Thursday, August 21, 2014

You Decided to Become a Paranormal Investigator, Now What? Part II

By Scott Wolf

Let’s re-cap a bit from Part I. You now know that being a paranormal investigator can be very time consuming. You also know that it is a good idea to talk to your family and significant others about your choice to become a paranormal investigator. Next, I discussed not investigating in your own home and how it’s not safe to rush and investigate on your own. Finally, I talked about how important it is to educate yourself in all things paranormal before you meet your first team. Now, let’s talk about one of my favorite things, equipment.

If you do a search, on the internet, for paranormal equipment or ghost hunting equipment, you’re going to come up with all kinds of results from eBay, amazon, online paranormal stores, and even individual groups that sell equipment. 

You will find every type of equipment imaginable. From the basic K2 to thermal (FLIR) cameras that cost thousands of dollars. While a thermal camera is very cool and many investigators would love to have one, you’re new to all of this so, let’s start out with the basics.

Before I go into the “basics,” let me tell a little story why it is important to start here. A while back our team went to an event that allowed new investigators and experienced investigators to investigate in one incredibly historic location. Everyone was broken up into groups. Our group consisted of our entire team as well as some new to investigating. When we arrived at our second location we were all forced to stay in a relatively small area. I noticed one of the less experienced investigators with us had a relatively advanced piece of equipment. It was obvious to us that the person wasn't exactly sure how to use this equipment. At one point one of our team members had to explain to them why it was doing what it was doing. At another point an alarm on the device began to go off and this person had no idea how to turn it off. It was very distracting to the rest of us and, I am not sure if the person knew it or not, but it was taking away from their own experience. That's why it is better to start out with the basics.

I understood why this person bought this device. It was cool and we all want to show up for an investigation with a cool piece of equipment. I was the same way when I first started. Lucky for me, I couldn’t afford much so I was forced to start out with the basics. What I didn’t know at the time was that was the best thing I could have done for myself.

So, what are the basics? Our group asks all our investigators to start out with a minimum of four pieces of equipment. We ask that they have a flashlight, a digital voice recorder, a digital camera, and some sort of EMF (electro-magnetic Field) detector. 

The flashlight doesn’t need to be anything special. I would suggest that you find one that has white, red, and or blue light. Red or blue light is easier on the eyes when the lights are out. You can buy a handheld version or one like I carry that has a strap that fits around your head. It is one less thing you need to carry.

Just about any handheld voice recorder will work. There are a lot of companies that make them. Just make sure that you can connect it to a computer so that you can download your audio files. A recorder that has the capacity to record 1GB of audio would be more than enough space for any investigation. Just as long as you delete the audio off your recorder after you download it to your computer.

If you own a professional camera set-up, by all means, bring it with you on an investigation, so as long as you know how to use it and it won’t disrupt your ability to investigate. If you don’t, a normal digital camera will do just fine. I would suggest doing some research about settings and taking pictures during an investigation. I would also suggest that you learn some of the conditions that can cause your photos to contain what you may think is something paranormal when actually it is something normal like reflection, refraction, dust, or improper settings causing anomalies in your pictures. 

Finally, we have the EMF detector. You can spend anywhere from $25-$200. I wouldn’t suggest the $25 model. It is very limited in detecting EMF. I also wouldn’t suggest spending $200. That is overkill for a new investigator. Your best bet would be to start out with a K2 meter, which costs about $60-$65. If you’re able to spend a little more money, I would highly suggest you purchase a MEL Meter. The basic MEL-8704R measures EMF and temperature. It is highly accurate and will filter out a lot of the natural sources of EMF. It will run you about $100. This device takes a little time to get used to so, you will want to mess around with it before you use it on an investigation. It’s really not that difficult to use. It is one of my favorite devices because it is so accurate and it was built specifically for paranormal investigations.
K2 Meter

MEL 8704R Meter

Once you get all of your equipment, learn how to use it! Don’t go out on your first investigation and fumble around with your equipment. Your first priority should be learning how to investigate. You can’t do that if you are spending 20 minutes worrying about how to turn your voice recorder on. Now that you have your equipment, it’s time for the most important step to becoming a paranormal investigator, finding a group.

Finding a group, in your area, that you would like to join may be one of the most important things you do on your journey. At this point you need to ask yourself what kind of group you want to join? In my opinion, there are two basic types of groups that would take on brand new investigators. 

