Ch…Ch…Changes

press releaseIn case anyone was wondering, Asylum Paranormal is still an active blog.  The reason for my absence is due to the fact that I have been busy working on several new projects.  My main focus has been on establishing myself as a published writer which has been both an arduous and successful journey.  I am now a contributing writer for Paranormal Underground Magazine with my first article published in the November 2013 Issue.  I also have another article ready for publishing which will come out in the December 2013 Issue as well.  Click on the link in the sidebar to read the article and publication.  I am also in the process of co-authoring a book with Kasey Clark, owner of Haunted Houston Tours and Haunted Lafayette Tours, which will be available for purchase early in 2014.  And, this is not all.  Beginning in 2014, Asylum Paranormal will be expanding its platform to provide readers and followers with more options and have more functionality.  Asylum Paranormal will also be getting a new face lift as well.  Stay tuned to this blog to witness all of the upcoming changes.

 

© J.F. Dietz 2013

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

Night Vision “On The Cheap”

IdeaAs Ghost Hunters, we are always searching for ways to improve our ability to capture paranormal activity.  One of the main challenges we face each time we perform an investigation is very limited or no external lighting.  Although one of the positive sides to this issue is that it heightens our awareness however, the negative side is safety issues.  The solution to this problem is purchasing night vision equipment which can be very expensive and out of the price range of most people especially those on a limited budget or just entering the field for the first time.  This does not go without saying that I’m cheap and operate off of a very tight budget when it comes to my ghost hunting endeavors.  I’m also a true believer that top of the line equipment does not make anyone a good or great Ghost Hunter.  The only thing it will accomplish is tapping you out financially and high blood pressure.

As a follow-up to my first article Ghost Hunting On A Budget, I’m going to let you on a little secret of just how you can create your own night vision device for just pennies on the dollar.  You will need three inexpensive items: (1) a flashlight or hunting spotlight, (2) a red transparency sheet, and (3) a blue transparency sheet.  Once you acquire these items, the rest is very simple.  You will take your flashlight and unscrew the lens on the front.  Next, trace out the shape of your flashlight lens on a piece of paper.  Then, you will take one of your colored transparency sheets and place the drawing you made onto it.  Now, begin cutting out the shape of your flashlight lens from both.  After you do this, take your colored cut-outs and place them inside the part containing the flashlight lens.  If you have done this correctly, the flashlight lens will be completely covered.  Next, screw the flashlight lens back onto the body of the flashlight.  Finally, turn your flashlight “ON” and test out your handiwork in the dark.  Your flashlight should emit a greenish soft light instead of the harsh white light.  Voila!!  You now have instant night vision.

This “old school” neat little trick will not only save you tons of money but, will give you confidence but, bragging rights when your friends are still trying to master their high tech equipment in the field.  Another bonus is that you don’t lose the functionality of your flashlight.  You just have to do is remove the colored transparencies and your night vision will turn back into a useful flashlight.

You should already have all of these items on-hand with exception of the colored transparencies unless you or your child is dyslexic.  Don’t worry too much though because you can pick up the colored transparencies at any office or art supply store for under $1 each.

Did I mention that I’m cheap?  Your homemade night vision equipment may not have the appeal of top notch high tech equipment nor will it be the best quality night vision.  However, for the price, you simply cannot beat it plus it provides decent night vision at those dark locations.  You will be out working while your friends are still trying to figure out how to turn their fancy equipment “ON”.

© 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

 

Ghost Hunting On A Budget

Over the years, people have asked me this question the most.  Can ghost hunting be done on a small budget?  My answer is, “absolutely.”  For those of you who are financially challenged like myself, you can easily get started for under $100 or less.  In this article, I will cover very inexpensive pieces of equipment that will give you fantastic results and serve you well long term.  So, I have come up with a short-list of equipment to have in your arsenal whether you are new to ghost hunting or a well seasoned paranormal investigator.

 Digital Camera

 The first piece of equipment I suggest you purchase, if you don’t already have one, is an inexpensive digital camera which can be found for $20 or less on amazon.com.  Digital cameras with built in flash is that it allows you to take photos at night as well as during the day.  After your ghost hunt, you can go home and download your pictures right onto your computer where you can enlarge them for better viewing.  This allows you to examine your pictures more closely to determine whether or not you captured anything of interest during your hunt.

