Archive for January, 2010

Mysterious “Poe Toaster” Fails to Appear!

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by S. P.

Poe's Gave

[This article first appeared in the Bump in the Night Ghost Report edited by Troy Taylor of American Hauntings and is republished here with permission.]

By Troy Taylor

On January 19, a date that marked the 201st birthday of legendary mystery and horror author Edgar Allan Poe, a tradition was broken that began more than sixty years ago. For the first time since 1949, the mysterious “Poe Toaster” failed to appear to leave roses and cognac on Poe’s grave in the old Western Burial Grounds in Baltimore. The event has become a pilgrimage for Poe fans, many of whom travel for hundreds of miles to be there between midnight and 5:00 a.m., when the Toaster traditionally appears. So, what happened in 2010?

“I’m confused, befuddled,” said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, and the man most linked to the tradition over the past couple of decades. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

At 5:30 a.m., Jerome had emerged from inside the church, where he and a select group of Poe enthusiasts keep watch over the graveyard, and announced to the crowd that the visitor never arrived. Jerome said the Poe toaster has always arrived before 5:30 a.m. There was still a chance the visit could occur later in the day, but Jerome said he doubted the person would risk a public unveiling by performing the task in daylight, when other visitors could be there. January 19 came and went and the Poe Toaster never arrived.

The tradition of the Poe Toaster began in 1949, honoring the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe, who died under mysterious (and still unsolved) circumstances in Baltimore in 1849. The tradition became one of the most enduring mysteries of the graveyard where Poe was laid to rest.

Edgar Allan Poe

The man began to appear under the cover of darkness one hundred years after Poe’s death. Whoever this strange figure may be, he is always described in the same way. Dressed completely in black, including a black fedora and a black scarf to hide his face, he carries a walking stick and strolls into the cemetery every year on January 19, the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe. On every occasion, he has left behind a bottle of cognac and three red roses on the gravesite of the late author. After placing these items with care, he then stands, tips his hat and walks away. The offerings always remain on the grave, although one year, they were accompanied by a note, bearing no signature, which read: “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.”

Not only as the Toaster’s identity a riddle, but scholars and curiosity-seekers remain puzzled by the odd ritual he carries out and the significance of the items he leaves behind, too. The roses and cognac have been brought to the cemetery every January since 1949 and yet no clue has been offered as to the origin or true meaning of the offerings.

The identity of the man has been an intriguing mystery for years. Many people, including Jeff Jerome, the curator of the nearby Edgar Allan Poe house, believe that there may be more than one person leaving the tributes. Jerome himself has seen a white-haired man while other observers have reported a man with black hair. Possibly, the second person may be the son of the man who originated the ritual. In 1993, the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, “The torch will be passed.” A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his sons.

Regardless, Jerome has been quoted as saying that if he has his way, the man’s identity will never be known. This is something that most Baltimore residents agree with. Jerome has received numerous telephone calls from people requesting that no attempt ever be made to approach the man.

For some time, rumors persisted that Jerome was the mysterious man in black, so in 1983, he invited seventy people to gather at the graveyard at midnight on January 19. They had a celebration in honor of the author’s birthday with a glass of amontillado, a Spanish sherry featured in one of Poe’s horror tales, and readings from the author’s works. At about an hour past midnight, the celebrants were startled to see a man run through the cemetery in a black frock coat. He was fair-haired and carrying a walking stick and quickly disappeared around the cemetery’s east wall. The roses and cognac were found on Poe’s grave as usual.

Not in an effort to solve the mystery, but merely to enhance it, Jerome allowed a photographer to try and capture the elusive man on film. The photographer was backed by LIFE Magazine and was equipped with rented infrared night-vision photo equipment. A radio signal triggered the camera so that the photographer could remain out of sight. The picture appeared in the July 1990 issue of LIFE and showed the back of a heavyset man kneeling at Poe’s grave. His face cannot really be seen and as it was shadowed by his black hat. No one else has ever been able to photograph the mysterious man again.


