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Analyzing Digital Audio

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

I am a supervisor for several programs assisting individuals with intellectual and mental challenges. I have 2 Masters Degrees from Penn State in Communication Disorders and Psychology. My first experiences with the paranormal were around age 5. I’ve been fascinated ever since. I have been an investigator for over 10 years (first 5 years with a team, then leaving to form my own more than 5 years ago, and have taught classes on investigation, evidence analysis (especially EVP) and debunking at local community college. I also have abilities, some of which began at age 5 and others around puberty. Therefore my fields of major interest are investigation and psychic and empath. While I am open to considering all aspect and viewpoints, I am dedicated to seeking natural explanations first before anything is considered evidence.
Lisa Shaner-Hilty

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daOne of the most common methods we use to gather evidence in an investigation is audio. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on digital recorders. Since some readers may not be familiar with the use of digital recording, let’s go over the basics first.

There is such a wide array of recording devices available on the market today, that choosing one can be intimidating. There are inexpensive models you can purchase at any electronics store, some even have intelligent noise cut to remove much of the background noises for you as it records. I saw a wrist recorder online recently at quite the reasonable price. I have not tried it, and so will not speak to its quality. There are models that gather sound from a full 360 degree radius and allow in the field play back, which are more than double the cost. I have recently seen a 360 degree model coming out that has flashy visual features, with all the bells and whistles – I shudder to think what the cost will be when it hits the market. I have several recorders of differing types; some cost around $70 and my 360 cost $300.

To be honest, all of the models I have tried get great sound and have very sensitive microphones. That said, the fancier models have a learning curve. You will need to read up on them and practice prior to bringing to investigation, in order to use properly and get your money’s worth out of the features. If you are not a “read all of the instructions person”, these are probably not for you. My favorite is a $70 digital with intelligent noise cut that I purchased at a local electronics chain. Just be sure you get a model with a USB port (rookie mistake many, many years ago). The more advanced, expensive models can be purchased online from any of the paranormal equipment sites, or from Amazon, etc. to save money. After paying $300 for my 360 recorder online, I saw it a music store that caters to bands, etc. for $70 less than I paid. In short, shop around if you are looking for these models.

As stated above, I have several recorders, as do other team members. During an investigation, we ensure that they are spread throughout the room, and often will leave recorders in areas of reported activity even when we are elsewhere on site, to optimize opportunity to capture something interesting (just don’t forget to retrieve before you leave! Recorders should not be held on your hand, as you often see on television, as these sensitive microphones will pick up every time you inadvertently move your finger, or shift your stance. This will contaminate your evidence. They should be placed on sold flat surfaces during a session. Similarly movement should be kept to an absolute minimum, and any noises of which you are aware of the source should be ‘tagged” as such, so as not to be mistaken for potential evidence. Some use white noise in EVP sessions (white noise would sound like static from old model televisions, or a radio not tuned in to a station), [ASSAP.uc.uk] believing that spirit will come through the noise to communicate. Others, myself included, take measures to eliminate any extraneous noise, believing this enhanced the ability to hear any potential finding more clearly.

My team places a few recorders around the room/area during each session, for a number of reasons. First, one recorder may be closer to a sound source, for example an air vent, which may then serve to debunk a less clear artifact that is farther away – as in furnace/duct work noises. The same can be said for a recorder near a window debunking voices as people outside. Second, more than one recorder picking up the same potential EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon, a response which, while not heard at the time of recording, is heard on recorder upon evidence analysis), this can serve to corroborate the finding. Third, at times a potential finding may be caught on one recorder, but not another, due to many recorders’ microphones being extremely directional – only picking up sounds to one area in relation to its placement. [1] With only one recorder, we would have missed that piece of potential evidence. Keep sessions relatively brief, and stop the recorder between rooms/areas so that they are easier to manage in analysis.

ANALYSIS:
So now you have the very basics. Time for the subject at hand, analysis. You have conducted a controlled EVP session; what now? Some people choose to listen for EVPs with the naked ear. Others by simply plugging earphones into the recorder itself. Depending on your purposes, these personal choices may work fine. However, it is more difficult to discern what you are hearing and even more difficult to isolate the area or find it again later. In order to manage hours of recordings from an investigation, with the intent of presenting findings to a client, these methods would prove ineffective.

Many investigators choose to use analysis software installed to their computers. There are many to choose from in this category as well. Some can be downloaded for free, others offer a free trial period before you would need to purchase. Some are more user friendly than others, as in most software. As I do not wish to tout one software program over anther, my advice is to shop around, ask seasoned investigators for their opinions – and the reasons for those opinions.

If you choose to use analysis software, you will need to familiarize yourself with its capabilities. Keep in mind that these programs are also used by musicians, etc. to edit the sound of their music. You will not need many of the features. Using the USB connection that comes with your recorder, plug the small end into your recorder, and the USB into your computer. Open your analysis software program. Select one file to work with first. With your analysis program open, select a recorded file to work with first and open it in your program. I use noise-canceling headphones personally. Listen closely to the file. You may hear an anomalous sound or what seems to be speech. With the software, you have the ability to select that area to isolate it. I personally will then play it on a loop, so that I can begin to seek out a debunk for the sound…never neglect your due diligence! If the area continues to be of interest, I save it into a folder with site, room, and what I feel it may be, then come back to the clips I’ve saved at a later time for closer analysis. Once I have gone through each fie, I then go back and examine each saved clip more closely, listening for natural explanations and determining what I hear. I then delete debunked clips, and change the name of those I choose to keep (adding “.lisa” to the end of the clip name helps me keep track of where I am in the process and stay organized). Other investigators choose to resolve each anomaly before moving on. It is merely a matter of personal preference.

