What is a Faraday shield and how is it used in paranormal investigations?
Paranormal investigators will often attend an investigation armed with cases of equipment ready to measure their surroundings in the hopes of anomalies that may indicate something paranormal is afoot. The problem which we know happens with any piece of equipment, is that they are all susceptible to false-positive readings. Devices are designed to flash and make a noise if they register a reading. The reading however is often something completely normal such as a radio frequency or EMF signal. Given how easy it is for these false positives to occur, investigators are often looking for ways to ‘foolproof’ their equipment so that false positive readings are kept to a minimum.
One way in which they do this is to use what is called a Faraday shield.
If you would like to read more about false positives and paranormal equipment, check out my article the false positives of paranormal equipment.
What is a Faraday shield?
Image Source: sciencefacts.net
The faraday shield or cage is an enclosure that is used to block electromagnetic fields. Name after English Scientist Michael Faraday who in 1836 observed during his testing that an excess charge on a charged conductor only resided on the exterior and didn’t influence anything that was inside it. To test and demonstrate this further, he built a room coated with metal foil. He allowed high voltage discharges which came from an electrostatic generator that was striking outside of the room. He used a tool called an electroscope (a scientific instrument that detects the presence and magnitude of an electric charge), to prove that there was no electric charge inside the room. It only existed on the outside. The metal foil proved to act as a shield. And so the Faraday shield was coined! It is worth noting and giving credit where it is due however, that while we call this technology a Faraday cage, it was actually Benjamin Franklin who initially made this discovery in 1755. He lowered an uncharged cork ball attached to a piece of silk thread and fed it through an opening into an electrically charged metal can. He noted that the cork was not attracted to the inside of the can as it would have been to the outside. It was lowered to touch the bottom of the can and when taken out, it was noted that there was no charge to the cork even though it had touched the bottom of the can. If touched the outside of the can, a charge would be present. Again the basic concept is that anything inside the metal enclosure was exempt from the electrical charge. So now you know the simple explanation and the history behind the Faraday cage.
Michael Faraday – Image Source: Public Domain
Fun fact: This is not Faraday’s only association with the paranormal field. Faraday was suspicious of table-turning phenomena (which was quite popular during the 19th century) and set out to prove that it was not the spirit that was manipulating the table but the people participating themselves. He felt it was caused by an unconscious involuntary muscle contraction (much like the ideomotor effect we talk about with Ouija boards). To prove this in 1853 he created a table that had 2 tops on it divided by a layer of ball bearings and rubber bands. When the sitters were using this table, the first layer would move only showing that it was the fingers of the sitters moving the table and not ‘spirit’. Once they were aware of their actions, there was no movement whatsoever. He felt that this adequately proved that it was the person in fact moving the table and not ‘spirit’.
Diagram of Faraday’s apparatus. Image Source: Public Domain
How is the Faraday shield used in the paranormal field?
Like everything in the paranormal field, it is based on theory. A lot of people use the theory that spirits can manipulate electromagnetic fields as a part of their paranormal investigation methods. This is why investigators use devices which read EMF such as K2 meters and Mel Meters. The problem with this is that while these devices work in that they do detect electromagnetic signals, it means they also detect man-made ones too. This includes things like phone and radio signals. It means that it can be difficult and pretty much impossible to prove that it is a spirit manipulating the device because a truck driving past using a CB Radio could in theory also set it off. The same can be said for things like spirit boxes and digital recorders. Radio interference means that a lot of people think ghost boxes are simply a case of audio pareidolia mixed with radio interference. Others believe that the voices we are hearing on EVP recorders are simply some sort of electromagnetic interference. To eliminate this seed of doubt, it makes sense to put these items in some sort of Faraday enclosure meaning that theoretically interference is no longer an issue.
Image courtesy of Ghost Stop.
Fun Fact: People nowadays also use small Faraday pouches to protect their car keys, mobile phones, key fobs, credit cards to block any signals from being able to steal your personal information.
What items can you put in the Faraday shield/pouch?
