Equipment – Part I

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yesnoBetween Jari and myself we easily have enough technical equipment to support several research teams. I would, however, estimate that overall we use maybe 5% of this on a regular basis. When I first started out I trucked the majority of my things with me to investigations but realized a couple of things over time.

For starters, I was spending a ridiculous amount of time going over all the data compiled by all these different devices. So much so that at one point I was having someone sit and stare at my DVR monitor in an isolated area and jot down times and camera numbers every time they thought they may have seen something while I was in a different location doing my thing. I still had to go over every piece of video they marked as well as randomly reviewing the rest of it anyway so overall I wasn’t saving myself much time. Besides, the person sitting there tended to get extremely bored or antsy and would end up missing things due to lack of focus over several hours.

Another thing was time. The carting around, setting up and breakdown was taking up far too much of it. Not to mention at the end of the night when you’re exhausted and drained, it’s far too easy to leave something behind. Overall I just found the whole process way too time consuming and unnecessary in regards to the payoff. Now as soon as I’m done I basically walk out of the place with a backpack and head home.

DVR

I started to notice that the vast majority of what was captured on the DVR happened very near or around me and that all the other video was for the most part wasted space on a hard drive. Because of the way I investigate, I tend to keep all interaction isolated to a very small area. I don’t walk around as much as pick a spot and ask them to come to me if they choose to. If they want nothing to do with me then they don’t. I tell them where I will be and if they choose to ignore me so be it.dvr

I realized that while the DVR and its cameras had a place in doing research, for me it wasn’t necessarily in trying to blanket an entire location with video and then spending most of my time in one area. While setting up a DVR (or in extreme cases two of them) isn’t something that we won’t consider doing based on specific circumstances, we’re very fortunate to live in a haunted house. We tend to use our DVR(s) to monitor our own residence, especially while sleeping.

In our case, a lot of really weird shit happens to us while we’re sleeping as well as in various other places throughout the house (Just today Jari heard drums and Indian chanting that sounded like it was coming from an old radio from one of the bedrooms which lasted for about 3 minutes). So technically we’re using it as a cross between an internal home security/surveillance system as opposed to taking it to various locations and setting it up. While this may not be the case for most individuals, if you keep your investigation isolated to a specific area and use the please come to us method, you may find it unnecessary to haul everything around and spending 30 minutes running cables.

Our DVR’s have built in motion sensors that create a log when motion is detected. By clicking on a log entry it automatically takes you to that portion of the video. So basically all we need to do is check the logs and see if anything actually took place.

One other important thing to note regarding the DVR system. I have found one place and one place only that sells full-spectrum security cameras. They are far more expensive than your standard infrared version but I would highly suggest getting at least one of them to add to your DVR system. This becomes crucial when going over areas where motion was detected by the system.

A final note: My DVR allows you to set the sensitivity of the motion detection. This can be very tricky as too high and you will get alerts for every dust particle that floats by and too low you will miss things. You need to practice with this until you find the right setting for your device.

Motion Sensorsimage_13420

I’m not a big fan of devices that make noise. Loud beeping, alarms and chirping annoys me because I prefer absolute silence. The motion sensors I use are the ones that simply light up when triggered. Because of this I like to use them in conjunction with the DVR. Since I don’t utilize audio on my DVR system, I like to use the motion sensor light combined with the log files mentioned above. By going to the point in the video where the log says it detected motion, I also have the motion sensor light to assist or validate the possibility of motion. A moth or a pet will cause a motion log entry so using the light in combination with the camera can be a real value.

EMF

This is a tricky one and can be very controversial. Basically all I can suggest is do your research into different devices, what they can and can’t detect and learn about different types of energy fields and base your decision on what you learn. I have 2 different models of the K-II meter. One is I guess what you would call the standard gray one and the other is black and makes a very subtle clicking sound similar to a Geiger counter when it detects an electromagnetic field. I used to use them more than I do now and sort of base my decision to do so on gut feeling. Some places I never turn one on and in other places they seem to indicate something may be present and actively communicating.381029_135414593234493_422604406_n

From my perspective it seems that some spirits like using them and some don’t. Just be sure to take good baseline readings of the area and keep smartphones off. Also handheld radios will make them go nuts. This is another reason I like to limit my investigation area to a very small space. The more you walk around the higher the chance is you will wander into an area with natural or explainable EMF readings.

