paranormal investigation

American Paranormal – Eastern State Penitentiary – Part I

Absolutely fascinating!

After reading a few articles about this new show I decided it needed my attention. American Paranormal is a group of scientists (no, real scientists) put together by National Geographic to explore the scientific nature of ghosts and paranormal events. Their destination for this episode is the widely known and imminently scary, Eastern State Penitentiary. The Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures team and just about everybody else has done investigations and soiled themselves within these walls, so what better place to test out theories and work up some experiments?

The American Paranormal team is here to ask if there’s any basis for the experiences people have. And they brought a ton of cool equipment with them (no, real scientific equipment). Besides it’s recent popularity on paranormal shows, claims of activity go back decades. Even Al Capone and his syphilis riddled brain claimed to see ghosts in his cell. One big paranormal claim is that of a locksmith named Gary Johnson who was working one night on the cells (night calls to a haunted prison?) when a slew of apparitions appeared and spoke to him. He claims the experience lasted several minutes with ghostly figures and apparitions talking to him. Of course there are dozens of other claims.

So why is this placed haunted? Why is it such a cornucopia of experiences and since so much happens here, can the scientists actually capture a sprit’s presence? If the ghosts actually do show up, they should be able to capture it.

The fun stuff starts with a 3D model of the prison, specifically cell block 12 which is supposed to have the greatest amount of activity. This gives a full layout of the environment so if something happens they will be able to pinpoint it’s location.

While the 3D imaging takes place there is a discussion on EMF meters, the tool of the paranormal investigators trade. The scientists confirm that everything gives off some sort of electromagnetic charge; from watches, to cell phones, to power lines, to the very EMF meters themselves. If it’s on, it’s giving off some small amount of EMF. The takeaway is that EMF spikes and EMF detectors are unreliable gauges of paranormal activity. Hopefully no one was surprised by that.

As for the rest of the investigation, it’s broken down into several distinct parts, the first of which involves Dr. Jim Houran who has degrees in clinical psychology and psychology (psychology and ghost hunting, I like it!). He wants to see what influence "confirmation bias" or the power of suggestion has on a place. He takes two groups of volunteers and separates them into true believers and relative skeptics. He then tells the group who is more prone to believe that the place is haunted and that they should experience paranormal activity. He tells the skeptics the exact opposite. He then tells both groups to go investigate certain parts of the prison and report on their experiences and feelings.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the people who believed most in the paranormal had the greatest number of experiences, while those with a more skeptical approach reported no activity. Both groups investigated and took notes in the same location, just at different times. This lends itself to the idea that people can convince themselves to have experiences. We’ve all been saying that for years, but now we have evidence of it in action. Basically, you can convince yourself of anything.

Another big part of their work is to try and determine what ghosts are mode of. As we know from afterschool and Saturday morning cartoons as well as the Ghost Hunters, ghosts can appear and then disappear through walls when chased. Or can they? The question is raised since an object can not actually exist as a vapor, or mist but yet actually go through walls. If a ghost is made of electrons, atoms and energy it can’t go through walls due to the repulsion factor of electrons. Dr. Dan Hooper of the FERMILAB Theoretical Astrophysics group is brought in to offer some ideas.

So what are they made up of? Well, how about neutrinos? Neutrinos or "ghost particles" can pass through walls, but the problem is, you can’t see them. They wouldn’t show up as a vapor or mist. So now there is the debate as to how ghosts appear and if they do appear, they can’t walk through walls. You have a Catch-22 of ghost appearing, then walking through walls. Kind of throws a wrench into how investigators see apparitions. Plus it also causes problems for the whole "residual haunting" where ghosts walk through walls after construction since that wall didn’t exist in their time.

Next up is the actual environment itself. Why does Eastern State Penitentiary produce so many reports of the paranormal? Are there hidden rides and candy we’re not aware of? The building itself may hold the answer. The experiment with infrasound was quite interesting. Sound engineers Bob Berens and Steve Africk believe that certain frequencies can create certain moods and certain feelings. The phenomenon is known as infrasound and the idea has been around since 2003.

