Patty uses a Mel meter to take a baseline reading on an old telephone

One of the pieces of equipment paranormal investigators commonly use is an EMF detector. Contrary to popular belief, EMF meters do not detect ghosts - not even the units that are called "ghost meters."

A K2 EMF detector that uses lights to show changes in EMF fields.
What Do They Measure?

Electromagnetism is one of the universe's four basic forces. EMF detectors measure changes in electric and/or magnetic fields.  Depending on the meter, they may read AC fields, DC fields, or both. Most meters detect variable fields - not fields that are static (like a magnet). When they register a reading, it shows that an electromagnetic field is present.

What Causes Electromagnetic Fields? 

Many of our modern devices emit electromagnetism. For example, running an EMF detector along an AC power conduit will cause a meter to register a reading, as will the pulses of a cellular phone searching for a tower. 

Are Ghosts Electromagnetic?

No one knows, which is why it's impossible to detect a ghost with an EMF meter. No scientific studies exist showing a correlation between measurable electromagnetism and ghosts or hauntings. 

A Trifield Natural EMF detector
If You Don't Know if EMF Meters Detect Ghosts, Why Use Them At All?

This is a great question that actually has a few different answers.
  1. Chronic exposure to areas of high EMF (caused by electrical wiring, etc.) can cause a host of physiological and psychological symptoms. For example, one study showed EMF exposure affected levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep, mood, and other physical and psychological health factors. These symptoms can be worse in people with EMF hypersensitivity. In these cases, when a paranormal researcher enters a home they may check for baseline levels of EMF in order to rule out these issues related to exposure as a potential explanation for paranormal activity.
  2. While there are no studies showing a correlation between ghosts and electromagnetism, field researchers do report anecdotal evidence suggesting that, in some cases, anomalous activity may occur in conjunction with an EMF meter spike. Whether the activity causes the spike cannot be scientifically determined at this time; however, it may form another piece of the puzzle.
  3. Many people use EMF meters because that's what they see others doing. An EMF detector is a fairly standard piece of equipment in the paranormal field. It's also relatively inexpensive. As such, a number of paranormal teams have them as another means of gathering data.
How Does SSPR Use EMF Meters? 

Members of SSPR have several types of EMF detectors. We typically use them at the beginning of an investigation in our opening sweep of a home. During that time, we will take baseline readings throughout the house or business, looking for areas of unusually high EMF. We record all baseline EMF readings for later comparison.

Occasionally, we also use EMF meters during team vigils to detect possible changes in electromagnetic fields. These readings are only significant, however, if the EMF meter is not moving when the reading occurs, no detectable source is found, and all cell phones and walkie talkies are turned off to avoid possible interference. Occasionally in these cases, the EMF detector may measure a reading, which we note to see if it correlates with other anomalous activity. 

If I Want to Use an EMF Detector, How Do I Use it?

The answer depends largely on the type of EMF meter you use. They all work a little differently, so it's very important you read your meter's manual in order to have a full understanding of how it works. A few rules of thumb for all meters:
  • Don't expect the meter to detect ghosts. Use it, instead, to get an idea of areas where EMF exist in a location.
  • Always take baseline readings throughout a location and record them.
  • To take a reading, set the meter down or hold it very still. Moving a meter can make it jump.
  • When using EMF detectors in a vigil, set it on a solid surface in front of you and note changes as they arrive.
  • When using EMF detectors, turn off cell phones, walkie talkies, and other equipment that may cause readings on the meter.
  • If you do notice an untraceable fluctuation in electromagnetic frequency, make note of it, as well as any other activity that may occur at the time.
  • Never rely on EMF readings as the sole basis to "prove" a haunting. While anomalous EMF readings are certainly interesting data, there's no proof they detect ghosts.