Sunday, November 20, 2016

Flash in the Pan

Written by George Stadalski on ‎Friday, ‎November ‎17, ‎2015

I wanted to talk a little about the rapid increase in the number of ghost hunting groups that came into existence in the early 2000s.  I am always researching different topics in the paranormal and I like to find the scientific background of the different ideas and concepts that we are using to further our research.  I am always looking for references to the concepts of tracking manifestation by identifying cold spots and fluctuations in the electro-magnetic field.  These ideas, we need to understand that they are not theories, had to come from somewhere and I am always searching the internet for their origins.  When researching these concepts I like to start at the process itself. To learn the history of a thing, we start at the current use of a thing.  Often I will remember something I read on a website that I looked at only a few months ago and when I go to look at it again, the website is gone. I will try to contact a person that I had spoken to months prior and they are no longer investigating with such and such group. They left that group and had moved on to another organization, which they also left and are with So and So Paranormal Research now.  I am amazed at the speed at which people change affiliations in this business.
So, I started preparing for this article as I like to do with a quick round of etymological research on the phrase "flash in the pan".  I had heard it was from the Gold Rush days when prospectors, excited about seeing something shiny in their pan would be disappointed upon discovering that it was not actually gold, but this material, also known as fool’s gold.  I had been led to believe that it was a term from 1930s Hollywood, referring to the flash bulbs that were used to photograph the movie stars.  Just years prior, they were still using a flash powder in a hand held tray.  Supposedly the photographers would refer to a star that they felt would be short lived as a "flash in the pan".  It sounded good, and it was from a trusted source, so I held that belief for years.
What I found out was even more interesting, the phrase was coined in 1706, according to  It referred to the flash pan of a flintlock musket. The flash pan was filled with finely ground gunpowder, ignited and then the hammer would fall, sending the resulting sparks through the touch hole at the main charge.  Sometimes the gun would fail to fire, and the sparks would simply "flash in the pan".  So the phrase became synonymous with "a sudden spasmodic effort that accomplishes nothing" or "one that appears promising but turns out to be disappointing or worthless"
Sudden spasmodic effort seems to be the exact term that describes the efforts most paranormal investigation teams.  There is a huge showing at first with a website awash in tomb stones and ravens, a mission statement longer than most feature length articles and all sorts of information about the scientific techniques that they will use to contact the spirits in your home.  Most have the ubiquitous page on demonology, a section dedicated to the terminology of the trade (which is different on almost every site) and a portion dedicated to the team’s medium or “sensitive” that explains why they are so valuable to the team.  Don’t forget the list of all the expensive and almost entirely useless gadgets that the team went out and bought the day before the website was published.
On a short rabbit trail, I think it also needs to be said that the people that are involved in this hobby did not all get together and vote the folks that have television shows to be the mouthpieces for the genre.  Two plumbers from Rhode Island were in the right place at the right time and the Ghost Adventures Crew were production students that happened to be the best of the imitators.  I wish them all nothing but the best in life, but not everyone involved in this field of study is comfortable with these people representing the group as a whole.
Around the turn of this century, the crossover from an average joe to a paranormal expert became incredibly easy.  All it took was to watch half a season of Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures and you have all the training that you needed and you have chosen your approach based on your show of choice.   You had semi-professional “scientifical” investigation or the younger high-energy, extreme, in-your-face approach.  But either way you were simply regurgitating what you had seen on the show.

“Across cultures, those whose natural voices have been suppressed have found speaking for the dead a powerful political tool because it derives authority ‘from direct individual spiritual contact or experience rather than from office, position, or training’ (Braude 1989:6; Emmons 2003:57).” - Nartonis,  David K., The Rise of 19th-Century American Spiritualism, 1854–1873, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2010) 49(2):361–373

The Spiritualist Movement was filled with mediums and mystics that put themselves into positions as spiritual leaders, not by training for years and studying sacred texts, but by tapping straight into the source of the spiritual world.  What makes it even better is that now, thanks to the advent of digital technology; we have the equipment and tools that supposedly allow everyday, average, normal people to communicate with spirits and ghosts too.  
You can go from an underappreciated cog in the machine to an expert on the evening news in a heartbeat.  And who doesn't like to be seen as an expert?  That means you know more about the topic at hand than everyone in the room.  And the room, being virtual, expands across your local region into the living rooms of all the folks watching the news that evening or clicking on the link you posted to Facebook and Twitter (C’mon, we all do it).
The best part is that since you did not invest any real effort into earning your title as a paranormal expert, it is very easy to walk away from your current affiliations when you no longer receive the payout you need from whichever step of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that you are currently on.  In the next few months I plan to look into the causes of this trend in the paranormal field. The consistency of the inconsistency in this field is worth a deeper look.
I find that the similarities between the current craze in the field of paranormal investigation and the American Spiritualist Movement that existed between the 1840s and the 1920s to be astounding.  While I encourage everyone with and interest in the field to get out there and investigate, I also caution those that have real interest in the study about who they choose as mentors.  I will end with a quote.

