Misconceptions of a mobile phone

6th July 2018. Reading Time: 6 minutes General, Paranormal Equipment, Paranormal Investigation, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 2537 page views. 0 comments.

Catching orbs without a flash, night vision and thermal imaging filters, ghost apps and digital recordings. These are often used in conjunction with smartphones and wrongly misunderstood. This is breaking down some of the misconceptions when it comes to using your smartphone for paranormal investigating. Remember a phone was not designed to be a 'ghost hunting' tool.

I have spoken a lot in the past about photography and all the ways that cameras are not necessarily reliable in picking up ‘paranormal phenomena’. Orbs, lens flare, ghosting and all sorts of anomalies are shown to be a fault of the camera. In fact if you look in the manual of most digital cameras, it will tell you why these anomalies such as orbs appear. It is 2018 however and digital cameras are kind of a thing of the past. Unless you are a photography enthusiast like myself, you probably don’t own an SLR or digital camera because you don’t need to anymore. Everything we need is right at our fingertips in the form of our smartphone. The resolution on smart phone cameras in some cases is better than on digital cameras. Phones now have more than one lens allowing you to blur backgrounds and shoot wide scale landscapes. The smartphone has become a part of our daily life. We snap every single second of our life, including what we ate for ‘brunch’. If we don’t have a photo of it, then it never happened!

It is this convenience that has also changed how people investigate the paranormal – particularly in the last few years. When people attend a tour or an investigation, they often don’t bring along their own equipment because they are either new to investigating, or they don’t need it because the venue provide all the equipment. People are no longer bringing along their digital cameras because they simply don’t need to. One thing they do have with them is a smartphone. Almost with instinct, they of course want to start snapping away in the hopes of capturing some sort of paranormal anomaly on their screen. The smartphone however is even more unreliable than a digital camera.


ORBS are always going to be a big debate and if you haven’t already, please check out my article Understanding the different causes of orbs. It gives a pretty comprehensive and technical explanation for orbs using pretty simple language. People often seem to think that a smartphone is more ‘reliable’ in picking up ORBS because you tend to see more of them of them on a smartphone than you do on a regular camera. This is because the flash sits directly next to the lens meaning that entire area the lens is shooting will have light reflecting off it causing ‘orbs’. This we know and this I have explained in the article mentioned before.

What about though the claims from people who have caught ORBS on smartphones and insist they were not using a flash? I have read that if you catch an ORB and you didn't use a flash then it must be paranormal! Why can I look at my smartphone during the day and see orbs floating about and I don’t have my flash on? Does this mean they are 'real' ORBS? The short answer is No.

The answer lies within the ISO. The ISO is technically the camera's sensitivity to light. The higher it is, the more sensitive it becomes to light. This is what allows you to see and shoot a picture in very low lighting without a flash. There is also the possibility of light reflecting off other surfaces or items. It can even be as simple as a piece of dust or dirt sitting on the lens of your camera. Video cameras are known to pick up 'orbs' without using a flash and this is due to an inbuilt LED illuminator. Some models of mobile phones have this technology as well so while you are not using a flash, your phone is doing all kinds of fancy little tricks to improve the lighting which can still cause the ORB effect.

Night Vision and Thermal Filters

I often see photos posted on Facebook by investigators using Apps they have downloaded claiming that they are capturing footage or photos in night vision or thermal. It is important to understand that the phone cameras themselves do not have this capability without some form of attachment. They weren't designed to do anything more than shoot photos. Downloading the app, simply applies a green or coloured filter to give the illusion that you are filming in night vision or thermal.

You can however, film in thermal by spending some money. To be able to truely do this, you need to buy an 'official' attachment for your phone such as the FLIR one. This costs a couple of hundred dollars and is manufactured by a company that makes thermal imaging cameras and clicks onto your smartphone. It does use an App to give you the footage, but without the camera attachment, the 'official' app will not work. If you have downloaded an app for free or for a couple of dollars from the App store and it claims to shoot in night vision or thermal, it is only applying a filter. It is NOT filming in night vision or thermal.

Without an attachment like above, you not filming in thermal.

Ghost Hunting Apps

I am often asked about 'Ghost Hunting Apps'. While this is a personal choice, I would not use an app to assist with investigating. Paying a couple of dollars and having a radar show up on the screen where a 'ghost' could potentially be I feel is a gimmick. I don't remember seeing on the spec list for a phone that it could be used as an EMF detector. There are some ghost box and sound bank apps that people use on their phones which is not something I personally use. A lot of people claim to have success with the 'EchoVox', however I personally don't like it. I don't think an App is a reliable method to collect data for an investigation, but that is just my opinion.

Audio Recording

I have seen people download EVP apps. There is no need to do this. Your smartphone has an inbuilt voice recorder. You can do an EVP session right from your phone, BUT there are a few things to remember. Your phone will interfere with any equipment you may be using so you would need to only focus on EVP. The other very important point to remember is that your phone is not programmed to record 'high quality' audio. It will compress your audio into an MP3 meaning that when you play it back, the audio is in a way flattened. You lose some of the quality. Some phones may allow you to record in .WAV but generally it will be MP3. For this reason, I wouldn't rely on your mobile phone for your recordings. If you find yourself without a recorder it can be a great fill in, but I would stick to your digital recorder and record your files in .WAV. It is however a great way to start out and practise if you can't afford to buy a digital recorder.

These are just some of the misconceptions surrounding mobile phones. At the end of the day it is up to you which equipment you want to use and how you want to use it. Remember, smartphones aren't designed to be scientific instruments. They are designed for convenience and entertainment. Be aware and understand how it works so you know how to interpret any anomolies that come up and remember, phone signals interfere with other equipment! Happy hunting and remember, don't look down at your phone all the time, you could miss something happening right in front of you!

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