by Karen Frazier

As anyone at SSPR will tell you (particularly our fabulous technical lead, Billi), I'm not great with the equipment. Some might even suggest I am somewhat of a disaster with it. When I speak at conferences, I often joke about not being allowed to touch the team's equipment because I inevitably drop it, break it, or flat out can't use it. So far, no one has corrected me.

Billi, wisely keeping me away from the technical equipment
I'm the same way around the house. I can use our basic technology - I'm good on a computer, for instance, and I can use all of our appliances. It's my hubby, Techie McScienceGeek, however, who keeps it all rolling for us. He even packs my big box o' paranormal fun for me when I head out on an investigation.

This may be part of the reason I am a bit old school on investigations. While SSPR uses an array of gadgets to help us gather data, I prefer to stick with the tried and true. My personal collection includes a high-definition audio recorder (Zoom H4), a high definition digital video camera (Sony with night vision), a still camera, and a ghost box. Occasionally I will also pull out my Trifield EMF meter, but only to rule out the possibility of high EMF contributing to anomalous experiences.

Plenty of new gadgets exist. I admit, they're pretty cool and SSPR enjoys experimenting with them. More specifically, the team enjoys experimenting with them while I watch from a safe distance. For the most part, however, SSPR relies on the tried and true: cameras and recorders. We've also had some success with the ghost box, a transistor radio that creates a field of white noise by scanning through stations. According to theory, spirits may be able to take this white noise and manipulate it to form words so they can communicate. While I remain skeptical about the ghost box, I've actually had some oddly specific information come out of it that makes me think there just may be something to it.

Gadgets can't prove a haunting, but they can help us gather data.
Still, as a team, we all believe that the best pieces of equipment we have are our own bodies and intuition. We also feel the essential equipment we should always have with us is the lowest tech of all - a pen and paper so we can record our impressions. The other equipment - the cameras, the audio, the EMF, the environmental sensors - those all help us gather data about your location, but not a single one of them proves the existence of ghosts. No equipment will ever tell us whether your house or business is haunted. Instead, the combination of equipment we use provides us with information that, when coupled with the personal experiences and impressions we compile in our handy dandy notebooks, may help us gain a better understanding of what is happening.

That's when interpretation becomes a problem, however. Say I am sitting in your living room with my video camera pointed at your fireplace when something that looks like your long-dead Great Aunt Mathilda suddenly materializes right in front of our eyes. We both see it, and it shows up on my camera! Does that mean your house is being haunted by Great Aunt Mathilda and what we just saw was her ghost? Certainly that is one interpretation, and one may investigators and homeowners jump to quickly. I'd probably be one of those investigators.

Here's the problem as I see it. The second I state your home is haunted by Great Aunt Mathilda, I've placed my interpretation ahead of the data, and that's something about which I always try to be extremely careful. Let's look at the data without interpretation.
  • We saw something that was clearly anomalous
  • It's appearance was very similar to Great Aunt Mathilda
  • The image of whatever we saw was captured on video
That's it. Those are the facts. We could also record EMF, time, date, temperature, and other environmental conditions. Nothing about those facts conclusively points to the fact we, indeed, saw Great Aunt Mathilda's ghost. To say we did includes interpretations and assumptions, such as:
  • Ghosts exist
  • Visual anomalies occur because they are ghosts
  • Ghosts are the spirits of dead people
So what if, along with the visual anomaly that looked like Great Aunt Mathilda, we also experienced an EMF spike and recorded an EVP that said, "'s meeeeeeee.....the ghost of Great Aunt Mathilda......." would we then be able to say beyond a shadow of a doubt we'd seen the ghost of your great aunt? While the evidence would certainly be more compelling, it would still require the same assumptions, interpretations, and leaps of logic to claim we'd experienced a ghost.

I'm not saying the evidence we gather isn't valuable. It is. I'm also not saying that evidence and personal experiences tell us nothing. They tell us plenty. But, until there's conclusive proof that a) ghosts exist; b) ghosts are the spirits of dead people; c) dead people talk to us through EVP anomalies on recording and many others; no amount of evidence can conclusively prove a haunting.

So why bother? Because for now, this is the best we can do in the field. The truth is, strange things happen. I believe in ghosts based on the experiences I've had and the evidence I've gathered. But it is just that - a belief. When I ascribe events to a ghost or haunting, I am doing so based on assumptions arising from my experience in the field, data I've gathered and examined, years of research, and a compilation of personal experiences of the unexplained. I cannot scientifically prove ghosts exist or what you are experiencing is a haunting. In fact, no paranormal researcher can tell you this, no matter how much "proof" they claim to have.

What we deal with in the paranormal is the unknown. I've been around long enough to realize the unexplainable occurs in the lives of many and it can be pretty disconcerting. SSPR can help by documenting, recording, reframing, and helping you peacefully co-exist with your own piece of the unknown. We can even tell you what we suspect is happening in your home or business, but it's important to understand that when we share that information with you, we're providing you with our interpretation of the data based on experience and assumptions. We can't prove to you your house is haunted. We won't certify a haunt or guarantee we will rid you of your ghosts. What we will do, however, is treat you with respect, listen to your experiences, and gather data to help you understand and deal with the unknown. For many of our clients, that has provided peace of mind that has allowed them to peacefully and happily co-exist with the unexplained.