else, including personal opinion. To better appreciate just how the scientific process works, here is a case study to consider. It concerns orbs, which are thought by many to be paranormal.

In essence, the scientific process goes as follows. Someone makes novel observation of a phenomenon and formulates a theory to explain it. They produce predictions from that theory and test them with experiments or more observations. If the new theory proves to be correct, then it might replace existing theories. There are two conditions that determine if this happens, though: (a) the new theory must explain everything the old theory did, as well as the new observations, (b) the new evidence must be beyond reasonable doubt and any experiments must be rigorous. In addition, scientific theories should fit in with existing science in related areas of science. If you invent a new agency to explain orbs, for instance, this might contradict evidence from other areas of science. Bearing in mind that these other areas of scientific knowledge are supported by their own hard-won evidence, you would need to demonstrate that they were wrong too before your theory could be accepted. Most paranormal theories do not achieve these conditions.

The Orb Zone Theory explains why cameras record orbs. Serious photographers recognised these 'orbs' straight away as 'circles of confusion' (a technical term in photography). They were bemused by the enormous interest orbs attracted among paranormal researchers. Knowing the orbs' origins, they felt no need to explain them in any detail. As a result, it was left to paranormal researchers themselves to expand on the simple idea of 'circles of confusion' to explain the various aspects of the orb phenomenon in detail. This was how the Orb Zone Theory appeared.


Orbs were first noticed in the early digital photographs. These grey or white circles, sometimes opaque but usually translucent, were never seen when the photo was taken. For this reason some people thought they were paranormal. It was quickly realised, however, that they could be easily reproduced by blowing dust (or similar small particles) just in front of the lens when flash photographs are taken. Many paranormal researchers left it at that, assuming that all orbs were caused by dust. Others were not so sure as variations on the classic orb theme, like coloured or oddly shaped versions, began to appear. Then photos appeared that seemed to show orbs behind other objects in the picture. Some people claimed that orbs only appeared in particular places, such as haunted houses, or around particular people. It was clear that a more detailed answer to the orb question, beyond simply saying 'they're all dust', was required. The Orb Zone Theory was created to fill that gap. Orb Zone primer

The Orb Zone Theory (OZT) is essentially an extension of the 'circle of confusion' explanation for orbs given by camera manufacturers and serious photographers. In essence, an orb is a circle of confusion which is an out of focus highlight. If you look at a photograph with out of focus objects, like the one on the right,

you will see that instead of just going fuzzy, objects going out of focus turn into many overlapping circles of light (circles of confusion). Do they look familiar?

Obviously, the brightest circles of confusion, produced by highlights on the objects in the photo, outshine the darker ones completely. If you look at any shiny object you will see that, no matter what the colour of the object, the highlights are always white (or the colour of the light source). As orbs reflect the light from a white light flash, that is why most are white (or grey if more diffuse).

So, what is a circle of confusion? It is the smallest detail that a lens can resolve. When it is projected onto a film or sensor chip it appears as a tiny circular dot. These dots are deliberately made small enough so that people cannot see them as individual dots. Instead the picture appears as continuous shapes, rather than thousands of dots. It is a bit like the way a TV picture is made up of many lines that you can see if you look closely enough. Note, however, that circles of confusion are not the same as pixels!

When an object in a photo is out of focus, its circles of confusion expand to appear as circles (see diagram and photo above). The larger the circle, the fainter it is, because the light is more spread out. Eventually, when the circle becomes too large, it is no longer visible at all. This places a limit on the largest 'orb' you can see in a photo. This is why you never see orbs over about one tenth of a frame size*. If orbs were real objects 'out there', you would not expect them to have such a limit on their size in a photo.

A crucial question is - why did orbs suddenly appear when digital cameras arrived? The sensor chips in digital cameras are almost all physically smaller than the size of a 35mm film frame (most are less than half the size). This meant that lenses with a smaller circle of confusion were needed for digital cameras, compared to film cameras. As a design consequence of this, the lenses had a much greater depth of field. Depth of field is the area in front of a camera where objects are in focus. If objects are too close to the lens (and sometimes when they are too far away) they will be out of focus and break up into circles of confusion (see pic above). The increased depth of field in digital cameras meant that the closest distance where objects were in focus came much nearer to the camera. It also brought the area that was just out of focus much closer. Importantly, it brought these two zones much closer to the flash unit. In many digital cameras this created an Orb Zone. The orb zone is the areawhere the flash is strong enough to illuminate tiny particles, like dust, water droplets or small insects, that are just too close to the camera to be in focus. Such objects produce expanded circles of confusion or orbs! Since most bits of dust are tiny, they only have a single highlight and so produce individual orbs. Some larger objects, like small insects, may have several highlights and so produce multiple overlapping orbs.

Though the vast majority of orbs are circular, they can be other shapes. Though the basic shape is derived from the circle of confusion, it can be modified by the diaphragm in a camera lens. This diaphragm is an adjustable opening inside the lens ('the aperture') which varies in size to let more or less light in (note that this has nothing to do with the camera shutter). Though it is usually circular, it can be other shapes, notably a diamond or hexagon. Cameras that produce diamond shaped orbs (or other odd shapes) will always produce them in this shape because of their diaphragm. Since the diaphragm varies to control how much light is admitted to the camera, the diamond (or other shape) shape may be more pronounced in some photos than in others (depending on the size of the aperture) and may even vanish completely in some shots. Orb shapes can also be modified by vignetting, as explained below, and by overlapping with other orbs.

Various factors affect the brightness, structure (internal shapes, such as concentric circles, if any), edge sharpness and evenness of shading. These are mostly down to the camera lens. Photographers talk about the bokeh of a lens when discussing this subject.

*Lens flare which resembles orbs, can be bigger than one tenth of the frame size. Lens flare is associated with bright light sources either in the frame or just outside it. It is usually quite easy to recognise.

Has the Orb Zone Theory been tested? For a scientific theory to be validated, it needs to produce predictions and these need to be tested. Ideally, these predictions should be of things not already observed. If a theory only 'explains' existing observations, but cannot predict any others, it could be no more than speculation. Several predictions of the Orb Zone Theory have been formally tested to scientific standards. These include:

that orb numbers vary according to the depth of field in a particular photo
that orb numbers are unaffected by the megapixels of a camera
that orb numbers are unaffected by whether photos are taken in haunted or non-haunted locations

In each of these tests, everything was done to hold other variables (that were likely to affect the outcome) constant. It was then possible to see if there was any statistically significant relationship either supporting or refuting the predictions.