One group investigates the paranormal in order to have experiences and capture evidence. This group will typically investigate places like hotels, businesses, and other public places. They may occasionally investigate residents, but that isn’t necessarily the primary goal. 

The other group is primarily concerned about investigating residents and helping people. This group will also investigate hotels and businesses, but this isn’t the primary goal. Our team would be in this category. We focus on helping people first, but we do enjoy going out and having the experience to be able to investigate some of the more well-known locations.

Once you have an idea about what kind of group you would be interested in joining, do a search, on the internet or Facebook, of paranormal groups in your area. Read their pages over and find out what their mission statement is. If there is a section with details about their investigators, you may want to read it to get an idea what the members are like. Another thing you may want to look at his how often the page is updated. If it hasn’t been updated for two years, they probably aren’t a very active group.

Once you find a group that interests you, look for contact information. If there is an e-mail address on the page, send them an e-mail and tell them that you are looking for a group to join. Let them know that you don’t have experience, but also let them know that you have some knowledge of the paranormal and that you own your own equipment. This will show you’re dedicated and despite your lack of experience, you will be willing to learn and do the work needed to become an investigator.

Another place to look for local teams, and this may seem strange, is Craigslist. Both of the teams I have been a part of have advertised on Craigslist and this is where we found a majority of our investigators. Look under “Groups” or “General” and you may find a group in your area that is looking for new members.

As I said before, this isn’t the end all be all for becoming an investigator but, I am very confident that if you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to becoming a great investigator. The rest just takes time, learning, and getting some investigations under your belt. 

So, you decided to become a paranormal investigator, now you know what to do. The rest is all up to you!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The MEL Meter: An EMF Detector with a Touching Story

By Scott Wolf

I was first introduced to the MEL Meter when I was a relatively new investigator with my first paranormal group, Vegas Valley Paranormal, in Las Vegas Nevada. Our founder and director, Barrie Berry, had just purchased a new piece of equipment and he was eager to share his new purchase with me. Barrie was always eager to share his new equipment with me which helped me learn and grow as an investigator.

At the time, my knowledge on EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) detectors was rather limited. My first EMF detector was a cheap $20 “ghost detector.” It was simple and I didn’t really know, at the time, that it was not really that useful. It was one of my first pieces of equipment and it made me feel like a real investigator.

Barrie also had a K2 meter that I used from time to time. Compared to my “ghost detector” I thought the K2 was high tech. Maybe it was the instant satisfaction I got when the meter lit up when it came into contact with any source of EMF.

What I didn’t know at the time, and didn’t find out until much later, was that the K2 is very unreliable when it comes to determining the difference between natural EMF and something that may be paranormal. Don’t get me wrong, The K2 can be useful during an investigation, it’s just not the most reliable EMF detector on the market.

So, we are on an investigation and Barrie hands me this new device that he just bought. I had never seen anything like it. Barrie explains to me how to use it and what it does. It measures EMF and display the value on the screen. It also measures the temperature and can detect minor amounts of vibration where ever it is placed. My mind is blown! Wow, this thing can do all that? Oh, and unlike the K2, the Mel Meter can filter out things like appliances giving you a much better confidence in a reading being natural or unexplained.

I fell in love with the MEL Meter on the spot! Any time we did an investigation it was the first piece of equipment I would grab out of Barrie’s equipment box. It was my favorite piece of equipment and still is today.

I didn’t find out until many years later that my favorite piece of equipment and what I consider one of the most innovative pieces of paranormal equipment, had a story behind it that was incredibly touching and made me love it even more. It’s a little known story that many in the paranormal world don’t really know.

The MEL Meter is the creation of Gary Galka, an electrical engineer from Granby, Conn. Gary wasn’t a paranormal investigator. Actually, he had nothing to do at all with the paranormal, but his creation, was truly a labor of love.

Gary had a nickname for his daughter, Melissa. He always called her “Mel.” One night Melissa was driving home, around midnight, and for an unknown reason she swerved off the road and hit a tree. She sustained horrible injuries which left her on life support for four days. Melissa was eventually taken off life support and passed away, the worst nightmare for any father.

Shortly after Melissa’s passing, Gary and his family began to experience strange activity in his home. The TV, radio, and lights would come on by themselves and then turn off. TV channels would mysteriously change as well. The family could even smell the perfume that she would wear. They believed that Melissa was reaching out to them in order to help them heal.

