No Ghost It’s A House Problem

Forgive me up front for this article cause it’s not about any ghost or paranormal activity.  It has to deal with an old college friend of mine that live up around the Reno Nevada area.

We kept up from time to time since going to college together and now with social media it’s so easy to see what old friends are up to.  Anyways I saw a post in his Facebook page not to long ago that had me at first thinking he may have some activity.

So I emailed and told him I wanted to fly out and see him.  Not only could we catch up again in person but I told him I had something else in mind too.  So I booked a flight and he picked me up from the airport.

After some drinks and a good meal, I told him I wanted to setup some monitoring in his house.  You see he had posted on his Facebook page that he thought he had ghost up in his attic.  Once I disclosed what I wanted to do he laugh and said he had wanted to ask me but was sort of too embarrassed.

It actually happens a lot. Many people are too embarrassed to reach out and ask for me to investigate, especially when it involves their home. After we laughed and I told him how I would go about my investigation we finished up and went back to his house.

Several times during the middle of the night he would hear some strange bubbling or boiling sounds.  At first I thought it may be his water heater, but he didn’t think it was.  Despite his comment I decided to put a mic close by his water heater to capture any noises around the area.

Once I was done setting up, we grabbed a few beers and spend some more time catching up on his back yard deck.  Of course we told stories from our college days and discussed friends and girls from back in the day.  You know typical guy stuff.

It was getting late and I was eager to see if my equipment had captured anything yet.  We went inside and I look through some of the data I collected so far, but nothing had showed up.  My buddy was tired and he said he would leave it to me to discover whatever was making the noise.  He headed off to bed.

For the next few hours I waited and waited.  The sleepy feeling started to set in as it normally does when working through the night.  But at around 3:20 I started to pick something up from the mic close to his water heater.  It lasted for about 3 minutes then stopped.

By now I was pretty much wide awake and had my head phones on tight so I wouldn’t miss it if it happened again.  Sure enough about 3:52 the noise came back.  But this time I proceed up the attic to investigate what might be causing the noise by his water heater.

What a letdown!  As I approached his water heater I could clearly tell the water heater was the source of the noise.  No ghost, no paranormal activity, just a stupid water heater.

I figured I’d just wait until the morning to tell my buddy the news.  But just in case I left everything still connected.  I ended up going to sleep in his guest bedroom for the night.

The next morning, I decided to have a little fun and tell my buddy he had a bigger issue then I could deal with and I would be calling in re-enforcements.  Little did he know I had gotten up a little earlier then him and had done a quick Google search for plumbers in the local area.  I stumbled upon Paschall Plumbing & HVAC on the first page and phone them up.  I inquired if they dealt with noisy water heaters and they gave me a few ideas as to what was causing the problem, but most likely it would need to be replaced.

At any rate I scheduled an appointment for later that afternoon.  So during breakfast I had my buddy going.  Of course I made up some things and told some tall tales.  At first he thought I was bluffing, but I proceeded to play back some old recordings and saw his eyes get really big.  It was then I knew I had him.  I explained I had reached out to a friend who lived in the area that had a little more experience with this particular paranormal activity and they agreed to stop by this afternoon.

So I patiently waited until guy from Paschall Plumbing showed up.  Just like clockwork, the service guy showed up right at 2pm.  I told my buddy to go answer his door and oh what a surprised look on his face when he some this plumber guy.

The service tech said he was here to look into a water heater problem. About the time he said that I busted out laughing and it was then my buddy knew I had gotten him.  After a few interesting moments he agreed to have the guy look at his water heater.

And apparently there was a problem with the water heater.  Something with the heating element and having some old build up inside.  After the tech sort of back washed the water heater and replaced the heating element he told my buddy he should no longer hear anything strange noises.

I have to say the tech from Paschall Plumbing & HVAC did a great job and I would highly recommend them for anyone reading this from the Reno NV area.  I’ll be sure to link up their website and provide their phone number for you. 775-825-6500

I hope you enjoyed my post.  It was just too good of a story not to share.

Paranormal Investigations Common Mistakes

You’ve learned what happens at a typical paranormal investigation and some tips on how to handle any and all scenarios that may or may not occur. Before you go rushing off to that talked-about abandoned shack, let’s go into some things you should avoid doing and some common mistakes amateur paranormal investigators make.

Lower Your Expectations

Seriously, lower them. The chances of you catching any “real action” or any kind of paranormal activity on your first few hunts is highly unlikely. Everyone has to start somewhere. Even seasoned PIs who have been investigating for years have very little to show for all their hard work. This is not a fruitful job or hobby, whatever it is to you, so if you’re expecting immediate fame, glory, and riches (or any of that all), this is not the role for you. No hard feelings.

