Do Ghost Hunting Apps Really Work?

ghost hunting app

With the “Information Age” came radical and progressive technological advancements.  For instance, computers no longer required an entire room.  Home computers no longer weigh 50 pounds and can be carried around either in the palm of your hand or backpack.  Video games and movie graphics are now more realistic and, you never have to stay at home waiting for an important telephone call.

However, these technological advancements do not stop here.  I have noticed them showing up on some of the ghost tours and ghost hunts I hand the honor to conduct as well.  They appear in the form of Apps, “Ghost Hunting Apps” to be more specific.  At first, I thought it was a novel idea to be able to just punch one button on your smart phone and “ta da” your smart phone is magically transformed into an operative investigative tool.  I did not put too much more thought into it farther than the end of the tour.  Then, I noticed more and more of our guests attending our ghost hunts and haunted walking tours with using these Apps on their handheld devices.  Now, this once novel idea moved into a totally new category.  I noticed that our guests were actually relying on these “Ghost Hunting Apps” more than their cameras, K2 meters, and digital recorders.  The most alarming thing I found was that they were absolutely convinced that these Apps were accurate for no other reason than the marketing hype.

While it’s no secret that I am not a big fan of Apps whether it be for a computer, smart-phone, or otherwise I am not some dinosaur with an aversion to technology. I do embrace some technology while abandoning others.  For me, the determining factor is twofold.  First, whether it is an App or piece of equipment, it needs to be reliable with a proven track record.  And, second, it must be user friendly.

So, I decided to perform a little experiment.  I actually downloaded a couple of these Apps on my smart phone and tested them at different locations along our tour route which are known to be “hot spots.”  The initial results were quite disappointing.  I received positive results at locations not known for paranormal activity and no results at known paranormal “hot spots.”  In an effort to be fair, I performed a second test.  This time results appeared to be more inline with data gathered prior to my little experiment using the “Ghost Hunting” Apps.  After performing two tests, and receiving contradictory results, I still did not feel comfortable rendering a conclusion as to whether or not these Apps actually worked in the field or not.  I felt that a third and final test was in order.  During this third test of these “Ghost Hunting” Apps, I received a better response but, this time I noticed something more sinister correlation.  The seemingly random and erratic responses were more inline with responses you would get using a “Magic 8 Ball.”  I found this to be most disappointing.  My final conclusion as to whether or not “Ghost Hunting” Apps actually work in the field and are a reliable scientific source for detecting actual paranormal activity is ABSOLUTELY NO.  However, I do have to give these Apps points for being a fantastic source of entertainment.     In performing my experiment, I was both entertained and amused by these gadgets.

As a paranormal investigator, I think I will stick with my old reliable equipment for now when performing investigations or field work. But, who knows, you may find me using an app of some kind sometime in the future once this technology has been perfected and becomes a reliable tool.

For now, I will let you be the judge.

© J.F. Dietz 2013

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Basics of Photo Authentication

Photo Authentication“A picture is worth a thousand words”, is a phrase coined by Frederick R. Barnard is no less true today than it was when it was first spoken.  Ever since the invention of “Still Photography” by Louis Daguerre in 1838, people are captivated by photographs.  Now that we have moved into the 21st Century, photographs still carry a great amount of weight whether it is used to express ourselves, art, or as evidence to prove or disprove something.

No matter how you look at it, pardon the pun, a certain amount of controversy has cast a shadow over photographs.  It didn’t take long for some unscrupulous photographers to discover that photographs could be manipulated yielding very shocking results.  However, these early faked photographs could be easily identified by a very keen eye because of the poor quality of equipment and materials.

Over time, the quality of faked photographs improved as did equipment and materials making it more difficult to determine whether or not a photograph is authentic or a fake. This is especially true now that we have entered the “information age” with an abundance of high-tech digital cameras and computer software just a click away.  Now, a really good “faked” photograph could easily seem authentic to an untrained eye.

