The MESA Project

MESA researchers positioned to ensure no interference with their array monitoring the 2nd floor conference room at WNIN on Oct. 25, 2003
MESA researchers positioned to ensure no interference with their array monitoring the 2nd floor conference room at WNIN on Oct. 25, 2003

Multi-Energy Sensory A rray (MESA) Project members include Timothy M. Harte, David L. Black, Michael T. Hollinshead & Hugh O. Wittenbraker.

We are a multidisciplinary group dedicated to the scientific study of haunt phenomena and poltergeist-like phenomena.  We have designed a computer system that measures physical energies in places where people experience these phenomena.  Haunt phenomena have been described as visual, auditory, and olfactory hallucinations; sensed presence (being touched or the feeling of not being alone); erratic functioning of mechanical or electrical equipment; unexplained strong emotional episodes; strange animal responses; and object movement.

TheMESA system has recorded anomalous energies at over 70 sites in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.  Previous research in haunt phenomena suggests that fluctuating electromagnetic, magnetic, and other energies may be a culprit in some types of haunts. 



Geomagnetic activity (static magnetic fields) has been blamed for hallucinatory episodes, especially during REM sleep (see Randall and Randall, 1991).  This energy is primarily from the Earth, but also mediated at times by energy from the sun, as well. 


Other researchers think the sleep states themselves may be the cause of the hallucinatory behavior (Blackmore, 1998; Nickell, 1997; Persinger, 1993).  If the effects of EMFs are this powerful, the reports of the phenomena should be prevalent within the population.  Housing, offices, and other places where human activity near large transformer stations, power lines, and fault lines may play a key role in studies of hallucinatory episodes (Sisir & Millis, 1986). 


This phenomena includes apparitions (Konig, Fraser & Powell, 1981; Halgren, Walter, Cherlow, & Crandall, 1978; Persinger, Tiller, & Koren, 2000).  At times, people experience seeing forms, shapes, but at times the experiences are mistaken for seeing a real person.  Sensed presences, which include the feeling of being watched, not alone, or being stared at (Smith, Choy & Munro, 1986; Smith & Best, 1989; Halgren et al., 1978; Persinger, Tiller, & Koren, 2000; Ruttan, Persinger, & Koren, 1990; Sheldrake, 1998). 


Sleep paralysis has been recorded in cases where high or fluctuating EMFs are present (Persinger, 1999, communication with Roll & Nichols, 2000).  Depression, aggression, or other heightened moods or states of consciousness (DeLorge & Grissett, 1977; Persinger, 1974b) can also be present.  Tactile sensations such as being touched, or tingling sensations (somesthesia) can be produced by EMFs, or in the presence of an electrostatic field, or by direct electrical stimulation of the brain by complex magnetic fields (Persinger, 1999, communication to Roll & Nichols, 2000). 

Acoustic or aural phenomena such as “footsteps,” knocking, human voices, or one’s name being called out have also been experienced when these fluctuating EMFs are present (Burke, 1986, p. 264).  These subjective auditory experiences could be caused by electrical stimulation of the auditory cortex, or to the induction of localized electric seizures within the limbic system (Persinger, 1989; 1988; 1985). 


Erratic functioning or malfunctioning of electrical or mechanical equipment has been reported in sites where fluctuating EMFs are experienced (Burke, 1986).  A magneto-restrictive process may deform the ferrite components in electrical equipment, causing light bulbs to blow, and telephones to ring or malfunction.  Cold spots and spontaneous fires have been known to be experienced (Persinger, 1974a).  Sudden drops in temperature might be caused by a voltage increase between two dielectric plates, e.g., slabs of limestone below a site that are separated by a thermoelectric material (the Peltier effect, Persinger, 1974a). 


Floating globes, or orbs of light, also known as “ghost lights,” have been recorded on 35mm, Polaroid, Kodak infrared, and black and white Tri-X film (Radin & Roll, 1994; Roll, Moody, & Radin, 1996; Roll & Nichols, 1999, 2000); also see Internet web sites or  Both professional and amateur photographers and investigators, at some sites, have also recorded other anomalous images. 

Strange responses by animals have been recorded, which could be high frequency sound, inaudible to humans, and could be produced by anomalous magnetic fields.  These fields can also directly affect the hippocampus and amygdaloidal complex of the brain, and the temporolimbic system (the most electrically sensitive structures in the brain) and evoke affective responses in animals, and humans as well (Persinger, 1985,1988,1989).  Movement of objects such as doors, windows, rocking chairs, suspended lamps, and pictures on the walls of sites have been known to occur. 


