EMF explained

An electromagnetic field is a property of space through which an electric charge is in motion. A motionless electric charge will produce an electric field in its surrounding area, while a charge in motion will also produce a complementary magnetic field.
An electromagnetic field can be see as the product of the interaction between electric and magnetic fields, but as having an existence in space independent of is related charges or currents.

Fluctuations of an electromagnetic field over time are called electromagnetic radiation which manifests itself over a large range of frequencies, from Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF), produced by, say household current, through radio waves, up to visible light and beyond into such radiation as X and Gamma Rays.

Humans spend their entire lives surrounded by electromagnetic fields, whether static – the Earth’s magnetic field, for example – or dynamic (electromagnetic radiation) – the light from the Sun.

As the two examples above suggest the majority of background EMFs we encounter are liable to be of a natural source. Any strong – energetic – fields that we are subjected to are likely to be of an anthropogenic origin, produced, in some way, through human agency. This can be anything from a kettle, a computer monitor or a microwave over up to lasers and X-rays.

EMF monitors

The electromagnetic field detectors are capable of detecting electric fields between 0 and 1000 V/m (volts/meter) and magnetic fields up to 1000 milliGauss. In practise the detectors will be looking for fields in the bottom one percent of this range – between 0 and 10 on both scales.

The monitors have been designed to eliminate as much background ‘noise’ as possible – particularly strong anthropogenic fields that might produce false positive readings -the domestic current is still connected and the house is full of electrical equipment.

It is claimed by ‘ghost-hunters’ that paranormal events are associated with electromagnetic fields of certain strength – most particularly static magnetic fields between 2 and 7 milliGauss in strength. This is sometimes combined with any indications of electric field over the natural background occurrences of 1 or 2 V/m.

The monitors will be specifically looking for readings in this allegedly significant range, with the aim of assembling a picture of anomalous electromagnetic activity throughout the house and eventually relating this to reports and experiences of a paranormal nature.

Strange events

Hello, Stephen here, with what I think may be my first truly paranormal experience in the house. I was working upstairs in the house this afternoon – exploring some of the rooms at the rear – when I could have sworn I heard footsteps in the hall downstairs. I immediately went to the head of the back stairs to start down to investigate and the immediate sense that was a presence in the hallway downstairs – there was a definite impression of movement – a shadow, I think, or some movement – but by the time I got downstairs the hallway was empty and the house quiet. I have often, over the last few days, had the impression that I was not alone in the house but had put this down to having been on my own for the past week, but perhaps I am not as alone as I thought. It’s certainly an intriguing event.

What is a ghost?

We all have a very clear idea of what a ghost looks like: a pale apparition that looks something like old man Wilkins from the fairground with a sheet draped over his head. But this description rarely if ever fits what is experienced in claimed paranormal encounters. What exactly do we mean when we talk about ghosts?

The most common understanding is that they are phantoms or visions of dead people glimpsed by the living. This is often understood to present some kind of afterlife, some way in which human consciousness or presence can persist after death. On the other hand it may instead suggest that there is communication not across the boundary of life and death but rather across time, that it is possible for those in the present to get a glimpse of some moment in the past, or vice versa. Certainly stories in which are visited by phantoms of the living, visions of relatives and friends in moments of distress or danger, suggest that such communication might be possible across space, if not time.

Some of these ideas might be related to current evolving theories of the quantum brain and the implicatons of quantum physics when applied to consciousness. There is even some implication that consciousness may persist beyond the physical brain, providing another possible explanation for life after death.

Quantum physics also implies the many worlds theory of multiple universes, splintering off at each moment of subatomic decision. Rather than glimpses of the past, could what we call hauntings be glimpses of another, alternate universe alongside our own?

Equally the multiple dimensions that apparently comprise our own universe culd provide yet another explanation: what might a fifth dimensional event look like to us – could it have a side-effect on the fabric of space time that might look like a haunting to us, down here in our three dimensions? Could these phenomena even be attempts at cross-dimensional communication?

Of course, traditional religion and ancient cultures might suggest that they are communication from a very different kind of being: from spirits or what the monotheisms might call demons. But the answer might equally lie closer to home. It has been suggested that it may be that some places have a unique sensitivity. That a place may be able to ‘record’ the events that take place there, ‘recordings’ that will then replay to human witnesses under the right conditions, as ghosts.

