Notes on Preternatural Investigation
Scheduling the survey can be done at any time or day that is most convenient for those involved. Because most people work during the week, it is usually preferable to find an agreed upon weekend time. For reasons this article will address later, it is also best to conduct the investigation in the daylight hours. The preliminary work begins with the Lay Demonologist praying to God that he, or she may satisfy God’s perfect will in all things. This kind of warm up is recommended for each person on the team actually. Also, it is strongly ill advised to include a non-believer in a group where diabolical infestation is a possibility, whether remote or strong. At the very least some prevenient grace must exist between members, or the complete enterprise is at risk. Consider Acts 19:16, and what happened to the sons of Sceva—brutalized in a seven to one fight because they had no relationship with Christ. It is always helpful to bring with you a list of telephone numbers or web addresses for organizations like Matthew 25 Ministries, or The Society of St. Vincent DePaul, or the central office for Alcoholics Anonymous if necessary. Bear in mind, you literally do not know where each investigation is going to lead you, and as Christians we’re in the truth business; not the demon business. We go where Christ leads us. Questioning each member of the household is an important tool, and a good a place to start. It matters very little if they’ve already discussed the situation. Ask them about it again, and look for consistency in their answers, or any changes in continuity. Take careful notes. Record this interview since it may prove to be revealing later. Look for patterns in each of the accounts. Three people reporting the same incident is more convincing that one person, and it also helps to rule out prevarication, or Hypochondriasis. Do a quick walk-through of the premises, and have the mortgage holder indicate the areas where activity has purportedly occurred. Be observant of any occult artifacts that may be present—in books, paintings, and on stored media like DVD, and Blu Ray. Collections like this will predispose the occupants of the home to infestation, obsession, and possession. Afterwards, move outwards to the surrounding property. Divide the team up, and question other people in the neighborhood where possible (if it is a property investigation); look for corroboration of the narrative, or (nine times out of ten) alternative explanations. Since the claims are of demonic activity, it is best at this point to cross the Rubicon.
The signs of demonic possession—the kind that will require a solemn exorcism are as follows: contortions; counterfeit miracles; superhuman strength; knowledge of a dead language; glossolalia (speaking in tongues); insults; blasphemies; vomiting (with objects appearing in the emesis such as nails); persistent illness; leading a wicked life; suicidal ideation; unnatural sounds; stench. This is not an exhaustive list. If you document any of the above during the course of your investigation, withdraw your team immediately, and report back to your priest, or pastor about conditions in that household.
There is a way to detect early on if something is seriously wrong in the home, and that is simply to recite the Lord’s Prayer: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” --Luke 11:2-4 NIV
In the event that there is no reaction, the next logical step is to proceed to the basement, or the boiler room if you’re in a commercial building. Deploy meters, and check for Radon gas, and CO2 emissions. The effects of both can elevate stress to unbearable levels depending on the saturation. Very high levels of Carbon Dioxide can cause auditory, and visual hallucinations in most people. Check the gas lines running to the furnace, or the conversion boiler. Remove the furnace filters, and check their cleanliness and integrity. We’re attempting to determine what kind of air the people in the home are breathing. Examine the furnace. Is it riching? This could be a problem, especially if there are reports of otherworldly rumblings in the house and objects vibrating on shelves. Next, inspect the breaker box. What kind of condition is it in? Is there an old fuse box. Photograph it. Let a master electrician examine it later. Begin a bottom up sweep of the house using a Multi-Field EMF meter. There are several good ones on the market. One of the more affordable ones is manufactured by GQ Electronics. The baseline reading for any home should be between 0.2, and 1.0 mG. Take care not to sample near any appliances, or wiring. Interestingly, there are even certain types of refrigerator magnets that produce a natural magnetic field large enough to cause a meter to ping. The effects of fear cage exposure to high EMF are headaches; dizziness; sleep disturbances; forgetfulness, and terror. Overhead power lines will exacerbate this since they usually emit something in the neighborhood of 300 mG, but the fallout diminishes the further it is from the source. Anecdotally, there is a type of meter embraced by members of the paranormal community that happens to not be very reliable—this is the Safe Range Meter manufactured by the KII corporation. Disregarding the fact that there is no such thing as a ‘ghost meter,’ this particular model has been critically lambasted for its fallibility.