While some investigators alter their clips by amplifying, slowing or speeding up the clip, filtering, adding effects to them; others, myself included, feel that if it is necessary to manipulate it to that extent, it is not likely a viable piece of evidence. This level of manipulation also makes the clip sound mechanized and will likely be seen as suspect. While at times, some amplification may help to hear a clip better, potential evidence should be altered as little as possible, if at all. Personally, I use the software simply because it makes managing the copious amount of recordings more manageable with the ability to save areas of interest. Keep the whole files as well, in case you need to refer to them at a later date. Realizing this can eat up space on your hard drive, thumb drives or CDs for each investigation are life savers. I also make a copy of any findings that “make the cut” for my clients to keep for themselves.

“Background noise is important! It provides an audio context and reassures the listener that the recording has not been manipulated. It can also provide clues to any possible natural explanations for apparently paranormal sounds. For instance, is the paranormal sound louder than the ambient background noise, about the same level or fainter? If the sound is louder than the background noise then there is the possibility that it is a real sound that was not noted at the time or was forgotten. It is also possible that the microphone was directional and happened to be aimed at a sound source that no one noticed at the time. It could also be radio or electrical interference. If the apparently paranormal sound (APS) sound is at the same level as, or fainter than, the background ambient noise, then it could be a chance effect. Background noise is, typically, random and unpredictable. If two elements of it (such as a squeaky chair and a creaking floorboard or an electric fan and a noise from outside) happen to occur at the same time, they may combine to sound like something quite different and weird. By listening to the background over a long period, you may be able to deduce that this is precisely what has happened.” [ibid]

Now, you have thoroughly analyzed your digital audio recordings – quite a lengthy and daunting task with the hours of audio. You have done your due diligence to eliminate any and all natural explanations for the voices or other anomalies you found. You have carefully documented from where they were taken and on whose recorder (prior to starting a session in each new room, my team is sure to turn on our recorders at the same time, introduce the site, date, time, room, and who is sitting or standing where). Now you are meeting with your client to review what you feel has “cut the mustard”, so to speak. It is very easy to manipulate what others hear if you tell them u front what you feel the clip “says”. Personally, I give the client headphones and play the clip at least once to orient them to the actual length and sound of clip, being careful to avoid them seeing the “name” of the clip. If they wish, I will put it on a loop. I encourage their input as to what they hear. Only when they have had ample time to assess on their own, do I tell them what I feel I have heard. At times, what the client hears makes more sense to the context of the site and their experiences. Remember to stay objective and open-minded. Find a process with which you are comfortable and off you go!

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

I am a supervisor for several programs assisting individuals with intellectual and mental challenges. I have 2 Masters Degrees from Penn State in Communication Disorders and Psychology. My first experiences with the paranormal were around age 5. I’ve been fascinated ever since. I have been an investigator for over 10 years (first 5 years with a team, then leaving to form my own more than 5 years ago, and have taught classes on investigation, evidence analysis (especially EVP) and debunking at local community college. I also have abilities, some of which began at age 5 and others around puberty. Therefore my fields of major interest are investigation and psychic and empath. While I am open to considering all aspect and viewpoints, I am dedicated to seeking natural explanations first before anything is considered evidence.
Lisa Shaner-Hilty

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A deeper look into personal paranormal experiences.

Screenshot_1When we hear about personal experiences with the paranormal, we typically dismiss the claims or consider the shared stories as fictitious. It’s hard to truly believe the unbelievable if we hadn’t experienced the event ourselves—if you don’t see it for yourself then you may think it probably isn’t—isn’t it funny how we can dismiss a personal experience so quickly yet we can accept the fable of a popular television show? So what does it take to begin offering proof of our experiences? It can be easily argued (or rather debated) that each and every personal event is indeed individualized and therefore would render or even deem the this quest as nearly impossible; however, whatever obstacle that should manifest itself in our path should in no way disable our ability to press forward.

For this article; I will use my own personal experience (in which you can read in full here: Spirits & Hauntings) as a way to understand a personal experience first-hand.

We will start with acknowledging that while this incident had occurred, I was nearing 14 years old. It should be acknowledged that an adolescent female at age 14 is experiencing sadness and depression. In my case I was not only anxious, I had several bouts of manic depression coupled with A.D.H.D. and experienced mood swings on occasion. (It is important to fully understand the mental stability of the subject with the personal experiences so we can better understand the situation in completion.) During this time I was in psychotherapy as an attempt to handle the recent divorce proceedings between my parents. I will also state that at this time in my life, I wasn’t taking any medication outside of Tylenol for headache, nor was I using any recreational drugs.

We now have established that in this part of my life, I was undergoing a lot of emotion due in large to the separation of my mother and father. We can also understand that I was not only emotional, but struggling with bouts of depression as well as struggling with hyperactive issues associated with A.D.H.D. without it being medically controlled.

