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Radon and Paranormal Activity 

Some paranormal investigators believe that in order to manifest, spirits must accumulate something from the physical world that they can then manipulate into a visible form. The idea that ghosts and non-human spirits must draw something from this world in order to act in it is not a new concept.

In magical traditions, for example, substances that emit heavy smoke are burned during manifestation rites. Dittany of Crete is mentioned in a number of recipes for incense designed to help spirits manifest (Huson). This relative of our common kitchen oregano gives off a thicker smoke than most plant material. Magical books of spirit evocation such as the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage (Mathers), and the Keys of Solomon (the Greater as well as the Lesser, or the Lemegeton [both Mathers]) contain recipes that include resins like myrrh, galbanum, and storax, all of which produce thick heavy smoke.

Many paranormal investigators believe that spirits may be able to draw electromagnetic and thermal energy out of the environment, or even people, to manifest or otherwise interact with the physical world.  Siphoning energy may seem very different than using a "physical" substance such as smoke, but remember that energy and matter are essentially the same thing (Einstein's E=mc²). The incenses mentioned above all have to be burned in loose form on glowing charcoal to produce the amount of smoke needed for a manifestation. So, if they ever worked as expected, perhaps it was the thermal emissions of the charcoal which helped the spirits to take shape, rather than the incense itself.

For a look at how much such energy siphoning could help a ghost...and for an alternate explanation of fluctuating EM fields in conjunction with spirit manifestation...see the Anatomy of a Ghost section. For now it's sufficient to say that spirits may need to tap into EM fields to draw energy to themselves.

There's a potential source of EM energy associated with pre-earthquake activity which goes virtually unnoticed: radon.

Fluctuating radon levels are being studied as a possible precursor signal to earthquakes. The theory is that as rock is compressed by increased tectonic stress, it becomes more porous, allowing trapped gasses such as radon to escape. Higher levels of radon have been reported in water sources as well as the atmosphere ahead of earthquakes (Das, 2005), including the Kobe earthquake in Japan (Igarashi et al, 1995, Yasuoka et al, 2006).  If the theory about increased rock porosity is true, it is likely that radon level increases are widespread along the fault zone, but because radon is a gas it could dissipate in most outside areas. It would, however, accumulate in enclosed areas such as basements and the lower levels of buildings, and could be distributed through the buildings by ventilation systems.

It's true that not many buildings are set directly on top of faults, but ahead of an earthquake the seismic pressure increases over a large area. So it is possible to see significant increases of radon emission well away from the actual fault line, in areas where people are more likely to build homes and businesses. How much of an increase you see in the gas will depend on how far away from the epicenter you go.

To understand why radon increases would have anything to do with paranormal manifestations, you have to examine the behavior of radon itself. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas which is produced through radioactive decay (specifically, alpha decay) of radium. Radium has a half-life of about 1,600 years. This means that if you have a pound of radium, it will take 1,600 years for half of that pound to decay. It will take another 1,600 years for half of that to decay, and so on.

When an atom of radium decays, it emits an alpha particle. Alpha particles are made of two protons and two neutrons, and are extremely stable particles. Essentially, what you have is the nucleus of a helium atom.

After the alpha decay of radium, you have radon. Unlike its parent element, radon is fairly short-lived. It has a half life of just over 3.5 days. Like its parent, radon decays through alpha decay. The resulting products also decay by emitting alpha particles: radon becomes polonium, which becomes an isotope of lead sometimes known as radium B, which becomes an isotope of bismuth known as radium C. These decay sequences take about an hour, ending with more decay sequences that take mere seconds.

Now we come to the link with spirit manifestation: the release of alpha particles during radioactive decays produce heat. This is known as decay heat, and also occurs in substances that go through beta and gamma decay cycles. Nuclear power plants rely on decay heat to produce energy.

In the case of radon, which has a fairly fast decay rate, the heat may not be enough for you to feel simply by walking into the room (and you wouldn't want to anyway, given the health problems caused by radon) but it might be a useful source of low-level heat-energy for spirit manifestation. How much heat is produced is, of course, dependent on how much radon is in the room. Whether thermal energy is a good source of energy for spirits is still a question: see Anatomy of a Ghost section for discussions on why it might not be very efficient.

However, radon may play a role in generation of EM fields as well, particularly in large concentrations.

In the case of regular radon emissions, the flow of the gas is usually light. Frequently it comes from building materials like cement and brick as well as the ground itself. Even though the emission rate can be low, radon is a heavy gas, so it tends to settle and accumulate, especially in basements or other structures below the ground. Radon emissions can fluctuate in any given area for a number of reasons, including weather changes, but even if they reach levels considered harmful to health they rarely reach strong concentrations under normal circumstances.

In the case of pre-seismic emissions of radon however, the outflows of the gas can be significantly higher. They may come as one or more "puffs" of gas as sudden increased pressure in surrounding rocks allow more gas to escape. Increased electrical currents in the Earth associated with pre-seismic activity could also excite trapped pockets of other gasses enough to cause them to forcibly exit the rock, allowing the more inert radon to escape with them. While a concrete basement floor would slow the gas' ingress in buildings, plenty could still seep in through cracks in the foundation and from other points.