The first test concerned the central basis of the theory - that it is the distance of the closest point at which objects are in focus is what determines how many orbs will be seen. Such a relationship is unlikely to be predicted in paranormal theories of orbs which aren't usually concerned with the mechanics of taking photos. The second test concerned an idea proposed by some people that higher megapixel cameras produce fewer orbs*. The third test concerned the widely-held idea that haunted places produce more orbs. Some people propose, for instance, that orbs are actually ghosts or are the precursors of ghostly manifestations.

When these predictions were tested in rigorous conditions, they were all confirmed.

In addition, the OZT has explained many 'odd' kinds of orbs that were seen by some as 'beyond the dust theory', and so possibly paranormal (see the next section). The OZT has successfully explained many types of orb from hundreds of photos taken with dozens of different camera models in many different places and in all sorts of different conditions. These unusual orbs have also been successfully reproduced using the principles of the OZT.

* Though the number of megapixels is irrelevant in the Orb Zone theory, the physical size of the sensor chip is not. More recent cameras tend to have larger sensors as well as more megapixels. This means their lenses have a smaller depth of field which reduces the likelihood of orbs.

What does the Orb Zone Theory explain?When scientists discover a general principle or theory, they usually assume it applies to all known examples of the phenomena. For instance, when Newton discovered gravity he assumed it applied to all objects. He didn't think that, though gravity held Mercury and Venus in their orbits around the Sun, something else kept Jupiter in its orbit!

So, if dust causes most orbs, it is logical to infer that it causes all orbs. However, some paranormal researchers have said that certain orbs are so different that they must have a different explanation. There is a problem with this argument, however. Orbs only appeared widely with the arrival of digital cameras. Why should digital cameras just happen to be good at detecting both dust orbs and the proposed paranormal orbs? Some people have said it is because digital cameras are more sensitive to infra-red than film cameras but this is not true. Though their sensors are indeed highly sensitive to near infra-red, digital cameras are fitted with permanent internal filters to block most infared Overall, they are no more sensitive to infra-red than were film cameras.

With the OZT, it has been possible to explain all aspects of the orb photographs so far examined in detail, including some oddities. Here are a few examples of things explained by OZT:

that the vast majority are white or shades off grey (because highlights are the same colour as the light source as explained above)**

that orbs sometimes appear truncated around the edges of frames in some photos (caused by vignetting as the dust is very close to the lens)

how orbs can appear in front of backgrounds too close to be in focus (because they are very close and out of focus themselves, not in focus objects 'out there')

how orbs can appear to be moving (they are multiple overlapping orbs caused by objects with several highlights, like insects)*

how orbs can have tails, usually fading away downwards (because they are falling raindrops)

why orbs are never larger than around one tenth of the size of the photo frame (see above)

why cameras that produce odd-shaped orbs, such as diamonds, always get the same shape in all orbs

* Some people claim to have tracked individual orbs moving between photos taken in rapid succession and so have concluded that they are moving very quickly. One obvious difficulty here is, how do they know it is the same orb in both photos? Most orbs are featureless amorphous grey or white circles. Even if one could prove that the sane orb appears in two successive photos, it doesn't mean they are moving fast. The orb could indeed be caused by exactly the same bit of dust. However, it only needs to move a very short distance slowly in the orb zone, which is very small and close to the camera, to appear to move a long way in the photo.

** Some orbs do have colours other that white or grey. However, these can be explained by Moire fringes, refraction in water droplets and chromatic aberration, none of which contradict the OZT.

What cannot be explained?A theory cannot be considered scientific unless it is falsifiable. This means, there must be some evidence that could appear, or an experiment that can be done, that would prove the theory wrong. If a theory cannot be falsified then it explains everything and therefore, effectively, nothing.

Consider the following possibilities that might falsify the Orb Zone Theory:

a) Supposing there was a photo showing an orb partly behind an object in the picture. This could not be explained by the OZT where orbs are caused by objects just in front of the camera lens. Such photos do exist. However, in all the examples so far examined, the faint translucent orb was overwhelmed by a highly saturated colour in the object supposedly obscuring it. In other words, the missing portion of the orb could not be seen because it was overwhelmed by the more strongly coloured object behind it (particularly if it is highly coloured or very dark or light). Digital photography is more prone to this sort of effect because it has a smaller latitude (degree of detail visible in dark or light areas) than film*. . In fact, it is a legitimate question to ask why, if orbs are really 'out there' (as opposed to being very close to the lens), they always appear to be in front of the many varied subjects of orb photographs (covering a wide range of distance from the camera)? There ought to be lots of photos showing orbs partially obscured by other objects but in fact such pictures are extremely rare. The effect of a partially obscured orb is quite easily reproduced!

* Interestingly, you can sometimes the effect that the colour of the orb has on the object behind (usually making it slightly lighter) even though the shape of the orb cannot itself be made out. If the orb was really behind, it should have no effect on the colour of the object.

b) Another confounding type of photo might be one showing an orb with a shadow. These, too, have been reported and some examined. However, in all cases the 'shadow' was usually either a coincidental dark shape or, more often, the result of over-processing the photo.

c) What if orbs appeared more frequently in haunted locations or around particular people or events? Research has shown no evidence of more orbs in haunted locations than in non-haunted places. However, there have been claims that certain people or places 'attract' orbs or even that some people can 'will' them to appear. To test such claims requires more than just examining photos. All such claims of orbs around particular people or places could just be coincidence. It requires a carefully designed controlled trial, similar to the one that showed that haunted places are no more likely to have orbs than non-haunted places, to test the claim.

d) What if orbs were seen by witnesses at the time they were being photographed? This has been reported, though very rarely. Even if it is demonstrated to be true, it does not affect the OZT. This is because, the OZT does not cover such 'orbs'. Such phenomena should not be considered orbs at all. The OZT is only concerned with 'orbs', which are defined as NOT being seen when the photograph was taken. Lights have been reported in haunting cases for decades, long before the advent of digital cameras, and are nothing to do with orbs despite a superficial similarity. Indeed, the widespread interest in orbs may be affecting such reports. Is there a better theory?

All scientific theories are only provisional, current only until something better comes along. This usually happens when an observation is reported that can't be explained by the existing theory. However, any new theory must still explain everything that the existing theory does, as well as any new observations.

A rival theory to the OZT would therefore need to explain not only the novel observations but also:

why orbs are so much more common on (though not exclusive to) digital cameras than film camera

why the vast majority of orbs are white or grey

why the number of orbs seen is affected by the depth of field of a camera lens

why you can take photos of orbs in front of backgrounds too close to be in focus

why some orbs are truncated on the edges of some photos

why orbs never exceed about one tenth of the frame size

why orbs are always in front of the many varied subjects in orb photos

why some cameras always produce odd-shaped orbs (such as diamond shape)

There are lots of other more minor things that would also need to be explained but explaining everything on this list would be a good start to a better theory.

