Friday, January 27, 2012

Lessons Learned

First off ghost hunting does have its risks.

I could trip or stub a toe while wandering around some allegedly haunted location in the dark carrying an EMF meter in one hand and a flashlight in another or I could choke on a strawberry poptart as I sit at the monitoring station. But something that sticks in the back of most ghost hunters minds is the chance that an unwelcome guest may decide to make the trip home with him or her.

My Pop Tart cravings are well known

Let's remember that I am journalist by trade and I am trained to look at things objectively. I also pride myself on knowing when things at my home are as they should be and when they are not...

For me, doing this for as long as I have, it is part of the territory although you never really seem to get used to it. And don't get me wrong, it is not something that I encourage...sometimes it just happens.

When I first started doing this with another group, I was simply filming in a well-documented haunted location. At one point, one of the sensitives on their team turned towards me and with a deep voice, told me that photographs were not allowed. Funny, I thought. I have a video camera.

Filming on location

I went home and began the editing process on the video and the computer had nothing but problems. Data would get lost, the machine would refuse to recognize the video camera, it was one problem after another. I attributed it to the computer having issues. This went on for at least two weeks. What got my attention was when I stood up to go and get a drink of water. I had a few small video tapes stacked on the computer desk. As I made the turn out of my office, the tapes suddenly toppled from the desktop like they were pushed. And I watched as the dog sat staring at the area for some time afterwards. Perhaps I should have listened when the angry voice ordered me to stop taking photographs.

Sometime later, as part of a newspaper article, I went along to a prelim at a restaurant in the Gold Country. When I got home that night I watched a couple hours of TV. When I turned the TV off, I heard male voices faintly having a conversation in my house. I ignored them and went about my business. That night as I dressed for bed, I felt a finger run down my back. That did it. I opened my front door and ordered whoever it was out. Needless to say I did not have another problem.

After those instances I started wearing protection in the form of a bag of protective rocks in my pocket and a Native American medicine bag. And for many years, I did not bring home any unwanted visitors.

My medicine bag

The last year and a half seemed more active than others for me. A friend who happens to be psychic and I went out to lunch on day and she mentioned a ghost who hung around the back of the dining area. She said he was attracted to me. Nice. That night when I got home, I was working in my office and I watched as a hair brush lifted off of the desk right in front of me and then hit the floor. Again I opened my front door and banished whatever it was.

About a year ago, following an investigation in the Gold Country a male ghost that I had encountered at a hotel decided to pay a visit. I knew because things started moving around the house and I saw a basketball lift off the floor and fly into a wall. The clincher came when I was sleeping and I could feel a weight on top of me. I reached up half asleep and felt an arm and I pushed back. Again the front door flew open. See ya!

The point of this blog is not to scare those interested in ghosts and ghost hunting. The point is to make those who want to do this understand that occasionally unwelcome visitors may make an appearance. As ghost hunters whether you are a scientific type or a believer, always make sure you wear some type protection or make sure that before you leave a location to tell those ghosts that may be there that they need to stay there and are not welcome in your house or vehicle.

I just did a residential investigation where the ghost, according to a team psychic, liked harassing the homeowner and wouldn't leave. I openly challenged it and much to the chagrin of the psychic, in my infinite wisdom, told it to follow me. This was an effort to get it away from the client. It worked, but, for the past week and a half, guess what? And although now things are tapering down, it has been interesting.

The moral of all this is learn your lessons well. I have. And every psychic on the staff of California Haunts is enjoying telling me, “I told you so.”

Most of the time if a ghost hunter is followed home, it only lasts a week or so but it can unnerving.

So again make sure you protect yourselves and learn from the experiences of others as to what not to do during an investigation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Orbs Make My Head Spin


It's not that I don't believe that “orbs” exist, it's just that there is so much misinformation about them that my head tends to spin when I have someone randomly email me pictures of so-called “orbs”.

Since my last blog, I have been concentrating on evidence review and booking investigations in addition to hosting my weekly radio show. I have also spent the week answering emails from people about orb activity in and around their homes.

Don't get me wrong. When I was a young investigator, I too got excited every time I saw an “orb” show up on my then, three megapixel digital camera. After all, it was the same camera ghost investigators on TV were using. Have I dated myself yet? Believe it or not I have been a paranormal investigator for a long time-long before I joined any group and quite a while before I created California Haunts.

