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Gadgets for the ghosthunter

By

March 23, 2011

Paranormal investigators Rona Anderson and Ben Myckan sporting some of their ghost-hunting...

Paranormal investigators Rona Anderson and Ben Myckan sporting some of their ghost-hunting gear in front of their hearse, Nocturna

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In a survey conducted by CBS News in 2005, it was found that 48 percent of Americans believed in ghosts. Other surveys have put the number at anywhere from around 20 to over 50 percent. While such figures certainly don't imply that ghosts are real, they do suggest that belief in them is relatively common. When someone does suspect that a ghost is present in their home or business, they will sometimes call in "experts" to ascertain if that is, in fact, the case ... and what sort of gear do these ghost hunters use to detect said spirits? We decided to find out.

Given that ghosts are frequently thought of as non-physical beings that can only be seen by people like Jennifer Love Hewitt or Haley Joel Osment, one might wonder how regular human technology could possibly register their presence. We're told that it all comes down to what people are made of.

"We're built out of energy – atoms and molecules," says Rona Anderson, co-partner in the nonprofit Paranormal Explorers ghost-hunting group, which operates out of Edmonton, Canada. "I just think it's an internal piece of us that stays when our bodies deteriorate."

"When somebody dies, do they go into another dimension, with a very thin wall?" asks her partner, Ben Myckan. "I think that's sort of what it is. You can't destroy energy, it's just in a different dimension."

So apparently, it's not so much about looking for lost souls as it is looking for unexplained energy, or evidence of its manipulation.

EMF meter

EMF meters used by Paranormal Explorers

When it comes to detecting energy, an electromagnetic field meter is definitely a good tool to have. "At a haunted location, erratic and fluctuating EMF levels are likely to occur," says Alexandra Woodfield, of UK-based paranormal gear retailer TomsGadgets. "Out of all the paranormal tools, the EMF meter is an excellent introduction to ghost detecting. Although currently there is no device that can conclusively detect for the existence of ghosts, the EMF meter is the closest tool on the market."

Rona and Ben use their EMF meters partially to identify man-made electrical fields within buildings, as some researchers have suggested that supposed ghost sightings could be caused by such fields interacting with the human brain. The couple are also interested in detecting EMFs in places where no electrical features are present, however, as those could be caused by ... well, you know.

Thermometer

A digital thermometer used by Paranormal Explorers

Anderson tells us that ghosts both gather energy from rooms and release it into them, causing highly localized drops or rises in temperatures – hence the "cold spots" you might have heard mentioned in horror movies. A good thermometer will confirm that such perceived changes aren't just due to heebie-jeebies on the part of the observer, and will document exactly how large the changes are. "It has to be at least a ten-degree drop before we think, 'Oh, well maybe something's happening in this room'," she explains.

Besides a regular thermometer, Rona and Ben also use an infrared digital point-and-shoot model, that can instantly obtain temperature readings from any point that it's aimed at within a room.

Digital audio recorder

Digital audio recorders used by Paranormal Explorers

Ghosts supposedly do sometimes want to talk to us, but not in a way that's easy to understand in real time with the unaided human ear. Proponents of Electric Voice Phenomenon (EVP) tell us that if you record the room noise while asking questions aloud to the ghost, although you may hear nothing in response at the time, you'll be able to make out some replies when you play back the audio file. If you've heard EVP on any of the numerous paranormal reality TV shows, however, then you will know that a lot of those "replies" can be pretty faint and ambiguous.

Having to pick out the ghost's end of a conversation after the fact kind of limits what you can talk about, but a new product offers a way around that limitation. Connecticut's DAS Distribution makes a gizmo called the RT-EVP, which uses parallel microprocessors to simultaneously record audio and play it back on a time delay – that delay can be from 1 to 60 seconds, as set by the user. If you were to set the delay for five seconds, for instance, you would ask a question, then hear a recording of yourself asking the question, followed by an ongoing playback of whatever audio the device recorded in the room just five seconds ago.

Because it can pick up sounds down to 15Hz, which is below the threshold of human hearing, it can indeed "hear" things that we can't ... possibly even the voices of lost loved ones, according to product designer and DAS president Gary Galka. "Since the completion of the RT-EVP instrument, we have received three beautiful etheral messages from our daughter Melissa," he tells us.