And even more simply it may just be that some places are intrinsically ‘haunted’, that they have some property, a peculiarity of electro-magnetic field, or subterreanean running water or a particular geography, that has an effect on the human mind, that affects our senses in away that we call ghostly.

What remains is that many of these possible explanations are open to scientific enquiry that might one day be able to answer the question: ‘What is a ghost?’

More peculiarities

Hello there, Stephen here, and I’m sure you’ll have guessed what I’m going to talk about. Last night I went to sleep in front of the computer and subsequently went to bed without switching it off, leaving it on with me still logged into this website. At around two this morning some text was put on the site which says it was put there by me: it was not. I was in bed by that time. I do not know, and neither does Gary, who or what wrote that text. Gary assures me that the text was probably the product of something he calls a ‘spambot’, which sounds like something out of an unpleasant science-fiction film, and is quite keen to remove it, but I am not so sure. Perhaps it is the mention of the ‘Flower Quean’, which makes me think of my odd discovery in the out-buildings, perhaps it is the fact that at least some of the text – which, you will have seen, is hopelessly garbled – appears to come from Ranulph Williams’ own introduction to his book of ghost stories, which Gary uploaded to the site yesterday. Perhaps it is simply superstition, but I can’t help wondering whether there is a different explanation for the text – one closer to our investigation. I don’t know of any recorded instances of paranormal communication using a computer, but its certainly possible – a twenty-first century planchette, perhaps – not unlikely given the suggested links between paranormal events and electro-magnetic phenomena. As a result, I am going to leave this computer switched on and logged in permanently from now on to see if we can get any more mysterious text. Very interesting indeed.

Parapsychological investigations

Hello there – I was thinking, today, of one of the very first parapsychological investigations that I ever undertook – my first investigation of a haunted house. In those days my not-then-yet wife often used to come with me on my strange journeys about – and she was with me this time – in an old farmhouse deep in the countryside. We were staying the night there and were in a large room right at the top of the house. My wife has, since childhood, suffered from occassional sleep paralysis and night terrors – waking up jn the middle of the night, unable to move (your own brain has to stop you moving while you’re asleep so you don’t act out your dreams) and subject to horrible visons – usually faceless, shadowy figures gathered around the bed. Perhaps unsurprisngly, afraid of nightmares in an allegedly haunted house, she found it hard to get to sleep – not a problem I had, apparently. So she found herself lying alone in the dim light of a bedside lamp, staring at an etching hanging on the wall opposite. The etching was a Hogarth, full of grotesque and alarming characters and, as she stared at it, on the edge of sleep (what we call a hypnogogic state) she saw the figure begin to move. Unable to tear her eyes away fom them – as if in sleep paralysis – she found herself watching these strange and shadowy figures crawl back and forth across the wall as I slept soundly right next to her. The picture was from The Rake’s Progress – and one that I suspect had been put there deliberately, as it’s story was very similar to the tale behind the haunting – a young farmer who squandered his inheritance and killed himself in the house – a story my wife watched acted out before her in the gloom. As I say, my wife had experienced sleep problems before, and being in a strange house in a tense situation is unlikely to have helped with that – but this moving picture was not anything she had experienced before and why that story in that room? And why should she become just the last in a long line of people who had seen strange things in that one room? This is the point where the ghost story ends and the investigating begins – because our scientific explanations don’t account for the whole experience. This is parapsychology – going beyond conventional psychology to look for deeper, unsuspected influences Which is where people like my friend and colleague Jo Cargill come in – scientists and technicians who can help us collect the data that will drive the solution to these mysteries – and why I’m really looking forward to her arrival when we can start moving this investigation onward. My wife no longer accompanies me on my investigations.

Aims

The main emphasis of the Maze House investigation has been and will continue to be split between collecting scientific data on and amassing individual, subjective reactions to the house. The primary source of data about the house will be the network of EMF monitors. These will provide data to a central computer that will then store it for analysis. The intention is also, eventually, to make the output of the monitors visible, live, on this website. It is also hoped to save time in the analysis of the data by getting users to download an application that will borrow small parts of their computer’s processing time to crunch our data. While it may be possible to use the EMF monitors as ‘ghost detectors’ in a fashion, it is considered that the opinion of the team members, at least during observation, is the best way to define and distinguish a paranormal event in this kind of situation. The team have at their disposal digital video cameras, photographic cameras, both digital and analogue, digital audio recorders, temperature and humidity measuring instruments, heat and motion sensitive detectors and other measuring instruments. All these, however, are intended as devices to supplement and lend detail to their own personal observations.