Look into Trifield meters and MEL meters, etc. and base your decision on what you feel the most confident using. For the most part (except for the MEL meter) they are easy to stick in your back pocket just in case. Today I probably use an EMF detector 20% of the time at most. One thing to avoid is one called the Ghost Meter. It’s basically a toy.

Temperature Meters

I have an ambient air temperature thermometer and to be totally honest have never found it to be all that useful during an investigation overall. I’m including a photo of it in use here only because it was registering 66.6 which I found amusing.603401_267152090060742_1337464416_n

From my experience, by the time you notice a cold spot and whip this thing out it’s either gone or you didn’t have the most recent temperature recorded to compare it to. For it to really work properly you’d have to be constantly monitoring the ambient air temperature the entire time. If you want to spend extra for one with a data logger then that’s your call. In my opinion if I feel the temperature drop that’s good enough for me.

The laser or infrared non-contact version I personally have little to no use for. If I need a temperature reading I want to know the ambient air temperature and not the temperature on a tiny spot of material or the temperature on the laser’s path between those two points.

It’s a nice item to have in your back pocket and is very inexpensive. In my opinion they are best used as a possible indicator that something is going on at which time you switch your attention to another device.

 Flashlight

uvledA flashlight is of course a very helpful thing to have. In my opinion however, since you’re going to be using one anyway, you might as well get the most out of it that you can. I use the light pictured here which contains  51 LED UV/black light bulbs. It adds additional UV light which can be picked up on a full-spectrum camcorder as well as illuminating things you wouldn’t normally see. And if you have pets I suggest you never use one of these in your own home. Just trust me on this. I’ve turned this on in places that have or had pets and it looks like a crime scene.

Digital Voice Recorder

This is another device that is controversial (although the spirit box may top that list). While I certainly no longer do as much EVP work as I once did, I still like to dust off my Olympus VN-480PC (pictured below) from time to time just to hear something new. I’ve been very fortunate in seeming to always get clear EVP’s since day one. Once I started using my spirit box the digital voice recorder simply wasn’t used much any more.

There are still places I go where nobody seems to want to use the spirit box no matter how hard I try so I end up breaking out the Olympus and generally get something interesting such as the first time I spent the night at the Amboy Pharmacy. I could not get a peep out of the spirit box but recorded this EVP almost immediately:

What I don’t like about working with a digital voice recorder is going over all the audio. When you find something interesting it usually makes up for it but overall I’m lazy and impatient. The main thing to remember when using this device is to be smart with it and know where OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe buttons are. I always recommend you never hold it when recording. Keep each recording to no more than a minute in length and never have anyone else around when recording. Those are the three best suggestions I can give you.

There are several options when it comes to digital voice recorders. The one I use cost me about $35. The next step up would be a Zoom which generally runs between the $100-$270 range on Amazon, depending on the model. The top of the line recorder for the consumer in my opinion is probably the RT-EVP which was created by Gary Galka (of P-SB7 and MEL meter fame) and runs around $220.

The latest RT-EVP model comes with a built in spirit box and data logger so for the price and quality it’s hard to beat and can be found here.

Just be sure whatever you end up with that it’s capable of transferring your files via USB or memory card to a computer or things can get real annoying. Another factor is how much storage it has and whether or not you can add to it if necessary.

The last time I got my recorder out it was just to see if I could still get an EVP on it. I turned it on, asked one question and this is the response that I captured:

P-SB7

p-sb7This is my favorite item I own. From the first time I ever used this device at Kenton Station I was sold. There are plenty of people that claim it’s just radio stations coming through and you’re never going to convince them otherwise so don’t even bother. I personally have just had far too many relevant responses to specific questions to ignore what I’m experiencing. The way the spirit box is designed is with an (up to) 100 ms (millisecond) sweep rate to prevent radio stations from coming through and includes a white noise generator.

