Ghost hunting on a budget

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Unless you have been locked away for the past ten years you will have noticed some sort of ‘ghost hunting’ programs on tv. If you are interested in doing a similar thing then you don’t need to spend a fortune to build a good investigative kit. In fact, you may have useful tools and just not realize it. Don’t get conned into buying a specialist ghost hunting kit from the internet, as you will be paying for extra equipment that you just don’t require.

Let’s look at some of the options available in your own home.

The first thing you might want to look at is your mobile phone. I am fortunate enough to own an iPhone and it is an amazing piece of equipment. It is jam packed with sensors that are designed to achieve certain goals (satellite tracking, motion detection, infrared filming, digital audio recording etc). These very same sensors can be used for many other purposes, so much so in fact that developers have created applications, which you can download for a few pounds, which will produce comparable results.

So, what can this mobile phone actually do?

1. The iPhone comes with a compass built in. This can be affected, like a normal compass, by EMF (electro magnetic fields) that are often generated by entities. Several App designers have utilized this effect and designed their software to resemble the EMF meters, made popular in afore mentioned TV shows.

‘Ghost Hunter M2’, for example, is the swiss army knife of paranormal Apps.

It boasts – Audio Detector, EMF Meter, EVP detector, Seismic Motion Detector and enough sweeps/scans to bamboozle even a paranormal expert. What you do need to consider is the fact that the mobile devices do produce their own EMF. This is necessary for it to act as a mobile phone. However, turning on airplane mode should negate this as it disables all outgoing signals. In this mode the App was almost identical in its readings to a known brand of EMF meter. The one advantage of the brand meter was that it had an external probe plugged in and this could be moved more precisely.

Another fun App is ‘Ghost Radar Classic’. This App shows energy forces entering the area and randomly speaks EVP words to you that the spirits may or may not be selecting. I think you can take this one with a pinch of salt but it does come up with some weird stuff, especially if you start to question it. Good for parties but don’t base a career on it. If you do then remember to ask the ‘Magic 8 Ball’ if the readings are correct before you publish.

2. The iPhone contains a delicate and powerful recording device. You can use the built in digital sound recorder to record the events of a room. These can be downloaded to a PC for analysis, using free tools like Audacity. Audacity will give you a graphic picture of the sound recording and you can look for any unusual spikes in volume. This can save you listening to hours of footage.

There is an App called the ‘Paranormal Recorder’ that combines an EMF meter with a Decibel Meter. You can set it so that it will only record when EMF hits a certain range or sound goes over a certain range. These recordings can be analyzed on the phone, classified (Unanalyzed, EVP Intelligible or Unintelligible) and even uploaded straight to the internet (Soundcloud.com) so that you can clear space on your device for more recordings.

3. You may not be able to afford a good digital camera or digital camcorder but both of these are available in your phone. Did you know that all digital cameras are capable of capturing infrared images? If you look at the front end of your TV remote, whilst you press a button, you won’t see anything. If you look at it through the lens of your mobile phone camera you will see the light. All you need now is an infrared light source and you have everything you need to record images and films in the dark. You can pick up an infrared torch for about £8 on EBay. (Speaking of torches, you will probably need a red torch so that you don’t blind fellow investigators. It also allows your eyes to get used to the dark quicker than using white light. You can make them yourself with a red film and a rubber band placed over the end of a normal torch. You can even paint the glass with red nail polish, for a tougher finish.)

(Note – the same sensors are available in the iPad and most Android phones but will vary from model to model – try a free App first before wasting money. I do mention the iPhone a lot below but that’s just because it is my mobile of choice.)

I bet you never thought you had so much equipment available in your pocket. It doesn’t really end there though. Your mobile phone also provides a handy source of quick light. It can be used to make emergency calls (if you get in trouble). You can take notes on it or even dictate notes to type up later (that’s a big time saver). Information required for the vigil can be stored there prior to the investigation. If you have a good signal it’s even possible to carry out research on the internet whilst you are on site.

You may have a few old phones lying about the house. If so then each one could have a different use in your investigation. Use the newer smart phones for their sensor capabilities, the ones with good lenses for visual recording and older ones for audio recordings/notes etc. You might want to consider a spare battery, if you can get one, or a wind up charger. Maplins do one for £4 that works on an iPhone. Be warned though, you are probably talking 1-2 hours of winding to fully charge a phone. However a wind up torch is a good back up tool and you only need 5 mins to get a decent charge of light. This is a noisy process though and could disturb others in your team.

What other equipment do you have that could be used? Perhaps you have a digital dictation machine or Digital minidisk recorders (they would work well with a quality microphone added to them). A lot of dictation machines nowadays come fitted with studio quality condenser microphones build into them. These are amazingly accurate recording devices designed to capture samples for media work but just as relevant for capturing EVP.

Another handy tool that you may have is a laptop or netbook. Your only limitation on these might be lack of a power source and limited battery life. If that isn’t a factor (house investigations) then it can become a very powerful recording device – with the right attachments and some free software.

First off you can get USB infrared web cams that are easily attached to the top lid of the laptop. Now you have your night vision lens. If you add a studio quality USB condenser microphone you now have a top of the range night time recording unit. (see below)

All you need is software to combine all these different devices into some cohesive recording unit. Luckily that is available in a piece of free software called ‘Ispy’. This software is open source and can be used for various purposes. Most importantly, for our needs, it can act as a motion/sound detection camera and is capable of storing a whole night’s vigil.

NOTE – You may need to do some careful power management to get it to last that long, but it is possible. Ideally you want the screen in power save mode, as you don’t want the light from the laptop interfering with the infrared. Ideally you want it to be as cool as possible so the fans don’t need to kick in. If your laptop is noisy you may have to house it in something (to buffer the sound) and move the mic away from the laptop. Experiment a lot in your own house before trying any of this on a proper vigil. Know your apparatus and your software inside out. There are no second chances.

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‘Ispy’ is available free of charge from www.ispyconnect.com

‘USB Infrared web cams’ are available on Amazon and EBay for around £10

‘Samson Go Mic USB Microphone’ – cost around £40. It is an amazing microphone for its size. This can also be used to improve your internet chat, internet phone services, podcasts and anywhere where you might need better quality in your audio recordings. That should help you get your money’s worth out of this purchase.

There are things that you won’t have lying about. A handy tool to have would be a digital thermometer. Type ‘Infrared Digital Thermometer Gun with Laser Sight’ into Google. You can pick these up new for around £15. Walkie Talkies – again these around the same price but they aren’t essential unless you plan on splitting up during the vigil. What you might like to try is a parabolic microphone for recording EVP messages. You can buy a toy version called a Super Sleigh on Amazon for £20 but it’s pretty good quality and allows you too hear things up to 300ft away. It has a headphone socket so if you buy a splitter adaptor you could monitor and record onto a digital recorder at the same time. Use your Digital thermometer and if you find a cold (or hot) spot that wasn’t their previously then point your parabolic at it and ask some questions. Remember to allow time for answers. Hopefully you should find some EVP on playback

I hope if you are looking to do some investigation that this guide may help you at little but more importantly save you some money.