Taking the temperature of the house

Hello there, Stephen here, with little to report other than a long and frustrating day. We’re getting started on the real business of collecting data around the house: good, solid evidence to base our investigation on. One key factor in paranormal events is anomalous temperature changes: what are commonly called ‘cold spots’ (hot spots are extremely rare). Often witnesses to apparently paranormal events will report a sudden drop in ambient temperature, gooseflesh, chills, that sort of thing, so I wanted to start collecting some temperature data for the house – to try and generate a kind of heat map which might give us some clues of where to aim our investigation. To this end I stocked up on some very sophisticated temperature gauges, one for each room, which I carefully spent the morning positioning round the house, only to find that it was useless. Well, not entirely – what I do know now is that none of the temperature gauges will work in the front of the house, even though most of them will work quite happily in the back. So I now know, to a great deal of accuracy, the temperature of the kitchen, but not of the older part of the house. One good thing at least might be said to have come out of this: I now know I very definitely want to concentrate on the front rooms of the house – if I can just find some equipment that works there.

The investigation: EMF detectors

The aim is to investigate the accounts of paranormal activity in The Maze House. Given the absence of the homeowners the investigators have an unparalleled opportunity to conduct a long and thorough examination of the house.

In addition to a simple investigation of the house by the team, the project will have a more technical aspect. As part of an attempt to examine in depth the physical attributes of a paranormal manifestation the team have positioned throughout the house a number of electromagnetic field monitors.

According to ghost hunters paranormal events are associated with field fluctuations between 2 and 7 milligauss in strength. The monitors will be put into position over the next few weeks and then will be in operation continuously – logging data for every second of the day.

It is hoped that analysis of the data will eventually enable the team to build a complete picture of electromagnetic fields throughout the house and then compare these to any observed paranormal phenomena for any correlation between the two.

The team will also be using the EMF monitors as ‘detectors’ – looking for any significant reading and examining those areas that give them for ‘paranormal’ activity or states.

The Paranormal

paranormal (adj.) beyond the scope of normal objective investigation or explanation. The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, © Oxford University Press 1996 ‘para’, Greek, ‘beyond’; ‘normal’, Latin, ‘conforming to a standard; regular, usual, typical’. It’s an odd word all round, to be sure, half Greek and half Latin in etymology, an adjective on its way to becoming a noun – just as a word it is already crossing boundaries, defying attempts to nail it down. ‘Beyond conforming to a standard’ – sounds like an awkward teenager – but it contains an implicit question: ‘What is normal?’ – and the answer – normality is conforming to the ‘standard’ of reality. Normal is what we say it is – the commonly accepted vision of the universe. The paranormal is therefore that which is unacceptable, the nonconformist, what doesn’t ‘fit’. Take another look at that first definition. Again the word normal crops up, but this time as a definition of the scientific approach – ‘normal objective investigation or explanation’ – the methods of ‘investigation and explanation’ that society finds acceptable – perhaps one might even say: comfortable and comforting. But now we have the word ‘scope’, too – this implies that the paranormal is what lies beyond what the conventional, scientific approach sees as its domain – it is not interested in it, it is more than its job’s worth. It might further imply, however, that it is literally beyond those tools and methods that the scientific approach employs. That this is beyond understanding, beyond intellect, that investigation and explanation are entirely the wrong approaches to the paranormal – by definition. This might be made clearer by looking at what we mean by the ‘paranormal’ – invariably we mean psychic activity and the supernatural – ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy, psycho-kinesis and so on. It is worth noting that all of these are to do with perception – they rely on the individual experiencing them to define them. But then, isn’t normality also purely about perception – about the standard vision of the normal – the central problem of the exploration of both the normal and the paranormal is that we are straying into the realms of belief, of knowledge without understanding (it is possible to know that things fall without understanding gravity), of the unconscious itself, whether individual (You have seen a ghost) or social (It is normal to drive cars). Faith is notoriously proof to scientific enquiry – the actions of the conscious mind that escape literal biological enquiry also escape the theoretical tools of the scientific method – as Mr Spock could tell us, they are illogical. So what else is the paranormal, then, than a different world view – perhaps no better or no worse – just different. After all how many people have had their lives changed by an experience of the paranormal – their worlds turned upside down? And if this is a new world, is not our duty, indeed some would say our the inherent instinct of our species, to explore it and to discover its riches and it may well be that, as with so many other discoveries, in doing so we have to reinvent ourselves.