The Mysterious Toaster?

With each year that passes, the mystery remains and as January 19 comes around, Poe devotees gather at the old burial ground to see the man in black as he leaves his annual gift at the original grave of one of America’s greatest writers.

In 2010, they gathered again, only to be disappointed. “People will be asking me, ‘Why do you think he stopped?'” Jerome said. “Or did he stop? We don’t know if he stopped. He just didn’t come this year.”

Perhaps the most logical answer to this new baffling question is that the Bicentennial of Poe’s birth, an event widely celebrated last year, marked a good stopping point for the mysterious ritual. Since the first roses and cognac bottle were laid on Poe’s resting place one hundred years after his death, then perhaps the final tribute was paid two hundred years after his birth. No one can say… It remains as puzzling as what started the ritual in the first place and who the men are behind the events.

And perhaps this is for the best. Poe lived and died with a great many mysteries himself. Maybe it’s fitting that the “Poe Toaster” is just one more enigmatic chapter to the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe.

© Copyright 2010 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]


More Thoughts on Research

Posted in Commentary, Investigations with tags , , , , , on January 24, 2010 by S. P.

Old Newspapers

In my last post, I discussed the importance of research to a thorough investigation.  Research can also help bring you face-to-face with the dead.  Through diligent research, we can uncover not only locations, but sometimes even the very words from those long since departed.  I’m sure many of you know the thrill of uncovering some long-since-forgotten tidbit of the past.  For those of us who take research seriously, it’s difficult to not believe at times the departed guide us in our quest to learn more about their earthly lives.  Allow me to share just two examples.

I’m currently researching the facts surrounding a tragedy at a 100-year old commercial building.  The story that survives is very bare-bones (no pun intended).  The building originally had coal fired boilers as part of its heating system.  Sometime during the mid-20th century, the old coal boilers were replaced with oil-fired boilers.  While the oil-fired boilers eliminated the backbreaking work of shoveling tons of coal, they presented a new and deadly problem – the ever present threat of a backfire.

All went well with the boilers for a long time until one faithful morning.  The maintenance man arrived early to start his normal routine of chores.  As he lit the boiler, a tremendous explosion rocked downtown.  The boiler belched a wall of flame which incinerated the helpless worker.

Ever since this tragedy, witnesses report sounds of footsteps near the area of the old boilers, unexplained clanging sounds, as well as moans and cries of agony.  A story goes a new worker was hired on a few years ago who scoffed at the ghost stories.  Scoffed at them that is until one morning when he had a dreadful encounter with a ghost.  While working in the basement near where the boilers once stood, the man heard a noise as if someone was walking towards him, but he saw no one.  As it got closer, a mist began to form.  The mist turned into the form of the long-since dead maintenance man.  The figure suddenly began to twist and moan as if in severe agony.  Falling to the floor, the figure let our one last blood curdling scream and vanished.  The worker fled the building and refused to ever return.

The original story did not date the boiler backfire.  However, through tracking down other versions of the story, I was finally able to get an approximate date.  With that date, I was able to hit the archives to look at copies of old newspapers.  I struck pay dirt by finding not one, but two newspaper stories written only hours after the mishap.  Now I finally had the real story: how the boiler backfired, how the worker struggled out of the basement despite being engulfed in flames, how two passersby disregarded their own safety and rushed to aid the gravely injured man, how the man survived for several agonizing hours and finally succumbing to his injuries late that afternoon.  Most importantly, I found his name: Ben Burnett.  Ben is no longer an anonymous ghost, but a once very much alive human being whose death left behind a widow, three brothers and three sisters.

Another example proved even more providential.  While in college, I happened upon a book in the school library about the history of the 91st Infantry Division in World War One.  The book was inscribed by a major who was a brigade commander of in the 91st during the war.  The inscription indicated the man, at least in the 1920s, was living in the same city as the college.  Taking a chance, I attempted to locate the man in the phone book.  Lucky strike number one: his widow was in the phone book.  Unfortunately, I was a bit too late as it turned out she’d passed away just months before.  My next lucky break came in searching old newspapers.  Someone with lots of time on their hands had in the 1950s indexed the local newspaper (God bless him or her for undertaking such a monumental task!).  I hit pay dirt once again as it turned out the man had become a prominent District United States Attorney in the city following the war.

