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

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

Ghost Dog

Ramona DeGraw May 19 2013 HHT Guest

In addition to being a Paranormal Investigator and Office Manager of 2 Historical Ghost Tour Companies, I’m also a pet parent to 3 dogs.  Needless to say, the thought of “ghost dogs” or other “ghost animals” never entered my mind at all until, I moved into a house where one existed. It was a “ghost dog” and there were many nights that I was awakened to hear a dog’s bark coming from the living room area.  At first, I thought it was one of my dogs but, when I checked, they were fast asleep in my bed.  Then, my paranormal investigator side kicked in and I tried to rationalize the occurrence away by thinking maybe I was just dreaming or it was the result of an overactive imagination.  When I got up the next morning, I completely put the events of the night out of my mind and continued on with my day as usual.  Several days passed and I didn’t think of that event at all.  Then, again, I was woken up by the sound of a dog running around on the hardwood floor in the dining room.  Once again, I checked, and all of my dogs were fast asleep in my bed.  I got up and walked out into the hall and was surprised to find one of their balls, which are kept in the living room, rolling down the hall towards me.  I was both shocked and amazed.  I bent down and picked up the ball and then rolled it back down the hall towards the dining room and heard the pattering of dog paws on the hardwood floor once again.  I then took one step forward and the ball came rolling back down the hall towards me a second time.  At this point, I switched on the hall lights and proceeded cautiously down the hall towards the dining room.  I then switched on the light for both the kitchen and dining room and continued to walk throughout my house switching on the lights in every room.  I also checked all the doors and windows and everything was secure with no evidence of anyone being in my house other than myself and my 3 dogs.  I even went out into the garage and retrieved a level and checked every room including the hallway to see if, maybe, just maybe, the house had settled and was off level.  To my amazement, everything was fine.  I turned off all of the lights and went back to my bedroom.  As soon as I closed my bedroom door, I heard a dog’s bark coming from the living room.  Again, I checked and my fur babies were fast asleep in my bed.

Then, one day, about a year after my personal experience with a “ghost dog”, a photograph crossed my desk for authentication.  At first glance, it was a picture of one of our tour guides sitting on a bench surrounded with unexplained light streams in the background.  I figured that this was going to be a routine and that the unexplained light streaks could be debunked as flash flare.  However, upon closer examination, something else caught my eye completely isolated from the original question about the lights.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing yet, there it was plain as day.  Lying in my tour guide’s lap was an apparition of a dog.  Finally, I was holding in my hands hard evidence of a “ghost dog”.

After these two experiences, my style of paranormal investigation was forever changed.  I soon began thinking about the very real possibility of the existence of “ghost dogs” and/or other “ghost animals”.  I found that this experience was leading me down a path into uncharted territory with a plethora of new questions which are unique in one way but somewhat familiar in another such as, “Why are they here?”, “What are they attached to?”, “Did they just fail to cross-over?”, “Do they really exist?”, “How many documented cases exist?”, “Is there more evidence?”  Needless to say, I have quite a bit of research to do before reaching a definitive answer to these questions.

© J.F. Dietz 2013

 

So, You Want To Be A Ghost Hunter?

Question Mark

Thanks to TV Shows on “Ghost Hunting” along with media coverage, it has created a heightened interest in ghost hunting which is fantastic.  For those who have either watched one or several of these types of shows or did a little research, I encourage you to do more if you are truly interested in this hobby rather than being morbidly curious.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I said “hobby” and not profession.  Even the most seasoned and experienced Ghost Hunters have an outside job or are retired from an outside job while pursuing their ghost hunting interests.  It’s a rather rare occurrence for someone to make a profession out of it but, stranger things have happened.  For the serious amongst you, I highly recommend starting small to get your feet wet and see how you like it and go from there.  This way, if, you find out it’s not your “cup of tea”, you would not have much time or money invested in the hobby.