Next, we will consider the elements of the location. Port Byron is a village located in Cayuga County in upstate New York. The village is in the town of Mentz and is just north of Auburn. It is estimated that Port Byron in the year of 1825 became a port for the Erie Canal until the canal’s route was changed in 1856 which then the village was considered a ‘railroad’ town. The village plays host to the Owasco Outlet which flows northward from Owasco Lake to the Seneca River. The DEC has reported evidence of phosphorous in the Owasco lake and outlet. Recreational uses in Owasco Lake are affected by bacteriological contamination along the north shore and by excessive growth of aquatic vegetation and algae in other parts of the lake, particularly its southern end. The sources of bacteria include wildlife and waterfowl, agricultural runoff and to a lesser extent residential septic systems. * see http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/44965.html

In some cases; phosphorous overconsumption can affect the brain, personality and actions. It has also been stated that an individual with phosphorous overconsumption have vivid visualizations, overactive working mind, may believe to experience visits from angels and spirits, and in some cases, phosphorous has been linked to ESP, dreams, mediumship sensory impulsion and other purported strange phenomena. * see http://calypso53.com/jensen/phosphorus.html also https://books.google.com/books… *

We can begin to speculate that the presence of phosphorous has played a major part in this instance. Many theorists have cited other elements such as quartz and limestone as directly linked to incidents in which a spectre, a sensitive, and other contributing facets of personal paranormal experiences are involved.

fog-1If you had read my original experience that I linked you to at the beginning of the article; you would have learned that these events felt very real. There was no doubt in my mind that what I had experienced was very real—as real as someone reaching out and physically touching my arm. You would have as well learned that at some point while swimming in the Owasco Outlet, I had nearly drowned. We shall now go over briefly what our minds could do if we think we’re going to expire.

Perception is a largely overlooked tool of the human mind. In moments of panic and anxiety; we can cast out thought forms that seem incredibly real. For example: I mention that I had a belief that I was going to expire while submerged in this river and at the exact moment, I had a life-recess. In this moment of electrified and heightened fear, I was somehow pulled loose from the small mouth of the underwater opening. (Or so it had appeared) * for education on the powers of our mind, follow these links: http://www.pickthebrain.com/…/mental-superpowers-how-to-un…/ and here https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/your-mind-has-extraordina… I could make an argument suggesting that somehow, the spectre of this since deceased boy had freed me from certain demise; Or I could make an argument that while my mind thought it was going to die, it manifested temporarily something that pulled me free from the enclosure. Proving either side of this argument is indeed near impossible though we can speculate that a number of things that are more rational to accept were the case.

At the end of my original experience; I go on to discuss actually seeing briefly the apparition of the boy. In my own personal view as I look back now with a level mind and an overall calmness, I question whether or not my subconscious had somehow picked up on energy left behind by the boy who drowned. Did any sensitive part of my mind draw on the energy the boy must have released into the area when he met his demise all those years before? We have proof of phosphorous as well as an existence of a prior drowning incident coupled with the risen emotions and struggles that I had underwent at that stage in my life. Though bits of the aforementioned are personal facts of me during my teenaged adolescence; my approach with this personal experience is to begin to offer data towards studies of personal paranormal experiences.

It is of my belief and opinion that on that day in the Owasco Outlet, I did in fact pick up on the energy left behind from the Owasco Outlet’s former victim and somehow manifested him solely by the power of mind. Perhaps I am entirely incorrect; I however offer this evidence to you and leave you, the readers and researchers and free thinkers to decide for yourselves.

Building A Logical Argument

Latest posts by Sara Owens (see all)

tumblr_msd5paENQL1s6bgx2o1_1280We always say in order to move the fringe sciences forward we must always look to the logical first. In researching ways to do this I found this simple explanation for building logical arguments.

When people say “Let’s be logical” about a given situation or problem, they usually mean “Let’s follow these steps:”

1. Figure out what we know to be true.
2. Spend some time thinking about it.
3. Determine the best course of action.

In logical terms, this three-step process involves building a logical argument. An argument contains a set of premises at the beginning and a conclusion at the end. In many cases, the premises and the conclusion will be linked by a series of intermediate steps. In the following sections, these steps are discussed in the order that you’re likely to encounter them.

Generating premises

The premesis are the facts of the matter: The statements that you know (or strongly believe) to be true. In many situations, writing down a set of premises is a great first step to problem solving.
For example, suppose you’re a school board member trying to decide whether to endorse the construction of a new school that would open in September. Everyone is very excited about the project, but you make some phone calls and piece together your facts, or premises.

Premises:

The funds for the project won’t be available until March.
The construction company won’t begin work until they receive payment.
The entire project will take at least eight months to complete.
So far, you only have a set of premises. But when you put them together, you’re closer to the final product — your logical argument. In the next section, you’ll discover how to combine the premises together.

Bridging the gap with intermediate steps

Sometimes an argument is just a set of premises followed by a conclusion. In many cases, however, an argument also includes intermediate steps that show how the premises lead incrementally to that conclusion.
Using the school construction example from the previous section, you may want to spell things out like this:

According to the premises, we won’t be able to pay the construction company until March, so they won’t be done until at least eight months later, which is November. But, school begins in September. Therefore. . .

The word therefore indicates a conclusion and is the beginning of the final step.

Forming a conclusion

The conclusion is the outcome of your argument. If you’ve written the intermediate steps in a clear progression, the conclusion should be fairly obvious. For the school construction example, here it is:

Conclusion:

The building won’t be complete before school begins.
If the conclusion isn’t obvious or doesn’t make sense, something may be wrong with your argument. In some cases, an argument may not be valid. In others, you may have missing premises that you’ll need to add.

Deciding if the argument is valid

After you’ve built an argument, you need to be able to decide if it’s valid, which is to say if it’s a good argument.
To test an argument’s validity, assume that all of the premises are true and then see if the conclusion follows automatically from them. If the conclusion automatically follows, you know it’s a valid argument. If not, the argument is invalid.