Read the Manual

Over and over. And then a few more times. Educate yourself on any and all equipment you plan on using. Even if you’ve assigned that piece of equipment to someone else, know how to use it anyway. Something may come up and that member of your team may miss a few investigations. In that case, you’ll need someone to fill in and that person may just have to be you. Don’t overestimate your knowledge of a piece of equipment or underestimate the complexity of how to use it. Even your standard flashlight and basic thermometer, review the manual. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

No Trespassing

You are not allowed to trespass on private property under any circumstances. If you are not allowed to go into a certain building or investigate a plot of land, chances are there’s a good reason. That building may be condemned and scheduled to blow the following week. That area of land may be infested with snakes or poison ivy. Whatever the case, always ask permission from the owner or obtain the proper authorization from the city or local government. Don’t assume that old crotchety groundskeeper is forbidding you from the house because they’re protecting ghosts or some buried treasure. This isn’t an episode of Scooby-Doo, folks.

Two is Better than One

I promise. Even if you can’t stand people and work better alone. For your own safety, take a friend or two along. Plus you’ll have someone to compare observations with if, on the off chance, something does happen. You’ll have someone else’s word besides your own and, more importantly, a witness or a handful of witnesses that can back you up. It’s a lot harder for people to write you off as a liar when you have other sets of eyes that saw what you saw. You’ll thank me later.

Don’t Assume

You know what happens when people assume… So don’t do it. It’s easy to let feelings of fear, paranoia, or excitement convince you that the noise you heard wasn’t an animal scurrying across the roof or that the orb you saw was a spirit instead of a piece of something floating across your contact. Bringing people along will help you sort out what is real from what you perceive to be real. Make sure they’re logical thinkers, though. Don’t bring a group of dreamers to a ghost-hunt. You’ll all leave with your own crazy stories about the spirits you saw and what they told you. Be smart, think logically, think with your head not your heart, and so on.

Technology vs. Human Perception

Not quite the cage match we’ve been waiting for, but a conflict nonetheless. Technology will not always be 100% accurate just like human perception will, at times, be flawed. As a paranormal investigator, you have to find that delicate balance between not jumping to conclusions while also not dismissing everything observed as a natural-occurring event. Because there is no ghost-detecting technology, all the equipment can do is point you in the direction of where things might be occurring and point out what the supernatural occurrences seem to be. It cannot deem whether an area has spirits or not. You to combine facts reported by the equipment and your human observations in order to form your own educated conclusions about an area.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (or Ghost)

We all know the story. We all know what happened to him. I’m not saying that if you do the same when the ghosts do come to drag your soul away no one will be there to help you. You’ll just be that jerk who assumed and got everyone all excited, or scared, for no reason. You’ll generate unwanted attention and frighten people. This can be avoided by not saying anything until the data has been thoroughly researched and you come to an educated, informed conclusion that states there may be a spirit.

Pass It On

If you’re investigating a home that is currently lived in and are there to prove or disprove the presence of ghosts because someone has asked you to be there, then, unless you’re a professional ghost-buster (you’re more than likely not), you need to recommend them to someone who can actually help. Take this kind of job seriously, as this is more than simply collecting data for your personal records. This is someone’s way of life and they want answers. Don’t mess with their feelings or lead them to believe there is a problem when there is none.

Don’t Ghost-Hunt and Tell

If you are lucky enough to have an encounter, the first thing you should do is not publish it on social media and tell all your friends and family. If you are participating in an investigation like the one in the previous example, it’s not fair to the people involved to publish what they might consider private information. Keep all information confidential unless they tell you otherwise.

An Exorcist You Are Not

Just because you’ve seen The Exorcist a million times, can quote it from memory, and have perfected the technique of exorcism demonstrated in the film does not mean you are an exorcist. Nor should you tell anyone you are. Don’t promise someone you can exorcise a demon or remove a ghost from their house when you can’t. The last thing they need is false hope and the last thing you need is to start messing around with things you can’t control and don’t know anything about. Exorcism is not child’s play and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Keep It Clean

It’s easy to get comfortable if you’re camping out at a location. You tend to get a little messy and accidents happen. That’s out of our control. But try your best, especially in a lived-in establishment, to keep everything neat and tidy. If something happens, say you spill something or knock over a full pitcher of Kool-Aid, never fear. If you’re in the Houston area, give Katy Carpet Cleaners a call. For an affordable price, they can remove the stain and leave the carpet looking better than before.