This is where you need to put on your investigator’s hat and start thinking. Most commonly, people will put ghost boxes into a Faraday pouch. The biggest problem with ghost boxes is radio interference. The theory a lot of investigators have is that if they put the ghostbox in a Faraday pouch, it will eliminate radio interference. While this is true to some extent, it is thought that these are not strong enough to completely eliminate AM signals. This is probably the most common use of the faraday pouch in the paranormal field. Perhaps try running two spirit boxes at the same time. One inside the pouch and one outside the pouch. While it would be almost impossible to have them run the same sweeps at the same time, it will give you a good indication if the pouch really is eliminating any interference. If a voice comes through, is it coming through one or both spirit boxes? Is the voice coming through the box in the pouch or the one outside the box? There are lots of little things you can experiment with and try here.
Again by putting a digital recorder inside a pouch, one could argue that there is no emf interference that could be recorded inside the pouch. Some people are very critical of EVP and don’t believe it is possible. Their explanation is that EMF interference can cause noises to appear on the recordings and audio pareidolia fills in the gaps. A great experiment would be to use one recorder inside the pouch and have another sitting outside the pouch. Listen back to both of your recordings. In theory, a legitimate EVP should be on both recorders (though not always the case).
As a faraday cage is supposed to block out EMF, then it would make sense to pop an EMF meter in there. Fabric puches cause a problem because you can’t see inside but there are ways to build your own cage. You could depending on the size of the cage put a small camera in there to monitor the meter, although in doing so, the camera itself could set off the meter so this would be something you would need to experiment with. This concept has appeared on various ghost hunting television shows over the years with a big structure they have built that could essentially fit a person inside. They even go as far as using a tesla coil to discharge electricity in the hope that it will help spirits manifest. They have some sort of emf detection device inside the cage and ask the spirits to interact with it. By being inside the structure, it should not be reading any outside influence so it would be quite interesting for it to get a reading whilst inside the cage.
This is not exactly practical for the average investigator to go down this route. Just getting it to a location would be difficult and I assume it would be a rather costly exercise as well. If you don’t know what you are doing, playing with electricity is also dangerous and not something I would recommend.
Rem Pods are honestly one of my favourite tools because if you know how they work and really eliminate everything else, in theory, they should not be going off. So when they do, it can be a bit exciting. The problem is of course, they are not immune to mobile phones and radio signals. I remember on one investigation, I kept getting quite excited because when I was using a walkie talkie, once I finished talking and released the talk button, the Rem Pod would go off. Sadly it was not a spirit enthralled in my conversation, I very quickly worked out that the walkie talkie was actually setting it off. This is one of those cases where a faraday cage would come in quite handy! In order to test it, I would have two – one inside the cage and one outside the cage. They are expensive tools so if you don’t have two, pop an EMF metre nearby as if it is a man-made signal interfering, then this should be picking it up too.
Ultimately, whatever piece of equipment you are using, you need to understand exactly how the equipment works. It means doing things like testing it around mobile phones and radio signals. Work out what sets it off and at what range so that when you are using the equipment you can be aware. Finally, don’t just ‘assume’ that a faraday pouch or cage is the magic answer and that if something registers it means it is paranormal. For example, if you use aluminium foil, a tiny hole is all it can take for a breach. If you use a pouch, if the cords connected to a spirit box are hanging out of the pouch, things like this can make a huge difference. Remember, while it blocks some signals, it may not block all AM signals. Whenever you get any sort of reading, you should attempt to recreate it.
How to make your own Faraday Cage
I am not going to sit here and pretend I am handy enough to have come up with instructions to make your own fancy cage, but I am a good researcher and found a good blog that purpose-built a faraday cage for a K-11 Meter. Check it out here:
If you are low on materials and need to make something on the fly, don’t underestimate the effect of aluminium foil!
Fun Fact: There is a reason why people refer to the tin foil hats! The aluminium foil is said to protect the brain from threats such as electromagnetic fields, mind control, and mind reading.
Have you used or experimented with a faraday shield? Did you find it eliminated the interference? Did you have any success with your experiments? Let me know in the comments by using the source link below.
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