 Digital Voice Recorder

Next, I would recommend that you purchase a digital voice recorder that allows you to record in “Wave” and also has a built in USB drive.  These are also readily available on amazon.com for around $30.  Not only with this device allow you to ask questions of ghosts while on your ghost hunt but, will allow you to record their answer.  Of course with this device, you won’t be able to audibly hear the ghosts answering you but, don’t fret, you may have captured them on your recorder.  I do need to mention that the first or second time you use this device, it will appear that you are just wandering around talking to yourself giving everyone else who may see you the impression you are schizophrenic but, don’t mind the living.  You’re only concerned with the dead.  After your hunt is over and you get home, you can download your recordings directly to your computer.  You also have the option of using headphones so you can hear better.  The purpose of the Wave Sound Software is so you can bleed out excess noise making your recording a little sharper without altering the recording in any shape or form.  Also, having the USB drive built right into the device itself eliminates having to have another cord connected to your computer.  To me, this is a plus because my computer work station already has enough cords and wires that I’m constantly having to corral at different points in time.

 Spirit Box

Another great piece of equipment to have is a “Frank’s Box”, “Ghost Box”, or “Spirit Box”.  No, these are not all different pieces of equipment but all of these names plus more refer to this single piece of equipment.  You may have seen them used on some of the more popular Ghost Hunting TV Shows.  With this device, you are able to communicate with ghosts in real time meaning you can ask them questions and you will be able to audibly hear them respond to you.  It’s different from the Digital Voice Recorder I mentioned earlier for the simple fact that the “Ghost Box” does not allow you to record the ghost’s responses.  However, you can use the digital voice recorder along with the “Ghost Box” and you will be able to record ghostly responses.  The cost of a “Ghost Box” will usually set you back about $80 which is still not too bad for a micro-limit budget but, at the higher end of your budget cost-wise.  Whether new or used, the cost stays the same on average including shipping.  So, I would prefer to buy new rather than save $2-$5.  This way, you at least have a warranty on the device in case it’s defective or malfunctions.  If you want to add external speakers to this device rather than rely on the built-in speaker, you will have to fork out another $20 if, you can find them.  For me personally, external speakers are nice to have but, not necessary for the device to work.  This item will be offered for sale through Haunted Houston Tours’ website http://www.hauntedhoustontours.com June 2013.  You can also  book a Ghost Hunting Tour offered by Haunted Houston Tours to test out your device once you receive it.

 Dowsing Rods

Next on my list is somewhat unusual but, works very well is “Dowsing Rods” or “Witching Rods”.  Originally, these  devices were used by Water Witcher’s locate water in order to dig a Well.  They were predominately made out of a “Y” shaped Willow Tree branch which would bend in the direction of water sources signaling the spot in which a Water Well should be dug.  With the advent of technology, this device and it’s users became obsolete except in the world of ghost hunting.  Since our bodies are made up of 80% water, “Dowsing Rods” are quite effective in indicating the presence of a ghost.  Another benefit of this device is that they can be made very cheaply if not for free.  The materials needed to make your own set of “Dowsing Rods” are a “Y” shaped Willow Tree branch (free) or you can go to your local Walmart or  other Household Supply store and pick up a bundle of brass coat hangers ($2 or less).  If you go this route, untwist the coat hanger then straighten slightly until one end has a 90 degree angle, snip off the excess leaving you with a long side and a short side.  The short side is the handle you will hold loosely.  Now do another one just like it since you will need one for each hand for them to be effective.  If you happen to have children who are interested in ghost hunting, you can use this opportunity to make creating them a fun family project.  I personally use them all the time.  The only kicker is that the coat hangers have to be either brass or copper since both of these metals are very conductive.

Pendulum

 Finally, the last piece of equipment on my short-list is a Pendulum.  I know, I know.  I can hear everyone balking at this suggestion because of the occult connotations surrounding this item.  Believe me, I completely understand your apprehension about using such an item however, all of this nonsense aside, it’s very reliable and something that can be either purchased or made very cheaply.  If you choose to purchase one, it will cost you around $3-$7.  If you choose to make your own, you can cut this cost in half.  There is no hard and fast rule regarding the materials used to make a pendulum either.  I’ve seen them as simple as a ring on a string to rare crystals.  Let your imagination run wild on this one.  It is also a great opportunity for a fun family project too.

My parting words to you are, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that expensive equipment equals better results.  This is simply not true.  I have seen people use very expensive equipment and get zero results and people who use very inexpensive equipment who get huge results.  Trust me, equipment doesn’t make you a good ghost hunter.  Ghosts do.

Also, all photographs used in this article to represent a piece of equipment is just that, a representation.  I’m not under any circumstances promoting one brand of product over another by any means.  I will leave that job up to the marketers, advertisers, and product developers.  I’m merely a Paranormal Investigator.

© J.F. Dietz 2013