“Spiritualism lost its credibility as a source of consolation because of increasingly blatant performances by Spiritualists and discoveries of fraud discredited the idea of contact with the dead (Nelson 1969:82).”- Nartonis,  David K., The Rise of 19th-Century American Spiritualism, 1854–1873, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2010) 49(2):361–373

Monday, November 16, 2015

Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC)

Written by George Stadalski on ‎Friday, November ‎23, ‎2012

Instrumental Transcommunication, or ITC, is the practice of using devices, usually electronic, to converse with entities that we believe to be the spirits of people that have passed away.  The most common type of ITC in practice is known as Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP as it is more commonly referred to.  It is the name put to the activity of capturing the voice of a non-corporeal entity on a recording device.  The concept has been around since the invention of the technologies that allowed the transmission of a person’s voice over radio waves and the recording of sound.  It has been a major focus of paranormal investigators since the ‘50s and Hollywood even made a movie about it (“White Noise”, 2005).  Other methods of ITC include, Direct Radio Voices (DRV), Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) Detector sessions and Flashlight sessions.
I have read that Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi are all rumored to have worked with methods to communicate with spirits and record disembodied voices.  As I began to research this matter, I realized that I had never read this myself.  I have only heard other people say that this was true, so in the interest of being thorough, I had to see it for myself.   In the course of my research I learned more about these men than I knew and was able to separate some of the myth from the reality.
If our personality survives then it is strictly logical or scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect and other facilities and knowledge we acquire on Earth. Therefore, if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survived in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, should record something”. – Thomas Alva Edison
I began my research with Thomas Alva Edison.  I am not going to waste your time with a history of Edison’s career and the accomplishments that he is credited with.  He is an American icon and we all know of his legacy.  If you would like to know more about him feel free to check out the sources listed at the end of this article.
I had looked at many of his biographies that are available online, and not a one mentioned experimentation in communication with the deceased.  I decided to go to the very source and see if I could find copies of his actual writings online.  I found that Rutgers University has a project called The Thomas Edison Papers.  It is an extensive collection of Edison’s notes, drawings and correspondence.  It is available for viewing in book form, as microfilm and a portion of his work has been digitalized and is available online.   I searched the site for a few different topics and found a set of Edison’s notes from 1917 that mentioned the topic of communication with the dead; this is the tag for that folder.
Edison General File Series -- 1917: (E-17-77) Religion and Spiritualism - This folder contains correspondence and other documents regarding Edison's opinions and widely publicized statements about immortality, theology, superstition, and related subjects. Also included are unsolicited letters, essays, and other writings on topics such as prophecies, the Bible, communications with the dead, mystical explanations of electricity, and the war in Europe. Most of the items for 1917 are marked for no answer. None of the letters bear any notations by Edison.”
Since the notes have only been digitized up to 1898, I was unable to actually read the entries mentioned in the description.  So, I have new item on my to-do list and that is to someday visit Rutgers in New Jersey to view these documents.  In lieu of a visit, I contacted the folks at The Thomas Edison Papers, and Rachel Weissenburger from The Thomas Edison Papers quotes Edison saying, “…that consciousness existed in fundamental units that combined to make up each human being and that these existed prior to and after death.”  Evidence of this belief is found as far back as the 1890s.  During the 1920s Edison indicated in a number of interviews that he was developing a contrivance to assist entities in their attempt to manifest.  A number of these interviews are reproduced in a book published in 1948 called “The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison”, edited by Dagobert D. Runes.
So what I found out is that Thomas Edison did in fact have an interest in developing ITC technology and believed that technology was the key to communication with those that have passed from this mortal realm.  What I did not find was any information on how he planned to accomplish this feat or if he ever did.
Since Thomas Edison won the popularity contest that existed between himself and Nikola Tesla, who by the accounts of many historians and engineers was the better inventor, there is very little official history to be found on him online.  Outside of a few encyclopedia entries and some very flattering fan sites, there are not many sources of information.  I know that Tesla’s notes are out there somewhere in collections, both public and private, but I have not found a way to access them.
There is not more than one out of every ten persons who does not believe in telepathy and other psychic manifestations, spiritualism and communion with the dead, and who would refuse to listen to willing or unwilling deceivers.” - Nikola Tesla
The internet is full of stories of Tesla wanting to converse with spirits and the experiments that he staged to that end.  What I have not found is a mention of this in any encyclopedic entry or history book I have ever read.  The source that would end the discussion would be Tesla’s own notes where he discussed the theory and how he intended to translate the concept into practical application.
I read Nikola Tesla’s autobiography titled My Inventions.  In it Nikola states that “Ever since I was told by some of the greatest men of the time, leaders in science whose names are immortal, that I am possesst [sic] of an unusual mind, I bent all of my thinking faculties on the solution of the greatest problems regardless of sacrifice.  For many years I endeavored to solve the enigma of death, and watched eagerly for every kind of spiritual indication.  But only once in the course of my existence have I had an experience which momentarily impressed me as supernatural.” 
He then tells his story and then explains how it was his mind playing tricks on him while he was ill.  He concludes his story with this statement. “While I have failed to obtain any evidence in support of the contentions of psychologists and spiritualists, I have proved to my complete satisfaction the automatism of life, not only through continuous observations of individual actions, but even more conclusively through certain generalizations.”  The man, with all of his knowledge and abilities could not find any proof of life after death.
The final member of the Holy Trinity of ITC is Guglielmo Marconi.  While he was a scientific contemporary of Edison and Tesla, his focus was on wireless communication not energy distribution.  He is a Nobel Prize winning scientist and is credited for saving the lives of the people that got off the Titanic through his invention.  But I cannot find a single biography that tells of his being involved with ITC theories or practices.  While I think that his connection with the Italian Fascist Party might have marred the way history remembers him, his work with radios has forever changed the way we live and made it possible to live the wireless lifestyle that we all enjoy.
So for the third time, we reach a dead end with a story that is sounding like one of three options.  These stories are either an extreme misunderstanding of a man’s life work, wishful thinking on the part of paranormal investigators taking on a life of its own or a blatant fabrication to try to lend credibility to a hobby.
The timeline tracking the evolution of the practice of Instrumental Transcommunication is an interesting look into the work that has gone before and, I think, an important part of every paranormal investigators personal education.

