MALAYSIA - If you are a fan of the paranormal, you will probably know the theory of ghosts and spirits being formed by electromagnetic energy. And heavy electrical charges are supposedly emitted whenever supernatural beings are around, causing nausea, headaches, seizures and even hallucination.
But sometimes, says social media ghost hunter Adam Vai, the heavy electrical charge you feel is only a sign of a faulty wiring or broken electrical device in the place.
Blame it on the ghost hunting reality shows on television or Supernatural, but there seems to be a growing number of paranormal investigators and researchers like Vai in Malaysia who are using scientific methods and equipment to explain the supernatural.
"Paranormal phenomena are all round us - because we are not alone. We are living with many beings that we cannot see with our naked eye, the way we co-exist with animals and plants. But with technology, now we can get hard evidence of the phenomenon before believing in it blindly," says the 26-year-old, Kuala Lumpur-based spiritual consultant.
Adam is talking mainly about photographic and video evidence of paranormal activities - "sometimes you catch silhouettes in the frame, but most of the time they look like light orbs" - that are made possible by modern devices.
Technology also makes it easier for us to get the facts behind the phenomenon such as old newspaper articles, police records and historical data to prove or debunk a paranormal myth, he adds.
"From my experience, eight out of 10 cases of suspected haunted houses can be explained scientifically. But when you can't explain it... that makes it an interesting phenomenon..."
This takes him to one case in Klang where the residents believed their master bedroom was haunted.
"Staying in the room gave them a terrible headache and when they woke up in the middle of the night, they saw strange things.
"When we investigated the place, we discovered there were electromagnetic waves coming from a faulty wire in the house. We asked them to call an electrician," he shares.
But it's not all about science for Adam who believes places where traumatic incidents occurred often have paranormal "activities".
With the anniversary of the Highland Towers tragedy in Ulu Klang coming soon, he thinks it will draw many paranormal investigators and the curious to the site.
Adam, however, did not feel any supernatural "vibes" when he went there a few years ago.
"We caught something on camera but I don't think Highland Towers is haunted. I think there are spiritual echoes of the victims, because it was a terrible tragedy. The problem is, many have gone there to memuja (call spirits) and even do black magic, and since the place has been abandoned for so long, it might have attracted some 'occupiers'," he opines.
Adam says he first discovered his supernatural abilities when he was eight.
"I was walking home from school in Selayang when an old Chinese man in a white Pagoda singlet and shorts waved at me from across the road. When I ignored him, he pulled out his head and held it under his arms. I ran back home screaming."
His grandfather, who was a spiritual healer, asked him to follow him to the Chinese cemetery to "settle" things.
Since then, says Adam, he has been able to see supernatural beings.
"I don't know what triggered my ability but it runs in my family. My mum can see spirits too," he says.
He learnt to conquer his fear by investigating the paranormal to understand it better. Soon, what started out as a hobby became a passion.
Adam now investigates paranormal phenomena professionally with a crew and "full equipment" to help him gather evidence, from a parabolic recorder, a night vision camera, an infra-red thermometer to an electromagnetic field meter.
Other local haunted hot spots he has been to include Genting Highlands, Bukit Tunku and Bukit Darah in Sungai Buluh, but he rates Pudu Jail as the spookiest.
Adam says he wants to use his "gift" to expose people to the scientific and factual side of the supernatural so that they "will not be easily duped".
He also tries to help those inflicted with paranormal problems, "People have come to me to get rid of their haunting."
Refuting the perception that believing in the paranormal is anti-religious, Adam argues his investigations have made his faith stronger.
He believes Malaysians' interest in supernatural beings is completely natural.
"Still, anyone who is interested in paranormal research needs to equip themselves with the right information and equipment," he advises.
Safety and security are crucial, he adds - when you go ghost hunting, wear thick walking boots, bring a knife and never go alone.
"Why? You might meet snakes and drug addicts. The suspected haunted places are also usually very old - you don't know if the floor or stairs are going to collapse or the roof might fall on you, so it's safer if you are not alone," he cautions.
Most important, he stresses, is respect.
"You wouldn't want a stranger walking into your home uninvited, right? Likewise, no spirit will welcome you if you go in without permission and do not treat their home with respect. At the same time, you need to respect the privacy of families of the victims related to any particular sites you want to investigate."
Paranormal researcher Arwin John agrees that it is important for those who are interested in carrying out paranormal research to first equip themselves with the right knowledge.
"Common sense is very important as well. Above all, please have an open mind," adds the paranormal researcher who calls himself a regular everyday guy who found a way to tune his senses to be aware of what's happening beyond the veil of normal life.
John believes anyone can become a paranormal researcher, but it "requires a lot of patience and willingness to study the craft. It takes years to build your sensitivity towards spirits. We have to break certain barriers before we can reach that level."
He feels the biggest misconception people have about the paranormal is that spirits are evil.
"In reality, they are not. Spirits are just humans without a physical body. They retain the same intelligence, awareness and emotions as they were once alive in this physical world before experiencing physical death," he vouches, lamenting popular media and traditional myths that demonise the paranormal and promote fear.
Most importantly, what you see on TV is not even close to the reality of ghost research, says the 21-year-old from Ipoh who holds diplomas and qualifications in paranormal research such as Certified Ghost Researcher (CGR), Certified Paranormal Investigator (CPI), and Certified Paranormal Counsellor (CPC) from the International Ghost Hunters Society (IGHS), the largest online ghost research organisation in the world.
Describing it as another academic research, John nevertheless concedes that he was pulled into the field by personal experiences.
"Ever since I was a kid, I have been seeing strange lights and apparitions. I was also very curious about the afterlife. When I started to figure out the mysterious experiences, I realised it's time to take this quest seriously and investigate if there is really an afterlife. When you can't explain something within simple terms, it only makes sense to investigate deeply."
Yet, as he found out, the more answers he sought, the more questions he got about the supernatural realm.
This propelled him to continue his investigations on the country's paranormal hotspots, especially places with a traumatic and historical past.
Like Adam, he finds Pudu Jail - which was reportedly built on the site of a former Chinese cemetery by the British in 1891 - one of the country's spookiest.
Fortunately, shares John, in his seven years of researching the afterlife and spirits, he has never had an experience where a spirit followed him back home.
"Let's put it this way, if a human dies and he is a spirit, why would he follow me home ? There are hundreds of important things to take care of and deal with than following some guy home.
"Most of the time, they don't even realise they are dead thus they are mostly tied to certain locations due to emotional trauma that anchors the spirit or the soul to a certain place until they realise what's going on."
This was what Foo Jia Mint, 13, discovered at Jalan Macalister in Penang earlier this year.
As the teen medium claimed, hawker Lim Chin Aik - who went missing underground when a lightening rod of the Penang Umno building broke in a freak storm and fell on his car - tried to tell him where to find his body.
While efforts to find Lim failed, Jia Mint saw Lim's spirit standing on the mud and sand on the road, crying and pointing out his body to him.