July 20, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Believe it or not: Ghost hunters go high-tech

Believe it or not: Ghost hunters go high-tech
When Sharon Leong conducts field work, she packs a digital camera, a thermometer and an electromagnetic field meter. She isn't a private detective or an electrician. Leong, a legal secretary by day, is an avid ghost hunter by night.

With those gizmos and many others in tow, Leong treks to reputedly haunted homes, battlefields, bars and hotels, gathering what she thinks may be evidence of a world beyond this earthly one.

The pursuit of ghostly evidence has been a popular pastime for centuries. Now, instead of Ouija boards, ghost hunters are increasingly turning to high tech gear to assist in their search.

Ghost-hunting tech

Such ghost hunters rely upon digital equipment to document potential signs of hauntings. Cameras and voice recorders pick up eerie sights and sounds, while handheld gadgets measure electromagnetic radiation and odd drops in temperature. Jumpsuits like those from the movie Ghostbusters are unnecessary, but pocket-laden cargo pants and fishing jackets are handy for stashing all of the gear.

Hobbyists like Leong find equipment either in pedestrian electronics shops or at custom online emporiums, such as Ghost Mart, which specializes in "discount paranormal research equipment." Although most of the equipment is built for more ordinary purposes, others, like a $30 electromagnetic field (EMF) "ghost meter," are clearly targeted at amateur ghost seekers. Complete kits can be ordered at a wide range of prices, between $250 and $2,000.

"We'll probably seem medieval to people in the future, running around with our cameras, but you've got to start somewhere," Leong said. "Something is causing these instruments to go cuckoo, but we're not sure what or why."

Leong has traveled to famed spooky sites, like the Alcatraz prison, with fellow members of the San Francisco Ghost Society. It is one of hundreds of ad hoc paranormal groups that together comprise many tens of thousands of members in North America. The International Ghost Hunters Society has members in more than 90 countries.

The Internet allows enthusiasts to share footage they've captured instantly and anonymously, finding like-minded souls while escaping public ridicule. Ghost Village is a top hub for this community. It receives 80,000 unique visitors each month, twice that around Halloween.

We'll probably seem medieval to people in the future, running around with our cameras, but you've got to start somewhere.
--Sharon Leong, San Francisco Ghost Society member

Web 2.0-era social-networking tools enable ghost hunters to hook up via large Web communities, such as MySpace, and on niche sites including I Am Haunted. Live chatting, blogs and user videos on that site attract 30,000 monthly visitors and several dozen new members each day. Some ghost-club Web sites offer real-time "haunted cams" of notorious locales. YouTube has become a warehouse for tens of thousands of videos claiming to show lonely ghouls and other apparitions.

The craze has even reached the iPod; Apple iTunes lists more than 1,000 paranormal podcasts. Among them is the talk show of the San Francisco Ghost Society, led by group founder Tommy Netzband. He and his associates make free house calls to investigate what they believe to be three types of hauntings: "residual," "intelligent" and "inhuman."

"Ninety percent of these things have a reasonable explanation," Netzband said. "When people call me and say, 'Shadows are chasing me,' I automatically think they're crazy. We're not here putting ideas in people's heads to make them think this is a glamorous job. I've experienced shadow people, residual hauntings, and I've been tricked by ghosts, but it took me years and years."

Netzband finds that most hauntings fall into the "residual" category, understood as impressions of past events that remain ingrained within a place, replaying in the present time like a stuck record. These could be sensory traces of acutely emotional moments in someone's life, such as anguished last breaths, a song, or the scent of perfume. For instance, Netzband leads ghost tours of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood past a sidewalk said to be haunted by the sound of running boots worn by a teenager shot to death in the 1970s.

Netzband and others find that paranormal pastimes have grown in popularity in the last decade along with sitcoms like NBC's Medium and reality shows like Ghost Hunters on the Sci Fi channel, which attract millions of viewers. MTV produces the Celebrity Paranormal Project, while the Discovery channel airs A Haunting episodes. A Web promotion for the Travel Channel's Most Haunted program offers an application that turns a mobile phone into an EMF reader.

Ghost hunters both on television and on the street tend to favor digital cameras, which capture light in infrared and ultraviolet spectrums that regular film cannot pick up. Yet, some haunting hobbyists prefer film cameras--especially Polaroids--because printed images are harder to doctor than pixels. Leong, for one, carries a Canon PowerShot 5.1 megapixel digital camera in addition to a disposable, film point-and-shoot. She recommends using a wide angle lens and a tripod, especially when leaving video cameras to record for hours on end.

However, in the field, ghost hunters rarely come up with pictures of stereotypical shadowy figures or white-gowned women. Instead, they consider photographs that show floating balls of light to be the most common sign of a spirit's presence. The orbs are normally caused by a flare of the flash or a trace of dust on a lens. But Netzband thinks that some light blobs represent genuine "ghost poo." This type of discharge, otherwise known as ectoplasm, may appear as a glowing light or mist once, say, Elvis has left the building.

Many ghost hunters believe that hauntings are tied to changes in electromagnetic frequencies, and that uncanny activity spikes during a solar flare or a full moon. Netzband, Leong and their cohorts therefore sport handheld EMF detectors and Geiger counters for radiation readouts when exploring a haunted locale. Hand-cranked or Faraday flashlights are handy, should a spirit drain the batteries. Old-fashioned compasses and newfangled infrared thermometers also come into play.

Ghost hunters say residual hauntings are a holographic glimpse into another dimension or time. But they believe that the "intelligent" class of hauntings, more than echoes of the past, actually respond to people and events in the present time and thus require different equipment.