Understanding enthymemes

The school construction example argument may seem valid, but you also may have a few doubts. For example, if another source of funding became available, the construction company may start earlier and perhaps finish by September. Thus, the argument has a hidden premise called an enthymeme (pronounced EN-thi-meem), as follows:

There is no other source of funds for the project.

Logical arguments about real-world situations (in contrast to mathematical or scientific arguments) almost always have enthymemes. So, the clearer you become about the enthymemes hidden in an argument, the better chance you have of making sure your argument is valid.

How can we apply this to the paranormal?

Example:
You are alone in the house and hear a noise in the attic.

Premises:
You have been home all day.
There are no other people in the house.
There is only one entrance to the attic which is locked and you have the only key.

Intermediate Steps:
You are alone in the the house. No person could be in the attic because the only door is locked and you have the only key. Therefore……..

Conclusion:
There cannot be a living person in the attic making noise, therefore it must be a spirit.

Is this a valid argument?

What about the enthymeme? Could something other than a living person or a spirit be making the noises? What about animals, an open window or hole allowing wind to come in and move things around?

At this point our argument is not valid because when we look at the enthymeme our conclusion that it is a spirit does not automatically follow the premesis. At this point we must do more digging and investigation to either prove or disprove the enthymeme.

If we follow these steps we can separate what is mundane from what may be paranormal in nature. In this way we become more credible when we do present situations where our conclusion does not have a mundane reason since we can show that we followed logical steps to get to our conclusion.

http://www.dummies.com/…/co…/building-logical-arguments.html

Latest posts by Sara Owens (see all)

How do we verify an honest psychic?

boyahI would like to approach this question “how do we verify and find an honest psychic.”

My first approach would be to research the psychic in question. If they are legit and practicing, chances are they have feedback someplace. In the the world of the internet; anything is searchable, even the credibility of psychics. The pricing should be something that makes sense, and it should be obvious to you if the asking price is obscene. This site suggests these prices (and they make sense to me) http://www.bestpsychicdirectory.com/pcost.html if someone is asking $150 for a few moments, then that’s obviously a scam. Another approach would be to meet them in person. Anyone can be anything they want behind a computer and when it comes to money, and more importantly … the answers about our loves ones, or who is following ect. we need a little more validity than going on blind faith alone. Careful is smart!

Here is another site which boasts to have a listing of nothing but certified psychics in its database (note: always do your own research, even if you locate a psychic through a list such as this one) http://international-certification-psychics.org/

Another smart approach is to reach out to some local paranormal teams. Most people in the paranormal field will recommend an honest psychic, and chances are that the teams have worked with someone in the past who is legit and can therefore direct you to him or her.

Finally: when it does come down to money, do not judge a psychic because he or she is asking for payment. These people use their own personal energy to assist you as well as their time. They have families that they have to look after and bills to pay. It’s kind of like a doctor … You go see your family physician when someone has the flu symptoms and happily pay for those services. We seek a psychic when we need assistance with some answers that they can provide, this should make us happy and in turn; pay for those services. Sometimes a psychic may assist you for free! This doesn’t make them any less gifted; this makes them very kind and giving!

note: You could also ask the psychic to provide you with some references, but always remain skeptical. Listen to your instincts, we all have a little touch of abilities ourselves. If they feel right, and everything feels as it should be then it probably is.

Cambridge In Colour

Latest posts by Stephanie Morris (see all)

Hi I’m a new member of the Photography Team. I believe ALL Investigators or anyone holding a camera should know the Basics. Of course more is expected of the Photo Team but I simply wanted to give the group a good reference page for Photography. It has free tutorials and many good articles on things such as “circles of confusion” and other Depth of Field topics and DOF is very important in Spirit Photography (or any photography) and is simply one example of what this page has to offer.

www.cambridgeincolour.com/

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Some activities that convinces us our location is haunted.

NPSGraphic

We have covered everything from Indian burial grounds to deep research on a location these past few days, and now we want to look at a ton ten lost I have compiled of what it is which occurs that gives us no choice (or so we think) to declare a location haunted.

#10 you’ve felt somebody tap on your shoulder when nobody is there.

How many of us can confirm that we have at least once had this sensation? It isn’t something that often happens, but we can all agree here at N.P.S. (most of us for argument’s sake) that we have walked into a home or a location where something invisible has tapped us on the shoulder. This is mostly a personal experience and can’t be presented as scientific proof, but rather … personal.

#9 furniture has rearranged itself

Y’know … it’s most likely not happening. There are hardcore theorists who will throw down hands o’er this and then there are people like me who kind of know better. It’s safe to say it’s really unlikely you will come upon a box spring hovering three feet in the air.

#8 People have died in the house and/or location.

This is not a truth. It’s widely believed that is somebody has died at a location, and then it must be haunted. Most homes have seen death or tragedy in some form or another and will not have any activity whatsoever that is considered as a ‘haunting.’

#7 you hear strange sounds more commonly during certain seasons.

Again, don’t believe it. Wood, steel and other material shrinking or expanding may be the cause of the bumps in the night (especially during the fall, or spring seasons.)

#6 you suddenly smell the perfume of a loved one.

Just like the sensation of the shoulder tapping, the presence of a possible haunting is as simple as smelling perfume of a loved one whom has since passed. People have also smelled cigarette or cigar smoke in a home where nobody smokes. These instances could very well be a great reason to believe there is a haunting.

#5 you had a frightening experience in a basement, attic, or crawl space.

Reports of frightening experiences taking place in a home are also mostly based around confining and dark locations such as attics, basements, crawl spaces, and closets. This can be attributed to our own human psychological fear of dark and constrictive spaces.

#4 doors slam unaccountably.