Six months after Melissa’s passing, Gary and his wife began to reach out to other families who had lost loved ones in the form of grief counseling. Gary also began to research the paranormal to try and better understand what he and his family were experiencing.

After reading books and watching paranormal TV shows, it became apparent to Gary that investigators were using mainstream devices that were intended for totally different purposes. Gary wanted to create something that was designed specifically for paranormal research.

So, using his 30 years of experience as an electrical engineer, Gary created the very first Mel Meter. He call it the Mel-8704. “Mel”, of course was for his daughters nickname, 87 was the year that she was born, and 04 was the year that she died.

Not only did Gary create a device to, “give the paranormal community a push forward,” he also created a way to further help grieving families. A majority of the proceeds from the sales of his Mel Meters are donated to grief support charities. 

The Mel Meter has morphed into several different variations. Today’s versions include shadow detection, hot /cold spot alarm, and one version even creates its own electro-magnetic field which is believed to help develop paranormal activity. 

The next time you are out on an investigation and you pick up your Mel Meter, remember how a father’s love for his daughter helped improve how we investigate.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

You Decided to Become a Paranormal Investigator, Now What? Part I

By Scott Wolf

You never miss an episode of your favorite paranormal TV show and you decide that it is time to find out what this paranormal stuff is all about. Maybe you are seeking answers about experiences you have had or maybe you just think it would be fun to go on investigations like you see on TV, either way you decided you want to become a paranormal investigator, now what do you do?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I have been doing this for over seven years. I have helped train a lot of investigators and they turned out to be very good at what they do so, I must have done something right. I am hoping this series provides some helpful information to all the people out there who have decided to become paranormal investigators. Not everything in this blog is going to work for everyone so, even if you take away one good piece of information, my mission would be complete.

Your first step to becoming a full fledge paranormal investigator, forget everything you have seen on TV! Ok, not everything. You probably learned about EMF, EVPs, and what a K2 does. Keep that in your nugget, but dump the basic premise of a paranormal investigation that you saw on TV. 

What you see on TV is for entertainment mostly. Sure, I would bet they do catch some EVPs and every once in a while they catch something on camera, but If you go into your very first investigation thinking you are going to see a shadow person dart in front of you, a door close by itself, or a book fly off a shelf, you are going to be sadly disappointed!
If you have never been on an investigation before, you need to understand that investigations don’t last an hour like you see on TV. An actual investigation can last anywhere from 4 to 10 hours. Add in a preliminary investigation, evidence review, and maybe follow up trips for further investigations and you’re looking at well over 14 hours! Not all of them are like that, but you get the point.

 What I am trying to get at is that investigations are very time consuming. If you have a client they are going to expect you to wrap everything up within a short time frame. They want answers to what the heck is going on in their home and they don’t want to wait for a month.
If you have a family or significant other, now would probably be a good time to sit down and discuss the new hobby you have decided to begin. It will be important to have their support down the road if you decide to join a very active team. If you are like many of us, they will probably look at you like your crazy when you tell them that you have decided to become a paranormal investigator. Don’t worry, it’s normal. They may never completely understand why you do what you do, but they will eventually understand that it is something that is important to you.

At this point you are probably itching to do an investigation. You may have even thought about doing some EVP sessions, in your own house, just to see if you can capture your first paranormal evidence. Don’t do it! Never investigate in your own house! If you don’t have any activity, in your house, you may be inviting it in. If you already have activity, you may make it much worse. Much worse!

It’s also not a good idea to attempt to go out and investigate on your own. Paranormal investigations are not just a fun past time. They can be serious business both spiritually and from a safety aspect. You always want to have a buddy with you in case you hurt yourself and you need help or if, by chance, you encounter a nasty spirit that doesn’t want you around. Not only do you not want to go out alone, but you don’t want to go out unless you are armed with the most important item an investigator can carry with them, knowledge! 

The best thing you can do to start your journey to becoming a paranormal investigator is learning anything you can about the paranormal and investigating. There is a wealth of knowledge available, on the internet, about paranormal theory, photography, recording EVPs, conducting investigations, steps to protect yourself on an investigation, and equipment. You can also go to your local library and find a good number of books on the topic.
Terminology is also something else that is very good to learn. When we have a new investigator join the group we like to sit down with them and first go over some important terminology to see what they already know. If the new investigator doesn’t know much we send them home with a list of terms to go over. 