The man’s death was front page news for over a week.  His death came about while on a fishing trip to a major river outside the city.  The first headlines detailed how he’d disappeared.  Then the stories recounted the frantic search efforts.  And finally documenting the calling off of search efforts and the presumption he’d drown while wade-fishing in the fast-moving river current.

My newspaper archive research also revealed two other interesting stories.  The major, as District US Attorney, was heavily involved in prosecuting bootlegging gangsters as this was the era of prohibition.  Several stories mention threats made to him and his family.  Another very curious article talked about the family returning home to find possessions moved around inside the house.  The police thought it was the result of break-ins, but nothing was stolen.  The article concludes with the curious note that a group of “Chinese ghost hunters” were called in to investigate – keep in mind this is during the late 1920s.  Who were these “Chinese ghost hunters” and what, if anything, did they find?  Unfortunately, that lead remains cold as I was unable to find any other reference to this group.

My final big break came when the local paper supplied a copy of the obituary of the major’s widow.  It listed an elderly son living in my hometown as one of the survivors.  I tracked him down, gave him a call and told him about my research.  We arranged a time to meet.  The son remembered well his father’s life and tragic death.  The son relayed the fact that the major was an expert fisherman and how the family remained convinced the major was murdered by mob interests in retaliation for his investigations of bootlegging.  When I mentioned the article on the ghost hunters, he somewhat reluctantly relayed his belief was people broke into their home and moved things around as a warning to the major and his family to stay out of mob business.  A few days after our visit, the son sent me a photocopy of a letter written by the major while in France during the war.  What an amazing find to read the actual hand-written words of someone long since passed.

I can’t help feeling in both these cases, especially the case of the major, I received some otherworldly guidance in my research.  I certainly feel I know the major as well as I know any living person.

I believe researchers who’ve experienced similar results know exactly what I’m talking about.  You never know what you might uncover through good research.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Research is Key

Posted in Investigations with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by S. P.

The Stacks

What is your procedure for background research when investigating a location?  Do you have one?  Background research is not an optional part of a thorough investigation; it is a key part of an investigation.  Many locations and sightings we investigate often have a great deal of folklore, “urban legend” and just plain embellishment attached.  Our job as investigators is to sift through this to arrive at the facts.

A good researcher does not simply accept the prevailing story.  A good researcher also spends time in the archives attempting to check the facts.  Failing to verify a faulty hypothesis leads to faulty conclusions.  Unfortunately, too many people in the paranormal field what to “see ghosts” so badly (I’d call these people “paranormal thrill seekers” as opposed to true investigators or researchers) they accept the story without conducting any fact checking or background research on their own.  For example, are you aware the prevailing story regarding Chloe and the Myrtles Plantation is almost completely false?  Here’s an article which shows the historical facts simply do not match the current “ghost story.”

Another example is the “Ghost Tracks” in San Antonio, Texas.  This now very popular story, which is included in several Texas “ghost” guide books, appears to have first originated with a newspaper story in the 1980s.  As the story goes, “sometime” in the 1940s or 1950s (or even the 1970s or 1980s depending on the version of the story) a school bus full of children stalled on the railroad tracks and was hit by a train, killing all the children.  As a memorial, the streets in the area were renamed after the children killed (Cindy Sue Way, Laura Lee Way, etc.).