Ghost Box

A Ghost Box used by Paranormal Explorers

While EVP can allegedly be found in ambient sound, it's said to be easier for ghosts to work their voice messages into white noise, which is where something called the Ghost Box or Spirit Box comes in. A Ghost Box scans across local radio frequencies, supposedly allowing ghosts to use stray bits of static, squeal and other noise to form and/or carry their messages. The RT-EVP, in fact, has a "frequency sweep" feature that lets it operate as a Ghost Box.

For her part, Anderson believes that Ghost Boxes have their place, but can't be relied upon. This is due to the simple fact that what is being heard could very likely just be distant radio broadcasts. "The only way you know is probably what they're saying," she says. "If they say 'Help me,' or 'My name is Joan,' you're going, OK well that doesn't sound like a radio station."

A somewhat similar device is the Ovilus. It takes temperature and EMF readings, combines those readings into one number, chooses a word from an onboard database that matches up with that number, and then "speaks" the word aloud. The idea is that a ghost, knowing this device is present and presumably knowing how it works, will purposely make changes to the temperature and EMFs so that it can communicate through the Ovilus. Should you not want to shell out for the device itself, though, you can always download the iOvilus app to your iPhone. Just don't believe everything it tells you ...

The Ovilus "works" on the same principle as Ouija boards, which many ghost-hunters steer clear of, as they are said to open up portals that anyone or anything could come through. "You're not necessarily going to get who you think you're going to get," says Anderson, of the boards. "We've had people who have called us to come and do an investigation because they've used a Ouija board and someone's dropped in and hasn't left."

In other words, go ahead and download iOvilus, but don't blame us if you end up getting sucked into your TV.

Motion detector or beam barrier alarm

A motion detector used by Paranormal Explorers

"These are also used for security by creating an invisible barrier to detect for any movement," says Woodfield. "Paranormal activity can trigger these beams and set off an alarm. Of course it is important to set up a digital video camera to eliminate tampering from other people or animals."

Rona and Ben also use a Trail Master camera trap, in which a motion detector is wired directly to a digital still camera, which snaps a shot whenever the detector is tripped. The setup is commonly used in the wilderness by wildlife photographers, or even cryptozoologists looking for Bigfoot ... but that's another article.

Infrared wireless cameras

An infrared camera used by Paranormal Explorers

When it comes to digital video cameras, Paranormal Explorers and most other groups use the infrared variety, running several of them into a split-screen display on a laptop. That way, they can show the client what their eyes might be missing, and make a DVD copy of the footage for them. Just what might that footage show?

"Sometimes you might just see something floating around," says Myckan. "You might see just a ball of light ... Sometimes you might even see a mist, or an ectoplasm, and it might be in the shape of something."

"Usually, when people watch it on TV, they really seem to have an epiphany, and they seem to be not frightened anymore," adds Anderson.

Digital still cameras are also considered essential gear, both for showing up things that us humans can't see (such as in Paranormal Explorers' shot below, possibly), and simply for documenting locations where investigations are carried out.

A possible ghost (upper-right corner) photographed in an Edmonton cemetery using a convent...

Other bits of gear used by Paranormal Explorers and/or recommended by Woodfield include parabolic microphones, flashlights, two-way radios, night vision equipment, FLIR thermal imaging cameras, and even dowsing rods.

It could be that one of the most useful things to have, however, is simply good "ghost sense."

"When we go into a house that is supposed to be plagued by stuff, I do rely on my intuition," says Anderson. "Usually I can pick up right away if there are spirits."

So, is it possible that any of these instruments – or even the human subconscious – could be detecting anything from the great beyond? We look forward to receiving your comments ... just remember the advice of Dr. Egon Spengler: "Don't cross the streams."