The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) has been investigating the weird seriously (and the seriously weird) since 1981. Their main aims are paranormal research and education.This article is from their website.

Note* MSSPI provides articles and links for research and educational purposes only. WE make no profit from the posting of these articles. MSSPI does not claim or deny the validity of the information contained in them. All opinions and statements are purely those of the author. We leave it up to you to decide for yourself the validity of the information provided.

The PEAR Proposition

World's first lamp that changes color with the power of your mind
November 22, 1:02 PMNY Holistic Science & Spirit Examiner Tima Vlasto

Thanks to over 27 year’s research at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory and the company Psyleron, we can now own a lamp that reads our minds.

PEAR was an experimental program that examined the anomalies that arise when humans interact with machines. Years of research produced evidence of an unexplained connection between consciousness and the physical world.

Robert G. Jahn, then Dean of the School of Engineering, used Random Event Generators (REGs) and observed conscious intention and meaningful emotion significantly altered the events generated by the REG; beyond statistical levels of chance expectation. See “The PEAR Proposition.”

The PEAR Proposition


The Mind Lamp is a new ambient LED lamp, created by Psyleron, in collaboration with these researchers from the PEAR lab. Within the Mind Lamp is a precision device known as a random event generator (REG) that uses a quantum phenomenon called electron tunneling, which is measured as a randomly fluctuating current across a potential barrier in an electric circuit.

The lamp has a small microprocessor that checks patterns in this Random Event Generator (REG) which causes the lamp to change the color of the high-powered LEDs. The lamp will randomly move through colors of white, red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, purple and magenta unless influenced by the conscious or subconscious intention of consciousness.

The researchers state that the science behind this might be a bit difficult for the lay person but the effects are noticeable to anyone. Interesting enough, not only does the consciousness of one person influence the REG in the lamp but when people are bonded in some meaningful way; the influence is even stronger.

Some reviews on the website state:

“I've noticed that during specific activities (especially mental activities) the lamp remains blue/aqua for upwards of an hour. While socializing with friends, the lamp tends to stay in the warm hues of red, orange and yellow.”

"Now, after having my lamp for almost 8 months, it has become a more serious (!!) element in my personal study of "weird connections", so that it now serves as a very physical Tao Te Ching, helping me to open up my mind when I have a question or problem that sequential, rational thinking won't answer or solve. One way it does this mind-opening is to stimulate a mood change amid all my mental meanderings, the change in mood opening new doorways, new options, and possible new solutions. I have this lamp be only limited by the limits of the mind."


Spiritual and Cultural implications?

From the PEAR website:

“Beyond its revolutionary technological applications and scientific impact, the evidence of an active role of consciousness in the establishment of physical reality holds profound implications for our view of ourselves, our relationships to others, and to the cosmos in which we exist.”

“…Our ability to acquire, or to generate tangible, measureable information independent of distance or time challenges the foundation of any reductionistic brain-based model of consciousness that may be invoked.”

“…there is little doubt that integration of these changes in our understanding of ourselves can lead to a substantially superior human ethic, wherein the long-estranged siblings of science and spirit, of analysis and aesthetics, of intellect and intuition, and of many other subjective and objective aspects of human experience can be productively reunited.”

A mind over matter lamp that responds to our conscious and unconscious intention. Are we steps away from an Alladin's lamp that might grant our wishes? Or will we find out, we were the genie all along?

More research, info and reviews at the Mind Lamp website.

Other Articles of Interest on this subject

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Using EMF Meters & Magnetic Hallucinations

EMF Information
by Mark Townsend

Although electrical equipment is easily the most likely source of sudden EMF meter readings, there are others.

Though they're designed to detect fields at 50 Hz, EMF detectors can be surprisingly sensitive to simple movements of magnetic objects. Walk past one with something magnetic in your pocket and you might get a reading.

You can even get a reaction by waving a tin can next to an EMF meter. Even though the can is not magnetic, it contains steel. Steel is highly magnetically permeable. That means it distorts the local geomagnetic field. Moving it disturbs the local geomagnetic field, causing a reading on the EMF meter which sees it as a low frequency field.

So anything made of steel or iron which is vibrated (like the drum of a washing machine) could cause disturbances big enough for an EMF meter to detect. Even a steel filing cabinet being vibrated by heavy traffic might be enough to get a reading.

Why use EMF meters?

Given that all you can tell from an EMF meter is that there was a disturbance to the local magnetic field, of unknown magnitude and frequency, are they any use in paranormal research?

You could use the same argument about most bits of equipment used in vigils. Since no one knows what causes paranormal phenomena, or what effects they may have on the environment, it is legitimate to try measuring any environmental parameter you can to find out. So you can certainly justify using EMF meters on that basis.

The problem is that EMF meters were designed to monitor electromagnetic pollution. The designers were not too concerned about field frequency or direction because that wasn't the point. They only wanted an overall figure for personal exposure to electromagnetic fields.

This means that EMF meters are not really suitable for looking for EIFs (experience-inducing fields) which cause certain people to hallucinate.

EMF meters could, in very broad terms, be useful in differentiating between hot-spots (where phenomena have been reported) and control areas (where they haven't).

So what happens if we find 'anomalous' readings but can find no obvious cause? Are they paranormal? On their own anomalous readings are just that. However, if such readings coincided with a report of a paranormal incident, they could be interesting. Even then, you would need to make sure there wasn't a mundane cause for the unusual reading.

How fields fall with distance

EMFs from any source usually get less as the distance from the source increases. Quite often, this can be approximated as one of three basic types of fall off with distance:

Inverse first power of distance

(also referred to as one over the distance or reciprocal of distance)

at double the distance the field is reduced to a half

at three times the distance the field is reduced to a third and so on

an example is the magnetic field from a net current in a distribution circuit

Inverse square of distance

(also referred to as one over the distance squared or inverse second power of distance)

at double the distance the field is reduced to a quarter

at three times the distance the field is reduced to a ninth and so on

an example is the magnetic field from some transmission lines (either with a single circuit or two circuits but untransposed phasing)

Inverse cube of distance

(also referred to as one over the distance cubed or inverse third power of distance)

at double the distance the field is reduced to an eighth

at three time the distance the field is reduced to a twenty-seventh and so on

an example is a transmission line with transposed phasing, or a domestic appliance

In practice, fields rarely follow these power laws exactly, departing from them particularly at very small distances or very large distances. Nonetheless, there is usually a good range of distances where these are good approximations.