Now the ghost part: “sometime,” again perhaps in the 1980s, an unnamed woman, or a man, was driving near the area late at night and saw a little girl walking alone near the tracks.  Fearing for the girl’s safety, the driver offered to give her a ride home.  The girl gave an address and then sat unusually quiet for the entire drive.  Upon reaching the residence, the girl didn’t get out.  Concerned about a possible domestic situation, the driver went to the door and told the woman who answered her little girl was in the car.  The woman became outraged thinking it was a sick joke as their only daughter had been killed in the bus accident years ago and slammed the door shut.  Thoroughly confused, the driver returns to the car only to find the little girl has….wait for it…vanished into thin air!  But that’s not all!  If you stop your car on the tracks and put it in neutral, the “spirits” of the dead children will push your car over the tracks to safety!

Unfortunately, this story is completely false and any investigator who takes the time to do some basic research will discover this.  A train hitting a school bus and killing several children is huge news in any era.  However, no newspaper articles, no police reports, no fire department reports — nothing can be found to document this story.  Therefore the overwhelming evidence strongly indicates it never happened.  What about the street names?  It turns out the developer in that area named the streets after his children when it was originally built.  What about cars being pushed over the tracks?  It’s an optical illusion – there’s actually a slight downhill incline which causes cars to roll downhill.

Even though nothing supports this story, it continues to proliferate – an internet search reveals the story posted on several sites.  It’s bad enough a completely false story keeps being repeated as true.  But that’s not the worst part.  Thanks to book and internet stories, “paranormal thrill seekers” go to the area to “experience” the spirits for themselves.  Unfortunately, this area of San Antonio has a significant problem with drug dealers and gang activity.  Consequently, people going to the site often experience a thrill, but not exactly the type of thrill they wanted!

Research helps us learn what really happened at a location.  It allows us to better interpret a location and the associated activity.  Plus, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just plain fun since you never know what research will uncover.  For example, I’m currently researching a location which on first glance pointed to one identity for the entity.  Through some diligent research at the local archives, it turns out the history of the location wasn’t as straight forward as it first appeared.  Thanks to that research, other possible identities of the entity come forth – now it also appears possible there are more than one entity at the location and we now have a pretty good idea of possible suspects.

Your local historical society is often able to provide a plethora of information – all free.  The only cost is your time and effort to go research.  Additional often overlooked research sources are local and state genealogical societies.  We are after all looking for people from the past.

Solid background research should be an integral part of every investigation.  With the amount of easily accessible, free information, there’s really no excuse for not checking your facts.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

James Carrion Completes 3 Year Term as International Director of MUFON

Posted in News, UAP/UFO with tags , , , , on January 15, 2010 by S. P.

From MUFON press release:

Fort Collins, CO – Jan. 14th, 2010 

     In 2006, Mr. James Carrion accepted the lead role as International Director of MUFON for a three year term. There is much that has been accomplished under Mr. Carrion’s leadership including development and implementation of MUFON’s computerized Case Management System and On-Line UFO Report Form, the STAR Team and SIP Project, informative Discovery Channel programs, the Pandora Project, and much more.

     We can all thank James for his tireless efforts which have helped bring UFO investigations into this new millennium enhancing MUFON’s mission of scientifically studying UFOs for the benefit of Humanity. 

    The end of 2009 also marked the completion of Mr. Carrion’s three year term as MUFON’s International Director and the Mutual UFO Network is proud to announce that the Board of Directors have unanimously agreed to appoint Mr. Clifford Clift as the new International Director.

    Effective March 1st, 2010, the torch will be passed and Mr. Clifford Clift will take the helm as MUFON’s fourth International Director following in the footsteps of Walt Andrus, John Schuessler and James Carrion, MUFON’s previous three International Directors.

    As Clifford Clift takes the helm as MUFON’s newest Director James Carrion will continue his service at MUFON Headquarters as Business Manager. In a recent statement Mr. Carrion said, “I am proud to announce that the new MUFON International Director is my long term good friend and colleague, Clifford Clift. I am completely confident that Clifford is the best man for the job and I know that MUFON could not be in better hands.”

Meet Clifford Clift

    Clifford Clift has been a member of MUFON since 1995 and a member of MUFON International Board of Directors since 2000. Clifford is a MUFON Trained and Certified Field Investigator and has been involved with all aspects of Symposiums since 2004.