Although at 3 A.M. this may scare the living bejesus out of you, it can be easily explained. Our houses sometimes have an air flow (a draft) and the wind can cause a door to slam shut. Just because a door is slamming shut, don’t assume quickly that it’s paranormal. Take the time to see if you can’t find the reason behind it. Most strange encounters can be explained if you take the time.

#3 electronic devices start operating by themselves.

People have had televisions turn themselves on and off. Here’s some logical reasoning behind that: There could be a set “wake-up” timer someone accidentally set. The remote batteries are low and this can sometimes cause it to turn ‘on’ or ‘off.’ The power button on the remote is stuck. A fluorescent lamp inside the same room as the TV is blinking red and causing a sensitive infrared remote sensor to turn the set on and off. (Logic before assumption)

#2 sometimes you hear music from an unknown source.

This has actually happened to me before. There is a medical explanation; a condition known as audible halucinosis could be considered, but here’s an average Joe explanation for you. I continually heard music throughout my house and had searched all over. I nearly gave up when suddenly I walked into my son’s room to find he had accidentally left his laptop on and music was coming through the headphones.

#1 all my pictures I take inside my home have orbs in them.

Unless your orbs look different than the many provided charts of dust, weather, bugs, you only caught something explainable. All the time we are faced with various photographs containing orbs; the person revealing them is pretty convinced because they might have experienced some personal encounters such as the scents or perhaps a sensation of being poked.

Proving something as paranormal is not easy business. It’s easier to disprove the situation, but what we really want is that smoking gun. We want to come out with the extraordinary proof that can’t be discarded as just another explainable blunder.

What led us to research at all?

NPSGraphic

Today I would like to cover some reasons why we would research a location. The most practical, and obvious reason is of course because of a client. I however wrote these out not because of team investigations into a location, but for those of us who have had our eye on a location. Certainly our brains assume that a haunted location appears as such, and it has that vibe and appeal.

I am personally guilty of looking through abandoned home photos and assuming it must be haunted. I am also guilty of driving down the road and spotting them. This guilt has led me to look a little deeper into it. It has caused me no peel back the layers of rumors and varied opinions and endless hearsay to reach a more sensible conclusion.

As seekers of truth and education; we would like to know that the thought associated with a photo is more than just that. You may feel drawn to research something specific because of just that. You want to know that your thoughts will become more than just a sneaking suspicion.

We have to first consider that looks can be deceiving. When you begin to research some of the history, you don’t want to feel let down and retire early. Most places may not have that smoking gun waiting for them in the early process of research. You can’t just settle on a location and remain convinced that you are absolutely certain if you have no proof and you can’t convince yourself to retire if after the first layer, you find nothing.

With a little bit of tedious work, devotion and determination … you may discover that your suspicion of the location as spot on. However, if you discover different, I hope you remember to correct others when they consider it as well.

I can’t say it enough, with the right amount of effort, and ability we can do anything. If you feel so strongly the old neighborhood abandoned house is haunted, do your part in researching it. You just may uncover more than you bargained for.

Laws & Acts & Indian Burial Grounds

NPSGraphic

The last 3 days I have went o’er several ways to research specific property (houses and area of interest) and what steps we could take to possibly uncover an active site. One of the most incredible thoughts while researching is whether or not the property used to be a burial site. It’s exciting, and almost mesmerizing to assume that perhaps we will stumble upon a home similar to the poltergeist situation. Movies (as I hope you all understand) do have a pinch of truth but they as well have a serving of fiction. They are like a great novel and borrow our imaginations for a while and introduce us to the possibility. I have to admit myself; I have always kind of looked for a pet cemetery and have a little knowledge through several contractors that a local housing project right in my own back yard is located at an old burial ground.

There are federal laws and acts that protect burial sites; they are as follows: There are two important federal acts that have an influence on historic properties and Native American graves. These are the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended 2000, and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of November 16, 1990 (Link leads to PDF) If you would like to read more about these laws and acts; go here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/…/federal_laws_and_acts_…/1876

Here’s the deal; there are numerous sacred Indian burial grounds in North America! Not all of them have yet been uncovered, however, if they have been, they are protected by United States law. Now we are starting to see that just maybe that fantastic idea of sacred grounds existing beneath something is real unlikely but there is a scintilla of possibility even still.

We must first assume responsible thought and try to remain productive and rational while researching. Here’s something to chew on slowly—the land you step out onto is old. It’s as old as the day earth came to be. If the sacred grounds are fit for your fancy then you’re in luck because chances are something (or someone’s) cadaver is most likely below your feet or someone has died right there. Think about how far back in time the crucifixion was. Before that; go as far back as when man first appeared which is what … 2900 B.C. (give or take) and I bet it’s even further yet. I think it’s safe to assume something associated with death or a buried cadaver has happened on or around most lands.

What I want you to as well keep in mind while you are on your path of research is respect for the dead. Some of my personal footwork has been done here at home. I have read numerous articles looking at fantastic gravesites that have been since damaged. Some people get so crazy about proof or discovery that they will go as far as destroying someone’s final resting place just to reach their goal. I always say; respect people the way you yourself want respect given to you. If you or someone you loved was on one of these locations, would you really want someone stealing an arm (extreme, but it happens) or kicking in the side of their casket? No, of course you wouldn’t. This is another reason why federal laws are in place.

Now that we have an outlined understanding of the basics, let’s get back to business. We have been researching land/house/whatever and there is a hearsay possibility of sacred Indian burial grounds here. You have now learned that the probability of that is very unlikely. Amid your prior research; you would have uncovered little hints and specs that spell that out and you haven’t yet so perhaps you could rest the thought with a sense of confidence. There would be a record of the sacred land because of the laws attached.