The 1920s - Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor and entrepreneur, with the help of his assistant, Dr. Miller Hutchinson, is reported to have worked on building a machine designed to achieve communication “with the dead”.  His assistant is quoted as saying that, “Edison and I are convinced that in the fields of psychic research will yet be discovered facts that will prove of greater significance to the thinking of the human race than all the inventions we have ever made in the field of electricity.
1925 - Voices from Beyond by Telephone” is published by Oscar d’Argonell.  In his book d’Argonell tells of conversations that he had with friends that he had made in the spirit world, describing how these calls to the spirit world were made.
1936 - Atila von Szalay used phonograph cutting equipment to record EVPs.
1949 - Marcello Bacci used an old vacuum tube radio to record EVPs.  His work was seen as being so successful that people would visit Bacci at his residence to have him connect them with their loved ones who had passed.  He reported that there were a group of spirits that believe it is their duty to maintain contact with people still living.  
The 1950s – Most people are unaware that the Vatican has been involved in EVP research from the earliest days of the field of study.  Father Ernetti and Father Gemelli discovered disembodied voices on recordings that they had made of monks performing Gregorian chants.  They were hesitant to approach Pope Pius XII with their recordings for fear that an investigation of this phenomenon could be considered a sin.  Pope Paul VI became acquainted with Friedrich Juergenson, who we will talk about next, during the production of a documentary about his papacy. 
1959 - Friedrich Juergenson, a Swedish film producer, was recording bird-songs for use in a project when he recorded what he believed were voices on audio-tape.  While he was listening closely to the voices after the initial discovery, he heard what he believed was his mother's voice speaking in German; “Friedrich, you are being watched.  Friedel, my little Friedel, can you hear me?”  This was the starting point of many different recordings that are amongst the clearest ever recorded.  Friedrich Juergenson published two books based on his work titled, “Voices from the Universe” and “Contact with the Dead”.
1967 - Franz Seldel created a device he called the “psychophone” that he intended to use for the recording of voices from the “Astral world”.
1971 - Konstantin Raudive performed a series of experiments with the chief sound engineers of Pye Records Limited.  They invited Raudive to their sound laboratory, which had been fitted with special equipment to eliminate stray radio waves and electrical impulses.  While most people would name Friedrich Juergenson as the father of modern EVP work, it was Raudive that brought it into the public consciousness.  His success prompted many people to begin experimenting with ITC with commercial recording devices in their homes.
Raudive, expounding on the work of Friedrich Juergenson, had evolved six different methods of recording these voices.  They were methods that used a microphone, radio frequencies, a frequency transmitter, a diode, a goniometer and the device, created by Franz Seldel, known as the “psychophone”.
Peter Bander, who worked extensively with Raudive, postulated that a personal approach to voice recordings is more effective than a clinical method.   They had determined that the three possible sources of the voices were “electronic impulses sent out by our subconscious mind and registered as human speech on the tape”, “voices transmitted by an unknown method from perhaps another planet or an intelligent source somewhere in the universe” or “people who have died on this earth and try to retain communication with those who are still here: in fact that the voices originate from where they say they do”
The late 1970s - George and Jeanette Meek funded the work of psychic William O’ Neil working with a device known as the Spiricom.  This device could supposedly convert “spirit voices” into easy to hear words and sentences.  The Spiricom was able to generate 13 tones that included all of the sounds created by the average male voice.
By the end of 1980 the Spiricom device had been improved upon and was receiving messages that were clearly designated as the voice of O’Neil’s friend, former NASA scientist, Dr. George Jeffries Mueller who had passed in 1967.  The body of work that was undertaken under the Spiricom name has been dissected by many investigators and skeptics.  There has been much evidence provided of the entire enterprise being a fraud.  I mention this simply to incite you to research it on your own.
Between 1982 and 1988 - Hans Otto Koenig developed a device that used extremely low frequency oscillators and quartz-crystals irradiated with ultraviolet light which he called HRS (Hyper-Raum-System or Hyperspace System).  In 1983 he appeared on Radio Luxembourg with his equipment where it was held to the close scrutiny of the engineers at the radio station.  
Between 1984 to 1985 - Ken Webster used his computer to receive in the area of 250 messages from a spirit that was supposedly named Thomas Harden.  The spirit, who had passed on in the 16th century, made claims he had owned Ken Webster’s property four hundred years earlier.  The messages contained historically factual information delivered in an accurate old English dialect.
1985 - Klaus Shreiber claimed to receive images of spirits on his television that included various deceased family members, Austrian actress Romy Schneider and Albert.
1985 - Mark Macy, of the World ITC organization, started to work with an international team of scientists and researchers.  Of his work, Mark Macy said:
“Sixteen of us met in England to discuss this modern day miracle, its tremendous possibilities for our world, and the obstacles that stood in the way. We formed new friendships, and by the end of a long weekend we also formed INIT; The International Network for Instrumental Transcommunication. In the coming months Ethereal beings told us that they were observing our efforts closely and would provide guidance and support. We began to observe unprecedented miracles in our research. Many of us received phone calls, from Spirit friend Konstantin Raudive, and the Harch-Fischbachs; note: radio based ITC equipment of Maggy Harsch-Fischbach and her husband Jules Harsch of Luxembourg; received astounding pictures and messages through their computer, all as a result of resonance among INIT members. It was clear that a new phase of ITC research on Earth had begun. Our Ethereal friends told us that the greatest strides would be made by individuals from different countries who committed to work together in harmony with pure intentions”.