CONTINUED: Telephone to the dead...…
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Too light on the 'high tech'
Good article, though I wish they had delved a bit deeper into the actual tech equipment used. It's definitely advantageous to build our own equipment at times. I'm putting together a tech glossary/tutorial at some point for SMP, so it was still a nice article to come across.

Tech Team
Southern Maryland Paranormal (TAPS Family Member)
Posted by Ninjak (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Try some balloons.
Something I have always wanted to see, Fill up some helium balloons to the point that the strings just touch the ground. You have an instant way to chart the air currents (and changes in air currrents) in a building.

If something non material were to pass through one or more balloons, and if that non physical thing were to carry an electrical charge, you would see the balloons stick together or repel each other. If the balloon were to suddenly get cold, it would loose some lift.

The other cool thing about this method is that it is easy for the general public to understand. They could even try it at home. Great for TV.

No, I do not believe in ghosts, however I have always been fascinated by methods for trying to find them.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
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Why high tech?
If a rock is big enough to stumble over, you should not need to use a microscope to find it.

Same for ghosts. If they are obvious enough to draw the attention of someone who is not ready for them (believes in them), why the "microscope" to find them?
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
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.. or not
Thankfully our tax dollars are not being used to fund this kind of foolishness. I know that I help fund other kinds of foolishness, but at least not ghost hunting. They are as likely to find ghosts as others are to find extraterrestrials. But, at least they are tech savvy.
Posted by Nabojim (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft announces .Boo for Windows.
Microsoft announced it will launch a new, web-based, service which will revolutionize ghosts. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying ?we are pleased that Microsoft remains the company of choice for the vaporware industry.?

Experts on the afterlife debated the value of the new service. ?Ghosts are already frozen, suspended as they were in life, seemingly alive, but unable to do anything. Microsoft?s entry could be construed as redundant.?
Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A new question
Is there life after the BSOD?
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
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Foolish Ghost Hunters
As an ordained minister and exorcist of eight years standing, who performs exorcisms six nights a week, I can tell you that the ghosts people seek are demons. If people only believed the bible, they would know that these spirits are the fallen angels who were led into rebellion by Satan. God cast them down to earth 302,000 years ago. Spirits never die, and these spirits are the "ghosts" that people look for. The danger is absolute. Anyone seeking "ghosts" or spirits, will become entangled with them, leading to possession. I know, because I have recently dealt with several ghost hunters who knew something bad was happening to them but did not know why. There is only one solution to helping those hunters who start to have problems, and that is an exorcism. And don't think you can run to a Catholic priest for help. The best they can do is to sprinkle holy water on you and tell Satan to leave. Satan laughs at such garbage.

God has forbidden His creation to consult mediums, psychics and Ouija boards. This all comes under the heading of "divination." The spirits who pretend to be from the deceased, are called "familiar spirits," because they once lived in the person and knew their lives, intimately. They are able to answer questions to which only the dead person would know the answer. God forbids this practice because the enquirer becomes possessed. Possession usually begins with depression, nightmares, nightsweats, an inability to sleep or to sleepwalk. Voices may be heard in the person's head, and visions may occur. This is all demon possession, and nothing less than an exorcism will cure that person.

There are many other ways of becoming possessed, and "ghost-hunting" is only one of them.

For more information:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mysite.verizon.net/vzevk9mh/enddaysdeliverance/" target="_newWindow">http://mysite.verizon.net/vzevk9mh/enddaysdeliverance/</a>
Posted by Chuckabutty (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
your opinion
thats great you are an ordained minister - well so am I - and I do belong to a paranormal investigative team - and have been around a long time. Not once we have seen a possession - or any of our members come into harm. We take precautions when we do our investigations - but you are not knowledgeable with all the facts. I have yet to hear one team - even the one we associate with in the UK that have been doing it for 35 years, that come across a possession - or who have had problems with themselves. Ghosts belong to all religions, not just your faith - and all faiths have different views on it - yours is right for you - but not for others. we are not foolish - some of us have been led into it due to the fact we heard a 'calling' as some would say. Ghosts are those who have passed, and don't know they are dead, are afraid to pass over, or don't want too. They are not demons, they are the lost.
Posted by paranormalinvestigations (2 comments )
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secretarys yummy!
Cor id love to take Secretary around some old haunted places in Ireland.I wonder does she wear glasses hhhmmmm!.
Posted by andeyejah (29 comments )
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ghost hunters and high tech
The problem with everyone getting these gadgets - most of them do not know how to use them, and they do not know how to scientifically collect the data properly. Teams like ours who have been in the field for years, and have had research papers published, our data gets mixed in with those amateurs who may mean well - but do not know what they are doing. Its good to be inquisitive, and to be interested, but do not call yourself a team unless you are in it for the long haul, and know what you are doing. We have seen ghost hunter teams here in our city of Edmonton who have done more harm than good when the go investigate private residences, due to the fact they do not know what they are doing. And one yet - who a member proclaimed herself psychic last year, they go into peoples homes, her partner will say its haunted, then she will do a cleansing - for a donation. This industry can be bastardized just like many others - but its the true paranormal investigators that will hopefully be able to find the truth behind real paranormal experiences.
Posted by paranormalinvestigations (2 comments )
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High Tech tools for ghost hunting.
As a founding member of the Pacific Ghost Hunting Society I think that the more scientific data we can collect by using these tools. The better chance we have of gathering real data that will hold up in the scientific community and solve this mystery once and for all.
Posted by Ghost_Owl (1 comment )
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No such things as ghosts
If ghosts where real then hospitals would be the most haunted places, since millions of people die in them every year.
Posted by BCF1968 (839 comments )
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Lots of Gadgets, but No Proof
Entering the art and mystery of the paranormal, with claims of strange accounts, we see plenty of scientific-looking props, but no real evidence.
Posted by Gary Lee (1 comment )
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