Paducah, KY—January 2017… TASCAM DR-series field recorders are used in a wide range of applications, ranging from broadcast and film to sound design, education, and much more. But even the TASCAM team didn’t anticipate that the DR-701D, DR-100mkIII, and other DR-series recorders would prove particularly well suited to investigating paranormal phenomena—more colloquially, “ghost hunting.” Such is indeed the case, according to Gavin Kelly, the host and lead investigator for Amazon Prime's television series Paranormal Journey: Into the Unknown. For their broadcasts, Kelly and partner/cohost Paula Purcell—also known as the Phantasmic Ghost Hunters, or PGH—video their explorations into paranormal phenomena and show the raw, uncut footage—no editing, no tricks.
“We were amazed at how well the TASCAM recorders can capture the unseen, the voices of the dead,” asserts Kelly. “They can pick up amazing things, especially in abandoned buildings. We use both the internal mics and mics we connect with cables. The DR-series recorders’ internal mics are great. They pick up stuff our other field recorders can’t.”
When ghost hunting, the recorders’ audio input meters aren’t just used to avoid input clipping. “We often work in quiet places, like abandoned buildings,” Kelly observes, “and when we see the signal level fluctuate, I point the camera at that area so we can get pictures of whatever could be causing the fluctuation. It’s like a surveillance system for the supernatural.”
For instance, when Kelly and Purcell were investigating an old U.S. Marine hospital, they placed a camera in the center of a hallway and mounted the TASCAM DR-701D under the camera and a TASCAM DR-10SG camera-mounted recorder with shotgun microphone on top. “We ran cables from the DR-701D to mics in four rooms, while the camera shot straight down the hall,” recalls Kelly. “We then went downstairs to our base camp and watched from an infrared camera. If the recorder picks up something, the meters will flash. In this case, we were three floors down, with nobody else in the building, when the meters went to yellow and then red. We’re still evaluating the audio, but we think we’re on to something.”
Sometimes the mics’ sensitivity results in false positives. “We investigated a place called the Campbell Club,” Kelly relates, “and we used the TASCAM DR-100mkIII’s internal mics. We were monitoring the live audio from the recorder, and at first it sounded like someone was hollering inside the house. Even the guy who let us into the club thought he heard something coming from the fourth floor. But after further evaluation we found out it was someone in a car driving by with the radio blasting—a block away! It wasn’t the recording we were hoping for but it shows how sensitive the microphones are.”
In addition to the DR-701D, DR-100mkIII, and DR-10SG, the Phantasmic Ghost Hunters use a TASCAM DR-10L digital audio recorder with lavalier mic and a TASCAM DR-10X plug-on micro linear PCM recorder with XLR connection. The DR-10X, which is commonly used for interviewing and broadcast applications, attaches to a handheld microphone, capturing audio to a microSD card at 24-bit, 48 kHz Broadcast WAV resolution.
“The DR-10X is great for our interviews and walkthroughs; this way, we don’t have to run mic cables down a boom pole to our recorder,” Kelly enthuses. “And the DR-10L is just phenomenal! We used to have to record interviews from a lavalier mic using wireless, and we had RF interference problems and signals dropping out. With the DR-10L, the subject wears the lavalier, and it’s wired to the recorder in their pocket. No wireless, no RF. With a slate, you can easily synchronize it in post.”
Durability is another advantage of the DR series. “We are very careful with our equipment but we travel a lot, and we sometimes work in difficult conditions, so we need something that will hold up,” notes Kelly. “We don’t want to lose a recording that could solve a mystery. The TASCAM DR-series recorders are built for field work, and they’re rugged and extremely reliable. That makes a big difference in our work.”
Speaking of recordings that could solve a mystery, Kelly and Purcell used a TASCAM recorder to make an interesting discovery at Beauvoir, the Biloxi, Mississippi, post-war home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. “There’s a cemetery in the backyard of the house,” Kelly recalls, “and I went out there and placed the DR-100mkIII on top of the Unknown Soldier’s grave, which is a huge slab. And we learned that the Unknown Soldier’s name was Jack. Now we can really say that you don’t know Jack!”