Models suggest that immediately after it is released into the atmosphere, whether in a building or outside, radon will increase localized ionization rates, resulting in a ground-level cloud of ions. (Pulinets, 2004). This forms a non-thermal plasma. Some ions will be positively charged because they have shed electrons, others will be negatively charged through accreting stray electrons.  

It's the nature of oppositely-charged particles to attract, so the positive and negative ions circle loosely together to form neutral clusters of particles. But this attraction, known as a Couloumb interaction, is not very strong in this case, and these clusters can be broken apart fairly easily. If we are talking about an interior location, sudden air current shifts from ventilation systems switching on and off could do the trick.

There are other phenomena directly related to earthquakes which can also break the Couloumb bonds. Ahead of earthquakes, there can be intense rushes of gas such as carbon dioxide from the Earth's crust. This likely will not have a huge effect on a basement with a concrete floor, although increased levels of the gas can certainly seep into the basement. In locations with nothing but a dirt floor, and in outdoor locations, the results are quite different, because the gas emissions will not be blocked.

                         "...These intensive air movements destroy neutral [ion] clusters because

                                    of weakness in the Couloumb interaction. As a result within a short

                                 time the near-ground layer of atmosphere becomes rich in ions...

                                    The charge separation process... leads to generation of an

                                 anomalously strong vertical electric field...."  (Pulinets, 2004; italics mine)

In terms of tracking down spirit activity, this field formation can have positive and negative possibilities. On the one hand, EMF fluctuations are believed to indicate presence of spirits, and as noted above, some paranormal investigators believe the spirits may also be able to draw strength if there's more electromagnetic energy at hand (although as with anything, there may be too much of a good thing, and an overly-strong field might irritate spirits enough to leave an area).

But conversely, EMF fluctuations produced by the ionization process may give false positives to EMF detectors used in paranormal investigations. The field fluctuation could also affect electric equipment, possibly leading to battery drains. If a field is very strong, even temporarily, it may even cause malfunctions such as electrical devices switching on or shorting out unexpectedly. This can be incorrectly interpreted as a definite sign that spirits are at work, because most people would not suspect a reason for unusual electric fields to suddenly be generated in their homes.        

As an added effect, static fields can develop in conjunction with the electric field from Couloumb separation; static fields  attract dust, which, as explained in Anatomy of a Ghost, would make it a little easier for a spirit to make a visible manifestation.

Paranormal phenomena can often occur intermittently, with months between episodes. In this way, they bear a similarity to seismic activity and its related processes. It's possible for there to be several incidents of precursor activity ahead of earthquakes, with weeks or months between incidents before the actual earthquake occurs. So if there are several rounds of radon emissions before earthquakes, it's entirely possible for there to be several rounds of increased reports of paranormal activity in the area.

But it is important to remember that while radon emissions could increase spirit activity, not all of the activities associated with radon emissions are necessarily paranormal. They may simply be due to sudden formations of electric fields associated with radon ionization.

When investigating a site for potential paranormal activity, radon testing should be included whenever possible. This is first and foremost a safety precaution for everyone involved, and also ensures that this important base is covered when accepting or dismissing the activity as paranormal. Even if you don't think the investigation site is in a quake-prone area, remember that there are other reasons radon levels can suddenly jump.

Once the radon is in the air, the other processes such as ionization and generation of anomalous electric fields can easily follow, regardless of whether a pending earthquake is involved. These can affect EMF and thermal equipment. Whether the activity is determined to be paranormal will largely depend on exactly what is happening, how much evidence of intelligence or purpose is detected (in the case of non-residual hauntings) and ultimately, on the instincts and judgment of the investigators. 

                      copyright 2008 by Morgan St. Knight



Das, Nisith; Bhandari, Rakesh; Ghose, Debasis; Sen, Prasanta; Sinha, Bikash: Anomalous Fluctuations of Radon, Gamma-Dose and Helium Emanating from a Thermal Spring Prior to an Earthquake: Current Science, Volume 89, Number 8, October 2005, 1399-1403

Huson, Paul: Mastering Witchcraft: Perigee Trade, 1980

Igarashi, G.; Saeki, S.; Takahata, N.; Sumikawa, K.; Tasaka, S.; Sasaki, Y.; Takahashi, M.; Sano, Y.:  Ground Water Radon Anomaly Before the Kobe Earthquake in Japan : Science7, July 1995, Volume 269, No, 5220, 60-61

Mathers, S.L. MacGregor: The Goetia: the Lesser Key of Solomon the King: 1997 (reprint) RedWheel/Weiser LLC

Mathers, S.L. MacGregor: The Key of Solomon the King: 2000 (reprint of 1889 version) Samuel Weiser Inc

Mathers, S.L. MacGregor: The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage: Kessinger Publishing, 1998

Pulinets, Sergei: Ionospheric Precursors of Earthquakes: Recent Advances in Theory and Practical Application: TAO, Volume 15, No. 3, September 2004, 413-435

Yasuoko Yumi ; Igarashi George ; Ishikawa Testuo;  Tokonami, Shinji ; Shinogi Masaki: Evidence of Precursor Phenomena in the Kobe Earthquake: Applied Geochemistry, 2006, Volume 21, 1064-1072

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