They believe that very low frequencies of 19Hz may be causing "paranormal" behavior. It’s lower than the ear can hear, but the body can feel and react to it. Such a low frequency can cause nausea, dizziness, depression, feelings of anger and frustration and disorientation. Not only does it have an impact on your mood but it can effect your vision. This low frequency can actually cause the eyeball to shake. Are you seeing things out of the corner of your eye? There might be a reason for that.

Which leads to the next experiment. Dr. Houran leads the group into two cells. One cell is unchanged, while the other has a sound machine pushing out tones of 19Hz onto the investigators. Both groups say they feel sadness, depression, dread and feel sick when they’re in the infrasound cell. As soon as they leave, the feelings pass. Even the skeptics say the room feels heavy, they feel sad, and don’t like being in the cell. Certainly sounds like a ghostly experience doesn’t it? Even Dr. Houran says he feels strange, almost depressed, as he’s near the machine and he knows its there.

The final part of the investigation is to turn on all their data collection devices and leave the building. They don’t walk around calling for spirits, or demanding the spirits come out and make their presence known. They let the equipment capture all the sounds, noises and energy of the building itself.

What they discover is pretty interesting. It rains that night and causes audio frequencies of 19Hz to be generated. This would in essence cause oppressive feelings. The very nature of the building and the environment can create circumstances for people to have paranormal experiences.

The water also accounts for unexplained cold spots. With all the equipment running, they don’t capture any anomalies, energy spikes, ghostly figures, phantom cold spots or anything else that could be considered paranormal. Does that completely discount all paranormal activity at Eastern State? It explains what happened on a single night, but really opens the doors to a slew of questions, that so far those in the paranormal field seem to be ignoring.

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Ghost Hunters International – San Lucas Island – S02E12

Robb and the rest of the GHI team head to Costa Rica to investigate an island prison that is supposed to be as notorious as Alcatraz. There is the typical murder of inmates, the warden handing out brutal punishment, but there is also the reported death of both a priest and a nurse. Conditions were bad as people were crammed into small cells and in one instance a prisoner died, but no one said anything so they could keep getting his rations.

Right off the bat I have several problems with this investigation. First, the number of animals roaming around is staggering. We know for certain the place is full of bats, but I’m sure there are plenty of birds and other small animals that call this place home. Any noises and sounds they hear could easily be them. "I hear scratching at the door!" "That’s just an ill tempered boar trying to eat us."

Second is the rain and the lightning. You can hear the rain hitting the roof and sides of the buildings. Plus there is the low rumble of the thunder. This will contaminate any audio findings they come up. "Did you hear that growl?!" "Think that was thunder. Or maybe the chicken salad I had for lunch."

Right off the bat I’m already prejudiced against anything they find because of these environmental factors.

But moving past that, we have Robb and Barry investigating near the Torture Circle where Barry says he sees a pig like figure go running in front of him. However, it doesn’t show up on the thermal. They also hear the sound of a woman. Again, not picked up on audio.

Paul and Brandy go to the Slaughterhouse where several inmate murders took place. (Who thought inmates and knives was a good idea?) They claim to hear all sorts of noises. Again I ask, how is this not the rain, the animals and the wind? They didn’t capture anything.

Robb and Joe go to the dispensary where the murdered nurse used to work. Again, more claims of female voices but this time Robb says he sees someone walk across the room. The person walking was not captured on video. Paul and Brandy go to the dispensary, but they don’t see the figure either.

There is the story of a priest being murder so Joe and Robb go to the chapel to see if they can make contact. They hear a loud noise, but can’t find the source. Feral cat? That would be silly.

Robb and Joe head to the Slaughterhouse and tell the spirits they can’t get in. Low and behold the door starts shaking. A rickety door, on a worn out shack, in the middle of the jungle, on a rainy night. Wow, who would have thought something like that could happen? Don’t look now, it could be the wind!

They don’t really capture anything during the investigation, but at the reveal they have a few shoddy EVPs up their sleeves. What I find funny is that even the client can’t make out what’s being said, but after being prompted by Robb he agrees completely that’s what he hears. Robb is clearly not influencing the outcome.

