The Broken Technology of Ghost Hunting

The Atlantic

The best tools for tracking down spirits have always been the ones fallible enough to find something.

The small, Syracuse, New York-based company K-II Enterprises makes a number of handheld electronic devices—including the Dog Dazer (a supposedly safe, humane device that deters aggressive dogs with high-pitched radio signals)—but it is best known for the Safe Range EMF. The size of a television remote, the Safe Range EMF detects electromagnetic fields, or EMF, measuring them with a bright LED array that moves from green to red depending on their strength. Designed to locate potentially harmful EMF radiation from nearby power lines or household appliances, the Safe Range has become popular for another use: detecting ghosts.

Since its appearance in the show Ghost Hunters, where the ghost hunter Grant Wilson claimed that it has been “specially calibrated for paranormal investigators,” the Safe Range (usually referred to as a K-II meter) has become ubiquitous among those looking for spirits. Search for it on Amazon, and many listings will refer to it as a “ghost meter,” an indispensable tool in the ghost hunter’s arsenal. It isn’t alone among EMF meters: Of the best-selling EMF meters on Amazon, two out of the top three are explicitly marketed as ghost meters.

 

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Scanning the various product descriptions and reviews, though, what becomes clear is that the K-II Safe Range is a relatively unreliable electromagnetic field meter. It operates only on one axis (you have to wave it around to get a proper reading), and it’s unshielded, meaning that it can be set off by a cell phone, a two-way radio, or virtually any kind of electronic device that occasionally gives off electromagnetic waves. The reviewer Kenny Biddle found he could set it off with, among other things, a computer mouse and a camera battery pack.

Yet it’s precisely because it’s not particularly good at its primary purpose that makes it a popular device for ghost hunters. Erratic, prone to false positives, easily manipulated, its flashy LED display will light up any darkened room of a haunted hotel or castle. Which is to say, its popularity as a ghost hunting tool stems mainly from its fallibility.

The K-II isn’t the only consumer-electronic item used by ghost hunters. Often it’s sold in kits that contain other devices, such as a Couples Ghost Hunt Kit, with two of everything, so you can build “trust and lasting memories when the two of you, alone in some spooky stakeout, look to each other for confirmation of your findings and reassurance!” There are devices that have been engineered specifically for ghost hunters, like a ghost box, which works by randomly scanning through FM and AM frequencies to pick up spirits’ words in the white noise. But mostly, ghost hunters use pre-existing technology: not just EMF meters, but also run-of-the-mill digital recorders, used to capture electronic voice phenomena, or EVP. An investigator records her or himself asking questions in an empty room, with the hope that upon playback ghostly voices will appear.

All of this technology—both the custom and the repurposed—works along more or less the same principle: generating a lot of static and random effects, hoping to capture random noise and other ephemera. The ghost hunter, in turn, looks for patterns, momentary convergences, serendipity, meaningful coincidence. For the believer, this is where ghosts live: in static, in glitches and in blurs. 

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Electronic voice phenomena have continued to rank among the most prominent “evidence” offered of paranormal activity, it seems, precisely because humans are hardwired to dredge meaning out of chaos. Evolutionarily, we have long needed to discern the sight or sound of a predator despite its camouflage, which has led us to look for patterns where they might not be immediately evident. The quirks and shortcomings of technology plays directly into this biological need: throwing out random static and noise that is primed to be transmuted into meaningful signals. Ghost hunters work through confirmation bias. Looking for proof of the paranormal, they will find it in anything, but most readily in static, gibberish, and errata—technological noise in which we’re hardwired to find false positives.

The only thing that’s changed recently is the proliferation of consumer electronics associated with ghost hunting. In an age of iPhones and Fitbits, ghost hunters are just one more niche market, lapping up the latest and greatest gadgets for sale. But there’s one crucial difference: most purveyors of consumer electronics keep their consumers happy by constantly refining them until they’re free of bugs. Ghost tech works the other way, by actively engineering glitches—the more, the better.

Such seekers can easily be written off as kooks and outliers, but there’s something paradigmatic in their use of faulty devices. The rise of the internet and other new technologies promised a new Information Age, one in which data, truth, and knowledge were the new currency, where the future would be built on information itself. Twenty years on, there’s an endless labyrinth of conspiracy theories, fake memes, trumped up stats, and fabricated evidence. The world’s knowledge is just a Google search away, but it comes to us inextricably intertwined with the world’s bullshit.

