Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghosts and Electrical Disturbances: Paranormal Mystery, or Technical Malfunction?

Some of the most commonly reported paranormal experiences involve disturbances with man-made electrical equipment...lights turning on and off, bulbs blowing out unexpectedly, EMF meters going off, and voice coming across speakers, radios or recorders when no one is there to make the sounds. Indeed, some of my own paranormal experiences have been electrical disturbances, and I incorporated several of these types of "haunts" into my book, Murder Behind The Closet Door. Thousands, if not millions of people have had similar experiences. But are they really paranormal? Or something much more common, and much less interesting?

My personal experience (without going into a lot of detail) involved several light bulbs blowing out in my home long before their life expectancy was due. This always happens each year around the time my father passed away, and I've always felt there has been a connection there. Brand new bulbs, even the 7-year jobs, will blow out in his old room two weeks before the date of his death, and up to a week or so after. Oh, and he died on Halloween day.

I believe these occurrences are caused by either left over energy from his death (it was pretty traumatic), or his soul reaching out from the netherworld to let me know he still exists, somehow. I believe that because it comforts me to know that he does still exist, and that there is something beyond our own plane of existence.

Of course, the argument could be made that the bulbs are blowing out for completely practical reasons. After all, our house was built in South Florida in 1974, an area and an era that are renown for quickly-built homes constructed with cheap materials. Our wiring is over 35 years old, and does not meet current electrical code. Over the years, several people have rewired lights, switches and ceiling fans with total disregard for code. It could be the bulbs are burning out because the wiring is junk. But then again, why do they only blow out around Halloween?

Watch any episode of the Ghost Hunters and you'll see they rely heavily on sounds recorded on digital recorders and video cameras. Known as EVPs, or electronic voice phenomena, these "ghostly voices" can't be heard by the naked ear, but come across (sometimes with exceptional clarity) on recording devices. The investigators will show that no one was in the room at the time of the recording, therefore asserting that the voices are paranormal.

This reminds me of something that I experienced when I was a teenager growing up in South Jersey. We lived just off one of the main highways leading into Atlantic City, the Black Horse Pike (Route 40). This was the 1970s and 80s, and a lot of people used CB radios back then to talk to each other on the road. Even our next door neighbor had a 40-foot CB antenna to broadcast and receive. Well, one summer afternoon while sitting in my room, I heard an eerie, metallic voice come through my stereo's speakers. I thought I was imagining it. I stopped what I was doing and listened more intently. Once again a voice came through the speakers. The voice continued, scratchy and strange, but I could make out what it was saying. I was hearing half a conversation between a trucker and a base station. Something about delivering car parts, if I remember right. It was someone's CB broadcast being picked up by the magnets in my speakers, and coming though. Not a ghost at all.

If you understand how speakers and microphones work, this shouldn't surprise you. They both consist of magnets and wire, configured in such a way that they either transfer sound waves into electromagnetic waves, or convert electromagnetic waves into sound waves. If the conditions are right, and they often are, electromagnetic waves can be picked up by a number of speakers, amplifiers, even metallic tooth fillings. Nothing paranormal about it at all. It's when those voices answer the investigators' questions that things start to get interesting.

I think the thing that annoys me most is this whole theory on 'orbs' in photographs. These are balls of light that seem to have intelligence. They generate their own light (rather than reflect light) and are thought to be the energy of spirits. Well, you can chalk up about 99.9% of these orbs to dust, bugs, and camera anomalies. Dust particles in the air will look twenty times their size when they reflect the light of a camera's flash. I know, I've taken plenty of photos that were ruined by dust. Because the particle is illuminated so intensely it causes a halo effect, making it appear that the ball is giving off energy, not just reflecting it. Orbs that move quickly are almost always bugs. I've seen a few rare occurrences where these orbs are unexplained, but too many people foolishly report them as spirits much too often.

Feelings of dread: Ever walk into a building, or room, and feel like something evil is there? I have. To the point where I couldn't stay in the room alone. On some of those occasions I truly felt there was a presence, something there that should not have been there. But on several occasions, I know it was just something normal. Let's take my bedroom closet, for instance. One of the reasons I wrote a book about a ghost in the closet is because this is something that almost everyone has feared at some point in their lives, usually during childhood. My closet now, as an adult, is not very scary. It's a nice, bright walk-in with some clothes and stuffed animals in it. My wife has a lot of shoes that wind up on the floor when the cat decides to play house in there, but other than that, it's just a closet. Yet, if you walk into that closet and stand there for just a minute or two, your head will feel like it's going to cave in. Seriously. The air pressure in there must be twice what it is anywhere else on the planet. And a deep, menacing hum can be heard, without know where it comes from. It took me a while to figure out what was causing all turns out nothing more than poor engineering and architectural design. Our home is a one-story, concrete block house built on a cement slab, with an outdoor central air conditioning unit and an outdoor pool pump. All of the houses on our block are built the same way. The humming comes from a combination of mechanical sounds from our central air unit and the neighbor's pool pump. The humming of these electric motors converge in this closet, and small enclosed space at the far end of the house. The sound waves basically ram into each other and intensify, like ocean waves hitting the beach. This effect also causes extra pressure on the ears, giving you a feeling of oppression, or even dread. Go in there at night with the light off, and you'll think you're surrounded by evil spirits.

I don't mean to discredit anyone in this post, especially ghost hunters or people who are sensitive to the paranormal. I just mean that if you think there's an evil spirit in the closet, it just might be science giving you a fright. Then again, you never know.

(Please excuse any typos in this post. It's late, I'm tired, and it's way too long to proofread right now!)

Keywords: ghosts, ghost hunters, paranormal, Christopher Pinto's Murder Behind The Closet Door, Wildwood Ghost Story, Wildwood Murder Mystery

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