Several researchers have measured EMFs, GMFs, and ion concentrations in sites where there have been anomalous activities, EMFs, and strange psychological reports (Radin & Roll, 1994; Roll & Nichols, 1999, 2000).  Usually, anomalous EMFs, GMFs,  or high ion concentrations may have been the culprit in those cases. 


Computers continue to be used to investigate EMFs in the field (Harte, Black, Hollinshead, 1999).  This first two authors have co-designed a laptop computer system, known as Multi-Energy Sensor Array (MESA; Harte, Black, & Hollinshead, 1999; Harte Black, Hollinshead, and Mitchell, 2001) that will continue to be utilized in these studies.  It is a portable, laptop computer system designed to measure low-frequency electromagnetic field and geomagnetic field fluctuations in different environments.  This system presently measures infrared (IR), visible (Vis), and ultraviolet (UV) light; geomagnetic (0-0.5 Hz) static electromagnetic fields; 60 Hz dynamic electromagnetic fields from wiring, vibration, and galvanic skin response of a human subject. 


Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and static geomagnetic fields (GMFs) continue to be linked to psychological complaints in buildings, and other places.  They are also being studied for their links to cancer (www.mcw.ed/gcrc/cop/static-fields-cancer-faq; Milham, 1979; Mevissan, 1993; Jankovic,, 1994). 


Allegedly, there is a higher incidence of lymphoreticular tumors, an increase in growth of chemically-induced tumors, and possible adverse effects on fetal development (Narra, 1996).  There are also studies that have shown a higher incidence of childhood leukemia (Doll, et. Al., 1992; Angelillo & Villari, 1999), brain cancer, and testicle cancer (Washburn, 1994; Kheifets, 2001).  Neuroblastoma (Jones, Shih, Thurston, Ware, & Cole, 1993) remains another cancer thought to be caused by electromagnetic fields, along with breast cancer (Gammon, et. al., 1998) and prostate cancer (Goldberg, 1998). 


The results of these studies remain problematic (Brainard, 1999) because of different levels of exposure, measurement rules used, and the times studied.  The interaction of these energetic fields may also need to be studied to see their effects (Savitz, 1993).  There may be underlying patterns in the interactions that could make EMFs more dangerous than one frequency or type of EMF alone.  EMFs are also being studied as possible beneficial resources for human health issues (Browner, Jupiter, Levine, & Trafton, 1998), such as facial nerve regeneration (Byers, Clark, & Thompson, 1998), arthritis (, multiple sclerosis (, and migraine headaches (Lappin, 1998). 


MESA is fitted with a data acquisition board that contains eight channels, and up to eight sensors can be utilized in a sampling period.  The data are then analyzed directly on the laptop computer, and displayed as graphs.  Readers are referred to previous articles (Houran, Lange, & Black, 1998; Harte, Black, & Hollinshead, 1999) for technical specifications not mentioned here.  MESA has been used to measure and record electromagnetic energy in approximately 60 sites, both where anomalous activity has occurred, and in control sites, or sites where there has not been anomalous activity.  Preliminary findings indicate changes in the static magnetic (geomagnetic) fields may cause people to label experiences as anomalous, or “paranormal.”  This may occur when a person walks from one room to another, and fluctuations, or changes in the geomagnetic fields cause the effects.    


More time, resources, and funds are needed to do this research.  The experimenters will continue to study sites where fluctuating electromagnetic energy occurs, and also measure control sites.  We hope to develop data for scientific publishing in peer-reviewed journals (such as Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, and others).  The researchers are also making a documentary film with the local Evansville, Indiana PBS television station, WNIN Channel 9.  A large part of the grant money needed will go to tuition for the project leader’s PhD candidature at the University of Adelaide, Australia.  A smaller part will go to a consultant, David L. Black.  Another part will go to expenses for the project. 


This study will be a concentrated effort to study the electromagnetic and magnetic energy in different sites, while also reporting what people have experienced at each site.  Each site will be rated and chosen for 1) its reported psychological effects, the quality and magnitude of effects, and 3) the lack of reported psychological effects.  The researchers will be blind to the conditions of each site.  A simple checklist and extensive interview will be conducted on each of the experients, and these will be checked with sites and locations within the site to study the phenomena. 