In the past few decades we have been inundated with the entertainment’s world deluge of unscientific examples of Instrumental Transcommunication.  With the influx of devices that are out there these days that are supposedly able to allow spirits to communicate with investigators and concepts like using a flashlight or a KII EMF detector to communicate, I believe that the entire field of study has gotten severely off-track.

The Thomas Edison Papers, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ:
The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison, edited by Dagobert D. Runes. Philosophical Library, New York, 1948) [A reprint of the article is available at]
"Thomas Edison, Paranormalist" by Martin Gardner, Skeptical Inquirer, July-August 1996, pages 9, 11-12
Tesla, Nikola.  My Inventions.  Filiquarian, 2006.
Raudive, Konstantin. Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead. Taplinger Publishing Company, New York. 1971
Bander, Peter. Voices from the Tapes: Recordings from the Other World. Drake Publishers, New York. 1973.
Welch, William. Talks with the Dead. Pinnacle Books, New York. 1975.
Rogo, D. Scott. In Search of the Unknown. Taplinger Publishing Company, New York. 1976
Sherman, Harold. The Dead are Alive: They Can and do Communicate with You. Fawcett, New York. 1993
MacRae, Alexander.  EVP and New Dimensions. Lightning Source Inc, La Vergne, TN . 2004
Toms, Nathan. The Electronic Ghosts. Lightning Source Inc, La Vergne, TN. 2006
Markowicz, Mike. EVP: Electronic Voice Phenomenon: Massachusetts Ghostly Voices. Schiffer Pub Ltd, Atglen, PA. 2009