Now, are you wondering if Lakeport did build on top of sacred land? I would like to believe those rumors are false; I have done a little research and intend to do a bit more but in case we assumed it couldn’t happen; I found you this little gem which discusses million dollar houses and a rare Indian burial ground: http://gizmodo.com/rare-indian-burial-ground-quietly-destro…

Bottom line. Through the deeds and the local records and other resources I have thus far taught you about; you ought to be able to pull information in relation to a burial ground because of the laws involved; however, there are as well unmarked, and undiscovered grounds not yet recorded or located but I would like to think you could gather that information if that is a belief of the property. If your suspicions are that it is the final resting place of Native Americans, you ought to go speak with parties in relation (eg) the local tribe and its elders.

As I stated above also; the ground we walk on is as old as the day Earth came to be so there probably is something down there, and that something just may not have a paper trail yet (just … don’t lose sleep over it.) Here’s a link to one bazaar situation of the discovery of 22 skeletons http://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/It-happened-I-32-skeletons-ben…

I will leave you with this next link which takes you to a website known as tv tropes. It kind of explains to you why television-formed ideas are the makeshift of some beliefs http://tvtropes.org/pmwi…/pmwiki.php/Main/IndianBurialGround

Clues & Documents

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A great source of information about the history of the property can be the builder’s plans, although they can often be hard to come by. Some builders (especially with older homes) may have just kept the plans in their heads and modified them when needed. The best place to find them however is in the house itself. Homeowners often kept the plans in the attic, basement of tucked away in a closet somewhere. If your research leads you to past occupants of the house, they might have accidentally taken the plans with them. Sometimes tracking down the heirs or descendants of the former occupants will help to find the drawings. You can also check with the state historical society and see if it has drawing of the house or knows who to contact to get them. Many archives collect plans of architecturally significant buildings or those drawn by noteworthy architects. You might also consider looking in a book of house plans if all else fails. Many older homes were modeled from basic plans.

No house history research is complete without checking out the maps of the neighborhood. As you move backward through records and property changes, a map of the area will help to keep you oriented. As the Register of Deeds (or a related office) for maps that cover the neighborhood, such as surveys that were conducted when roads were widened or moved. In any older town, the roads were changed (especially in residential neighborhoods) at least once to accommodate the coming of automobiles, as opposed to the horse and buggy. The house you are researching may appear as a small dot on the map or may be complete with details on a fire insurance map. It simply depends on what type of map you find.

A great resource is a plat map. When a piece of land is subdivided into streets, blocks or lots, this information gets recorded on a plat map. Originally, this maps were hand-drawn and contained only a few details. Printed maps usually show streets, significant buildings and houses and rural maps will show who owned what plots of land, cemeteries and much more. Plat maps can be found at the office where deeds are filed or usually at the local library.

Many researchers also turn to birds-eye view maps, which are panoramic scenes of cities and towns that show buildings, trees and homes from an overhead vantage point. Thousands of them were created for cities all over American between 1850 and 1900 but they show few details and while striking and beautiful, are only of assistance when dealing with well-known or highly visible locations.

Another type of map, which is quiet useful but only if you location happens to be listed on one, is a Sanborn Map. Beginning in the 1860’s, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. created maps to assess the fire hazard of buildings. The maps list construction details, such as windows and doors, and depict the size and shape of the insured structures. They also detail property boundaries and usage for about 12,000 cities and towns in the United States. Check with your local library to see if these types of maps are available in your area.

Biographical Encyclopedias: If the people who lived in the house you are researching were notable in the community for anything, then they may be listed in the county or city biographical encyclopedia. These books were created for communities around 1870 to 1905 and list the accomplishments of local businessmen, bankers and pioneers. Many of them will also contain a portrait of the individual. Again, they are a great resource if you are lucky enough for the occupants of the house you are researching to be listed.

Building Permits: Generally, before owners can make any major changes to their home, they need to obtain a permit from the town’s building department, which may also be called the planning department or code enforcement. These permits record the vital statistics of the home from number of bathrooms to bedrooms, porches, window locations and more. Permits also include the names of the homeowners, when the work was done and the contractors for the job. The information contained in a permit could play an important role in your research and provide clues to hidden aspects of the house, such as the location of former doors or windows — prime suspects when occupants report unexplained chills and drafts.

Photographs: A wonderful addition to your research would be a vintage photo of the house. You can often find photo files at local historical societies, libraries and newspapers. Search under the name of a previous owner or the street address. You might also contact local real estate agencies to see if they have any photos of the house on file. When you visit a library or historical society, it’s always a good idea to bring a current photo of the house with you. It might jog someone’s memory and you can also use the photo for reference when looking through books of house styles.

Hopefully, all of this information will be of use to you and even if only a small part of it assists you in your hunt for the history of house, then has server some purpose. Even if you follow it closely though, there is no guarantee that you will not run into a dead end, even using the material, but I have had good luck with it and hope that you will also. If the ghost in the house can be connected to a person who once lived there, especially by details that were not known before researching the house, then you have a pretty powerful case and excellent evidence of life after death.

Land deeds & Directories

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After curiosity has brought you this far, and without a doubt you have obtained everything you could from the initial steps … you then begin with land deeds and directories. Begin by locating land records in the area and dig in. It is sort of like genealogical research; you start with the present and then work backwards. One of the best places to find some history is through a land deed which can be traced from current owner back to the very first owner. Deeds record the transfer of ownership from seller to buyer and provide information on the seller’s name, marital status, and address (usually just state and town); the buyer’s name and address; price of the property; and a description of the property. In some cases, the deed will also list restrictions for the property such as a ban on farms, sale of alcohol on the premises and in older records, a ban against buyers of a certain race or religion.