It is important that investigators understand things like the difference between an intelligent haunting and a residual haunting. Terms like apparition and poltergeist are some other terms you should be able to understand among many others.

If you take the time to learn everything you can, I guarantee you that when you meet a group ,for the first time, you will impress their pants off when they find out that you already have an advanced knowledge on the subject. A dedicated investigator in training is great! A dedicated and knowledgeable investigator in training is awesome!

It is very important that investigators are able to discuss equipment and theories when on a case. Often , clients will notice your equipment or ask questions. You don’t want to have to tell the client that you can’t explain how the equipment works and why you are using it or why you believe something may be happening in their home.

Please check back. Part II will be coming soon!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A.L.P.S. and Solano County Paranormal Explore Mare Island, California

By Scott Wolf

Angels of Light Paranormal Society teamed up with our good friends Scott and Beth Campbell and Melissa Rashid from Solano County Paranormal for a fun filled day at Mare Island.

Mare Island isn’t actually an island. It’s actually a peninsula, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. It is located 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, California in the city of Vallejo.
Until 1996 it housed the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. It was the first US Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean. Shipbuilding operations actually began in 1854. 

The Naval Shipyard built over 500 sea-going vessels to include the USS Jupiter which was re-named the USS Langley when it was converted to be the first aircraft carrier, two battleships the USS California and USS Montana, as well as some of the first US nuclear powered submarines.
The First US Aircraft Carrier the USS Langley

Today the former Naval Shipyard is used by commercial businesses and government agencies. Some of the shipyard facilities, such as the dry docks, are still in use. It appears that very little has changed since it’s Navy days.

Our first stop, before we headed to our investigation location, was at a few of the mansions which used to house the Naval Bases highest ranking officers. Some of these mansions are used as offices and others are used as private homes. They are quite amazing. Next we checked out the shipyard. 
The Mansions
The Inside of One of the Mansions
The shipyard was nothing short of amazing. I have never seen buildings that large, I can only imagine what it was like to be around when thousands of workers were working round the clock to build ships to support the war effort during World War II. 

One of the Massive Buildings at the Shipyard
Next we stopped at St. Peter’s Chapel, renowned for it’s beautiful Tiffany designed stained glass windows. We also stopped at some of the many concrete bomb shelters that were littered all over the base. The bomb shelters were built right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 
St. Peter's Chapel
WWII Bomb Shelters
It was finally time to head to our final destination, the former Naval Weapons Storage Area. The storage area was a series of bunkers located on top of a large hill. The views of the coast from up there were incredible!

Views from the Top of the Storage Area

As we walked around and went into some of the smaller bunkers we came upon the old cemetery. A lot of very old graves from sailors that had died from accidents and just old age. We even found six Russian sailors who had all died around the same time. The grave stones looked like they were brand new. They were all the same so I am guessing a group replaced the old headstones because they were falling apart.
Russian Sailor's Graves
While we walked through the cemetery we came to a section that was different from the others. Many of the graves had fences around them which usually signifies someone wealthy or well-known was buried there. As we looked we found the grave of Anna Arnold Key, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, the writer of the Star Spangled Banner! A very cool find!
Grave Site of Anna Arnold Key, Daughter of Francis Scott Key

The main focus of our investigation were the two large underground storage bunkers on top of the hill. I didn’t know it at the time ,but apparently a woman was gang raped and murdered up there. A terrible crime!
Underground Storage Bunker
We spent a lot of time in those two bunkers conducting EVP sessions and trying to see if we could have any personal experiences. I don’t know that anyone did, but we gave it our best shot.
I can tell you that being inside those large concrete underground bunkers after the sun went down was a little spooky. You couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face and the acoustics were insane in there! Every little noise was amplified to a crazy level!

I am not sure anyone was able to capture anything believed to be paranormal on their audio nor did anyone have any personal experiences in those bunkers. We did get some strange K2 hits while in there.

We didn’t mind that we may not have captured anything. Sometimes it’s just the thrill of being able to explore the location you are at that makes it worth the trip. It’s all about being able to explore historic locations and see things that the general public doesn’t often get to see.

Mare Island is incredible! It is a monument to the men and woman who served our country in order to protect our freedom and way of life. It is also a monument to the American spirit. Men and women who gave their blood, sweat, and sometimes their lives to build something incredible that lives on today.