Thursday, 9 March 2017

Ghost investigation conference

Sun behind treeASSAP is running a conference concerned with ghost investigation on 1 April in Bristol (details here). Ghost investigation is, of course, a big thing these days. When I first started out in paranormal research it was all rather different. We would wait, sometimes months or even years, for someone to report a ghost sighting and then go and interview them. If the case seemed to merit it, we might hold a ghost vigil at the site of the sighting. However, such vigils seldom, if ever, produced any compelling evidence of paranormal activity.

In those days there were few instruments available. But there still and video cameras and audio recorders available, of course. Even with such basic equipment it was possible to find interesting evidence after the event. I never relished looking through hours of video of an empty room where nothing was happening but it had to be done. And, just occasionally, something was caught on camera. But there was a problem with this.

Suppose a witness on the vigil reported something unusual happening and the area was being monitored by a video camera. This was excellent because the video recording might give a good idea of what had really happened. This usually turned out to be either something mundane or nothing appeared on the recording for the relevant time at all.

Then there was the other type of event, more common, where something odd was noted on the recording but not by any witness at the time. Suppose, for instance, it was an unknown voice. Because no one present heard it at the time it would be labelled an EVP. However, it could be that it WAS heard at the time but not as a voice. It might have been recognised as an environmental sound, like shuffling paper, a creaking chair or someone knocking the microphone! It only sounded like a voice in the recording because it was formant noise (sounds with peaks in the frequency spectrum that happen, by chance, to form a harmonic ratio).

The same kind of thing could happen with vigil photographs. Anomalies might appear in photos that witnesses at the vigil didn't see at the time. Many of these were probably photographic artefacts caused by such things as overexposure, camera shake, objects out of focus, long exposures, etc. For an in-depth discussion of such photographic artefacts see here.

As this brief note shows, ghost investigation is a complex subject, fully justifying a conference.

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