Psychological and/or parapsychological effects to be studied will be:

1)  Apparitions:  The sighting of a shadow, mist, fog, or anomalous shape or form, of even a person that might be mistaken for real.

2)  Sensed presences:   Subjective feelings which include the feeling of being watched (Sheldrake, 1998), or not alone in a room. 

3)  Sleep paralysis or other disturbances:   In sleep paralysis a person may wake with a feeling of immobility and fear.  The experiences tend to occur before the onset of normal dreams and may be facilitated by recent changes in brain function from closed head injury or insufficient blood supply.  The experiences are similar to dream-like states (identified by specific EEG patterns) where normal subjects experience body weakness, or decreased desire to move, when complex magnetic fields are applied across the brain.  The paresis is frequently associated with the feeling of a sentient presence (Roll & Nichols, 2000). 

4)  Depression and aggression :  Depression, heightened aggression, fear, sadness, and other unexplained sudden onset of emotions have been reported in both humans and animals by exposure to complex magnetic fields (DeLorge & Grissett, 1977; Persinger, 1974b).  This has been known to occur at certain frequencies (Tandy & Lawrence, 1998).  

5)  Tactile sensations:   The feeling of being touched, poked, pushed, scratched, tripped, or tingling in the limbs.

6)  Acoustic phenomena:   This would include hearing phenomena such as “footsteps,” knocking, human voices, or one’s name being called out have also been experienced in places where there are fluctuating electromagnetic or magnetic fields.

7)  Erratic functioning or malfunctioning of electrical or mechanical equipment has occurred at some sites.  This would include electrical equipment such as VCRs, microwave ovens, telephones, and light bulb failures. 

8)  Cold spots:   These are reported and occur in a transient fashion, usually moving around, but can also be stationery.       

9)  Floating lights:   Or other anomalous lighting effects have been reported.

10)  Strange responses:  By pets or animals at a site .  This would include an animal not going into a certain room, or showing fear, aggression, or another unusual response.

11)  Object movement:   This would include an object moving from one spot to another, or setting an object down only to find it is not there upon returning. 

  Sites will be chosen before the experiment, by an independent trained rater, and then randomized.  The experimenters will be blind to each site.  The researchers hope to measure about one site a week, depending on available time.  Each site will be measured for approximately one hour. The checklist (see Appendix A) will be filled out during interviews of the experients by the trained rater at each site.  A simple floor plan will be drawn, and experients will report where the psychological complaints have been reported.  The experimenters will then measure two (2) sites within the target or control site.  One will be a target site, where psychological complaints have been reported; the other site will be measured for control purposes.  Two sites will be measured at control sites as well, but the researchers will be blind to this condition.  The energetic data will be reported in charts, one for each sensor. 


MESA is a laptop computer system specifically designed to measure electromagnetic fields in environments (see Houran, Lange & Black, 1998; Harte, Black & Hollinshead, 1999).  Each site will be measured for at least one hour, and then data will be analyzed directly on the laptop computer.  Each site will also be documented using an infrared surveillance camera fitted to a VHS recorder, Sony 8mm Night Vision video camera fitted with a #67 filter, regular VHS camera, and 35mm still-picture cameras.   A PZM (pressure zone microphone) will also be fitted to one of the 8mm cameras to record anomalous audio activity.  The results will be reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, such as The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, and also to several popular magazines, such as Psychology Today.  The results will also be published in several large newspapers, if possible.  Each grantor will receive a final report of the findings of this study. 


Statistical analyses will be performed, using SPSS (Statistics Package for the Social Sciences), or Windows Excel.  If further statistical data analysis is desired, a data-mining capability is within the reach of a signal processing software package designed by the consultant, David L. Black. 


At places where there are changing, or fluctuating electromagnetic or geomagnetic energy, there will also be more psychological complaints or negative reports and symptomatology.  This study will be a significant pilot study to investigate how electromagnetic and magnetic fields affect the human brain/mind continuum.  It will add to the body of knowledge by studying many different types of environments, and to match psychological complaints with electromagnetic and geomagnetic activity.  Environments are important to study in terms of public health, both physical and psychological.  This study will provide scientists, researchers, health practitioners, industrial and office designers, and the public in how to make environments they live and work in healthier.  It may also provide new ways of studying EMFs, GMFs, and how they affect people.


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