Lights, Camera… Action!
What is the most important part of a paranormal investigation? Actually, there are two parts to it that are equally important. One is the equipment itself and the other is the integrity of the evidence collected. I am going to explain both points and the methods used by the Northern Minnesota Paranormal Investigators (N.M.P.I.) to collect evidence. After all, the reason we all do paranormal investigations in the first place is to collect evidence of what happens when we die…if anything, of course.
Ok, you have a few friends together and you want to go out and track down a few ghosts. What are you looking for? Most likely some still photographs? Perhaps some Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), or maybe you are interested in recording some videotape? Perhaps you would like to do it all in a full-scale investigation. This is the way that N.M.P.I. does it. Full scale. All the time.
What type of equipment do you want to take along with you? Well, for an N.M.P.I. member, it is anything analog. We use 35mm cameras with 400-speed film. We do not allow any digital cameras to come anywhere near our investigation. Digital cameras are not trustworthy for evidence collection. They have problems with their chips inside, they compensate on every shot you take to give you the best shots possible. Basically, from the second that you push the button to take the picture, your evidence is tainted and not worth a hill of beans. They also are great at creating orbs in your picture even if a location is not haunted. During the Christmas of 2005, I used my digital camera (yes I do own one) at two separate Christmas programs at the high school. This school has never had any kind of haunting reports to anyone’s knowledge. The other place I used this camera was in my home on Christmas. I took a total of 33 pictures. Out of the 33 pictures I took, 26 of them had at least one orb in the shot. Granted film isn’t perfect either but I have never come close to anything like that before with a film camera. Another reason to stay away from digital is the fact that it leaves you with no “tangible” evidence. With film, you have a negative that can be scrutinized by any professional. You can determine if the anomaly in your photo is something that the camera actually saw or if it was an error in processing. If you photograph an object toward one edge of your picture, you can take in the negative and have them move over and capture the entire anomaly that the camera saw. With digital, you have no options. You get a picture that only exists in the camera and on your computer with nothing at all that can be scrutinized. The team from N.M.P.I. has the negative to every paranormal photograph we have ever collected.
View N.M.P.I.’s photo gallery here: www.nmpi-scary.com/Photo_Gallery.html
Now that we are ready to take still photographs, let’s get ready to record some EVP. I think that EVP is about the most interesting form of evidence that there is. Ok, I love videotape too but hey, it is in the top two. We use your standard everyday cassette tape recorder with a remote microphone. Nothing fancy, it doesn’t have to be. We use each tape only one time and it must be brand new and right out of the wrapper when we start recording. We never flip over a tape and use the second side as that can lead to bleed-through which is just as bad as the archival noise that occurs on digital recorders. Archival noise is something previously recorded that didn’t erase completely and is now coming through on your recording. You think that you have an EVP but it was just your conversation with your sister that you recorded. The only way that a digital recorder would be sufficient for paranormal investigations is if you were to replace the memory stick each time you record and use it only one time like we do with our cassette tapes.
Listen to some of N.M.P.I.’s EVP here: www.nmpi-scary.com/EVP.html
Now, we are shooting film and recording the voices of ghosts…well…hopefully anyway. It’s time to set up a camera and perhaps (as N.M.P.I. did in 2003), capture us an apparition on videotape. We at N.M.P.I. use two different methods of achieving this goal. One is through the use of a Sony Handycam that is set on the "nightshots" setting. The other method is a security camera that shoots in infrared and is recorded directly to a standard VCR. This works very well and has captured some really great shots!
That is the basics. How about a few extras that are not absolutely necessary but everyone loves getting a new toy to play with? My first extra was an infrared thermometer. N.M.P.I. never leaves home without it. This thing is very accurate and can tell you just how much a temperature rises or lowers. We don’t consider anything out of the ordinary unless it is a 10 degree difference in either direction. Ok, you might ask “What about EMF meters? I see them on every television show.” Yes, you do see ghost hunters running around following this little box and yelling out the readings as they track something around. N.M.P.I. has one but seldom uses it. They are great if they are used in an area that is dead (no pun intended) — meaning that there is not any electrical feed into the building, etc. Then when you get your base line reading, it is pretty much nothing on the meter. When you have live electricity in a house or building, it is too easy to be picking up that electrical source and doesn’t give you readings that are for sure accurate. That being said, you can use them as a guide. If you believe that you have a good reading on the meter, take a photograph, or point a video camera in that direction, but as a general rule I do not assume that the results are necessarily paranormal. A regular compass can give you the same results at a much cheaper price.
We are now armed to the teeth for capturing that elusive ghost. What do we do with the evidence that we have collected? We take our photos in to be developed and usually get started right away on the video and audio. For the audio, we go through it about two minutes at a time running it through Cool Edit Pro — a software program that allows us to study each segment. We are able to listen carefully to it, filter out any static that needs filtering, and save the audio to the computer to share with the world. Keep in mind that we always have the original tape and can play that at any time or have it scrutinized. Videotape is watched by at least two N.M.P.I. investigators at the same time. This helps us to not miss anything at all since paranormal anomalies can happen very quickly. Once we have discovered anything that looks “out of the ordinary,” we download it into a video program (we use Windows Movie Maker) and then examine the footage frame-by-frame. We will always have the videotape. Once the pictures come back, look at them very closely for any anomaly. Scan them into the computer where you can lighten and zoom to see if you have something explainable or not. Always keep every negative! I cannot stress that enough. It is very important.
That is how the investigators at N.M.P.I. go about routine business and the equipment we use. I certainly hope that all of you get out there and collect some great evidence to advance the field of paranormal study but don’t forget to be safe and have some fun while you are at it.