The Science

The definite effects of EMFs

EMFs definitely have some effects on us as humans – but at high field levels, bigger than we usually meet in the environment.

These established effects include:

Induced currents in the body


They also have effects on equipment (including VDUs and pacemakers)

These effects are well understood and there are exposure guidelines in place to protect against these effects.

The possible effects of EMFs

There are other concerns about EMFs. Over the past 20 years, scientists have linked exposure to everyday levels of EMFs with various health problems, ranging from headaches to Alzheimer's disease. The most persistent of these suggestions relates to childhood leukaemia. But the evidence is not straightforward.

A number of epidemiological studies, particularly in the US and in Scandinavia, have suggested an association between the incidence of childhood leukaemia and EMFs or the proximity of homes to power lines.

Not every study has found the same association, but taken as a whole, the epidemiological studies certainly show a statistical association

Because of problems inherent in epidemiology, finding an association does not mean there is a risk.

No causal link has been established between cancer (or any other disease) and EMFs and there is no established mechanism by which these fields could cause or promote disease.

Nonetheless, the possibility remains that EMFs are a cause of disease, and in these pages we summarise:

The evidence on childhood cancer and other different specific diseases

Electric fields and airborne pollutants: Information on one particular suggested mechanism

The Expert View

Induced currents

The quantum energy of 50 Hz electromagnetic fields is too small to break chemical bonds. It is clear that power-frequency EMFs or radiation does not cause ionisation in the same way that x-rays or alpha particles do. Instead, the main known way 50 Hz fields interact with people is by inducing currents.

What currents do magnetic fields produce?

Any alternating magnetic field will induce an electric field, which in turn produces a current in a conducting medium. The human body is conducting and will therefore have a current induced in it – albeit, usually, a very small one. As shown on the right the current circulates round the body.

In power-frequency calculations, it is common to assume the human body has a radius of 0.2 m and a conductivity of 0.2 S m-1. Using this model, a magnetic field of 160 microteslas (┬ÁT) induces a peripheral current density of 1 mA m-2. More accurate numerical calculations can be done which take account of the actual shape of the body and the varying conductivities of different tissues.

What currents do electric fields produce?

Alternating electric fields also induce currents in the body. As shown on the right, for a vertical field, they run up and down the body. The calculation has to take account of the perturbation to the field caused by the body itself. For a typical person standing in a vertical field, a current of 1 mA through the body is induced by 70 kV m-1; more on numerical calculations.

Anomalous EMF readings

Paranormal researchers often get excited on ghost vigils when there is a sudden high reading on an EMF meter. This is thought by some to indicate paranormal activity, maybe even the unseen presence of a ghost.

Unfortunately, there are a great many possible mundane causes for a sudden jump in magnetic field readings. Sadly, EMF meters are not good at telling them apart. Since the meter cannot tell you where to look, you'll need to poke around the area and see if you can see a possible source of the field disturbance. If you have a spare EMF meter available, you could try putting it close to the suspect area to try to localise the source.

So what could have caused such a disturbance?

Electrical equipment

The most likely cause of a magnetic field disturbance in any dwelling is operation of electrical equipment. Such equipment can deliver changes to the local field by being turned on or off or changing state in some way (eg. a washing machine moving between cycles). Electrical equipment is a potent source of magnetic field disturbances.

Some EMF meters can detect electrical wiring behind walls. However, such wires are relatively poor producers of magnetic fields. The high density of wiring and electrical devices in an appliance makes them much better sources of fields.

Not all electrical equipment that could be the source of fields will necessarily be obvious in a room. It could be behind walls or, more likely, under floorboards. Any equipment that contains relays, transformers, capacitors or switches could produce some brief, powerful magnetic disturbances.

Some electrical equipment is on all the time, or most of it, and operates automatically, even in the middle of the night. You should also consider any equipment you've brought with you on the vigil as a possible source.

Do ghosts emit electromagnetic fields?

There is a widespread idea among paranormal researchers that ghosts emit an electromagnetic field and that their presence can, thus, be detected by EMF meters. However, there seem to be no formal studies to support this idea. Instead, there are a few anecdotal reports that EMF meters 'spike' during paranormal activity at haunted locations OR that haunted locations produce more variable EMF fields than non-haunted places. In both cases, it is difficult to trace any original, first-hand reports of these claimed connections and what reports are available are vague and lacking in crucial technical detail. So, why do some people claim that ghosts emit EM (electromagnetic) fields?

Asking the right questions

Do ghosts really emit electromagnetic fields? Before we can answer that question, there is a more important one to be answered. Are EMF meters even capable of demonstrating that ghosts emit EM fields? And before we can answer that question, we need to ask - do ghosts even cause hauntings?

So, firstly, do ghosts cause hauntings? The answer isn't as obvious as you might think! No one denies that hauntings exist. People undoubtedly experience odd goings-on at certain locations from time to time, but are ghosts really responsible for them? This may seem an odd question until you realise that apparitions are only witnessed in a minority of hauntings. What is more, there are few, if any, accounts of apparitions actually 'doing' any of the things we associate with haunting. They are not seen knocking on walls or tables, moving objects, whispering in corners, nor is their rare appearance usually accompanied by strange smells or a sudden feeling of cold. It is just assumed that ghosts are doing all these things associated with hauntings.

Thus, the whole idea that a ghost is responsible for, or even vital to, a haunting appears to be based not so much on evidence as popular culture. Looking purely at the evidence, apparitions may simply be one possible, nonessential, phenomenon that can appear during a haunting !

It therefore seems to be an assumption too far to expect EMF meters to address the question of whether ghosts emit EM fields (for other popular assumptions that go beyond the evidence in ghost research, see here). Looking purely at the evidence it is therefore more meaningful to ask if EMF meters are capable of answering these two questions based on anecdotal observations:

•are hauntings associated with elevated or more highly variable EM fields?

•is observable paranormal activity associated with EM field spikes?

Where did the idea come from?

The idea of ghosts emitting electromagnetic fields seems to have emerged relatively recently. It is tempting to speculate that the idea arose simply because investigators started using the meters, in the same way that the idea of paranormal orbs (which proved to be photographic artifacts) coincided with the early use of digital cameras. Whenever instruments are used at haunted locations, there is inevitably a tendency to attribute unusual readings to the haunting, even without any other corroborating evidence.

A more speculative notion is that the idea may have been prompted, in some way, by Persinger's laboratory work that suggested that some ghostly experiences might be magnetically-induced hallucinations (EIFs - experience inducing fields).