Deeds can be both invaluable resources and fascinating reading. Always remember however that a deed records ownership of the property and not the actual house. Most deeds won’t even mention the structures on said property and you may have to use the price of the property to guess whether or not the land was before vacant during the sale. You must as well keep in mind that just because an individual’s name isn’t on the deed, this doesn’t mean that he or she didn’t live there. The location may have been rented out and only by tracking down in other listings you may be able to see who actually occupied the home.

To start by doing this: check through the city directories. These are books that collect the names, addresses and occupations of the people who lived in that city during a specific year. This resource will also offer a reverse directory which allows you to look up addresses of homes and find out their owners as opposed to the other way around. This is indeed a fantastic way to find out the owner or occupant of the home for each successive year to the time it was built. These directories are excellent references for ghost hunters and genealogists alike. Some information you can uncover is as follows: What were the occupant’s names? How long did they reside there? Don’t forget to make copies of any documents you may discover so that you can make reference to them later. If you aren’t able to make a photocopy, you could take the time to write all of it down freehand. Make yourself a timeline and place the information where it ought to go for a quick reference later.

A complication you may stumble upon is a change in a street’s name or the home’s street number. Don’t fret—when these changes came to be, maps and directories typically include the old number as well as new for at least the next year or two. Again, don’t forget to write down all of the street names and numbers for reference.

By now you ought to have a detailed timeline from the city directory. You will now have a fair idea of the recent occupants and an idea if they are still living or not. You could consider mailing the current owner a letter asking information about any strange events, and try to be as professional as possible. Remember to include your telephone member so that they could maybe reply to you. It may be unlikely that they will cooperate, or even respond to you. They may not have experienced a thing, and may not feel as though they have to explain that to you. Moreover; if they have experienced a haunting that is as well experienced and reported by the current occupants, you just may hear from them. If they verify the strange occurrences and will explain that these events occurred during their occupancy, then you have begun building a record of a genuinely haunted location. One unfortunate situation could very well be that the previous family may have actually moved out due to the strange occurrences and may not want to talk about it.

If by chance you aren’t able to speak with former residents; your timeline and occupant list will continue to serve you. You could begin by checking local obituaries for people who previously lived at the location. Libraries will have directories for obituaries and a date they appeared in the newspaper. Once you do locate the obituary, try to find out how the connected individual expired. If that death was eventful, there may as well be a likely story in the general section of the newspaper for that same day. As ghost investigators are mostly aware; murder, suicide, and traumatic deaths can most certainly lead to a location that could become active.

Perhaps the death did involve a murder, a suicide or something questionable—there would then be undoubtedly a filed police report. This means you are in luck, police and coroner reports are public record and can be obtained by anybody. There could be a small fee involved and there may be a waiting period to get a copy of said reports.

By now; you have certainly built up an impressive investigation into a location and ought to feel like you are making some real progress. By all means, keep records of any and all information you come upon and don’t forget that timeline you began. You are well on your way to understanding the chosen location of your inquiry.

Discovery and research into a haunted location.

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Have you ever passed by a location and felt deep within that it must be haunted? Certainly you’ve seen that one house in the neighborhood and thought “I’d really like to investigate that house.” I bet your next thought might be—“but I am not sure if it even has a history, and I don’t know who to ask.” Don’t fret … I was once in question of such steps myself. Your first step is to remember that like us; a place has a past. Sometimes new housing as well has something about it, and it too will have a past. We have all seen Poltergeist (and in no way am I suggesting we ought to refer to television) and the houses being built on top of sacred lands. These circumstances aren’t just film-factory; remember as well local legends and land records will often assist you in uncovering a story.

If you are curious enough, and motivated; grab yourself a notebook, a pencil, and maybe some caffeine. Searching through the past may become tedious but the reward will be well worth it.

Start off simple by checking out what the current (if any) occupants know of the location’s history. You may receive some inaccurate information as the occupants may be unnerved by the strange activity and could shadow their information in a suggestive way. Look into neighbors as well, you may find somebody whom has lived near the location for a long period of time. They can become a great source! An elderly resident who has lived nearby for some 50+ years will most likely remember the past occupants of that property. These locals may also know if there’s any folklore about the place. This sort of information is in no way scientific and could be only partially accurate; however you shouldn’t totally discount it. Folklore could point you in the right path, even if meandering.

After you have begun there; try to see if someone else hasn’t before traced the history of the location in question. Each state has a historic preservation officer who nominates structures that are “significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture” and then of course becomes listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I encourage you to seek out a list of historic buildings in your state by visiting the State Historic Preservation Office.

There are as well other places to look. The Historic American Buildings survey and the Historic American Engineering Record have documented more than 37,000 historic structures and sites since ’93. Their reports contain measured drawings, photographs and historical information, in which is a wealth of information for any ghost researcher whom, is lucky enough to find the location he is checking out included in the survey. The data is made available on microfilm and at the Library of Congress.

You may also find history at your local library or a local newspaper. Many newspapers have a research division as well but they will also charge exorbitant prices for assistance.

After these first important steps, you are well on your way! Remember; you have to have the drive, the energy, and just enough curiosity to begin your research.