With these couple of EVPs in hand Robb says the island is definitely haunted. Once again, they don’t have any truly solid evidence at hand. They didn’t capture any of the apparitions, no shadows, no clear cut voices. The entire basis for the prison being haunted rests of a few EVP recordings, which, just like every other EVP, could be interpreted as just about anything.

The place is certainly ripe for paranormal activity with harsh treatment, terrible living conditions and plenty of death, but the elements play too large a factor in contaminating any evidence they come up with. Whenever there’s bats, it makes me suspicious of any noises the team hears. And those things they see out of the corner of their eye? Yeah, that’s a bat.

Other Articles of Interest:

Paranormal Cops- Messages from Beyond – S01E06

A fellow Police officer calls Ron and team in to help him uncover the mysteries surrounding his night job as a security officer at a banquet hall.

The Park Place banquet hall has been experiencing shadow figures, hearing footsteps and getting the sense that someone is there. Most of the activity seems to be taking place in the ladies bathroom, however, since the banquet hall is built on the site of three former homes there wasn’t always a ladies restroom there.

The evidence captured is extremely slight. Like previous episodes pretty much everything is coming from Moriah. She has a police artist sketch the spirits she feels are still in the building. Even though Moriah feels a presence they don’t capture evidence to support that. They don’t get any shadow figures, or capture footsteps or any unusual behavior in the restroom which is supposed to be hotspot of activity. As the client states, at least four people have seen a figure in there. There are also no EVP fluctuations, no bangs or strange sounds.

The big piece of evidence is a massive temperature drop they experience as they’re trying to talk with Frank (the police officer) to see if there is a message they can deliver for him. The part that bothers me here is that they don’t focus on the temperature gauge at all. They show one shot of it, but it’s from way off to the side. Why couldn’t they focus on it and show us all what’s going on? It almost seems like they’re hiding the thermometer from us.

In the final analysis they claim to get two EVPs. One is a voice saying "Thank You" and another is "Take the gun back". As always, they’re garbled and could be interpreted dozens of different ways. I don’t agree with those findings but I guess it’s all subjective.

But when it comes down to the final disposition I’m actually quite shocked with how they rate this location. They give it a Code 4 or basically they feel 100% sure there is a haunting going on. I understand this episode involves a police officer, but I seriously think they let their sentimentality get in the way of their analysis. The only truly tangible thing they get is a cold spot, and once again, due to the camera angles and not letting us see exactly what’s going on and what the reading is being taken from even that could be suspect.

I don’t think CPD stuck with their mantra of basing their decision off hard evidence.

And that’s the end of the season…

As a side note, I hope Paranormal Cops is coming back for another season. They have some interesting techniques. I don’t feel they captured anything that is going to make someone a believer, but I do like their more level headed approach to things. Based on my previous post I think the future of Paranormal Cops is still up in the air.

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Paranormal Cops – Meagan’s Ghost – S01E05

A concerned homeowner contacts CPD when her house guest is choked in her sleep by an unseen force. The team quickly finds an unusual connection between the victim and a deceased girl who used to be best friends with the home owner’s daughter.

The basis for the investigation is that Nicole stays over at her friend Britney’s house, but feels that the spirit of a friend who died is also staying over. Britney had a friend Meagan who passed away recently and Nicole feels she may be coming back to show she isn’t happy with Nicole staying in the same room she used to sleep in.

It’s a pretty sad story really, but when it comes to the evidence there isn’t much to say. The one piece they capture is a tag moving on a bear’s ear, but thankfully the video specialist Scott debunks it as just being at an odd angle. Common sense prevails!

In the end Ron doesn’t feel there is any paranormal activity in the house and that the family doesn’t have anything to fear. I don’t want to be rude or disrespectful, but did these families just need some closure to cope with these terrible events? Maybe they needed to know Meagan wasn’t trapped there. As Meagan’s father puts it, he’s not sure if a personal experience would make things better, or worse.

Well, I suppose if it gives them closure we should all be happy.

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