Why use EMF meters at all?

EMF meters are designed to measure mains-frequency magnetic and electric fields in buildings to see if they exceed certain levels*. It is, therefore, difficult to see why such an should detect ghosts, given that it is unlikely they are mains powered! It is likely that the popularity of EMF meters in ghost research arose simply from the fact that they are easily and cheaply available.

When used to detect electromagnetic pollution, EMF meters produce perfectly useful readings. It is easy to measure a continuous high field produced by nearby electrical equipment, for instance. However, ghost researchers look for unusually high variability and/or 'spikes' in areas of low readings, mostly away from electrical equipment. To do this, they need to understand how EMF meters behave away from the application for which they were designed. This behaviour tends to vary between models.

An EMF meter detects changing electromagnetic fields (hence E.M.F.). Most models only detect changing magnetic fields but some can measure varying electric fields too.

EMF meters were originally designed to look for electromagnetic pollution, though their main users seem to be ghost hunters these days (judging by adverts on the web). Most are therefore set to be highly sensitive to fields varying at 50 or 60 Hz, the mains frequency in the UK and the US respectively.

EMF meters can detect either magnetic, electric or both types of field together. Most, however, are designed to measure only varying magnetic fields. If it is not obvious what kind of field your meter is detecting, check the units it is using. Electric fields are measured in volts per metre (V/m) and magnetic fields usually in milliGauss (mG) or nanoTesla (nT).


As mentioned above, the units for electric fields are volts per metre (V/m). It is more complicated for magnetic fields because some EMF meter manufacturers insist on using obsolete units. Many use milliGauss (mG) even though scientific publications use nanoTesla (nT). To convert, 1mG is 100nT.

Computer sampling

Some meters come with ports to attach computers for automated recording. Also, some electronically-minded researchers have converted meters without ports so that they too can connect to laptops. This is a great idea as it allows much greater accuracy and frequency of readings as well as relieving observers of a tedious chore. You feed the output from the instrument into a data logger or specialist software.

There are, however, things to consider when doing computer sampling from EMF meters. For a start, if you take readings faster than the sampling frequency of the meter, you will not gain any higher frequency resolution even if it it looks like it!

Even more serious, you can only do frequency analysis if you have an accurate frequency response curve for the meter to apply corrections. The manufacturer may supply this, though it's unusual. Alternatively, you could get a linear sensor (like a fluxgate magnetometer) though these are usually rather expensive .

In all cases, you also need to consider the Nyquist criterion (where you need to sample at twice the rate of the top frequency you want to measure) for sampling and problems associated with aliasing (where higher frequencies affect the measurement of lower ones).You need to understand these before doing digital sampling.


When choosing an EMF meter, there are several important specifications to consider.

Firstly, there are some meters out there that have no dials or displays for readings at all. They just buzz or show a light when a certain certain threshold is exceeded. Though it is true that the figures you get from EMF meters are not hugely helpful for paranormal research they are certainly better than no figures at all. With a threshold detector, you've no idea if a reading was just fairly high or huge.

Perhaps the most important specification to consider is frequency response . It is useful to get a meter sensitive to extremely low frequencies (under 10 Hz) as this region has been implicated in magnetically induced hallucinations. If you can get a model where the manufacturer supplies a frequency response curve ,that's far better than one without it.

Another important specification to consider is the number of measurement axes. Electromagnetic fields have direction as well as size (which is why compasses point north). If a meter doesn't mention axes it almost certainly has just one axis. The problem with a single axis meter is that if you rotate it, even slightly, during a vigil, subsequent readings will change. That's because it's at a different angle to the fields. This means you can't compare the earlier readings with the later ones. The solution is to fix the meter in place or use a tri-axial model. Single axis meters will underestimate every field they measure by differing amounts making comparisons between locations problematic.

Another important specification is sample rate . Faster is definitely better.

The other important specification is scale or range. This specifies the maximum and minimum field the meter can detect. This is important because you may come across fields that are either too weak or too strong to measure. Try to go for meters with the biggest scale you can.

The graph above shows a typical frequency response of an EMF meter to magnetic fields. Along the bottom is frequency. The vertical axis shows sensitivity. At 50 Hz the meter has a sensitivity of 1. This means that a 50 Hz field of 1000 nT will show up, correctly, as 1000 nT on the meter. However, at a frequency of 1000 Hz, the meter is 10 times more sensitive! So a 1000 Hz field of 1000 nT will show up as 10,000 nT!

This frequency response is deliberate. It is weighted to mirror how magnetic fields are absorbed by the human body. That's because EMF meters were designed to monitor electromagnetic pollution not look for ghosts!

So when you see a reading of 1000 nT on your EMF meter, you've no idea what the real figure is because you don't know the frequency of the field. Most magnetic fields in a domestic environment will be mains frequency (50 Hz UK, 60 Hz US). But there are other frequencies possible and these will be either under- or over-represented. Even worse, there may be several different frequency mixed together to produce an overall figure that doesn't truly reflect any of them. So figures taken from an EMF meter are not particularly useful in terms of scientific measurement.

Different EMF meters will have different frequency responses making comparing readings problematic. If you're doing a positional baseline, it is better to use two meters of the same model.

Magnetic Hallucinations
by Maurice Townsend

There is now so much laboratory evidence in favour of magnetically induced hallucinations that some paranormal researchers are taking it as read that they are the source of certain anomalous experiences, notably some kinds of ghost. However, the field evidence for such magnetic fields is slight at present. But that could soon change as equipment capable of detecting them is now being deployed at haunted locations. If these magnetic fields exist outside the laboratory, what exactly is causing them?

There have been several articles in Anomaly recently concerning theories on the true nature of ghosts. In particular, there has been a lot about the possibility that they may be hallucinations induced in susceptible people by suitable ambient magnetic fields. While the results of lab experiments are impressive and compelling, there is still little evidence from the field to back this theory up. Initiatives like MADS (described in Anomaly 34) are designed to fill that gap. It will, at last, be simple to measure relevant magnetic fields in allegedly haunted locations.

An important question concerns the detailed nature of any such fields found at haunted locations for MADS to research. They are unlikely to be just like those produced artificially in the laboratory, so we need to investigate what they really ‘look’ like in the field. Once we know that, we can try to ascertain what aspects are absolutely necessary for strange experiences to occur.

Once such fields, and their principal components, have been identified then the next intriguing question becomes, ‘where do they come from’. At first sight, there seem few obvious sources for such fields, perhaps explaining why ghosts are not common. I decided to research the possibilities so that the search could be narrowed down. I hope this will assist investigators when they are researching possible field sources in haunting cases.