I remember snapping the pictures and showing them to anyone who would pay attention. For what it's worth, the majority of investigators were all into the “orb” thing. Now, I don't wanna ruffle the feathers of some of my good friends who have had investigation groups for years. You know who you are and I have the utmost respect for you and you are the ones who nursemaided me into looking at “orbs” more critically.

So returning back to my reason for writing this blog. To this day there are still investigators out there who swear that every spec of dust or pollen is a ghost “orb”. Some of those investigators have very popular TV shows.

Recently I received an email from a potential client asking me to send out one of my team mediums because she and her husband had been taking pictures in their home that contained “orbs.” The client was so concerned about this that she wanted the reassurance of a medium that there was nothing to fear.

First off, I respect each and everyone who sends me requests for help. That is why I do this. My goal is to help inform people about the paranormal and to find explanations for what is happening through meticulous investigation Like a police detective, I take reports, look at photos, listen to audio, look at video, take EMF readings, temperature readings and try to find the most plausible answers for clients. In most cases, the occurrences are caused by something electrical or something within the house or business. In those rare cases, where I can't explain what is causing the disturbances, then I and my team look at other possibilities.

When it comes to “orbs” I find it interesting that there are still groups out there who are misinforming the public in such a way that people see what they think is a legitimate “orb” and they automatically think it is of paranormal nature. 

A picture of pollen from

A good case in point is during one of my team's investigations, we were at home where I had set up the infrared DVR cameras in a couple of bedrooms. As the client stood over my shoulder watching, several objects shot across the screen. Upon seeing this, the client became excited and exclaimed, that the “orbs” confirmed the presence of ghosts in her home. Delicately I explained that dust particles can show up on monitoring systems and look pretty solid at times depending on their distance from the camera. The client then proceeded to assure me that her home was dust free. At that, I got up and went into the bedroom and proceeded to walk around dragging my feet from time to time. From my location I could her the client gasp as suddenly there was a snow storm of “orbs” flying through the air.

A picture oif dust "orbs" from

I have also been out with other groups in very dusty buildings and have witnessed those people taking digital pictures and then excitedly tell me about the “orbs” that were caught. For those of you out there who know me, you know it takes everything I have to not roll my eyes when I am presented with evidence like that.

Another dust "orb" from

For starters, you have to take your surroundings into consideration. Carpets do hold dust and I don't care how many times you vacuume, the dust is always there. If you are in an old building, there will always be dust in one form or another present. When taking pictures outside, you have to factor in things like dirt and pollen. Oh yes! Pollen creates the most colorful “orbs.”

Now the question is..what are legitimate “orbs”? That one is tough! You will get differing answers depending on who you talk to. From my perspective and my experience as a photo journalist, most “orbs” are simply caused by light hitting the camera lens at a certain angle. In cases where a flash is used, “orbs” are simply dust and other particles which reflect the light from the flash and depending on how far the particle is from the lens, its shape and intensity can vary. The same goes for video cameras whether they have IR capabilities or not.

So what in my opinion would constitute a legitimate “orb”? I agree with Troy Taylor in that with all the evidence we gather as ghost hunters, “orbs” should be treated no differently. Always be sure to note any temperature changes or increase in EMF while taking pictures or video. Also look for what lighting or reflective sources are nearby. A camera flash hitting a shiny object with the camera lens at a certain angle can also create an “orb” effect. If an “orb” appears on film or camera and you are able to correspond its appearance with temperature of EMF changes, then you might have something. Just be careful and don't jump to conclusions.

For “orbs” that appear in motion, always think of the possibility of bugs and look fer every possible explanation including direction of flight and what lighting or reflective sources are nearby before declaring them paranormal.

Now, as for the client inquiry, I suggested she email me the pictures so I could look at them and I also asked if she had noticed any temperature changes or anything like that when she took the pictures. As of now, two days later, I have received no response.

I just wish that those groups out there who are misinforming the public would get with the program. It bothers me to hear a potential client feel as if they have something to fear because their camera picked up a spec of dust or a bug. It also bothers me when I meet with a client who will insist that a spec of dust, pollen or bug is paranormal because they have seen something similar on TV or have attended a conference or lecture where a ghost hunt group has claimed they are real as well.

Get with the program and do your job. Be scientists and look at every possibility before going public with your findings. It will save a lot of people from fear and misinformation.