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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14 Comments

There are no "ghost" outside of ones imagination, but there is something to be aware of. It is true "You can't destroy energy" - that is why when we die our life force goes out with our last breath and we return to the dust or elements we are made with. When we are cremated, we still end up as ashes or elements. The invisible realm does have living and powerful wicked spirit forces which take delight in misleading mankind. Why are they here? What is their purpose? Will they ever be destroyed? The answers are easy to find. And peace of mind and a happy future is your reward by searching for the truth.

donwine
24th March, 2011 @ 06:45 am PDT

@Gizmag, this article is an incredible disappointment. I was really hoping that you'd tear into these gadgets and expose them as the snake oil they are. For a media organization that loves all the techie details of things, I can't believe you accepted the legitimacy of this crap at face value without even asking twice how it worked. The people selling these "tools" are scam artists of the highest degree, and you are doing nothing except helping them scam more innocent, ignorant people.

chrismc
24th March, 2011 @ 10:03 am PDT

I would hope that the population demographic that takes the time to read this website would be smart enough to realize how absurd all of these gadgets are.

Every single one those useless gadgets was created based on ridiculous assumptions about the supposed behavior and compositions of ghosts. The creators fail to realize no one knows anything about ghosts (because they don't exists), therefor making tools based on what you think they are, usually based on traditional folklore, is silly and a waste of time. Starting from square one, considering no one knows anything about them, is the only rational option.

And if anyone thinks they do know anything about ghosts, or that they have proved they exist, please contact James Randi. He has a million big ones waiting for you.

TheRationalProphecy
24th March, 2011 @ 10:33 am PDT

What is going on in the American education system these days??? Over 40% of Americans think that the Theory of Evolution is false when it's an established fact!

And now almost half of them believe in ghosts? These guys are supposed to be world leaders but almost half of them are.... what's the word I'm looking for?

warren52nz
24th March, 2011 @ 02:38 pm PDT

Yes, we are made of energy & matter. So are all living organisms. Does that prove a one celled organism has a soul? Or that a soul exists? Or that it is eternal? No, no, and no. As Tesla proved, energy is everywhere. Is it conscious? Does it communicate? No! The burden of proof is on the ghost busters. A burden not met.

The proper response to ridiculous claims based on pseudo explanations is laughter, not a suspension of reason and a pretend scientific report. We have plenty of real mysteries that are infinitely more interesting and entertaining.

voluntaryist
24th March, 2011 @ 03:08 pm PDT

I liked the article because it shows the gadgets, and HOW they sell them.

The interesting thing is I find those gadgets very useful per se...

cachurro
24th March, 2011 @ 06:00 pm PDT

@ warren52nz: the THEORY of evolution is not the Established Fact of evolution it's a THEORY. Darwin observed one species of bird adapting to it's changing eco system. One species has never been observed giving birth to any other species. If you believe man evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?

Check out anything from Kent Hovind (on YouTube). He's a weird geeky guy that has a dry sense of humor but has a lot of good information.

Facebook User
25th March, 2011 @ 04:06 am PDT

warren52nz Just a quick FYI it's still referred to as the the THEORY of evolution not the FACT of evolution. I'm just say'n...... :-)

mrhuckfin
25th March, 2011 @ 04:28 am PDT

This is really scary stuff.

I'm naturally not afraid of the ghosts but the US citicens. Their votes generate a president with control over the most powerful military organisation in the world.

Conny Söre
25th March, 2011 @ 08:08 am PDT

OMFG! You people with these denigrating and ignorant comments!

1) It's a great article.

2) These gadgets and gizmos are very common and work great for their intended application.

3) None of you can disprove the existence of ghosts.

4) None of YOU are experts in ANY field related to the use of these instruments.

5) Ghost are real. Not only have I seen many personally, but also have been involved in several scientific studies/experiments (some will be published soon).

6) Nobody made any "Claims" about these products - Merely the observation that these items MAY and ARE being used for such applications as 'ghost hunting'

7) Tesla did NOT disprove the existence of ghosts - In Fact.... his theories point TOWARD their existence.

8) You're dumb. ...and senselessly mean.

Grant Garrison
25th March, 2011 @ 10:03 am PDT

I can't believe the comments posted here.

TheRationalProphecy- "every single one those useless gadgets was created based on ridiculous assumptions about the supposed behavior and compositions of ghosts."

Lets take a look at these useless gadgets.

The EMF reader: Is used primarily for detecting electromagnetic fields, NOT ghosts. This meter has been around for a long time and is used in not only for people in the job field where one would deal with electricity, but also in the scientific field for research. They are also very useful for finding out if any of the electronic devices in you home have a high electromagnetic field. High electromagnetic fields could be harmful.