Defining the Fields

Before we can identify possible sources of relevant magnetic fields, we need to define exactly what we are looking for. I am indebted to Dr Jason Braithwaite for reviewing the relevant papers (from Persinger et al) concerning the laboratory experiments which have induced ghost-like hallucinations.

The best results have come from what could be broadly described as weak, complex, time-varying magnetic fields. Because the nature and potential sources of such fields are difficult to characterise at this stage, Braithwaite introduced the general term Experience- Inducing Fields, or EIFs for short. This definition relates to all, or any, fields that could have experience-inducing properties. This distinction is helpful for a number of reasons. Firstly, while not all magnetic anomalies will have implications for experience, some will have the ability to influence equipment (which could be interpreted as paranormal) but will not alter the operation of the brain in any way. Those fields could be characterised as Event-Related Fields (ERFs) as they pertain to a tangible physical event. Secondly, it focuses the researcher theoretically on the potential relevance such fields might have.

There are three main aspects to EIFs that have been demonstrated experimentally to be of crucial importance. The following figures are by no means absolute limits: things might happen outside them. However, experiments within these bounds have produced reliable, strong results. So it makes sense to look for fields within these parameters first, at haunted locations.

At present, the evidence suggests that EIFs are varying magnetic fields with low frequency (approx 0.1 to 30 Hz, and certainly under 50Hz) and a moderate intensity (from 100 to 5000 nT) or amplitude (or, more correctly, flux density). For comparison, the average geomagnetic field, which is not generally considered strong and does not vary greatly over time, is around 50,000 nT. An important point to remember is that EIFs are most likely to overlay whatever ambient static magnetic field is present in the area. This would usually be the geomagnetic field itself. Confusion often arises here because the geomagnetic field is usually described as being ‘static’ (ie. does not change over time), whereas, in fact, it does change over time, but very slowly (over hours). There might also be other local permanent distortions to the local magnetic field, such as the presence of the mineral magnetite in the geological strata below the site. At present, such permanent static fields are NOT considered important to inducing hallucinations, however. Therefore, EIFs, if present, would most likely appear as fluctuations on top of the local static field (though see discussion below).

There is another important factor that greatly enhances the chance of hallucinations: field complexity. This is more difficult to characterise. As an example, a typical laboratory experiment may use a simple 30 Hz sine wave field but pulse it for, say, 1s every 3s for a period of 30mins (during this time the field may also vary in amplitude across the pulses as well). Thus, the field fluctuates overall, in addition to the fundamental sine wave. Such overall variance could involve any, or all, of the major field variables: amplitude, frequency and direction. Laboratory studies have used amplitude-modulated, frequency-modulated and complex pulse-patterned sequences with great success. Overall field variations might be repetitive, with the field eventually returning to its original state after a certain period, or they may be chaotic with no obvious repetition. The time period over which fields need to vary is probably (from experiments) in the millisecond to multiple minute region. Simple continuous waveforms, like sine waves, are not at all as effective. The reason for this is that such simple fields are considered not to ‘contain’ the complex information profile that a brain would accept as sensory information. Incidentally, the direction of a magnetic field (which is conventionally said to flow from the north pole of a bar magnet to the south pole) determines which way it will produce a force on another nearby magnetic object.

There are two other important issues concerned in producing magnetic hallucinations, not directly related to the field characteristics. The first is that not everyone is susceptible to hallucinating when subjected to the EIFs outlined above. Current estimates suggest that only around 20 - 30% of the population show a substantially increased susceptibility, due to increased neuronal instability in specific brain regions. Secondly, susceptible people need to be subjected continuously to the EIFs for a significant time, say 20 to 30 minutes, before hallucinations are reported. This applies if the person is static. I will mention people moving around in fields later on. There is, therefore, an important exposure component to EIFs – the effects are not instantaneous.

The hallucinatory phenomenon is thought to arise because the frequency of the external magnetic waves is similar to that used internally by the brain for cognition. This stimulates brain activity, through a process called neural entrainment, which can confuse the brain into producing hallucinations.

Naturally Occurring EIFs

Could fields with the relevant characteristics occur naturally? The first obvious place to look is the geomagnetic field. This is the magnetic field that is constantly present at the Earth’s surface and in which we are all immersed continuously. It is what makes a compass point north. It is caused by a dynamo effect in the molten core of our planet. Though this effect produces a highly stable field, like that of a bar magnet, the field is constantly changing, primarily due to the effects of the sun impinging on it. The sun is constantly bombarding the Earth with the solar wind, which consists of highly energetic, charged particles. These interact with the geomagnetic field and cause changes reflecting the sun’s own activity. Features such as solar flares can have a major effect on the geomagnetic field. The most significant changes to the geomagnetic field take place over periods of hours. Thus, from a human perspective, the geomagnetic field appears relatively stable.

The geomagnetic field might appear, given its slow variations, an unlikely candidate for EIF, at first sight. Having said that, there have been some studies that have reported correlations between geomagnetic activity and the occurrence of spontaneous hauntings. These correlational studies did not involve field investigations and are considered controversial. As any statistician will tell you, a correlation does not always imply a causal link.

There are certain geomagnetic variables that change at frequencies required for EIFs. Unfortunately, it turns out that these variables, though they have relevant frequencies, are far too weak to produce EIFs, as shown in the table (Campbell, 2003).

Factor Typical frequency Typical Amplitude Comments

Pc1 pulsations 0.2 - 5Hz 0.1 nT Pc = pulsation continuous, caused by magnetosphere processes

Schumann resonances 7.8, 14, 20, 26Hz 0.05 nT Caused by lightning energy resonating between the earth and ionosphere.

Atmospherics 5 - 100+ Hz 0.05 nT Caused by distant lightning

Geomagnetic storms can bring larger amplitude changes in the geomagnetic field. A storm is defined as a period (usually of several days) when there is a large reduction in the horizontal component (parallel to the ground) of the geomagnetic field. On average, one big geomagnetic storm per year might bring a field reduction of around 250 nT, but most will be much less (maybe 10 per year bringing about 50 nT reduction). Therefore, only the largest, most infrequent storms have the sort of amplitudes we are looking for in EIFs. However, these changes typically occur over hours, or minutes at the fastest. Even the Pc1 pulsation component of the geomagnetic field, which has the correct frequency, varies only by a maximum amplitude of a few tenths of one nT (Belyaev, 2003). In summary, there are no natural variations of the geomagnetic field that provide both the amplitude and frequency together to be classed as EIFs, even during geomagnetic storms. Indeed, as we will see later, most of us live in an environment where such natural magnetic variations are entirely swamped by more powerful local artificial sources. So the geomagnetic field can, effectively, be dismissed as a likely source of EIFs.

