An investigator's observation skills, common sense, and research abilities are at the heart of any investigation. But its the evidence gathered using equipment that makes up much of the final product of an investigation. Witness statements, investigator experiences, and the background of a potentially haunted site are extremely important…but people want to see or hear evidence. The equipment we regularly use on our investigations is shown and described below.
DVR STATIONARY CAMERA SYSTEM – Everything usually begins with 4 color CCTV day/night vision IR cameras. Two of them are Sony cameras with 20 LED's and two of them have 30 LED's. The LED's illuminate the IR spectrum, allowing for crystal clear video images in complete darkness. The camera's signal is carried back to the DVR and monitor by cables for recording and real-time remote observation.
All four of our stationary cameras feed back to a Samsung 120 gig 4-channel stand alone DVR to be digitally recorded. This is the heart & soul of the stationary camera system that Stew has happyembled. Meanwhile, we use a GE TV/VCR combo as a monitoring station on investigations. The images from the stationary cameras are all displayed on this screen. The VCR recorder also serves as a backup for the DVR digital recording device.
TEMPERATURE MEASURING DEVICES – DTP'S AND THERMO-COUPLERS – Despite their wide use in this field, point-and-shoot IR thermometers are ill-suited for paranormal investigations. Their readings are easily misinterpreted, and many ghost hunters seem to completely ignore the fact that these devices measure the surface-temperature of what they are pointed at…not the temperature of the air. As paranormal investigators we are looking for cold-spots in the air, but its a simple fact that IR thermometers do not measure air temperature.
The Ghost Vigil staff exclusively use digital thermometer/pyrometers and thermo-couplers. Since these devices actually measure air temperature, they allow our investigators to locate and track cold spots in the air. Its almost unbelievable how rare these advanced and accurate devices are among paranormal investigation groups.
The TIF 7000 digital thermometer/pyrometer (DTP) is manufactured by TIF Instruments and scans the temperature of the air 3 times per second. This device is expensive, ranging from $150 to $220 depending on where you buy it.
The Mastech K-type digital thermometer is a digital thermo-coupler. It scans the temperature of the air 2 times per second. While this is not quite as fast at the TIF 7000, its still a respectable sampling rate. Especially considering the fact this device sells for only $20.
ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD METERS/DETECTORS – These hand-held sensors vary in sensitivity and how they are operated, but all of the them measure levels of electromagnetic energy. The strength of electromagnetic fields is measured in milligauss. This unit of measurement is named after Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855). He was a German mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, and is considered one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. In his later life he did important work on electricity and magnetism.
The Dr. Gauss EMF Detector has an easy-to-read analog scale (0-10 mG), and an audio signal which is extremely useful in dark environments. It can also measure between 0.1-1 mG by holding in the button on the side of the unit. It has a single-coil that is calibrated at 50-60 Hz. This is personally my favorite EMF meter.
The Tri-Field Meter has three coils and measures different types and levels of magnetic and electric fields. It is more complicated to use than the Dr. Gauss meter, but it also gives more detailed and specific readings.
The Cell Sensor EMF Meter can measure on two different scales, 0-5 mG and 0-50 mG. It can provide an audio signal as well as a large flashing light that vary based on field strength. The EMF sensor itself is a remote probe on the end of a 2 foot cord.
SONY HI-8 VIDEO CAMERAS, WITH NIGHTSHOT TECHNOLOGY – Sony camcorders are extremely useful due to their ability to record video in complete darkness. When in Nightshot mode, they emit light in the IR spectrum…and then record images of whatever is illuminated using a CCD sensor within the camera. They record these images on analog tape. We use both a CCD-TRV66 and a CCD-TRV318 Sony camera.
We use a Dazzle USB analog-to-digital converter to import these analog images into a laptop. This allows us to image-capture from the video for our Investigation Albums and to select video-clips to include in our investigation reports.
PERSONAL CAMERAS – Digital photography is cheap and easy, and most of the personal cameras brought on our investigations are digital. There is virtually no limit on the number of digital images you can capture…as there is no development or printing costs when you are publishing to a website.
Investigators are encouraged to take digital photographs for the purposes of documenting the location of the investigation and at any time there are indications that they may be in the presence of paranormal activity. At the end of our investigations, all of the digital images are collected onto one laptop by use of a 12-in-1 digital card reader.
COLOR AND B&W DISPOSABLE CAMERAS – Cheap, easy-to-use, and disposable…these cameras are easy to stick in your pocket and use at a moment's notice. We use 400 speed color film because of its effectiveness in low light, without being as "grainy" as 800 speed color film. We frequently use B&W film on investigations because it has a completely different quality than color film, but we did not use B&W film at Union Station. We have all of our camera film developed directly onto a CD-R computer disk and then tuck away the negatives in case we needed to review them later.
DIGITAL VOICE RECORDERS – These small devices are capable of recording hours and hours of high-quality audio in their flash memory. Some models can move audio files directly to your computer using a USB connections…while others must be played and recorded into software on your computer. We recomend the use of the USB-equipped recorders. These devices do not have the noisy internal moving parts that analog chappyette and mini-chappyette tape recorders have. While Olympus is not the only brand available, it has proved itself to be both affordable and reliable. We use Audacity and Clear Voice Denoiser software to closely examine and analyze our audio files.