Cardoso, Anabela. Electronic Voices: Contact with Another Dimension?  O Books, Blue Ridge Summit, PA. 2010

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Introduction to the Scientific Method

Written by George Stadalski on ‎Friday, ‎November ‎23, ‎2012

The theory of relativity is accepted because it can be proven through scientific experimentation.  The theory of evolution is accepted because study has shown that life is able to change itself to meet the needs of its environment.  Experiments that can be repeated by anyone within prescribed parameters combined with the study of documentable events, lend credibility to these theories.
The theories that we are discussing here are unproven.  They are promoted, in general, by laypeople with rudimentary training in scientific experimentation and a basic understanding of the scientific method.  How can regular people compete with trained scientists?
By following the same strictures and rules that the scientists do!
Although Aristotle and the ancient Greeks were the first to use observation and measurement to answer questions about the world that they lived in, they did not have enough structure in their system to be considered the scientific method.  The first use of the scientific method to answer questions by performing experiments and recording observations is credited to Muslim scholars who began the practice between the 10th and 14th centuries.  The process was continually refined during the Renaissance and on through the Enlightenment periods, but it was Sir Isaac Newton that improved the process to the one that we use today.
Prof. Frank L. H. Wolfs describes it thusly, “The scientific method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world.”  He goes on to say that since personal opinion, religious belief and cultural differences can all sway the way we interpret natural phenomena, it is important to have a standard practice that will limit that those pressures when attempting to establish a scientific theory.
According to Prof. Wolfs here are the four basic steps to the scientific method:
  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
  2. Formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
  3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
  4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.
 If the experiments prove the hypothesis that has been presented then the hypothesis is on the way to becoming an accepted theory.  If the hypothesis is disproven, then it must be disregarded or reworked in light of the new evidence that has been collected.
Experimentation is the crux of the process.  This is where you will either confirm or disprove your hypothesis.  If you cannot support your original hypothesis with this data, you will have to use the evidence that you have gathered to modify your hypothesis.  For a hypothesis, no matter how wide spread the concept is or how many people believe it to be true, to be treated as a scientific theory the experimental data must coincide with the hypothetical prediction to be accepted by the scientific community.
An experiment can test the hypothesis directly (EVPs recorded during an investigation) or they can test the side-effects of the hypothetical process (EMFs, ions, and cold spots present as an entity manifests).  This step carries the inference that your hypothesis must be testable for it to be proven (or disproven).  It is said within the scientific community that theories cannot be proven; only disproven.
There are some common mistakes that tend to occur while using the scientific method.  The most common mistake is to accept the hypothesis as fact before any experimentation is performed.  Often, we have been told something so many times that we believe it to be truth.  Care must be taken to remember that the theories that we are dealing with are just that, theoretical postulations that have not been proven through empirical data collection and analysis. 
Another mistake is to ignore data that goes against the hypothesis.  The scientific method is used to remove opinion from experimentation, but often the researcher can be swayed by personal belief or by social coercion to attain a specific outcome.  Sometimes it can be as simple as looking for fault in data, or not examining data that does not agree with desired outcomes.
The next mistake that we want to touch on is to not account for the possibility of error; systematic, procedural or human. Often discoveries have been lost in what were inaccurately labeled as systematic errors.  On the other side of that coin systematic errors have been confused for valid data.  Any type of equipment used to measure data has the potential for giving a bad reading.  This is referred to as a random error.  A systematic error is where the procedure for the collection of data is flawed.  This could be the use of a digital thermometer that registers surface temperature to record the ambient temperature in a room.  No experiment is perfect, but we must take the precautions to minimize potential errors.  When taking measurements; whether they be in milligauss, degrees Fahrenheit or decibel levels; it is important to quote a quantifiable margin of error.  Without this margin of error your collected data has no meaning.
Finally, the last mistake we will discuss is probably the most common mistake in the field of paranormal investigation.  Within fields that have active experimentation and open communication among the members studying that field, the prejudices of different groups or individual investigators tend to cancel out each other’s findings.  Additionally, the groups that are out there are all using different equipment with different procedures and are correspondingly getting different results.
“Who Invented the Scientific Method?” by Martyn Shuttleworth, Experiment Resources, 2009:

“Introduction to the Scientific Method” by Prof. Frank L. H. Wolfs, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester: