The EMF detector measures electromagnetic fields and is one of the first tools we use in a paranormal investigation. It is based on the theory that spirits are composed of a type of energy that, when present, can manipulate the Earth’s electromagnetic field. The EMF detector can also measure free-floating EMF waves that are passing through a location. “Free-floating” describes energy that is no longer connected to an energy source, but is still present in the atmosphere. For instance, electrical outlets, which leak power into their surroundings, can discharge an energy burst that can be picked up by an EMF detector.
Remember, you’re not always looking for paranormal activity with the EMF detector. You may be looking for high EMF readings to support a case of EMF hypersensitivity.
Some people experience adverse effects from extended periods of moderate EMF exposure or shorter intervals of highly concentrated EMF exposure.
One cause of EMF hypersensitivity is EMF leakage from any electrical appliance, electrical input/output or energy source. An alarm clock leaking a 10-milligauss EMF all night could cause EMF hypersensitivity based on a person’s proximity to the device and duration of exposure.
Adverse effects can include blotchy vision, headaches, dizziness, mild hallucinations and more. Victims of EMF exposure can easily mistake their symptoms for evidence of paranormal influence or activity.
Enter the area of your investigation and turn on your detector
Depending on the model of your detector, it may have one or several measurement settings. For investigation purposes, set your EMF detector to milligauss. This is the most common measurement used for alternating-current electromagnetic fields in both residential and commercial zoning. One gauss is one line of force per square centimeter over one second. A milligauss is 1 one-thousandth of a gauss.
Optional: Calibrate EMF Detector
Note: You must have two detectors to do this.
Normal wear and tear can impair an EMF detector’s performance. If you have two EMF detectors, you can conduct a simple field calibration test to make sure the detector you’re about to use is working properly.
Find a spot where your EMF detector gives you a reading of 0 milligauss (or as close as is practical), and place the detector on the ground. Now place another EMF detector about one foot away. If your EMF detector is calibrated correctly, both will show the same reading. It’s smart to continue administering this field test before each investigation, or send your EMF detector to a technician or the maker for calibration once a year.
Establish a base EMF reading for the area of investigation
Before you look for spikes in the EMF, you should first establish a base EMF reading for the area (typically, the base will be under 1 milligauss). Walk around the area with the detector held in front of you at your mid-section, and record the range of EMF readings.
Note: Be careful not to shake the EMF detector or move it back and forth too quickly, as it might give you an inaccurate reading.
The base EMF reading is the average of your lowest and highest EMF reading. For instance, if your lowest and highest readings during your initial sweep are .75 and 1.25 milligauss, your base reading is 1 milligauss.
A base EMF reading allows you to accurately assess any EMF spikes -- which are generally defined as sharp rises of 1 milligauss or more above the base -- you encounter.
On a hunt, for example, you could enter a site and right away see 2-milligauss spikes. You’d break out the cameras, do EVP work and even try to make contact. It all could be wasted effort if the area's base reading is already 1.5 milligauss.
A .5-milligauss jump is relatively insignificant, absent other supporting evidence.
Look for EMF spikes on the EMF detector
Once you've established the base EMF reading for the area, walk with the EMF detector out in front of you at your midsection. You are looking for substantial spikes in the EMF.
The more intense the electromagnetic field, the greater chance that paranormal activity is occurring. However, a good investigator will rule out other sources -- man-made or natural -- when encountering a substantial spike in the EMF.
Make sure you're not getting a false positive EMF reading
In the context of a paranormal investigation, a false positive describes a spike caused by a natural or man-made source. When you get an EMF spike, find the direction it’s coming from.
If your base EMF reading is .4, and you register a spike of 2.5, move your detector in each axis (up, down, forward and back) to see if your EMF reading gets stronger or weaker. If you move your EMF detector backward and the spike dissipates, you have ruled out that direction. If you move forward and the spike increases, chances are the source of the EMF spike is in that direction.
Move in the direction of the EMF spike
If your EMF reading climbs higher as you proceed in a certain direction, continue in that direction until you locate the source of the EMF spike.
If your reading spikes, then dissipates, change axis so you can find the EMF spike again. In our experience, when an EMF reading dissipates in every direction it is a sign that the energy you’re picking up is coming from its own source and not a man-made source.
Identify different kinds of EMF
In our investigations we’ve found that man-made power sources such as light fixtures, electrical outlets, power boxes and exposed wiring tend to generate consistent EMF readings, as do household objects like rugs and blankets.
On the other hand, it’s more common for spirits -- which behave in some respects like free-floating EMF waves -- to produce spikes in the EMF that seem to dissipate. This may be an indication that a spirit is moving around the location.
It should be noted that some hydroelectric power -- such as water turning a wheel -- produce EMF spikes that rise and fall. It’s important that you become familiar with different sources of EMF energy so you can identify them in an investigation.
Review your EMF evidence scientifically
Ruling out conventional sources for EMF spikes doesn’t mean you have found a ghost, nor is a free-floating EMF spike seemingly independent of natural or man-made causes confirmation of a paranormal presence.
As a serious investigator, such findings are an indication that you should intensify your investigation and employ other tools. If you suspect a paranormal presence, you may want to start taking pictures, begin EVP work or try establishing contact. The EMF detector is one of the first tools we use in a paranormal investigation, so remember, no matter how persuasive your findings are, the hunt has only just begun.
Check out the introduction to Britt's Gear Guide as he takes you on a tour of the TAPS gear room.
Adam Berry answers your questions from Facebook!
Britt and KJ get a funny look at what they find while investigating.