 

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The 21st-century media consumer is always working to sift through the noise in search of a signal. Whether it’s a cousin’s anti-vax Facebook post, the endless Farmville requests that have to be filtered out of a feed, or the colossal avalanche of half-truths and lies dumped during the last election, most people’s primary challenge online these days is blocking out the endless assault of static, trying to torture it into some kind of meaning.

California County Debates Resolution to Protect Bigfoot

In a bizarre bit of local politics, the supervisors of a county in California recently had a lengthy debate over whether or not to pass a resolution that would punish any individuals who purposely kill a Bigfoot. The strange matter came up during an otherwise routine meeting of the Trinity County Board of Supervisors last week. Alongside mundane governmental issues such as increasing the animal control budget and awarding a liquor license to an area restaurant was an eyebrow-raising proposal aimed at protecting Sasquatch.

Specifically, the resolution argued that “there is evidence to indicate the possible existence in Trinity County of a nocturnal primate mammal variously described as an ape-like creature or a subspecies of Homo sapien” colloquially known as Sasquatch, Yeti, Bigfoot, or “Giant Hairy Ape.” Noting that the purported presence of this creature in the region has not only drawn interest from researchers, but also gun-toting individuals looking to take down the beast, the bill called for “any premeditated, willful and wanton slaying of Bigfoot” to be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in the county jail for a period of one year.

Political junkies who are also paranormal enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the actual meeting in which the Trinity County Board of Supervisors debated the issue was broadcast on YouTube. The surprisingly long and decidedly amusing conversation can be seen in the video above. It begins with board member Bobbi Chadwick, who put forward the proposal, reading the resolution to her colleagues and then opening up the floor to questions or comments. After a somewhat uncomfortable spell of silence, fellow board member Keith Groves laughingly asks “why is this on the agenda?”

In response, Chadwick explains that there is “enthusiasm regarding the Bigfoot” throughout the county and that the purpose of the resolution is “to help facilitate the well being of this creature, we don’t want anyone hunting or shooting” Sasquatch. Groves’ concerns about the unorthodox nature of the proposal were echoed by another board member, John Fenley, who told the group that he had “received quite a few emails” from irritated constituents wondering “what the heck is going on with all of this” and groused that “I got beat up.”

Despite the pushback from her colleagues on the board, Chadwick posited that there were possible educational and tourism-related benefits to the bill. Fenley simply responds, “I get it, but my constituents just…” before bursting into laughter. Following some positive comments from members of the public who attended the meeting, the final debate over the proposal takes a surprisingly heated turn when Groves declares that, rather than being hilarious, “I actually find the resolution to be insulting” as it “encourages laxity in the use of firearms.”

“I’m not sure if we’re trying to be funny or if we’re trying to be serious or what we’re trying to do here,” Groves says with an air of exasperation, “we have spent more time on this than we should.” A few moments later, he somewhat dramatically spins around in his chair as if to say that he is finished discussing the matter. Ultimately, the nearly 20-minute-long debate concludes with a majority of the board agreeing to table the resolution so that it can be resubmitted as some kind of proclamation rather than an actual law.

Bigfoot Photographed Peering Through Window in Colorado?

A remarkable series of photographs taken by a man in Colorado may show a Bigfoot peering into a window. The highly intriguing images were captured back in October of 2017 by Scott Yeoman, who shared them with the public for the first time this past weekend on Facebook. According to him, the incident occurred one evening as he and his wife were refurbishing a mobile home on their 11-acre property in the community of Bailey.

Suddenly, the couple were caught off guard by a “very harsh odor” which Yeoman said “smelled like rotting animal flesh, vomit, and excrement.” It was then that he noticed “something moving outside the window from the corner of my eye.” Since the ledge of the window was approximately seven to eight feet tall, Yeoman initially suspected that the proverbial visitor was a bear trying to look into the mobile home.

However, when he caught sight of the creature’s face as it moved closer to the window, Yeoman was struck by how, unlike a bear, its eyes were large and far apart. Upon the realization that the thing outside his window was not a bear, he recalled, “fear struck me hardcore.” He then quickly reached for a camera nearby and snapped a series of pictures. Strangely, Yeoman said, the creature closed its eyes when he first pointed the camera at it. The bewildered witness mused that it was akin to a child acting as if “you can’t see me if my eyes are closed.”

