As I sift through the various ghost hunting programs and web sites, I am often taken aback by how easy some people make the field of paranormal research sound. Today, it's as if by just going out and picking up an EMF meter and digital recorder, you are ready to tackle anything. Technology is a wonderous and beautiful thing when you know what you are doing and understand the principles and the theory behind the equipment.
I think the renowned parapsychologist, Lloyed Auerbach, said it best in an article for the San Francisco Chronicle. He said, "What ends up happening is nobody reads the instructions. I'm seeing people use (electromagnetic field meters) all over the place, and they get all excited when they get a high reading. It turns out they're next to a microwave oven. I've found more bad wiring in homes than I've found ghosts with these devices."
Lloyd has it right. You can't just wake up one day and say to yourself, "I think I am going to go out and go ghost hunting." It takes preparation, discipline to teach yourself the things you need to know and especially how to properly use any equipment you intend to take with you. Remember that old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? There is a lot to that statement and unless you are willing to learn how to correctly use your equipment and how to prevent harm coming to yourself or someone else, you are a dangerous liability just looking for a place to melt down.
We have theories out there that ghosts are basically able to use energy in the environment to perform tasks such as moving objects or communications through EVP or instrumental transcommunication. But ghosts, if they do in fact interact with us using the energy in the environment, aren't the only things that can have effects on electromagnetic fields or give intensely high readings on EMF meters.
The entire planet is, in many ways, saturated with electromagnetic fields. The very nature of our universe has electromagnetic fields at it core to hold things in place and to manipulate relations between objects both in the space around us and right here at home on good old Mother Earth. Human beings have fields of electromagentism around each of us as do all things to some extent or another.
There are naturally occurring fields and man made fields. Electricity travelling through the cord to an appliance creates an electromagnetic field that meters can detect. Even the computer screen you are looking at right now has an electromagnetic field surrounding it that can be detected by the simplest EMF meter. But more than this, research has shown that EMF's can have effects on people who are especially sensitive to them. These effects range from the perception that motion is seen just out of the field of normal vision (seeing something move out of the corner of your eye) to increased feelings of anxiety, paranoia, anger and other emotions.
In the most extreme cases, prolonged exposure to high EMF's can result in very real and very troublesome physical manifestations such as illness, or even hallucinations and intense feelings of being watched or not being alone.
A good practice to get in the habit of is working with your meter in your own home. Hold the meter at arms length and take readings around light sockets, lamps, t.v.'s, your computer monitor, etc. Mark down the readings you get and then keep these and use them as a reference for baseline measurements when you are in the field. Normal measurements can range anywhere from 0.1 mG (milli Gauss) to 10 mG. Depending on different factors such as age of the location, age of appliances, wiring in the home, etc., you may get very high readings in some areas so be aware of that possibility.
Single axis meters are okay but they are not the best for applications involving anomalous phenomena. Ideally, you want a tri field meter since it can measure side to side, up and down, forward and backwards giving you more accurate results and it takes human error out of the equation because its readings can be recorded and even saved to a computer via various software. This information can be crucial when determining whether or not activity at a site is explainable or possibly anomalous. Single axis meters (like the Dr. Gauss meter) are good for determining the source of a fluctuation but they lack the versatility of the tri field meters.
Remember too that meters should not be carried around and waved wildly with reckless abandon. Movement can impact the readings of your meter and give you false readings that may be interpreted as genuine. The last thing you want to do when on an investigation trying to help a client who is at their wits end is give them incorrect information.
In short, there are wonderful tools out there in existence and being developed to help the paranormal investigator incorporate the newest technologies in to their search for answers. But all the technology in the world is only as good as the person making use of it. Know you equipment, know the operations of your equipment and the shortcomings and strengths of it before you go out into the field with your six guns blazing. Safety first should always be at the forefront of your investigation protocols and safety begins with knowing your tools and how to operate them.