The Shared Diary of a Novice Paranormal Investigator, aged 52 and Three Quar

When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.

(Stevie Wonder)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.


Ri fol ri fol tol de riddle dee.


A Ghost-hunter's Equipment

Of course, after my little adventures in the world of the Sprit Fans, I am now a seasoned investigator.  I know the ropes.  From my lofty viewpoint, I can offer words of wisdom to any about to follow in my footsteps.  Here is my list of Essential Investigation Equipment:

  • For running noses in the cold, dark night, and for the weepy eyes of the Sensitives, carry a good supply of tissues.
  • A torch and a camera will both be useful.  Keep your camera out of its case.  In one location, our leader thought he could hear a sigh, but I had to disappoint him; it was only the sound made by a fussy lady, juggling a camera case and a Kipling bag.  Some groups only let you carry red torches.
  • I was told – take caffeine pills if you are driving home.  Early morning roads were once hazardous because of all night partygoers driving under the influence of drink.  In the twenty-first century, the grown ups are all quite sober, but we still cannot drive safely because we have been out looking for ghosties all night.  Plus ça change…  Some clubs operate a coach service, so you do not have to drive. 
  • A handbag gets completely in the way, so you need huge pockets for all of the above (plus your purse, phone and keys, of course).
  • For the eternal cold, exacerbated by inactivity, warm but unrestrictive layers of clothing.  I am trying to start a fashion for thermals.
  • I tried wearing furry boots – these kept my feet warm but they were uncomfortable when I had to sit on the floor. 
  • A big scarf is wonderful protection from the worst cold spots and drafts.  My pink pashmina goes everywhere with me now.
  • Whatever refreshment the club says is on offer, make sure you take an independent supply, especially if you prefer your food to have some nutritional value.

My equipment list is rather different from the one I had expected to have.  When I started out in the Autumn, I had expected to build up a stock of more technical equipment with lots of Machines that Measure Things.  That was a delusion.

Machines that Measure Things proved to be rather dull, in the end.  I had imagined myself boldly pointing a black box into a corner and announcing ‘I can confirm a reading of 8.6% hobgoblin 2.4 centimetres from the apex.  We will certainly need a sprocket.’  Sadly, this did not happen.  I did have a turn on a spot thermometer, although I kept pressing the wrong button.  This is like a little gun, and when you point it at one particular point in a room, it will tell you the temperature of that spot.  We are all told that spirits use up heat energy so a dip in temperature should be an indication of paranormal activity. 

When I had my turn, the readings made no sense to me, as I had no idea what the temperature was expected to be.  I was recording meaningless numbers, which were different in all parts of the room anyway.  I was fascinated to see the investigator recording just such a drop when PYL believed a spirit to be present.  However, I also saw this happen on another occasion when I was informed there were no spirits with us.  Sometimes, it just grows colder on its own.

There is money sloshing around in Paranormal Land.  Selling electrical equipment to buffs and punters provides an income for somebody.  Even if a novice punter can only afford a starter package, the current vogue for ghosties means that there are many, many of these novices all buying a little kit, then maybe upgrading a year later.   A lot of little makes a lot.  Here is the punter’s Birthday wish list of equipment for a club-style investigation:

  • Infra red cameras, to record images and moving images in the dark.
  • Large screen for playing back footage and displaying images to other punters.
  • Spot thermometer, to check for temperature changes in specific parts of a room.
  • Data logger, to track temperature and humidity over a number of hours.
  • Infra red torch, so you can move around without needing the white light which scares away the phantoms.
  • Sound recording equipment, to catch karaoke from beyond the veil.
  • Hearing enhancer, in case the spirits whisper shyly.
  • Electro magnetic field meter, to measure, oddly enough, electro magnetic fields. 
  • Motion detectors, in case something or somebody tries to sneak past.
  • Radio for communication between team members in different parts of the site.
  • PC to store, process and share information.
  • Lots and lots of batteries and cable.

Any number of traders would be eager and able to provide all of the above, should my loved ones feel moved to sacrifice their dwindling pension funds in order to further my interests. 

Such a noble sacrifice could well be wasted, says National Rational, along with many other organisations.  The most important investigation tools in their view would be a pen and a paper, for noting who has experienced what and when.  They need the witnesses, before the machines.  Rather than measuring temperature right away, investigators from these groups would research the history of the phenomena and seek to understand the human interactions and perceptions at the heart of the story.  They would also take a good long time to log every creaking floorboard, every wobbly window, every clanking pipe.  They would check which way the wind had been blowing on the evenings when the door mysteriously flew open by itself.  They would return many times, slowly gathering a full understanding of the physical and emotional background to reported phenomena.

‘Well I’m here again, Mrs Toast-Crumbs, to see how I can help you with the poltergeist.  Last week you told me how small objects appeared on your bedroom carpet after being lost for several days.  Now, I wonder if you can show me where you keep your laundry basket?’

National Rational does not abhor the use of Machines that Measure Things, but it does advocate very cautious use of such measurement.  If you wish to search for the abnormal, it warns, you must first establish without doubt what normal looks like for that spot, and that is a complex, time consuming activity.  Many similar sources also point out that the equipment normally available is just not sophisticated enough to provide informative readings.

‘So, Mr Shout-at-TV-news, I am just going to measure the electro-magnetic waves.  To get a true picture, I will use plenty of meters, all the same top brand and same model of course!  We need everything to be precise and equal.  That is what we call a Fair Test.  I will put one in the corner of the kitchen to see if the reading changes when the headless horseman comes through as usual at tea time, but I will put several others around the house and a couple in the garden, so that I will be able to compare the different areas of the property on days when there is activity, days when there is no activity, days when the trains are running, days when trains are not running, days when there is a thunderstorm… ‘

The Rational style of investigation costs time. In order to undertake such a project, the investigators would require plenty of visits to the site and meetings with witnesses, and they would need to reflect and plan.  Clubs, hiring a building for one night’s access, taking with them unknown groups of potentially potty, giddy or inexperienced paying punters on an adventure, will never have that luxury.  Operating electrical devices may be one kind of substitute.  Following the leadership of sensitives and psychics may be another.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.

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