Another natural source of EIFs that has been suggested is tectonic strain. Essentially, the Tectonic Strain Theory (TST) states that stresses within the Earth’s crust, less than those required to produce an earthquake, may result in highly localised surface electromagnetic disturbances through piezoelectricity in sub-surface rocks. Piezoelectricity is the phenomenon whereby certain crystals, notably quartz, produce an electric charge across opposite crystal faces when under physical pressure or strain.

The TST is the reason why many ghost researchers these days get excited if a geological fault lies near an allegedly haunted location. A fault is a crack in the Earth’s crust. Like any crack in a solid object, it is an indicator of strain, or pressure for movement, in the local area. Strain generally builds up around a fault until it is released through a physical movement (usually) underground, resulting in an earthquake. Thankfully, the vast majority of earthquakes are, in fact, tremors and are so small they are only noticed by seismologists using sensitive equipment.

The TST looks attractive, in principle, but it does have its critics. I have always had problems understanding it, when considering the physical details of the processes involved. Quartz generally occurs underground within other rocks, like granite, where its crystals are separated by other minerals. If you crush granite, an electric charge will build up across individual quartz crystals. However, since the crystals are orientated randomly, the charges (on opposite sides of each crystal) do not align. Therefore, they tend to cancel each other out rather than combining to form a strong overall electric field. There is a tiny overall field where stressed granite (under strain from lateral stress near a fault) is exposed at the earth’s surface, due to the fact that there are no crystals above the surface to completely cancel the field. But it is very small indeed.

Another problem that arises is that any electric field that might conceivably be produced by straining quartz underground will, in any case, be static. There is no movement (except for extremely slow tectonic movement, usually measured in mm per year) in the rocks and so no change in any field produced. This means there could be no magnetic field. In order to get a magnetic field you need to move electric charge through an electric field (such as when current flows down a wire). With no physical movement, there is no magnetic field.

Things change dramatically if the rock fractures, as has been demonstrated in granite crushing experiments (Zhu, 2001). Then, measurable electric (and magnetic) fields can be generated, through both the piezoelectric effect and something called seismoelectric conversion (caused by acoustic waves). The effect is amplified by the presence of water. While this process produces magnetic fields, you have to bear in mind that it involves the rock fracturing, not simply getting strained. There is little or no evidence for underground rock fracturing, even near faults, except during and immediately prior to an earthquake (Robb, 2005).

We do have some measurements of the kind of magnetic fields that might be produced by rock fracturing immediately prior to an earthquake. As a method of predicting earthquakes it is controversial, but the evidence does exist. One of the best known examples was the Loma Prieta earthquake in California in 1989. This was preceded by a weak (up to 60 nT) magnetic field with low frequency (0.01 to 10 Hz) up to 55 km away from the epicentre and three hours prior to the quake. However, even this field is not quite up to the strength required for an EIF and it took a 7.1 magnitude earthquake to generate it.

A further problem with TSTs is the very specific locality of the phenomena they set out to explain. In particular, the phenomena are often restricted not just to a single house but to particular rooms or even parts of rooms (sometimes in upper storeys). Houses nearby are seemingly unaffected. It seems unlikely that widespread tectonic strains could give rise to phenomena localised to just a couple of metres. However, it is possible that environmental factors within a house may amplify (or even attenuate) more widespread field disturbances. Also, a house may appear haunted, though next door does not, merely because an EIF-susceptible person lives in one and not the other.

Artificially Occurring EIFs

In a paper on the electromagnetic environment around Moscow (Belyaev, 2003), it was found that the magnetic fields at frequencies around 1 Hz were around 10 times higher in the suburbs, and 100 times higher in the city centre, compared to the countryside. In the city centre fields up to 250 - 300 nT at a frequency of 0.5 Hz were measured. These are strong enough to constitute EIFs. The fields were attributed, unsurprisingly, to electrical equipment in the city. This indicates, quite eloquently, that we should probably look first for artificial sources of EIFs in investigations before looking for, generally weaker, natural alternatives.

Artificial sources contribute significantly to the magnetic fields in a domestic environment, as a quick survey with an EMF meter will show. However, the 0.1 to 30 Hz frequency range of varying fields is generally quiet. This is because most electrical and electronic devices operate using a mixture of DC (for motors, electronic power supplies, etc.), mains frequency (50/60 Hz) and higher. The DC (static) element is rarely pure, being derived from mains supply with rectifiers (often accompanied by transformers). The resultant DC current has a slight voltage ripple on it. However, due to the way rectifiers are designed, this ripple will typically be at mains frequency or above and so not contribute to EIFs. Similarly, the mains supply itself can be distorted by the electrical loads placed on it by various bits of electrical equipment. This gives rise to harmonics but these, too, have a higher frequency and lower amplitude than the mains fundamental frequency. So most domestic electrical appliances, as well as the mains supply itself, will not contribute to EIFs.

Probably the most important source of low frequency magnetic fields is the simple movement, or mechanical vibration, of magnetic materials. By magnetic materials I mean metals with a high magnetic permeability. This means that magnetic fields prefer to flow through them, rather than through the air. Common examples include objects made of iron and steel. The object itself does not have to be magnetised, so long as it has high permeability. You can test if an object is highly permeable by seeing if a magnet is attracted to it. It may, or may not, be able, in turn, to attract other bits of unmagnetised steel (eg. paper clips) to itself. All objects with high magnetic permeability (let’s call them HMPs, for short), whether magnetised or not, distort the earth’s magnetic field around them. In the accompanying figure you will see two objects, one weakly magnetic, the other merely highly permeable. Both distort the surrounding geomagnetic field dramatically. When such objects are vibrated, they drag the magnetic field distortion around with them.

An unmagnetised HMP distorts the geomagnetic field nearly as well as a weak magnet

To produce an EIF frequency disturbance in the ambient magnetic field, all we need to do is vibrate an HMP at a rate of between once every ten seconds (0.1 Hz) and thirty times a second (30 Hz). It doesn’t need to be a constant frequency motion since, as we have seen, varying fields actually work better! The distortion to the ambient magnetic field will move in sympathy with the movement of the HMP, so inducing an EIF frequency change.

The possible examples of such moving HMPs in the domestic environment are almost endless. A sheet of corrugated iron vibrating in the wind, an iron bedstead shaken by nearby heavy traffic, a steel filing cabinet in a seaside office swayed gently by the crashing surf. Anything made of a suitable metal, whether magnetic or not, vibrated at a suitable frequency, will give us the EIF frequency disturbance. Whether it attains a suitable amplitude for an EIF depends on the degree of vibration of the object and the amount of distortion the HMP brings to the ambient field.