My first recommendation is to go on a ghost hunting tour.  The cost averages about the same as dinner for two and is quite fun.  You will usually be in a group setting with a tour guide leading the tour.   For people in the Houston, TX area, I highly recommend Haunted Houston Tours.  They have experienced tour guides and ghost hunters to answer questions and offer assistance for those new to this hobby.  You also have the opportunity to get hands on experience by renting equipment to be used on your ghost hunt.  You can find them at http:///www.hauntedhoustontours.com.  For those residing outside of the Houston area, you will have to check your locale for a ghost hunting tour.

Now what?  You attended your first ghost hunting tour and you absolutely loved it and want more.  I would start by trying to find a local paranormal or ghost hunting meet up group or an active paranormal investigative group.  This is not as easy as it sounds but, for the serious novice ghost hunter, persistence always pays off.  The benefits in knowledge and experience far outweighs the amount of time and research you put in trying to find one of these types of groups.

Once you have gained some experience and knowledge, don’t stop.  This is one of those types of hobbies where learning never ceases.  No matter how long you’ve been doing it, you will always learn something new or be faced with a situation that you have never experienced before.  Independent research is the proverbial “key” to this hobby.

One of the great pitfalls most newbies fall into is ghost hunting equipment.  The myth is that you need every single piece of equipment available to be a successful ghost hunter.  This false belief has poisoned the well for most causing them to abandon their new interest altogether.  Equipment is very expensive even if you are independently wealthy and is not necessary.  Personally, I only have a few pieces of equipment at my disposal (a digital camera, digital recorder, Ghost Box or Frank’s Boxdivining rods, and a pendulum) and I’ve been doing this for 32 years.  All of these pieces of equipment fit easily into my pockets or Day Travel Pack.  My absolute favorite pieces of equipment are my pendulum and divining rods.   You can read my article “Ghost Hunting On A Budget” for more information.  All in all, to be good at what you do, doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.

Now that you feel comfortable enough to branch out on your own, “Where do you go?”.  Fall back on your skills of research to find haunted locations locally.  Our Haunted Houston Tours’ office receives several calls a month asking for the location of haunted hot spots in the area.  This route almost always never pans out for the following reasons.  Reason No. 1:  Serious ghost hunters and paranormal experts automatically draw the conclusion that you are not very serious and are very lazy when it comes to independent research.  Reason No. 2:  Serious ghost hunters and paranormal experts are not about to reveal any information pertaining to their ongoing research or locations of interest.  Reason No. 3:  Serious ghost hunters and paranormal experts are unwilling to accept liability in the event you get injured or violate any local or state laws accessing a haunted location.  I know I’m being brutally honest here but, that’s just the way it is period.

In the end, I encourage people of all ages to pursue their interests wholeheartedly no matter what it is, as long as it’s legal and enjoyable.

© J.F. Dietz 2013

 

When The Ghosts Keep Calling

ghost callingIt has come to my attention that many of you aren’t quite sure how to deal with ghosts who won’t leave you alone.  If, you are sensitive, this can become quite bothersome.  So, I have come up with a few suggestions on how you can deal with these ghosts so, you can get much needed rest.

You need to realize that people who are sensitive or can sense ghosts, whether by sight or by unending conversations in your head, you are like a neon sign to those in the spirit realm.  So, “like a moth to a flame”, these spirits will seek you out and target you.  Now that you are aware of what’s going on, how do you avoid this dilemma?

First, spirits like children, need boundaries or they will run amok and cause chaos.  This is up to you.  Be firm!  Designate an area, whether it is your personal space or a room in your home that is off-limits to spirit activity.  This takes some practice but, once you master this technique, you will have a sanctuary where you can get some peace and quiet.  Although, this is great, it works only if you co-exist with spirits in your home.

If, you enjoy Ghost Hunting or Paranormal Investigation, you will have to take a slightly different approach.  The first thing you need to know before engaging in this type of activity, you need to be “on top of your game” both mentally and physically.  If your not, not only do you place yourself in danger but, you place you’re hunting partner in danger as well.  If you still feel that you are being targeted by an overly aggressive spirit you will need to set boundaries.  Again, be firm!  Let the spirit know that that type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  Never back down and never show fear because this will only fuel the situation.  The same thing goes if an unwelcome spiritual entity tries to follow you home from a location.