 

Sharing Our Mistakes: Networking

Will Crawford

Will Crawford

Department Chair: Resources at Hunter in the Darkness
In 2007 Will left a career in Law Enforcement and quickly found Paranormal Investigations as an avenue to apply learned investigative skill-sets. Co Founding Volunteer Paranormal Investigations of Tennessee he began repeated investigations to some of America’s alleged “Most Haunted” venues and continues to do so with HITD www.hunterinthedarkness.com . Will has experience in Crime/Death Scene processing, numerous State & Federal Interview and Methodical Behavioral courses and currently is a licensed Private Investigator. He’s guest lectured at TALA, penned an article for TAPSPARAMAG and been consulted on two Paranormal books.Despite over a decade of real world Investigative experience Will continues the mindset he is merely a student of the Paranormal and never more.
Will Crawford

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network

The Ghost Network – Ken Weigand

As we continue our article series on sharing our mistakes, this month we tackle one that is herculean; paranormal team networking. For some reason, there is a general distrust between many paranormal teams. The majority of this distrust is likely associated with the lack of accepted standards. Everyone seems convinced their way is best and everyone else’s take is completely wrong. While NPS Project Endeavor is attempting to establish some base standards there are still times when teams find themselves working along another and while both can have good intentions, the result can be less than satisfying for one or both.

In 2011 we scheduled a trip to Bobby Mackey’s with our sister group from St. Louis. When they had to bow out we found ourselves looking at an increased cost per person to continue with our scheduled investigation. So, when our sister group suggested a stand in Team we were thrilled. They were promptly on time, courteous, paid their share of the costs and generally were nice folks (I’m still friends with them today) but their style and manner was completely different from our own. While we generally had a good investigation there were some complaints on my Team.

We encourage working with different paranormal teams. It gives our team members a chance to observe different techniques and tips for investigating.

The mistake: While we had discussed some basics on the multi team investigation we did not fully explore the preferred Investigative techniques taken by each team. While this can be a minor inconvenience in some large haunts (like a Waverly Hills or Trans Allegheny) it can be compounded in a small haunt location. The major complaint was a shutterbug on the other team that took (probably) 500 flash pictures over the entire nights investigation. While I have no displeasure in how anyone runs their own investigation it was difficult for members of my team to ever develop any night vision with popping flashes every couple of minutes. We preferred more darkness with natural night vision setting in after 15 minutes to grow accustomed to the absence of light. They preferred documenting with hundreds of pictures of flash photography. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong, but probably not a good mix of techniques in a limited space.

Our solution: Now, when we consider working with another group we always come back to this investigation and use it as an example of the subtle yet meaningful differences that teams can have with their techniques. We specifically spell out what we expect and things we don’t accept. First and foremost, we don’t take other teams on private/residential investigations unless they agree to the same criminal background check we run on our own team members (Would you like to be working with Registered Sex Offender? Or allow them into a client’s house under your team name?) For paid for haunts in larger venues, which is where we tend to work with other teams the most, we coordinate a Team Lead on each side to hear, respond and resolve any complaints or differences. Ultimate decision making is left to the Team that placed the original deposit down on the investigation. This has been a tried and trusted method for us and we’ve had no differences that couldn’t be mediated to everyone’s satisfaction within 2-3 minutes

Are there ever times when 1 or 2 of our members work with another team? Absolutely, in fact we encourage working with different paranormal teams. It gives our team members a chance to observe different techniques and tips for investigating. Even if someone returns from working with another team with a “don’t do it this way scenario” it’s still extremely helpful in redefining our own protocols. One of the best things, is it allows our team members to make those connections with others who have that same innate desire to learn more, teach and refine their own craft. In most cases, people from those teams will then tag along on one of our investigations, sharing and learning best practices. This act is the real benefit of networking and is the core purpose whether in the workplace or paranormal field.

Unfortunately, tagging along with a less than refutable team can be troublesome, especially for new investigators. Recently, I was contacted by a “newbie” who went along with a group to a nearby paid for haunted venue (one I’ve been to on a couple of occasions) who had a less than satisfactory evening. Allegedly, when the investigator became uncomfortable and felt spiritually attacked the leader of the Team (who held the key) would not let the investigator leave the premises. Later, the Team lead polled the team members to see if they could bring alcohol for the remainder of the investigation. The tag a long investigator felt very uncomfortable and has since ceased any connection with that particular team. These types of encounters are rare but they do happen. If you’re looking for a team to tag along with then be sure and ask around for a respectable group that has professional integrity and established protocols. If you’re reading this article and looking for a group consider asking a NPS Rep for a suggested group in your area.

Remember, anytime groups work together you have the potential for great rewards with the sharing of the work load, costs and skillsets. While there are occasional missteps and horror stories, most combined investigations can be real training assets if you take the time to explore your similarities and differences beforehand. Strong leadership on both sides and a willingness to work together are all it takes.

Will Crawford

Will Crawford

Department Chair: Resources at Hunter in the Darkness
In 2007 Will left a career in Law Enforcement and quickly found Paranormal Investigations as an avenue to apply learned investigative skill-sets. Co Founding Volunteer Paranormal Investigations of Tennessee he began repeated investigations to some of America’s alleged “Most Haunted” venues and continues to do so with HITD www.hunterinthedarkness.com . Will has experience in Crime/Death Scene processing, numerous State & Federal Interview and Methodical Behavioral courses and currently is a licensed Private Investigator. He’s guest lectured at TALA, penned an article for TAPSPARAMAG and been consulted on two Paranormal books.Despite over a decade of real world Investigative experience Will continues the mindset he is merely a student of the Paranormal and never more.
Will Crawford

Latest posts by Will Crawford (see all)