ParaXplorer Project is a quorum of independent investigators based in Southern California that applies tech-based environmental monitoring, objective observation and intuitive disciplines to an ongoing field study of the paranormal. Founded as a true project, PXP welcomes collaboration with the ghost hunting community in pursuit of knowledge and understanding of what awaits beyond our mortal realm.
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Thermal Imaging: Hot or Cold Evidence?

Exploring thermal imaging and paranormal activity compatibility

INTRODUCED ON POPULAR paranormal and ghost hunting entertainment television shows several years ago, it has been often referred to as the Holy Grail of ghost hunting equipment: The thermal imaging camera. Beyond adding on-screen eye candy to obligatory night vision dull green IR lighting to TV audiences, can it produce potential valid evidence of the paranormal and justify the near-rabid desire by many to acquire one?

Consider this proposition: Current consumer-grade thermal imaging cams and spirit presence may not be compatible. Since what a ghost consists of is unknown, are the physical properties a spirit possesses (if any) imaginable by a thermal devices considering their technical limitations?

ParaXplorer founder, Matthew, joined Beyond Investigation's founder and paranormal radio talk show host, Patrick Wheelock, to conduct informal experiments using a FLIR Systems ThermaCam EX300 aboard the Queen Mary historic ship in Long Beach, California. Both provide commentary on the tests and their importance in evaluating the value of thermal imaging within the paranormal investigation field.

Conclusion from complete report
Based on experiments conducted in the clickable tests tab above, commercial thermal imagers' principle of operation result in critical limitations of registering what current theories consider what spirit energy may be comprised of. This makes them completely unreliable as ghost detectors as promoted by entertainment TV, but can be useful for finding natural sources of temperature anomalies. One paranormal study where an imager might be most handy: cryptid hunting if the subject of interest is physical.

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Are thermal imaging and the paranormal compatible?: Part 1
Click to view rainbow and rainbow HC palettes.

Black & White and Iron palettes test
Click to view black & white and Iron palettes.
FLIR Model EX300 thermal imager tests
:: Signature from a lit candle
:: Transfer of heat to aluminum foil
:: Thermal signature of a fine cold mist
:: Reflective properties of porous surfaces

Candle and aluminum
You will notice the heat rising from the candle barely registers just inches above the flame and is non-existent thereafter. The heat is still physically present and rising as shown by Pat's fast reflex response when holding his hand over the flame. Furthermore, you can clearly see heat being transferred to the aluminum foil that is held above the candle. This demonstrates the absence of mass in the thermal exchange prevents the FLIR to register such changes.

Cold water mist
The spray bottle filled with ice water clearly images, but when water is expelled as a fine mist, the FLIR nearly misses the thermal transfer completely. Once again, a lack of minimal mass is the cause.

Porous substrates
Lastly, the test table clearly reflects items being used in the test along with Patrick's hand prints as he touches it. The non-metallic table has a textured plastic surface indicating that many unsuspecting substrates are capable of reflecting thermal signatures of items surrounding them. This is important to understand since viewers are presented with many “strange” thermal shapes on paranormal-based TV shows. Until the TV show personalities include traditional video footage with the same focus at the same time as FLIR scanned images, we have to conclude that the “evidence” presented after the “investigation” is suspect at best.

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Patrick Wheelock of Beyond Investigation
Patrick Wheelock brings years of diverse experience with motion picture special effects prop construction, law enforcement and electrical engineering to a rational, scientific-based study of the paranormal.
AS WE WATCH ghost hunting shows on TV, there seems to be a new toy introduced that the watching audience lusts after. Only a few years ago, the "Holy Grail of ghost hunting equipment" was the IR (Infrared) thermometer according to one show. Unfortunately for that show and those that followed, the early flawed use of the IR thermometer has been proven it absolutely useless when operated in the same manner as the personalities.

Once the IR thermometer was pushed from the top of the Holy Grail list, a new piece of equipment emerged. The FLIR or thermal imaging camera has punched its way into the number one position and has maintained that position since if you take ghost hunting TV shows as the gospel, of course.

