Piezoelectric Properties of Rocks or Why Limestone Isn’t Even a Factor in Hauntings

Oh, yeah. You saw that title and you either got excited because SCIENCE! Or you popped that mouse arrow over the Back button because SCIENCE!!!!

Well, don’t worry. Don’t click on that horrible button. Just stick with me. I promise not to throw a bunch of equations or big words at you if you promise to stick with it for a few minutes while we discuss geology and why we, paranormal investigators, record the geology of each client’s property

Cool? Cool.

For many of us who avidly watch Ghost Hunters as well as other paranormal shows, or who frequent paranormal message boards and podcasts, there’s this theory bouncing around out there that limestone formations help in the manifestation of paranormal activity, that somehow the limestone acts as a storage device that records residual paranormal activity or even becomes a sort of electrical outlet for paranormal activity to “plug into” in order to use the energy from the rock to manifest.

The only problem with this idea is the structure of limestone itself. Limestone is a sedimentary rock, mostly made up of skeletal fragments of marine organisms (a.k.a. dead coral). There’s really no crystalline structure to the limestone itself that would contribute to any sort of electromagnetic properties. This is where the word piezoelectric comes into play.

There are several types of rock, that when mechanical pressure is applied, an electric charge will accumulate. You can apply pressure all day long to limestone and it isn’t going to create an electrical charge, no matter how much you try. It will eventually just shatter. Quartz rock, on the other hand, is the most well-known of these “piezoelectric” rocks. Heck, for $10 you can purchase Flash Rocks from Amazon. It’s just two quartz rocks that you can rub together and create an electric charge, much like rubbing your sock feet across a carpeted floor and touching a door knob in winter. It’s a perfect elementary school science project that you can try at home. The cool thing is that it’s not just quartz that has piezoelectric properties, it’s any quartz-type or quartz-rich rock, i.e. quartzite, granite, gneiss, and mylonite. We think that because small quantities of quartz can sometimes be found between layers of limestone that this has helped perpetuate the myth of “limestone aids in the manifestation of paranormal activity.” It’s not the limestone, people, but the quartz.

But, here’s the thing. Quartz by itself, just sitting there, does not create an electric charge and does not contribute to ghostly happenings in your home. If you buy a huge piece of quartz to display on a bookshelf, your house isn’t going to suddenly become haunted. If you buy a fancy quartz crystal to wear around your neck, it isn’t going to give you any special electrical or psychic powers. Remember, the piezoelectric effect only occurs when mechanical pressure is applied to the rocks. So, how do we apply this pressure? Either with a structure (building, house, etc.) or seismic activity creates the necessary pressure. The problem with a typical family-size home in the United States is that it really doesn’t exert all that much force, or pressure on the ground itself. Typically, houses can be one- or two-storeys but are also spread out. When you’re talking about a structure exerting enough force to cause a piezoelectric effect in rock, you would need to look at tall office buildings or skyscrapers. And if we look at the mechanical pressure caused by earthquakes, then you need a pretty strong earthquake in the close vicinity of the quartz or quartz-type rock. A 3.0 magnitude quake every seven or eight years just really isn’t going to cut it. But I doubt anyone would be able to live, survive, or investigate an area of quartz deposits that experiences 7.0 magnitude earthquakes on a daily basis.

I guess what I’m trying to say is COULD that quartz deposit sitting several hundred or thousand feet below your house have anything to do with your late Aunt Clara walking the halls at night? It’s doubtful. Could paranormal activity, in a skyscraper, sitting on a hunk of granite, be caused by the piezoelectric effect of said skyscraper on said granite? Possibly. Do we record the geology of your property when we investigate your home or business? Yes. Because we believe that if we stick with this field long enough and collect enough raw data, that we will someday be able to say, definitely, “Stop telling people that the rocks under their houses cause paranormal activity. Because it doesn’t.”

Next time we break out the science here – FULL MOONS! Inducing the crazy or just a bunch of hokum?

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About Heather S. Dobson

I wish I was Wonder Woman, but I'm actually a wife, mother of three young ones, a writer, a paranormal investigator, and a lunatic. I'm also hoping to win a Nobel Prize in physics, but I guess that means I should get something above a BS in said subject and do more in-depth, life-changing studies besides "the sticking power of mac 'n cheese on smooth wallpaper." Alas...
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One Response to Piezoelectric Properties of Rocks or Why Limestone Isn’t Even a Factor in Hauntings

  1. Pingback: Lunar Lunacy – Fact or Fiction? | Paranormal Georgia Investigations

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