Paranormal Investigations Walk-through

Now that we’ve gone through all the equipment necessary for a successful paranormal investigation, it’s time to go through a breakdown of what a typical investigation may be like. It’s good to get an idea of what you may encounter, some routine scenarios, and any other supplies you may need if anything goes wrong.

First of all, forget everything you’ve ever seen on TV or in movies about ghost-hunting. Yes, even the Scooby-Doo cartoons. Accurate portrayals of what happens on a typical investigation are rare in those over-hyped, glamourized versions. It is very rare that you encounter anything on your first try, or your first one hundred tries. If you’re planning on being a serious paranormal investigator, you have to love the searching and researching parts more than the possibility of gleaning any actual results since your job will mostly consist on investigating and then sorting through hours of video and audio, thousands of pictures, and pages of notes.

Do you work better alone? I know plenty of people who do and they prefer working solo, but you might want to consider hiring some other PIs or even recruiting a few close friends. You want extra eyes and ears at the site to record, see, and document anything you can’t catch. There’s normally a lot of ground to cover and a large area to explore. The more people combing the area, the more thorough the investigation will be. Not only that, but those extra brains will come in handy when the time comes to go through all the data. You’ll want others there to ensure everything is recorded correctly and, in some cases, one member of the group may be able to see something that no one else can.

If you plan on recruiting your friends, make sure they know this isn’t a joke or a chance to film their own found-footage film. Make sure they are people you trust and know well. You’ll be spending a lot of quality time together. On the other hand, if you’re hiring fellow PIs, make sure to do a thorough background check as well as put them through an interview (or two) just to be sure you can trust them and work with them.

Now that you’ve hired your own personal Mystery Inc. gang or you’ve decided to go at it alone, it’s time to investigate the paranormal.

First, ask permission. If the location is a residential area that is currently being lived in, ask permission to investigate on their property. If the location is abandoned or deserted, you still need to ask permission. It may be blocked off to the public for a reason; it could be condemned or in poor shape. The last thing you need is to go barging in on a property that could collapse on you.

After you’ve obtained the proper authorization to be on the property, document everything for about a week or two before you go into the actual paranormal investigation. You’ll need to observe the area long enough to get an idea of any natural causes, weather patterns, and so on. Anything that may affect the equipment you’ll use on your investigation needs to be accounted for before then.

“Natural causes” are anything that can show up later that were actually just leaky pipes or the air ventilation system. Check into the plumbing, electricity, and cases of mold. Electric hot spots can create what’s called a “fear cage” where the area is so concentrated with electricity that it can be misinterpreted as fear or paranoia. Mold or any other toxic substance can cause hallucinations or strange feelings that can be misidentified as something supernatural.

You’ll also need to look into the area’s history. Not every location will be built on an Indian graveyard, but it helps to know how long the building’s been there as well as what was there before. Legends can aid in boosting the paranormal nature of a location, but try to only search for the facts. Take legends with a grain of salt as they can become misconstrued throughout the years and can be full of half-truths.

If you want to work alone, make sure you take a few people to the location with you. Not only will you feel safer and have their protection, they can act as witnesses if you do happen to have an encounter.

Get all the equipment you feel will be beneficial to your investigations. Learn how to use it and learn how to take care of it. When it comes to equipment, test, test, and test again. The last thing you’d want is to buy this expensive piece of equipment, read up on how to use it, and then find that you actually have a faulty piece of equipment or that it needs batteries. Those situations can be avoided if you do your research, buy plenty of extra batteries, and get comfortable with the equipment beforehand.

With a team of people, it’s best to divide and conquer. Assign various tasks to members of your team, so every piece of equipment is covered. Have one person take pictures, another monitor the EMF meter, thermometers, someone should be monitoring the video camera, and someone should be taking notes constantly. Before recording begins, make sure to announce so everyone knows to stay quiet. Start the recording with a question and then wait for some kind of response. If a noise of natural causes occur, make sure to announce that after it occurs on the recording.

To aid with video recording, bring along a tripod so you avoid any “shaky-cam” motion. Record for a long period of time and take multiple pictures of the same area.

After the investigation is over, it’s time to examine and sift through all data that was recorded. This could take days or weeks, and it’s important to be thorough. Look at everything critically and skeptically. Be careful not to assume anything is paranormal. Only after you rule out any and all natural causes can you begin to speculate as to what is paranormal and what is not.