It may be necessary to test the water lines running to the house. Does the structure have city water? Does it have municipal, or cistern water? How frequently is the reservoir looked at? High iron content will be noticeable as a dark brown film coating the sides of the sink, bathtub, and shower. Alkalinity, and PH imbalance will be present as a crust around the brightwork, and fixtures. This can lead to nausea; depression; sleeplessness; irritability. Hard water is also responsible for fairly noxious, and disgusting sewer gas odors. There are a number of fifteen step water testing kits on the market in varying price ranges along with water testing probes such as the IPstyle, Digital TDS. Those who doubt the severity of what bad water can do may want to consider the Malathion spill that occurred in New York in 1975—just prior to the claims the Lutz family made about their home in Amityville.
Photography and Videography
Reports of phenomenon such as cold spots can best be examined using a Front Loaded Infrared Camera (FLIR). These instruments are helpful in uncovering weaknesses in the insulation, and the caulking around window frames that may—unbeknownst to the family—be allowing cold air to come in. Here again, take care not to equate this instrument with a Ghostbuster’s Proton Pack. You may very well see an object on FLIR that appears to look aesthetically like a human being only to find out later that the object is, in reality, a hot, or cold air supplying vent, or pipes behind the wall. These instruments are also notorious for the reflections they pick up of team members off of brush stainless steel. Whatever type of camera, or camcorder that is used (and there are many) it should be left at factory settings. It is preferable to take photographs and shoot video during the day, and not at night. Resist the urge to use filters on the subjects of your photographs. Each time you go from color to night vision, and then to full spectrum you are manipulating the image. Let the camera see what you are seeing, and exactly as you see it. There is also a serious problem inherent in using night shot, and that is you are depriving yourself of the context of what you’re seeing. It will not be easier to interpret something that is happening in the dark than it is in the light. On top of that, each of the investigators will be in a weaker position psychologically if they’re having to negotiate rooms where they can’t see their hands in front of them. Consider all of the classic, so-called ghost photos. Captain Provand’s famous exposure of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall; the renowned parapsychologist Harry Price, and the photographs taken of the Borley Rectory in the 1930’s. What did the pictures have in common? They were shot in broad daylight. The same goes for DVR equipment, and cameras positioned in various hot spots. Incidentally, long shots are more useful than close ups. If there are reports of doors opening, and closing by themselves then photograph the entire door, and use a leveler near the foot plate. Be as comprehensive in your specimen gathering as possible.
A word about electronic voice phenomenon—also known as EVP. As Christians, we pay obeisance to Deuteronomy 18:10 which forbids Necromancing, and divinatory practices. When using audio, there are only two questions you need ask of any spectral visitors: Who are you? What is your purpose here? If you happen to encounter anything else during audio review, instruct everyone on the team to refrain from voicing aloud what they believe they’ve heard. This will help to discourage any folis au deux, or confirmation bias. Tell each person to quietly write down on a piece of paper what they believe they heard, and compare notes afterwards. If each person has a different interpretation, then there is no consensus, and consequently no EVP. Keep in mind that, though unlikely, it is possible to record a human voice belonging to no one in the house, and the source is not preternatural. Neighbors arguing is a possibility, of course, but remember that sound waves are physical, and can travel great distances. It is unlikely, but possible, on certain clear days that you can hear someone speaking who lives a mile away. Listen for content. Be in the habit of verbally marking unwanted information. If you record a truck driving by, say aloud ‘truck,’ or ‘airplane,’ or ‘children playing outside.’ This will enable the members who review the audio to distinguish between positive, and negative data. There is also the capacity of many higher end recorders to capture infrasound. Infrasound occurs at a level below 20 Hz, and is not detectable to humans. You may not have heard the dog barking, or the raccoon growling outside, but the recorder’s microphone was still sensitive enough to detect it.
Tracy Garnett holds a BA in English, with a minor in Radio & Television from Northern Kentucky University. He also holds certification in Parapsychology from the Koestler Unit at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a trained Lay Demonologist.