Here is another pop media story about paranormal investigation groups in the local news. But this piece I found a bit intriguing…
While teams on television might run around in the dark chasing phantoms and scaring each other, Christchurch Paranormal Investigators New Zealand (CPINZ) are pioneering a new set of tools and techniques to investigate perceived hauntings and put uneasy minds at rest.
Most “hauntings” are caused by electromagnetic fields, creaking and popping from earthquake-damaged houses and ionised charged particles.
“About 5 per cent [of paranormal claims] can’t be explained,” says CPINZ founder Anton Heyrick.
Electromagnetic fields (EMF), in particular, could make people perceive things that aren’t there.
“Anything over five gauss [the unit of measurement of a magnetic field] and you start to have feelings of something going on and your hairs stand up. A microwave can emit 180 gauss,” he says.
There were a whole lot of claims in that little clip from the article. Let’s unpack them.
The first point – that they are using new tools and techniques is not particularly borne out by the piece. Mentioned are only the EMF detectors that lots of other groups use and at the very end, some new vehicle with no details provided. The “most hauntings are caused by…” claim has zero evidence given to support it. Earthquake related noises and effects on structures is a very reasonable explanation for some oddities. But the other two claims – ionized particles and EMF fields are unproven. To state this in such a way is incorrect. I would like to see the claims for the effects of EMFs. There have been lots of anecdotes but when actually tested, people who say they are sensitive to EM fields DO NOT do well. There are thousands of papers on this. I looked at some of them for this post. But today I went to the World Health Organization site on EMFs to see the latest consensus in a nutshell. The site notes:
Some members of the public have attributed a diffuse collection of symptoms to low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields at home. Reported symptoms include headaches, anxiety, suicide and depression, nausea, fatigue and loss of libido. To date, scientific evidence does not support a link between these symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic fields. At least some of these health problems may be caused by noise or other factors in the environment, or by anxiety related to the presence of new technologies.
This is not exactly the same comparison. But again, I can’t seem to locate good evidence that some people in some situation experience phenomena that is perceived as “haunting” but can be attributed to EMFs. That statement does not appear to be substantiated. If anyone has links to research or recommendations on that, PLEASE send to the editor or post in the comments. I’d love to look more into this. We do have some substantiating evidence that infrasound can make people feel uneasy. But this also seems to be very selective. In the article on the New Zealand group above, they note that an alarm clock caused an elderly woman to perceive strange activity. That is not the first time I’ve heard that. But, that can be tested. It SHOULD be tested. That sounds like a serious drawback that consumers should know about if they plan to purchase that device. Regardless, it appears to be pretty rare that this effect happens.
Ionization is also an interesting idea that I have looked into with regards to earthquake precursors. It does have an effect on life at the surface but it must be confirmed that it is actually occurring and the behavior is the connected to the observation.
The article notes that this paranormal investigation group also brings in a building inspector, an electricity specialist and a nurse to help determine the cause of the problems and he is looking for a psychologist to help too. I commend this approach, but would never say an incident is really paranormal. The best you can say is “I don’t know”. It sure would be nice to see some of these groups really document some of their investigations well, consult some actual specialists and cite scientific references so we can get on track with thinking about these cases. It’s time to get serious. No more playing around with gadgets and sciencey stuff.