The number one argument against radio bleed-thru is that you can set up 2 of these, run one in a forward sweep and another in reverse sweep and get them both to say the same word at the same time while on completely different stations sweeping in opposite directions. The skeptics don’t like to hear that.

I have countless examples of direct communication on my soundcloud page so please feel free to listen. The site contains a mixture of spirit box and digital audio EVP’s and the way soundcloud is set up is kind of a pain in the ass but it’s there if you care to listen.

4 more things to consider when saying the device is only radio bleed-over:

  1. Very rarely will you get music, which is odd considering you’re scanning radio frequencies.
  2. You will get a lot of children which is something you will rarely ever hear listening to the radio.
  3. Curse words in some locations can be extremely frequent. Considering that the FCC can and will fine a station around a quarter of a million dollars for doing so again makes radio bleed-over seem highly unlikely.
  4. It’s very common to hear the same voices even when running the device hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Granted some programs are broadcast nationally but rarely on the FM band. Most syndicated shows are on the AM band. Not to mention the voices you hear that are similar are not George Noory or even Rush Limbaugh doing a rare 3AM broadcast.

We currently have two (or possibly 3) P-SB7 devices and I can’t recommend them highly enough. One big thing to take into consideration is the speaker. The built-in one is horrible so you will need an external speaker. I used a pancake speaker for a long time and never did like it although it worked. I eventually found the Altec Lansing speaker shown in the photo on Amazon and really like it.

There is an issue with the volume adjustment that is tricky but once you figure it out isn’t that difficult. You just have to do things in a specific order so don’t get frustrated. You will figure it out. Once you do, the volume buttons on the spirit box will work to turn the audio up and down even though when you don’t do it in the precise order required it will seem like they don’t do anything.

You need to be cautious of the speaker volume and proximity to the camcorder. It has to all be perfect or you will either end up with video where the voices are very difficult to hear or video where the static is so loud it will run people off. Some recordings end up better than others and the only way to get it all figured out is by practice. Another thing I learned is that when the batteries start to drain a little the voices get more difficult to hear. Although the volume seems the same the voices get quieter, which is strange. My advice is always have plenty of batteries on hand when using the device.

The settings I personally use are as follows, different settings seem to work better for different people:

100ms, reverse sweep, FM band. I will on occasion slow the sweep rate down a little but very rarely will I go as slow or slower than 200ms.

Camcorders

In my opinion nobody that is serious about paranormal research should be using an infrared camcorder, at least not exclusively. That was fine several years ago when it was really the only available option but by this time you should have upgraded to a full (wide) spectrum camcorder.

I’ve heard all the excuses. They’re too expensive. We’ve already invested in 5 Sony Nightshot camcorders. The camcorder is arguably the most important piece of equipment you will own. If you own a DVR and cameras for it or a MEL meter, then the too expensive argument isn’t valid because you can get an excellent camcorder for less than either of those items.imageMain_8_36

Phantomlites.com carries an HD full-spectrum 1080p camcorder for $199. Just be sure you get one like the one pictured and not the SVP style which has a flat, vertical look to it as those are poorly made and the focus on them is terrible.

The difference between full-spectrum and infrared is like night and day and will set you apart from all the grainy green video out there. The HD quality and clarity alone are worth the investment but the type of camcorders we use have other features such as:

 

 

  • Stop motion video
  • Motion detection
  • 60 fps HD recording
  • Timer
  • Slow motion
  • 16 MP photos
  • Color, black and white or sepia video option
  • Lighting adjustment
  • Face tracking
  • HDMI output
  • ISO adjustment

The lighting on these are also a vast improvement over the harsh spotlight look of the infrared camcorders. Full-spectrum or ultraviolet lighting has not only a warmer tone and better range but the bottom line is you’re catching far more of the light spectrum and who wouldn’t want that ability? Plus they will work with all the current infrared lighting you already own so you don’t have to rush to upgrade your lights as well. And another added bonus is the cool pink/purple look of the video. If you care to see my initial review of this camcorder it’s listed below. (Notice at 12:22 of the video a strange white light flashes by near the full-spectrum illuminator)

Thanks for taking the time to visit our site and read the article. I’m certain more items will be added to this over time.