    Mr. Clift lead a team in the creation of Symposium Guidelines for all states to use. Clifford also developed the “Life Time” membership program for MUFON and has assisted the MUFON Board in development of a strategic business plan.

    Clifford is a trainer of Field Investigators in Northern Colorado, and he also started the Northern Colorado MUFON Chapter which currently hosts 25 members. Clifford is this year’s 2010 MUFON Symposium Coordinator.

    Clifford Clift is a respected businessman in Colorado as well as a devoted family man married to his wonderful wife Sally for 44 years. They have two sons, Norman and Paul, two daughters-in-law and three gorgeous granddaughters.

    Under Mr. Clift’s leadership MUFON will continue to be on the cutting edge of UFO investigation.


    The Mutual UFO Network is a non-profit UFO investigative organization established in 1969. MUFON’s mission is the scientific investigation and study of UFOs for the benefit of Humanity.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Ghost Lusters: If You Want to See a Specter Badly Enough, Will You?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by S. P.

From Scientific American, October 27, 2008:

Researchers set up “haunted” room to prove an electromagnetic theory of ghost sightings

By Adam Marcus


Most scientists dismiss the vast majority of ghost sightings as hoaxes. But researchers in Canada, England and elsewhere are exploring what happens in the brain to create the illusion that something is “haunted.” So far, they have found evidence that some apparitions may be brain benders caused by spiking EMFs (electromagnetic fields), and possibly even extremely low-–frequency sound waves (known as infrasound) so subtle that the ear does not register them as noise.

EMFs emitted by power lines and towers, clock radios and other electrical sources may help debunk myths that people or things are haunted, says Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, who has conducted research on the topic. One such study, published in 2001 in Perceptual And Motor Skills chronicles the experiences of a teenager who in 1996 claimed to be receiving nocturnal visits—one sexual—from the Holy Spirit. The 17-year-old girl, who had sustained mild brain damage at birth, said she also felt the presence of an invisible baby perched on her left shoulder.

When Persinger and his colleagues investigated (at the behest of the girl’s mother), they found an electric clock next to the bed that was about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) from where she placed her head when she slept. Tests showed that the clock generated electromagnetic pulses with waveforms similar to those found to trigger epileptic seizures in rats and humans. When the clock was removed, the visions stopped. Persinger determined that the clock, in combination with the girl’s brain injury, were highly likely to have been contributing factors to the perceived nocturnal visits.

Although Persinger believes this case and others to offer compelling evidence that EMFs contribute to a person’s perception that something is haunted, experiments intended to prove this theory leave room for doubt.

Christopher French, a psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London College in London who studies the paranormal, is one researcher who has conducted experiments to test the EMF theory but has been unable to prove its validity. He and colleagues four years ago built a “haunted” room in a London apartment rigged with electromagnetic sources and infrasound generators. They invited 79 volunteers, recruited via the Internet, to spend some time inside the cool, dimly lit space.

Researchers disclosed to the subjects that they might experience some weirdness— feel a presence, tingling or other strange sensation—while in the room and were given psychological evaluations to assess their susceptibility to the suggestion of the paranormal. This included the Australian Sheep–Goat Scale, which tries to separate likely believers (sheep) from skeptics (goats). Examples of items on the scale include questions about belief in life after death and whether a subject has ever experienced an episode of precognition.

The researchers used a computer to drive twin coils, hidden behind the walls of the room, that generated EMF pulses  up to 50 microteslas (a unit for measuring the strength of a magnetic field) of electromagnetic pulses, many times greater than the one1- to -four4  microteslas generated by Persinger’s clock. They also used a computer to pump in extremely low-–frequency infrasound waves that were well below what humans could possibly hear. Such sounds have been linked, albeit tenuously, to some alleged hauntings. In a 1998 Journal of the Society for Psychical Research article entitled, “The Ghost in the Machine,” Coventry University ( England) researchers Vic Tandy and Tony Lawrence describe an experiment during which they detected an infrasound wave with a frequency of 18.9 hertz in a factory where workers had reported strange experiences they believed to be paranormal (French and his team used waveforms of 18.9 and 22.3 hertz.).