The thermometer: REALLY? You did not know that this was invented for reading temperatures? Not to mention that it is used on a daily basis by practically everyone? Especially Doctors and hospitals.

The digital audio recorder: Also Has been around for a long time. It was created as a portable device for recording audio. Its very common for journalists and college students to use this.

Motion detector: These were created for security purposes. And used on a daily bases for home security against would be thieves and murderers.

Infrared wireless cameras: same as above.

Digital cameras: I am sure you have one in your phone. "Oh no!!! Even the cell phone companies are in the ghost snake oil industry!" Oh wait. The digital camera is just the next generation of camera. Invented for taking pictures of people, places and things.

The Ghost box: This is the ONLY one invented for the intentions of hearing ghosts. And if you have ever come across one they are clearly marked that it is for entertainment purposes only. As was (and still is) the Ouija board.

The other comments on here are not much better. I am very surprised that people who would read gizmag would not know of the existence of a thermometer for purposes other then ghost hunting. Truly amazing.

Mariahpoo
25th March, 2011 @ 10:34 am PDT

I have a brother that hunts ghosts. :-( But this brings up an idea for an even better article... how about one pouring over all of the tech featured on Gizmag and coming up with a list of money-is-no-object awesome ghosthunting tools? I forward links to him all the time about things I see here tongue-in-cheek. I've got a long list of could-be-used-for-ghost-hunting favorites like:

Robotic scout: http://www.gizmag.com/californian-prisons-employ-robotic-scouts/10306/

and

http://www.gizmag.com/go/7025/

and control your drones with

http://www.gizmag.com/realtime-first-person-video-puts-rc-plane-pilots-in-the-cockpit/9334/

Head-mounted camera: http://www.gizmag.com/head-mounted-camera-for-recording-special-moments/9174/

Security camera software: http://www.gizmag.com/go/8052/

Find poltergeist-causing Indian burial grounds: http://www.gizmag.com/raytheon-laser-detection-system/11641/

Head-mounted flashlight: http://www.gizmag.com/nachteule-personal-reading-light/12894/

Night safety lights: http://www.gizmag.com/powerflare-led-safety-lights/11871/

Keep awake during ghost hunts: http://www.gizmag.com/go/6927/

Make sure your hunters are ok after you've split up at the haunted house or graveyard: http://www.gizmag.com/go/6961/

What would have been the ultimate ghostmobile: http://www.gizmag.com/go/8175/

Fill these with holy water or silver nitrate or rock salt and you have a flashlight/supernatural weapon: http://www.gizmag.com/pepperballs-flashlauncher-torch-illuminates-hurts-things/10282/

With the right software these become eye safetywear/team coordinating devices:

http://www.gizmag.com/recon-next-gen-in-goggle-display-technology-revealed/17582/

Protective clothing: http://www.gizmag.com/go/2357/

Etc., etc. I've spotted a million of them. :-) In fact, in some cases it's hard to conceive of a normal use for some of the items featured on Gizmag. :-)

Keep batteries charged during hunt: http://www.gizmag.com/npower-peg-uses-motion-to-charge-mobile-devices/10716/

alcalde
25th March, 2011 @ 12:58 pm PDT

For those who have a fascination with what are commonly referred to as "ghost" - I have a question. It is easy to establish that creatures do exist in the invisible realm, so I will not try to discredit that. However, the same people who believe in them have no idea about what they are dealing with and how dangerous they are. Can anyone name a single contribution or benefit these wicket spirit forces have done to benefit mankind? Put your beliefs to the test and you will see that they deal in the unknown, tragedies, dead, spells, mystery, fatalism and will do anything to misled mankind. Their biggest weapon is to fool people into believing they do not exists. What gadgets can combat that?

donwine
25th March, 2011 @ 06:08 pm PDT

Actually, 'ghosts' or spirit surviving death, has been proven under laboratory conditions. See the writings of Gary Schwartz, "Life After Death"

It was a very short time ago that a few visionaries were laughed at for proposing the existence of all sorts of things now known to be fact; germs or virii, for instance. You certainly can't see them without a specific piece of equipment. Doubters should keep in mind that human knowledge is always advancing, and we're still in the infancy of technological possibilities. It's those willing to be laughed at who sometimes advance the human condition; the rest impede progress.

signalfire
27th March, 2011 @ 09:20 pm PDT
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