Another technique that works well is called “shielding”.  Essentially, you imagine yourself inside a protective bubble, impregnable fortress, armor, or anything else you can imagine to protect yourself from anything a spirit may throw at you.

Finally, you may want to bring with you an object, which can be easily concealed, as a security blanket, protection, or something that gives you courage.  I know that this may sound silly to some but, it works if you have faith that it will work; if that makes sense.  As a professional Paranormal Investigator, I, personally, 1) prepare myself mentally, 2) shield, and 3) take my Rosary with me as a security blanket.  It works for me and hasn’t failed me yet.

© J.F. Dietz 2012

What is “matrixing?”

confused skullIn actuality, the term “matrixing” is a relative new term coined by the Sci Fi television series Ghost Hunters which encompasses several other terms already defined by Webster’s Dictionary.  Essentially, Ghost Hunters created the term to provide it’s viewers a more simplistic definition than the more scientific term counterparts.  Even so, the term “matrixing” has gained popularity among paranormal investigators and others who are interested in all things paranormal.

 As social creatures by nature, we are conditioned to make sense out of the external environment we are subjected to daily from a very early age.  From birth, we are taught pattern recognition which provides us with the necessary skills needed to help us make sense of the outside world that are essential for survival. As we grow we become so adept at this skill that it becomes an automatic subconscious response to outside stimuli.  The scientific term for this natural response is “pareidolia”.  This psychological phenomenon describes a process in which the human mind attempts to make sense of random vague images or sounds as being significant.  Some common examples are, seeing people or religious symbols in clouds or hidden messages in audio recordings played in reverse.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these things do not exist.  You just need to consider their significance and whether or not there is significance in the things you see or hear.

Similarly, the term “anthropomorphizing” refers to our attributing human form or personality to all non-human things.  A very good example is seeing the face of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich which was sold on eBay not too long ago.

Next, we have the term “apophenia” which is considered as being a combination of the terms, “pareidolia” and “anthropomorphizing”.  Simply put, “apophenia” refers the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data as well as, perceiving that meaningful connections exist between completely unrelated phenomena.

In conclusion, despite the existence of more suitable terms to describe the subconscious processes people go through to make sense of seemingly random and unrelated stimuli, “matrixing” has trumped them in popularity.  As a paranormal investigator, I believe this to be quite redundant to create a new term as a catch-all to attempt to clarify scientific terms which are clearly more accurate.  For those who are vocabulary challenged, I guess it works as a meager attempt to sound somewhat intelligent.  Just don’t be offended if you encounter sneers or jeers when you use the term “matrixing” when conversing with seasoned paranormal investigators.

© J.F. Dietz 2012

Is Paranormal Investigation Dangerous?

Ghostly Hands PicFinally, I’m back after much needed rest and relaxation!  It’s finally time to get back to work writing again.

The topic I’m going to cover is a question that has been posed to us on our tours on several occasions.  Is paranormal investigation dangerous?  Although, at first glance, you would think it’s a very straightforward question with a simple yes or no answer but, it’s not.  Let me explain why.  Anytime you engage in this activity, you run a very real danger of sustaining physical and/or psychological injury.  Physical and psychological injuries usually occur as a result of several factors:  1) unfamiliar terrain, 2) poor visibility due to darkness, 3) inattentiveness to your surroundings i.e. disorientation, 4) serious medical condition i.e. heart or mental disorder, and, finally 5) overreaction to our primal fear known as “fight or flight” response.  These potential risks are touted as the “Top 5 Risk Factors”As you can see, none of these injuries occur as a result of “spirit activity” but, as a direct result of the participant’s negligence; it’s your fault.

Don’t get me wrong but, if you choose to engage in any type of paranormal investigation, ghost tour, or séance, do your homework first.  The Boy Scouts of America got it right with their motto “A scout is always prepared…”  If you take anything from this article, please make this your motto also.  The risk of being harmed by an angry spirit is slim to none.  You have a better chance of winning the lotto.  If you don’t think it could happen to you, chances are that it will.  Be careful!

© J.F. Dietz 2012