One of the first things that I used to do as ‘prep’ work when visiting a location for the first time was do a sweep of the entire building and do a baseline reading for EMF. I would familiarise myself where all power points were, perhaps a powerline in the wall, see if there were any spots that had a draft ….. you know the drill. My baselines were usually a few hours before an investigation in the middle of the day or even in same cases on a completely different day. Is this really effective?
Most investigators will do what we call a sweep using a range of devices to see if they are picking up any readings of electromagnetism. The Mel Meter is probably the most common in this instance. The reason being is that high levels of electromagnetism in an enclosed area can actually cause a person to hallucinate, become paranoid and feel like they are in the presence of something paranormal. It is one of the first things that an investigator will look for to help with debunking claims. It also means in theory that if you were to walk through a property and do your baseline readings, that is the basis from which you start collecting further data. If for example you are in a room and the baseline reading is 0.2. You would certainly be surprised if you saw a fluctuation where it suddenly jumped up to 2.0 for example. It also means that if someone else were to come in the room with a piece of equipment and not be aware of the baseline reading, some may interpret the fact that this particular room being at 0.2 could be something paranormal when in fact it sits at this rate all the time – according to a baseline. It is useful information to have. This is why it is important to do a baseline reading – it helps you to interpret your data collection.
For myself, I know in some venues in the past, I have visited a venue in the middle of the day and walked through to do some preparation for an investigation. It would allow me to plan perhaps where to place cameras, work out the best places to conduct experiments and areas I planned to focus on. I would always have a Mel Meter in my hand and take readings. I would take a flat baseline reading of each room. I would have a map drawn of the building and write the reading of each room on the map. I would highlight any areas on the map where there was a powerpoint or a powerline in the wall. I would take temp readings so that I could work out where any drafts were and this would be highlighted on my map as well. I thought I was covering a pretty good basis to help the investigation. Is this overkill? For me it isn't because it reflects the way I investigate but in hindsight the question is, "was I wasting my time?" The investigation in most cases wasn’t taking place until several hours afterwards. In other cases it wasn’t even occurring on the same day. Was I making a mistake relying on data that was hours and sometimes weeks old?
Any data collected during the day could potentially be different to that at night. If the building is full of people during the day, it is likely it won’t be at night. This can effect the readings. A lot of electrical devices are turned off at night. Some devices are on a timer and will turn off or on at night. Things like this effect the readings. Perhaps on the day or night I was collecting the information, it was still weather conditions and I may not have properly identified the areas where they may be a draft beacuse there wasn't a lot of wind. I may not have necessarily been wasting my time, but I need to keep such factors in mind when looking at the data as a reference point. Another question to ask as well is that while a lot of people do this prep work, but when they are actually doing the investigation and they get a high reading, do they really take this information into account?
Where possible, obviously the best point of action is record data or a set of data over different times. You will be able to see if there is a pattern where certain levels may be elevated at certain times of the day. The best way to do this is with data loggers. They collect all of this information, provide you with the date and time and can graph it all out for you. It gives you a great snapshot of a location and will allow you to identify the anomolies. The issue is of course, realistically most investigators will not have continued access to a location. They may be given a quick walk around in the afternoon before their investigation and then they have their investigation a few hours later. So what do they do?
I suppose from my own perspective the way I would approach it would almost be the same. I would still do my map with all of the information as it is a valuable tool to help debunk an experience had on the night. It means you are not wasting your time on the small stuff when you are on your investigation. You may only have a few hours at a location. You don’t want to be wasting your time to explain something that you could have easily debunked from the information you collected from your walkthrough. I would also look at this information as just that. It is data. EMF and temperature readings, humidity all that stuff is not proven to be a sign of something paranormal. If you are in a room and there is a spike just note and down. It isn’t necessarily something to get too excited about.
I personally like to rely on several different methods. To me just a reading on a piece of equipment is not enough. If nothing is happening and suddenly there is a single spike on a piece of equipment, I would tend to think it is more likely the equipment picking up on something natural. If there are a series of events leading up to this moment and there are other fluctuations at work at the same time, this is when I would take more interest in these results. It is important to remember that all of this equipment that we use to take these measurements are not designed nor proven to collect ‘paranormal’ information. They collect data. It is how you interpret that data that is what makes the difference.
I know data is boring to a lot of people (I personally love it), but if you aren’t going to be looking at your data properly, then the baseline readings probably aren’t going to do much for you. A lot of the time you only have access to a location for a short period of time. Use your time effectively. If you want to go in there and just have a bit of a fun and maybe walk away with a personal experience, then there is nothing wrong with that! If you want to go in and actually walk away with some sort of data or ‘evidence’ then baselines are important. There is not one way to do anything, everyone has a different style and every team is different. As long as you work with integrity and keep that rational hat on, you could find the information you are collecting to be quite educational. Reviewing this data and patterns etc may even help you come up with some experiments or theories. It could even change the way you think about things. Look at your data closely. It isn’t just numbers. We all have different styles and this approach is not for everyone, but it is definately something that should be considered if you want to be a bit more serious about the type of information you are collecting.
What is your advice for baselines and data collection?
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