As a result, I have altered my authentication techniques and take a more guarded approach when authenticating photographs and think you should too.  Everything is not always as it seems at first glance.  Some of the key items you should look for are “pixilation”.  All digital images are made up of pixels and you need to inspect each of the key elements of an image to determine if the pixels match.  A “Tell Tale” sign of a fake image is the presence of any pixel distortion, pixel discoloration, or other pixel noise in the photographic image.  This becomes very evident once you enlarge the photo.  You should also check to see if the photo has more than one layer.  This can be done through computer software that allows you inspect the elements of the photo.  If the photo does in fact contain more than one layer or the key elements can be separated revealing another image underneath then the photo has been photo shopped provide you with evidence that the photo is fake.  Lastly, you should look at the image as a whole to make sure that all of the key elements are in proportion with each other.

Most people who attempt to pass off altered or fake photographs or images as authentic usually fail in one or all of these areas.  They are more interested in the “shock” value and publicity that their images will receive.  This is why you should take a more guarded approach when authenticating photographs.  By performing these simple tasks while authenticating photos you can greatly reduce the chance of authenticating a fake photo as authentic.

As technology and the skills of digital media artists improve, you will likewise have to improve your skills of authentication adding new techniques to your arsenal just to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters.

© J.F. Dietz 2013

Psychics & Mediums

Psychics & Mediums

I already know that I’m going to receive quite a bit of flack for writing this article but, I believe that this subject needs to be addressed.  I look at it as the proverbial “Elephant in the living room” which everyone seems to ignore.  Since I’m not one who follows the status quo, which usually gets me into a lot of trouble, I have a tendency to speak my mind on topics that others seem to dance around.  This topic is no different.

To clear the air before I start, I just want to say that I don’t have an issue with psychics or mediums.  At least the people who truly have this gift without any doubt whatsoever.  However, I do have issues with those people who believe they are gifted in this area but, who just put on a show to con people out of their hard earned money which seems to happen more commonly than you think.  Harry Houdini had a problem with it also.  So much so, he devoted a good amount of his time exposing psychics and mediums who were complete frauds.

This huge controversy over the validity of psychics and mediums appears to be central to the U.S. only since no official licensing, registration, or any other qualifications are required.  All you need to do is claim to have psychic abilities whether you really possess this gift or not.  Also, both psychics and mediums practicing inside the U.S. are allowed to police themselves.  As a result, you have the perfect breeding ground for frauds ready to fleece you of your hard earned money or even worse preying on your emotions whether it be grieving for a lost loved one or giving you false hope when you are having a hard time financially.  What’s worse is that it’s very difficult to differentiate between a real psychic or medium and a fraudulent psychic or medium.  Compared side by side, they are almost identical to the average person.

A truly psychic person is born with the gift which becomes apparent usually early on in adolescence.  This gift is also passed down from generation to generation in their family and is genetically encoded into them.  Finally, the majority of psychics or mediums are women although on rare occasions when it may be passed down to a male in the family.

In direct contrast to this, a psychic who is a fraud, spends years developing their people watching skills and their abilities to read  people.  The actual term for this is “mentalism” which is a highly developed skill of listening to what you say so discreetly that you don’t even notice that you are feeding them a lot of information about yourself before you even ask them a question. Also included in the practice of “mentalism” is the con-artist’s skill in reading facial expressions and body language.  As a result, the answers about you that the fraudulent medium or psychic gives will make them appear to be someone who is truly gifted in that area.  Don’t feel bad if you have fallen for this trick on an occasion or two, I have also.  As a matter of fact, a study performed a few years back showed that on average 99% of the general public has fallen for this slight of hand as well.

As a Paranormal Investigator and Researcher, I still remain skeptical of all psychics, mediums, and sensitives (those who are sensitive to spirit activity but who have not psychic abilities).  This is why neither Asylum Paranormal nor Haunted Houston Tours do not use them on ghost tours or ghost hunts.    This choice is not meant to be discriminatory against psychics, mediums, and sensatives but, rather to distance ourselves from the controversy by employing them.

As for those of you who do seek advice from psychics or mediums though, just keep in mind that it is for entertainment purposes only and take their counsel with a grain of salt.

© J.F. Dietz 2013

 

What Are People Thinking?

