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Old Detective Tricks You Can Do!!!

Updated on December 30, 2010

Before computers and DNA, Detectives relied on some pretty basic tricks.

Whether your all time favorite Detective is Sam Spade, Frank Canon, Dick Tracey, Sherlock Holmes or Phillip Marlowe you can use some of these tried and tested tricks to solve some everyday mysteries with a small dose of 'gumshoe' nostalgia.

Surveillance Trick:

If you are interested in finding out when someone leaves their home or office, just wedge a cheap mechanical wind-up wrist watch fully wound up and set to the correct time, (remove the wristband) under the rear drivers' side tire of the subject's vehicle. As they drive out, they will run over the watch and break it. When you check back and find their vehicle gone, pick up the watch and note the time that it stopped. This is when they left.

Who's Been There:

Place a very small piece of folded paper about 2 to 3 feet above the floor, in the hinge side (between door and frame) of the door to your home, office or hotel room when you leave for the day. When you come back, see if it is still there before unlocking your door. This will alert you if someone has entered the premises or may be waiting for you behind the door! You can also do this inconspicuously with a desk drawer, file cabinet or refrigerator door to see if someone has been invading your personal space.

Forensic Light:

Most people are familiar with the use of ultraviolet light in CSI movies and television. But did you know that the average person can use a similar method to detect things in and around their home or office? UV lights used in forensic work cost hundreds of dollars but you can purchase an inexpensive 'blue-purple' UV light used to detect counterfeit currency in a flashlight or key-chain format for $20. Use it as a general indicator to detect dried pet urine on carpets, cleanliness of a washroom, condition of a hotel/motel room bed, to see if a document has been altered or to see if anything else is 'out of place,' as well as detecting counterfeit currency. Depending on the light you use, you may have to turn off all of the lights in the room for better visibility. As a safety precaution never look directly into any UV light source.

In forensic document examination a parallel light source is used to examine documents that may be suspect of being altered. You can create your own inexpensive parallel light source by placing two small portable, low wattage fluorescent light units (regular light, not UV) on each side of the document. The light source will clearly indicate any discrepancies in depth of the document surface indicating erasures, write-overs or upon very careful examination a variation of handwriting depth over previous entries indicating the possibility of a different writer.

The Lense or Spyglass:

In many old Detective novels, a magnifying glass played a key role and was often referred to as a 'Lense' or 'Spyglass' in 19th century tomes. The ideal magnifying glass for examining everything from fingermarks (fingerprints), handwriting, currency, jewllery and anything else would be one rated with a 10x (10 power) magnification, and at the very least a 2-inch diameter or square magnifying lense. In a pinch, the more common 5x (5 power) magnifier may be used if cost and availability are an issue, but it is best not to go with a magnifier below 5 power.

Once in the home or office you will eventually find yourself warming up to using this to examine all sorts of objects that may have piqued your interest. Mmmm, now what does my thumbprint really look like? What is that insect on the wall? Let's take a better look at that bread that has been in the refrigerator for over a month. What does beer really look like? Well, you get the idea. Happy sleuthing.

Interested in learning more? Check out my book "Chatter Beyond the Fringe" where I explain the science behind some of my best cases.

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      Johnd276 3 years ago

      Really enjoyed reading ur blog. adeeadeegddb

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      Pete Schultz 7 years ago

      Truly information I may never use, but it has been fun to learn a little about detective tricks....or should I say methods. Very fun to read, and I will have to check more of your lenses.