The concept of Battery Drain phenomena comes from a belief that is based solely in anecdotal statements by investigators in the paranormal community. It is thought that equipment such as audio recorders, flashlights and other electronics will exhibit a rapid drain in battery strength prior to the onset of paranormal activity. Although it has also never been scientifically proven, paranormal investigators are more than willing to buy into this hypothesis even though scientific tests have sufficiently demonstrated that this phenomena is not paranormal at all. Before I go into that, there are some interesting facts and generalized knowledge that must be put forth first.
Batteries derive their source of energy from a chemical reaction that continues to take place even if they are sitting on a shelf in their original packaging. While most batteries have a long shelf life, batteries still weaken as they continue to sit on a shelf, in a box or in the junk drawer of your kitchen. Battery manufacturers print expiration dates on packages to notify consumers that the batteries will not perform at peak levels after that date. Some manufacturers use a “born” date or date when the battery was made to let consumers know they are purchasing fresh batteries instead of ones that have been sitting in a warehouse for months or years. However, even if they are fresh, batteries can lose up to 20 percent of their original power per year if they’re kept in a warm area (about 68 to 86 degrees F).
Alkaline, Primary cell (not rechargeable) batteries have good shelf life, that is they can be left around for years and still maintain good capacity but they are insufficient for high current drain applications such as digital cameras. They also operate poorly at low temperatures. Lithium, titanium and premium alkaline batteries are designed for these high-energy devices, whereas regular alkaline batteries work best with low-energy devices.
The nominal voltage of a fresh alkaline cell is 1.5 V while the effective zero-load voltage of a non discharged alkaline battery varies from 1.50 to 1.65 V, depending on the purity of the manganese dioxide used and the contents of zinc oxide in the electrolyte. The average voltage under load depends on discharge and varies from 1.1 to 1.3 V. The fully discharged cell has a remaining voltage in the range of 0.8 to 1.0 V.
Now if this isn’t complicated enough there are factors that are induced by the investigators themselves.
DON’T carry loose batteries in a pocket or purse with metal objects like coins, paper clips, etc. This can short-circuit the battery, leading to high heat or leakage that will affect its voltage capacity. Carrying batteries loose in a bag or container can also affect its capacity.
DON’T store batteries in hot places. The elevated temperatures can lead to capacity loss, leakage or rupture.
DON’T mix old and new batteries, or mix different types or makes of batteries. This can cause leakage or rupture, resulting in capacity loss.
My point here is simple, the charge of a battery is NOT ALWAYS CONSTANT! So, the life expectancy of a battery in a piece of equipment is not exactly constant either. Unusual battery drainage during the course of an investigation is eventually going to happen, not due to paranormal variables but to perfectly natural causes.
Out of curiosity, I have done my own controlled experiment using a single AA powered camping light. I bought 12 batteries from 3 manufacturers (Duracell, Energizer and Maxell) and tested the batteries one at a time by installing them in the lamp and timing how long it took for the light to go off. Even in the same brand, there were significant variances ( 1.2 hrs to 3hrs). You can also see the differences between brands by going here http://www.zbattery.com/zbattery/batteryinfo.html
Seriously, think about this hypothesis for a moment. It is suggesting that a ghost is somehow pulling power from the batteries in such a precise fashion that the electrical components of the device (resistors, wiring, etc.) are not short circuited or damaged. Why would it do that when there is a more steady supply in the immediate environment in the form of electrical wiring and other devices? The precise manipulation of energy? Really?
Are paranormal investigators measuring the voltage of their batteries before they put them in and have established controls to prove that the mysterious drainage was caused by something paranormal? No. We have people running about saying; “OMG! The batteries in my camera just died! Its a ghost!”. That is about as lame as it gets folks.
So why are paranormal investigators still believing this crap?
The answer is two-fold. The phenomena of battery drainage is closely linked to another paranormal based hypothesis, the cold spot (I’ll rip this apart in another blog) and the reintroduction of the phenomena by paranormal reality television shows. I say “reintroduction” because many paranormal researchers before 2004 had already come to the conclusion that the whole battery drainage thing was bullshit.
Want to prove me wrong? Then provide the burden og proof. Do a controlled experiment, gather data and present your results for peer review. Until then..I’ve called this one.
Cody Polston is an author, historian and ghost investigator. He is the author of multiple books on history and paranormal topics. He was the host and producer of the popular podcast Ecto Radio and a writer for Ghosthunter X magazine. He is one of the founders of the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association and has been investigating paranormal claims since 1985.
In the 1990's several other ghost hunting groups gave him the moniker the "Hitman" due to his involvement in "debunking" several well known haunted locations in Texas. Although the nickname was intended to be a negative insult, Cody adopted the nickname and began using in on his podcasts and other media venues.