About eight minutes into the encounter, Yeoman wrote, his wife came into the room and he told her what was happening. When she saw the creature, she screamed and ran to a back bedroom in the home. Determined to defend themselves, Yeoman grabbed a gun from a closet. However, the creature was moving away from the window by the time he returned. Since it had not tried to get inside the home, Yeoman opted not to shoot at it and the creature ultimately left the scene in a peaceful fashion.

Unfortunately, this case could have been all the more fantastic as Yeoman said that he actually filmed the creature peering in the window for about 10 minutes. However, a house fire later destroyed the computer that contained the video. According to Yeoman, he occasionally sees signs, such as broken tree limbs and eye shine in the nearby wilderness, that seem to suggest that the creature is still lurking around the property, but the couple have not had any other close encounters.

While it is undoubtedly disappointing that Yeoman’s footage is seemingly lost forever, the photos from that evening are unquestionably thought provoking and, if they really do show Sasquatch, may be some of the best photos of the creature ever taken. That said, skeptics will likely say that the ‘Bigfoot’ is either a bear or the product of a clever hoax involving a gorilla suit.

 

Fishermen Film Ogopogo?

A father and son fishing trip in British Columbia took a fantastic turn when they spotted a large aquatic anomaly that could be Canada’s legendary lake monster Ogopogo. The intriguing encounter occurred back in the summer of 2018, but footage from the sighting only appeared online earlier this month when it was posted to YouTube by witness Blake Neudorf. In his description of the video, the young man marveled that he and his father “were fishing off a dock in Kelowna, BC and spotted something massive in the water.”

Neudorf went on to explain that “the thing looks like it is close in the video, but it was a few hundred yards off shore and it was huge, I would say at least 60 feet long you could visually see it rolling in the water.” Indeed, the witnesses’ footage shows a fairly sizeable oddity moving along in the water as onlookers can be heard wondering what exactly they are watching. According to Neudorf, the anomaly eventually ventured into a small bay, leading the father and son to drive towards the area in the hopes of getting a better look, but when they arrived “it was nowhere to be seen.”

In light of the location where the sighting occurred, it is suspected by some viewers that the anomaly in the video is the legendary lake monster Ogopogo. However, more skeptical observers have argued that the ‘creature’ could just be a pair of waves intersecting at an odd angle and made to look monstrous by the perspective of the witnesses. With that in mind, what do you think Neudorf filmed during his fishing trip?

Infamous ‘Haunted’ Palace in UAE Opened to the Public

An abandoned palace in the United Arab Emirates that has long been rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in the Middle East has opened its doors to the public. Known as the Al Qasimi palace, the opulent resident in the city of Ras Al Khaimah was reportedly build back in 1985. However, legend has it, the family who had planned to live at the huge home fled the sight after they experienced unsettling paranormal activity such as furniture moving on its own. One version of the story states that the unnerved residents actually only spent one night at the site before deciding that they’d had enough and wished to never return.

While that version of events may be more hyperbole than genuine history, the Al Qasimi palace has nonetheless sat abandoned since shortly after construction was finished. And, over time, the haunted reputation of the site has grown exponentially to the point that it is included on most shortlists for the spookiest locations in the Middle East. Bolstering the initial story that was attached to the site are claims by local residents that the ghostly faces of children can sometimes be seen peering out the windows of the palace.

Thanks to our modern information age and what appears to be a remarkably lax level of security, the Al Qasimi palace has become a favorite destination of thrill-seekers visiting the region. More than a few daring individuals have posted YouTube videos of themselves exploring the abandoned location and the footage is undoubtedly eerie. Fortunately, those wishing to check out the allegedly haunted residence will soon be able to do so without resorting to trespassing.

That’s because the palace has now been officially been opened up to the public for the first time in decades and, for a small fee of around $20, visitors can explore the site which has been the subject of so many spooky stories over the years. Interestingly, photography inside the residence is prohibited and those caught snapping pictures will be actually be fined for doing so. Lest one suspect that the decision to open the palace is an attempt to shed the site of its haunted reputation, that is seemingly not the case as there are plans to renovate the entire building and transform it into what is described as a ‘horror adventure’ attraction.

Tim Binnall

The UFO sighting investigated by the police

When forestry worker Robert Taylor reported seeing an alien spaceship in woods near Livingston 40 years ago it made headlines around the world.

The Dechmont Woods incident is unusual among reported UFO sightings in that it was investigated by the police.

They treated the rips to Mr Taylor’s trousers as evidence of an assault but could never quite work out what had happened to him.