Ghost Room

French’s volunteers were exposed to electromagnetic pulses, infrasound, both or neither. “Most people reported at least some slightly odd sensation, such as a presence or feeling dizzy, and some reported terror, which we hadn’’t expected,” French says. “Terror is obviously quite an extreme reaction, and we only anticipated getting reports of mildly anomalous sensations in the context of this particular experiment.” Still, French and his colleagues could not conclude that EMFs played a role in conjuring these feelings.

Like any dutiful researcher, French—who became interested in paranormal psychology after reading the 1981 book Parapsychology: Science or Magic?, by the renowned doubter and British psychologist James E. Alcock—has gone into the field, visiting purportedly haunted houses, which are in ample supply in England. He says believers “psych each other up. Sitting in pitch darkness you hear noises, which are common in these old houses, but believers see and hear things that just aren’t there, according to our recording devices.”

French’s findings were published in the in the journal Cortex this month, and he and his colleagues have been trying to garner funding for a follow-up study. It will not be easy—poking holes in ghost stories might appear on its face to be of little scientific value. Still, French insists such research can reveal important truths about the human mind, including questions of memory and delusions. “Within psychology, people talk about reality monitoring, trying to understand how we make distinctions between mental events and events that take place out there in the real world,” he says. “It’s something we take for granted: Did you really lock the door before you went to bed, or did you just think about it?” On the extreme is schizophrenia, in which the brain makes no distinction between the real and the imagined.

“There’s a continuum, and this kind of framework is useful when you’re talking about hallucinatory experiences,” French says. “People are mistaking their attribution, feeling a product of their own mental processes as something that’s taking place in the real world. Anything that can lead to making your mental events more similar to events that take place—a vivid imagination, for example—will make it more difficult to distinguish between the two.”

Of course, believers say French cannot see or hear ghosts because he is a “horrible skeptic,” which he readily admits. “I wish it was a bit more spooky,” he says of his time waiting for apparitions to appear in dank, musty castles. “I’m sitting in the dark, in the cold. I wish something more would happen.”

Persinger commends French’s team on its “splendid experiment,” even if it didn’t validate his ideas. Still, he contends, EMFs do affect the body in many ways—from the brain to individual cells, to enzymes, and even DNA. The key to testing their effects on brain activity, he says, is to make sure that the fields are neither too strong nor too weak, and that they come in the right pattern.  So he is not willing to give up on finding a way to prove scientifically that EMFs are behind at least some ghost sightings. “I’m a scientist,” Persinger says. “I don’t believe in anything.”

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Understand Your Equipment

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by S. P.

EMF Meter

I can’t stress enough the importance of researchers thoroughly understanding how the equipment they’re using operates – and especially a device’s limitations.  Despite what some may claim, there is no piece of equipment designed specifically to “detect ghosts.”  Instead, researchers use equipment designed for other purposes in hopes that equipment might, as a side benefit, have some capabilities to detect paranormal activity.  If you don’t understand how a piece of equipment is designed to normally operate, you will very likely consistently misinterpret its output when you use that device during an investigation.  I believe the two worst offenders when it comes to misuse and not understanding equipment are the EMF detector and digital cameras.

Researchers used to seem to have a pretty good handle on the use of EMF meters.  However, as more models appear, more and more people seem to think these devices are “ghost detectors” (I recently saw a TV program in which one so-called investigator use those exact words to describe an EMF detector).  EMF meters are not “ghost detectors.”  At least one manufacturer is cashing in and adding to the confusion by repackaging their “cell censor” (clearly and accurately described as an EMF meter) through removing its external sensor and calling it a “Ghost Meter.”