First off, the FLIR Thermal Imager is on average 250 times the cost of the IR thermometer which in itself, gives it a mysterious aura to those that can't afford to shell-out multiple thousands to acquire one. Also, remember the first time you saw colorful thermal screen shot eye candy blasted over your big screen? TV shows gravitate to what the audience perceives as "cool" in order to capture attention and gain ratings. Unfortunately, viewers are subject to the ratings game as opposed to reasonable scientific procedures and data collection in these entertainment shows.

Ice water held by Patrick Wheelock within a spray bottle and lit candles were the opposing thermal elements used in imaging experiemnts aboard the Queen Mary.
Ice water held by Patrick Wheelock within a spray bottle and lit candles were the opposing thermal elements used in imaging experiments aboard the Queen Mary. Click "tests" tab above to view full test videos.

Don't get me wrong, when used properly during investigators, the IR thermometer, thermal imagers and other devices are valuable means of data collection. Do these tools prove a ghost is there? Not that I have been able to see so far, but what they do provide is a data base of circumstances that we can log and later study in hopes that at some point, we can put a few of the pieces of the paranormal puzzle together.

The FLIR specifically is not without its own issues as we have witnessed on many occasions with TV shows that use them as evidence-gathering devices. First, the FLIR is highly subject to heat signature reflections. The many surfaces that we have been able to test one on indicate that not just mirror, glass or shiny metal cause a reflection effect. We have seen that very porous surfaces are just as likely to cause a false thermal signature when scanning an area.

Furthermore, we have run many tests with several models of FLIR Systems imagers and the results seem to indicate that a lack of mass will cause the FLIR to faintly, if at all, register a thermal change. Our tests with Matthew prove that the FLIR Model EX300 requires objects of significant mass within an scanned area to register a thermal signature.

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WITH LIMITATIONS PROVEN, the title of "Holy Grail" for the thermal imager can be set aside. It's usefulness in the ghost hunting field is so suspect that one can make a case that the only teams benefiting from their use are those within thermal imager manufacturer marketing departments who have found an unexpected, profitable niche market.

Since entertainment-based reality TV shows have been mentioned several times in this Xspot as a catalyst of the thermal imager's popularity, consider the following:

FLIR Thermal Imager:: Contemporary theories on spirit interaction often include energy, either creating or manipulating, in quantities that do not produce imagable mass.

:: If commercial grade thermal imaging technology is unable to register energy of subjects with zero to minimal mass, is it safe to assume the humanoid figures commonly captured and sold to viewing audiences as paranormal are false positives? Why do the titular heads of paranormal investigation, our plumbers, appear not to know their equipment's fundamental limitations? Are we dealing with ignorance or worse, fraud for the sake of entertainment? Let's not forget the duo's team has been caught misusing hand held IR thermometers in th past, not to mention potentially fraudulent activity that has been examined here and personally experienced by ParaXplorer Project members.

:: If spirits could generate enough mass via energy, may it be proposed here that an evenly dispersed, monotone form would be imaged? TV show humanoid "ghost" thermal signatures usually present distinct facial and/or body part details created by temperature differentials of flesh, bone, skin and clothing. In a field that requests people to often stretch borderlines of credulity, suggesting spirits manifest with such great thermal imaging detail is asking a bit much.

:: There is very little real in reality television.

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Xspot References

:: Beyond Investigation

:: Pat and Brian Radio Show

:: FLIR Thermal Imaging

Visit Other Xspots

Xspot: The Whaley House, San Diego, Califonrina The Whaley House
Long-time museum
manager, Victor Santana,
is interviewed.
Xspot: Sage Hill School's Queen Mary field trip Sage Hill School spirits
Private school students
take a field trip to the
Queen Mary with PXP.
Xspot: A ghostly hissy fit on the Queen Mary A spirited tantrum
Join Matthew on one of
his strangest encounters
aboard the Queen Mary.
Submissions: Sarah Estep Interview Sarah Estep Interview
Listen to Todd Bates interview the first lady
of EVP research.

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