As well as bits of metal, there are also machines that can act as moving HMPs. An electric motor can be imagined as a permanent magnet being rotated, pole over pole, between the opposing poles of two other permanent magnets. In the real world, all the magnets are electromagnets but the effect is the same. A rotating magnetic field will be produced with a frequency reflecting the rotation rate of the motor’s armature. Most motors in domestic use are likely to produce rotating fields at EIF frequencies. That’s because few will go round faster than 1800 rpm, which equates to 30 Hz. In addition, DC motors may spark where brushes meet the commutator. This would introduce a sharply pulsed field, at twice the frequency of rotation, which might still be low enough to contribute to an EIF.

There are many motors used in the domestic environment. They commonly occur in such things as pumps (central heating, fridges, air-conditioning), fans (computers, air-conditioning, some ovens), washing machines, vacuum cleaners, even hi-fi equipment and hair dryers. Such appliances can produce quite powerful rotating magnetic fields.

Vibrating HMPs may produce the right frequencies, but will they give us the right amplitudes for people nearby? It comes down to your physical distance from the source of the field disturbance. Assuming the amplitudes exceed minimum EIF level at their source, there is bound to be some critical distance, or zone, away from the source where the field amplitude will be correct. All you have to do is stay in that critical area for long enough and, if you are susceptible and the field varies enough over time, you may well get hallucinations. It is difficult to predict how far such a zone would extend without doing experiments. Magnetic fields decline quickly away from their source, falling with the inverse square law. As a guess, I would say EIFs would probably extend no further than a metre or two from a source likely to be encountered in a domestic situation, assuming the average geomagnetic field as a background. If there was a higher than usual ambient magnetic field, the range would decrease. Conversely, in an area of lower than usual ambient field, the range would increase. One might reasonably ask, how can you live in an area of lower than normal geomagnetic field? HMPs can distort the local magnetic field, as we have seen, and create areas where the local magnetic field is actually lower than average. Such HMPs would, obviously, not need to be moving to produce such an effect. This is the principle behind magnetic shielding. The magnetic field is ‘dragged’ into the HMP, so attenuating the ambient field around it. A place where the ambient field is low could be particularly promising, as it would require less of a field distortion to produce an EIF.

Interestingly, the degree of distortion caused by HMPs to ambient fields depends on such things as the shape of the source and its angle to the field, as well as the permeability and magnetisation of the metal. Long thin HMPs (like sheet metal) and curved ones (think of a horshoe magnet) disrupt the local magnetic field more than short, fat ones. Also, HMPs aligned with the ambient field will produce a larger effect than those at right-angles to it. Note, also, that the presence of vibrating HMPs would mean that hallucinations would only be experienced in quite small areas inside a house. This would fit in with the often observed fact that only certain rooms, or even particular spots, regularly produce ghosts.

Transformers and a relay (middle curve) combine transitions to produce seemingly chaotic fluctuations (top curve)

Another possible source of EIFs is combined magnetic transitions in mains frequency equipment. There are many pieces of electrical equipment that can produce such magnetic transitions. Though transitions are not EIFs in themselves, if you get enough of them in a small area, over a short period of time, they could have the same effect. By a transition, I mean a significant, slow (by electronic standards) change in the mains frequency magnetic field produced by electrical equipment. This would appear to a DC magnetometer (insensitive to mains-frequency) as a pulse. A transformer, for instance, though it operates at mains-frequency, takes time to become fully energised or drained (because the magnetic field induced is resisting the current change) when it is switched on or off. This produces a change in the magnetic field slow enough to be ‘seen’ by a DC magnetometer. Another example is a relay, which contains an electromagnet. When a relay is switched on or off, a static magnetic field will either rise or fall, producing a magnetic transition. Transformers and relays are common in the supply and switching sections of domestic electrical, and particularly electronic, equipment. Electrical house wiring may also show transitions (though not as powerfully) when equipment downstream is switched on or off or has a changing load.

In a house with lots of electrical equipment in use there may sometimes be enough pulses, close enough together, both in space and time, to constitute EIFs. If there are a few vibrating HMPs about as well, so much the better. It might seem unlikely that you would get enough pulses to constitute an EIF this way. But consider this, you only need one 100 nT pulse every ten seconds to qualify! As more and more electrical devices are operated in a house at once, the combined fluctuations will show a rise in amplitude and frequency as well as appearing increasingly chaotic.

Another important, though rarer, possible artificial source of EIFs is malfunctioning electrical equipment. This could include the mains supply itself. There are only a few ways most bits of electrical equipment can operate correctly, but any number in which they can malfunction. Therefore it is difficult to list particular examples of malfunctioning equipment producing EIFs. In general, though, accidental capacitances and inductances could possibly, in certain circumstances, give rise to low frequency currents (and hence magnetic fields). Fields can leak, unintentionally, from electrical equipment to nearby conductors (such as water pipes) through induction. Though these would be at the mains frequency, there might be resonances set up by the plumbing configuration that could be at a different frequency, possibly lower. Earthing problems are another possible source of unintentional fields. As I said before, it is difficult to come up with a concrete example, but it might happen and should be considered.

Of course, you may just happen to live in a magnetically dense area. As we saw with the unfortunate inhabitants of central Moscow, some places may be bathed perpetually in a sea of fields that qualify as EIFs. There may be nearby industrial users, such as factories, that could produce EIFs through HMPs and densely packed electrical equipment. So artificially produced EIFs may be outside the premises that are allegedly haunted. You should not assume EIFs are produced naturally just because they have no obvious source inside a house.

Another interesting source of EIFs is human movement! Although you may not have any moving fields within your home, you might move through reasonably strong, complex static fields sufficiently often to produce an EIF in your brain. If you think about it, walking between two areas of high magnetic field, with a low area in between, is no different from having a varying field pass through your head as you sit still. Given that you need to be exposed to such varying fields for some time, however, it might involve a lot of walking! It should be considered, however, particularly in a workplace that might well combine a lot of walking and a complex static magnetic environment. A probable example of this is an instance of a'haunted bed' (where some people lying in it experience strange ghostly sounds of a child crying). What is extremely interesting is that the bed has been found to magnetic, so that anyone tossing and turning in it would be exposing themselves to EIFs. This research is decribed here, on the MADS website. ( MADS = Magnetic Anomaly Detection System )

other sources:
( ) formerly AA-EVP

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