Cell Sensor

Flowing electricity creates an electric field and a magnetic field, known as an “electromagnetic field” or EMF.  The strength of this EMF varies with the output or current flow of the electrical circuit.  EMF meters are designed to detect the strength of this field and that’s all they’re designed to do.  To use it in any other way is to use it in a way for which it was not designed.

Additionally, electricity can be direct current (DC) like a flashlight or alternating current (AC) like the electricity coming from your household outlet.  AC is man-made and only came into existence in the later part of the 19th century.  The vast majority of EMF meters are designed to detect EMF generated by AC circuits.  This is an important concept as natural EMF is generated by DC.

The best use of an EMF meter is a “sweep” of a location to determine any areas of high EMF.  Very often poor wiring or poorly shielded electronic devices put out very high EMF fields.  For example, the face of a digital clock produces very high EMF.  What do most people have pointed at their heads all night as they sleep?

Ghost Meter? No!

Although still controversial, there is more and more evidence that repeated and prolonged exposure to high EMF is detrimental to health.  In addition, more and more evidence seems to indicate some people are more sensitive to EMF than others.  Results of EMF exposure produce results consistent with “hauntings” such as feelings of dread, feelings of being watched, feeling depressed and so forth.  Using an EMF meter properly might reveal the true source of a “haunting” as a high EMF field – which is much more dangerous than a real “ghost.”

I’m not saying an entity cannot somehow interact with an EMF meter.  I’ve seen firsthand some very interesting results with a K-II meter.  However, at the end of the day, it’s still only an EMF meter.  While there’s nothing wrong with experimenting using an EMF meter during investigations, you must understand what the meter is designed to detect and you must understand it’s not a “ghost detector.”

K-II Meter

Thanks to the wide availability of inexpensive digital cameras, I believe these have become the worst used device in paranormal investigations.  So many people blindly snap away with no clue as to the internal workings of their camera.  Consequently, they get numerous photos with easily explainable photographic artifacts.  Since they have no understanding of even basic photography, they claim these photos show “paranormal” activity.  I’ve already addressed “orbs” in my article on this blog.  Additionally, I commonly see two other anomalies, both of which are also associated with the limitations of the on-camera flash.

The output of any built-in, on-camera flash is very weak.  Consequently, when you take a photo only the objects closest to the lens will be illuminated (assuming they are within the flash range).  Anything outside of this range will appear dark.  I recently saw a photo taken in an indoors location with a group of people at a bar.  They were well illuminated by the on-camera flash.  However, a figure standing in the background near a doorway was dark (along with the entire doorway and background).  The person taking the photo thought the figure was a “ghost.”  It’s not a ghost; it’s someone standing in the background beyond the range of the flash output so the person, along with the entire background, is dark.

Digital Camera

Digital cameras, especially less expensive ones, have a lag between the time you push the shutter button and the time the shutter actually opens and closes.  This is called creatively enough “shutter lag” or “shutter delay.”  If you take a photo with one of these cameras and either you or your subject moves, even slightly, they will often appear slightly blurred especially in situations using the on-camera flash.  This blur is not “paranormal.”  Instead it comes as a result of poor camera operation due to not understanding the limitations of the device.

Know your equipment!  I don’t think I can make it any clearer.  Learn about EMF and how EMF meters operate.  If you aren’t already familiar with photographic theory and technique, learn about it before blindly snapping photos and claiming your results are “ghosts.”  Excellent books on digital photography are available at modest costs.  Likewise, free or inexpensive courses on digital photography are available from several sources online.  With all the resources available, there’s simply no excuse for not learning about how the equipment you plan to use actually operates.

One final piece of advice: don’t wait until an investigation to learn about your equipment.  You must familiarize yourself with its operation long before using it in the field.  It’s especially helpful to practice with your equipment in an area known to be devoid of paranormal activity.  This helps you learn the device’s normal operation.  If you are familiar with its normal operation, you will be better able to recognize if it produces any sort of unusual output during an actual investigation.