Paranormal Investigations Equipment

While you won’t have to shell out cash for any kind of certificate or degree, you may have to spend a few dollars on equipment. If you plan on successful investigations, you should plan on investing in some quality equipment to record anything you see and hear.

First off, a video camera with night vision is ideal. Normally, you’ll be conducting these investigations at night or in the early hours of morning when it’s still dark out. Just a few things to remember about cameras: DVRs have the advantage of being able to have multiple cameras being used at once and you can control the settings and speed; IR (infra red) illuminators are (obviously) helpful for recording at night because they use LED’s (light emitting diodes) to conduct the light so images can be easily seen. Sony is an affordable brand, but Flir cameras, which are typically more expensive, can capture thermal images. Since these start out at $30,000 a camera, maybe start with a Sony and work your way up.

Secondly, your standard digital camera. It should hold a minimum of 300 pictures. The next thing to remember is to always make sure the speed and flash are on the correct settings because the wrong ones can cause things to appear in pictures that weren’t there before. In a field like this, where it’s easy to assume and speculate, any information and evidence gathered has to be 100% accurate and shouldn’t be left up to chance. Having the camera on its manual setting will give you more control over the focus and keep the camera shutters from being open longer than necessary. Cameras with SLR (single lens reflex) will allow you to set the aperture to let the maximum amount of light when there is dim lighting (a common occurrence on these late-night missions). ISO’s should be set between 400-800 and shutter speeds at about 1/60 seconds. Sony offers some great models at an affordable price.

The next tool is a digital recorder for audio. Not only will you be taking pictures, you’ll want to record any sound that may occur while you’re poking your nose into supernatural business. What you’re looking, or listening, for is called EVP or, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. The recorder should be placed in an open area so any voices or sounds come across easily. While investigating, any natural noises that occur should be noted so later when sifting through the audio you don’t mistake a natural sound for something paranormal. Afterwards, avoid doing anything to the audio besides slowing it down for clarifying purposes. Make sure anyone who is there with you listens to the audio later with no previous conceptions about what they might hear, i.e. don’t say what sounds you heard until after they’ve heard the recorded audio. This helps eliminate imagining sounds that aren’t actually there. Once again, Sony is your best bet here (anyone else noticing a pattern starting to emerge?).

Different types of audio include Class A’s, Class B’s, and Class C’s. A Class A audio recording would be something that can heard with no extra clarification (i.e. slowing down of audio or sharpening of sound). A Class B can be heard with some clarification, and a Class C is entirely unintelligible. Knowing the classes when listening to recorded audio can help when sorting through what’s usable and what’s not.

Moving on to the next one: an EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Meter. These are essential from distinguishing between man-made sources of electricity and natural sources of electricity. One great meter for this is called the Trifield meter, which can detect fields from microwave, magnetic, and electricity emissions. Bonus, it’s under $200. A higher-end meter known as the Mel-KII Hybrid meter includes a temperature sensor as well.

The last bit of technology you’ll need is a laser thermometers. These beat regular thermometers because they record all date logged and said data can be downloaded to a computer. You won’t have to worry about losing any temperature data which means you’ll have more brainpower to focus on the investigation at hand. Why do you need a thermometer? Commonly referred to as “cold spots,” these areas or rooms will have significantly lower temperature and are associated with paranormal activity.

We can’t forget about the basics, like notepads for taking notes during the investigation, flashlights for illuminating the darker areas, batteries (lots and lots of batteries) for all your battery-powered tools, and a first aid kit for any incidents that might happen.

One tip I’ve thought of as I write this: take a photography class. Take a multimedia class. Familiarize yourself with cameras, videography, and the software you’ll use to sift through all the date later. These classes will save you a lot of time, trouble, and money later. Besides, you’ll be gaining valuable, real-world skills while learning how to become a paranormal investigator.

Now, after spending all this money on equipment and all that time learning how to use it, the last thing you want is to break it while commuting to the investigation site. I ran into this issue after I noticed my equipment would slide around in the bed of my truck. I didn’t want to worry about finding my equipment broken in the bed of my truck once I got to a location. I did some searching, specifically “spray in bedliner Houston” in Google search engine, and found Hitch Pros Bed Liners & Truck Accessories. They were able to help me find exactly what I needed: a spray in bedliner. It shield my truck bed from damage while also creating a skid-resistant surface that keeps my precious cargo in place, no matter the bumps in the road.

Make sure your vehicle is outfitted to safely transport your equipment to and from any location, no matter how long, bumpy, or rough the drive may be. Just something else to consider as you purchase all the equipment needed to successfully collect data.