In his testimony to the police, the 61-year-old described how he saw a 30ft-high “dome-shaped” object in a clearing in the forest near the West Lothian new town on 9 November 1979.

He told how two-spiked spheres then rolled out towards him and, as he passed out, he was aware of being grabbed on either side of his legs. Mr Taylor woke up in a dishevelled state 20 minutes later.

 

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An artist’s impression was drawn of the craft Mr Taylor described

Mr Taylor, who died in 2007, was a respected war hero and teetotal churchgoer. No-one doubted that he was sincere in what he believed he had seen and throughout the rest of his life he never deviated from his story.

He told the police he had been working alone checking fences and gates at Dechmont Woods at 10:30 when he came across the spaceship in a clearing.

Robert Taylor gives a talk to members of the British UFO Society in Dechmont WoodsTaylor gives a talk to members of the British UFO Society in Dechmont Woods

After the spiked objects rushed out and tried to grab hold of him, all he could remember was a strong smell of burning.

When he came to, the clearing was empty, apart from a pattern of deep regular marks on the ground. He went to his van but was so shaken he drove it into a ditch and had to stagger home in “a dazed condition”.

When he got to his house he told his wife Mary he had been attacked by a “spaceship thing”. Because Mr Taylor was in such a state, the police were called and officers found themselves inquiring into an assault on a forester by alien beings.

Det Con Ian Wark, the scene of crime investigator, arrived at the clearing to find a large gathering of police officers were already there.

He told the BBC he saw strange marks on the ground. There were about 32 holes, which were about 3.5 inches in diameter, as well as marks similar to those made by the type of caterpillar tracks often fitted on bulldozers.

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The officer went to Mr Taylor’s employer, Livingston Development Corporation, to see if the machinery they had could solve the mystery.

“After examining every piece of machinery they had up there, we did not find anything to match,” he said.

The police officer said that the unusual marks on the ground were only to be found in the clearing where Mr Taylor had experienced his reported close encounter.

“These marks just arrived,” Det Con Wark said. “They did not come from anywhere or go anywhere. They just arrived as though a helicopter or something had landed from the sky.”

The police report from the time said the marks on the ground indicated an “object of several tons had stood there but there was nothing to show that it had been driven or towed away”.

PC William Douglas wrote: “There appeared to be no rational explanation for these marks.”

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Image captionThere is now a UFO trail to the site of the Dechmont incident

As part of the police investigation, Mr Taylor’s ripped trousers were sent for forensic examination but this was many years before modern DNA techniques so analysis concentrated on how the damage had been done.

Police forensics said the trousers seemed to have been damaged by something hooking them and moving up.

The trousers are now in the possession of Malcolm Robinson, a Ufologist who has been investigating such cases since the Dechmont incident.

He said they were police-issue blue serge trousers and the type of rips in them did not happen by getting snagged as Mr Taylor crawled away on the ground.

Mr Robinson, who has given lectures on the incident across the UK, Holland, France and the USA and written a book on the subject, said it was one of the most incredible cases in the world.

He said it was one of very few hardcore cases that defied any explanation.

There are many theories about what actually happened to Mr Taylor. These include everything from hallucinatory berries to blackball lightning and a mirage of the planet Venus.

A medical explanation could lie in an epileptic seizure being suffered by Mr Taylor but there was no evidence of this gathered at the time.

In her police statement, his wife Mary said Mr Taylor had no history of mental illness but had contracted meningitis 14 years earlier.

Mr Taylor continued to stick to his story throughout his life
Mr Taylor continued to stick to his story throughout his life
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She said the treatment was successful although in July of that year he had suffered a series of headaches and was admitted to the City Hospital in Edinburgh.

In his statement, Mr Taylor said that after the UFO incident he was examined by the local doctor who called at his house. The doctor suggested he should go to nearby Bangour Hospital for a check-up and x-ray.

After waiting for two hours at the hospital he got fed up and left without being examined.

Det Con Wark said he could go along with the theory about the epileptic fit. “But what about the marks on the ground?” he said.

The former police officer cannot bring himself to say he believes Mr Taylor saw an alien spaceship.

“I’d have to see it myself to believe it,” he said.

But he said he interviewed Mr Taylor three times and he never changed his story.

“He believed what he saw and there was no way he would make that up,” Det Con Wark said.

Forty years on the Dechmont incident has passed into legend.

Last year a UFO trail opened which takes people to the spot where a new town forestry foreman claims he saw an alien spaceship.

BBC Scotland News