It all comes down to the most important piece of equipment you possess – the one between your ears!  Regularly exercising and engaging that device will pay great dividends.

Stay sharp and stay smart.

Any other thoughts?

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Eerie Outpost Unnerves US Marines with Strange Lights and Whispers in the Night

Posted in Locations with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2010 by S. P.

Corporal Jacob Lima, right, and another Marine at Observation Point Rock

(From the Times Online, Dec 28, 2009) The Marines found the bone as they scraped a shallow trench. Long, dry and unmistakably once part of a human leg, it was followed by others. They reburied most of them but also found bodies. Three of the graves were close together; in another was a skeleton still wearing a pair of glasses. The Marines covered the grave and told their successors to stay away from it.

Observation Point Rock sits a few hundred metres south east of Patrol Base Hassan Abad, where a company from 2/8 Marines has been stationed for the past seven months. It is a lonely and exposed outpost 20 metres (65ft) above the surrounding landscape, which has been in Nato hands since it was captured from the Taleban in 2008.

Groups of Marines are posted to guard it, usually for a couple of months at a time, and “the Rock” has acquired a peculiar reputation. American troops widely refer to it as “the haunted Observation Point”.

It is hard to say how much the 100F (38C) heat, round-the-clock guard shifts and months spent living in trenches and peering out of sandbagged firing points have gilded the legend of OP Rock. The only break from the tedium, apart from dog-eared magazines and an improvised gym, has been small-arms or rocket-propelled grenade attacks from the Taleban, usually on a Sunday morning.

But as Sergeant Josh Brown, 22, briefed his successor when a detachment of men from Golf Company was swapped for an incoming contingent from Fox Company, he warned of the strange atmosphere and inexplicable phenomena that plagued OP Rock. “The local people say this is a cursed place,” he said. “You will definitely see weird-ass lights up here at night.”

Others in the outgoing unit had reported odd sounds. “It is weird what you hear and don’t hear around here,” he added.

Each successive detachment that guards the Rock appears to add its own layer to the legend, which has spread through the Marine units pushing into southern Helmand.

There is talk of members of the Taleban entombed in caves below; the bodies buried on the summit are identified confidently as dead Russian soldiers from the ill-fated Soviet invasion.

Corporal Jacob Lima’s story is the latest addition. One night he was woken by the sound of screaming. It was Corporal Zolik, a Marine who has since been moved to a unit farther south. “He was yelling and begging me to go up to the firing point he was guarding,” Corporal Lima, 22, told the men taking over from him. “When I got there he said that he was sitting there when he heard a voice whisper something in his ear. He said it sounded like Russian. He begged me to stay in there with him till he was relieved from guard duty. After that he really didn’t like standing post up there.”

The Marines’ predecessors, a unit of Welsh Guards, also produced tales of the unexpected. “The Brits claimed to see weird things, hear noises,” Corporal Lima said. “Lots of them said it’s creepy at night, especially from midnight till 4am. You see a lot of unexplained lights through night-vision goggles.”

Its elevation has clearly made the Rock a natural defensive position for centuries. It is not a rock, though it resembles one. Medieval arrow slits and the remains of fortified turrets on its eastern flank show that this was once a large mud fort that collapsed in on itself and was probably built upon in turn. The locals say that it dates back to Alexander the Great, and another similar structure is visible in the distance to the south, part of a supposed line of such forts built at some point in Afghanistan’s history of invasion and war.

When US Marines seized the post last summer they dropped a 2,000lb (900kg) bomb on one side, collapsing part of the structure on to what its current occupants claim was a cave where Taleban fighters were sheltering.

“This place really sucks,” said Lance Corporal Austin Hoyt, 20, putting his pack on to return to the main base. “The Afghans say it’s haunted. Stick a shovel in anywhere and you’ll find bones and bits of pottery. This place should be in National Geographic — in the front there are weird-looking windows for shooting arrows. You know, they say the Russians up here were executed by the Mujahidin.”

He looked meaningfully at his successors and prepared to leave.

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