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Recently it has come to my attention of a Ghost Tour being offered in the U.S. that is counter intuitive and a potential danger to guests    taking that tour.  I’m not going to mention the name of the tour nor the city/state in which it is being offered for potential liability reasons.  The tour that I’m writing about is conducted by a Priest and is held at a location in which malevolent spirits are present.  Those attending his tour are then invited to allow themselves to be possessed by these malevolent/demonic spirits while on his tour.  He touts his tour as “extreme ghost hunting” and for those thrill seekers on his tour seeking that adrenaline rush of demonic spirit possession skating on the brink of no return, he says that this is what will put his tours over the top in the paranormal circles.

Now, I don’t know if it is just me or if anyone else thinks that this concept is insane.  In my 28 years experience as a Paranormal Researcher and Investigator I would not even consider placing anyone in this type of situation unless it is my own personal team consisting of well seasoned Paranormal Investigators.  Even then,  each team member would have the option of accepting or declining such an assignment.  I have learned as a professional that there are things that can mentally and physically injure you not to mention kill you.  Every investigation is different and brings a certain amount of risk with it.  This so-called Priest is not talking about seasoned Paranormal Investigators but, “Joe Average Citizen” who may or may not have had any personal experience with the paranormal other than just watching a couple of television shows.  Either way, in my professional opinion, he is placing innocent people in an unnecessary dangerous situation just for a thrill while assuring them it’s all in fun and is completely safe. As a Professional Paranormal Investigator and Researcher, I find this appalling.

I realize that everyone may or may not share in my opposition to this type of Ghost Tour which is fine by me.  All I have to say is be aware who you are dealing with, ask questions, and find out just what risks you may be taking before you choose to attend a Ghost Tour.

© J.F. Dietz 2013

 

 

Ouija Boards

ouija board

Ah, Ouija Boards also known as Spirit Boards and Talking Boards are one of those items that have gained popularity over the years.  The reason for its success stems a marketing campaign, whether intentional or unintentional, as a toy that “…provides both children and adults with hours of fun…”  Being identified as a game, you can readily find them for sale at any local toy retailer through out the United States.

As an experienced Occultist and Paranormal Researcher, I can honestly say that I refuse to use an Ouija Board no matter what you wish to call it.  For the most part, the only people I have found using them are i) children or ii) dabblers in the occult.  Don’t get me wrong or think that I’m being abrasive; I’m not.  I’m just simply stating a fact.  I truly feel heart-sick that such a dangerous tool is marketed as a game to innocent children and unsuspecting adults who don’t have a background in the paranormal or occult arts.  Personally, I think it’s wrong but, that’s me and, I will let you make up your own mind.

In general, my belief is that Ouija Boards are inherently dangerous and here’s why.  First of all, their sole purpose is to contact spirits and provide a medium for spirits to communicate with us.  In order to accomplish this, the user or users place the planchet on the board with their hands resting lightly on the planchet.  The user then asks a question and waits for a spirit to move the planchet on the Ouija Board spelling out a response one letter at a time.  In order to be successful in using this device, the user or users have to open themselves up to the spirit world.  The Ouija Board then becomes a portal or door to this spirit world.

In order to understand this concept, you have to be aware that the spirit world is home to any number of entities i.e. i) mundane helpful spirits, ii) harmful spirits, iii) trickster spirits, and iv) evil entities to name just a few.  Yes, evil does exist whether in our world or the spirit world no matter your beliefs.  By opening the door to the spirit world, you never know which entity will come out and play.  This is where the danger lies.

Before you grab an Ouija Board off the shelf to either use personally or to give as a gift to a child you need to as yourself this question.  Would I invite a total stranger to move into my home or go live with me or my family without doing a complete background check?  If your answer is “No” don’t purchase one.  If your answer is “Yes”, then, by all means make the purchase.

Personally, you will never catch me or any other Occultist and Paranormal Researcher worth his/her “salt” using one or having one of these devices stashed away in their home or business.

All in all, it boils down to personal preference and you have to decide for yourself.

© J.F. Dietz 2012