GHOST HUNTING EQUIPMENT AND ITS USES
by Peter Underwood, Ghost Hunter
Finally, there are a couple of examples that emphasize the effectiveness of both simple and sophisticated equipment. I once investigated a case of apparent poltergeist activity where most of the alleged phenomena took place in the vicinity of a young girl. Having heard the whole story I discovered, after careful examination of the property, which included measuring various distances and carefully exploring the time involved, that it would have been possible for the girl to have been consciously responsible for everything that had happened. I really had no option but to make an experiment that would eliminate her from my investigations.
As with many poltergeist infestations there were several items that seemed to attract the attention of the 'geist', including a potted plant that stood in the girl’s bedroom on a saucer. Time after time this plant, in its plant pot, but minus the saucer, ‘made its way' to various parts of the house, including the girl’s father’s study which she was forbidden to enter, and indeed the door of the room was kept locked.
Without anyone in the house knowing what I was doing I removed the plant from its flowerpot and inserted at the base a small tin filled with silver sand with a hole in the bottom of the tin that corresponded with the hole in the bottom of the flower pot. Replacing the plant in the pot and the whole plant and pot on its saucer I made sure, as far as I could, that no one would notice that it had been touched. That night after the girl had finally retired to bed for the night I secured a small piece of thin black cotton across her bedroom door so that the door could not be opened without the cotton breaking; I also placed a little petroleum jelly mixed with a purple dye on the underside of the door handle on the outside of the door, and finally I sprinkled a little flour, mixed with soot, immediately outside the door.
A couple of hours later, during a routine check of the downstairs rooms, accompanied by the girl’s father and a fellow investigator, we discovered the potted plant standing on a shelf in the locked study. I then explained that my researches so far had suggested that the girl may be responsible for some of the activity, and I revealed the measures I had taken to test my theory. It was pointed out to me that the potted plant had ‘appeared’ inside a locked room and the girl’s father showed me the only key which he kept in his pocket.
We carefully lifted up the potted plant and a tiny trickle of silver sand ran from it. We looked around and found trickles of the sand across the room towards the open window. We went outside and our torches picked up the trail and we followed it round the house, into the back door, through the kitchen, into the hall, up the stairs and to where it disappeared into the young girl’s room. The cotton seal was broken. The mother and father went into their daughter’s room and found her awake. We all trooped in and I asked to see her hands. On both there were traces of the purple dye. I asked to see her feet and on both there were traces of flour and soot.
At the other extreme there is the experience of Professor John Taylor in the haunted church at Borley in Essex. In 19761 was invited to take part in a BBC hour-long feature on Ghosts. I had several conversations with script-writer John Pickford and suggested that the Borley haunting ought to be included. I introduced the producer to several possible contributors and, in the event, John Pickford went to Borley with John Taylor, Professor of Mathematics at London University, who was interested in scientifically recording paranormal activity. Accompanied by a technical assistant, they endeavored to conduct a number of experiments with some sophisticated equipment, both inside and outside the allegedly haunted church, to see whether they could obtain evidence of anything comparable to any of the strange sounds that had been recorded there over the years. Their equipment included a magnetometer for measuring ordinary magnetic fields and electric field measuring devices that would indicate television type waves and those of long wave radio.
During the course of examination of the interior of the church, at nine o’clock in the evening, John Taylor felt 'some slightly strange sensation' in one particular part of the church. After spending half an hour quietly in the somewhat melancholy churchyard, they again went into the church. There they positioned themselves a few yards in front of the altar, ready to measure any changes in electrical magnetic fields and to see whether these changes, if they occurred, were related to any sounds they might hear or sights they might see. After about thirty minutes they left the church and discussed their conclusions so far in the quiet and still churchyard.
John Taylor was satisfied that his equipment was performing perfectly, but nothing unusual had been heard or seen and therefore there was nothing to work on. They decided to have another session inside the church. John Pickford, just before they left the church on this occasion, began to feel very cold and he experienced a feeling of unease that seemed to be coming from the tower end of the church, the area farthest away from the equipment they had set up in the church.
After a further two hours in the church John Taylor was asked to report on his feelings and opinions so far. He said he thought there seemed to be some slight movements in the area of the font (at the tower end of the church) which he thought may have been due to movement of the church foundations but when the three experimenters tried to duplicate these movements by stamping on the floor and banging on the font, they found that only reasonably strong attacks would actually cause the same level of movement. Otherwise, apart from one or two blips in the electric field, they only heard a number of sounds that were rather odd. However, they did establish that there was at least one bat inside the church, although it was impossible to tell whether it was bats that were responsible for the noises, or moths, also seen in the church, for they could make a noise that would register when they banged against windows or other parts of the church structure.
So I think it might fairly be argued that simple equipment is just as effective in the investigation of ghostly phenomena as the most sophisticated apparatus, for there are drawbacks to the latter. The value of any report is really only as good as the investigator concerned and it is not really dependent upon the equipment used. But in a computer age it is appropriate that my friends Dr Alan Gauld and Tony Cornell have just devised a 'spectre detector' that is in fact a computer-controlled ghost hunting kit in which interference with any one of various sensors (temperature, infra-red, ultra-sonic, etc) triggers cameras, video-cameras and tape-recorders, and is followed by a detailed print-out of the readings on all instruments.