Education / Ghost Hunting / Kookiness / pseudoscience · December 7, 2006

The science of making a buck from Ghost hunting.

When I was growing up I and some of my friends used a tape recorder to try to capture ghostly voices. We left the tape deck in abandoned houses and on gravestones in order to capture voices from “beyond”.

And we got some stuff we couldn’t explain too. We got a heartbeat sound from a recording in an abandoned house; we got ghostly whispers that were just on the edge of being understandable from the graveyard.

We were seriously, and happily creeped out.

This is what is known in ghost hunting circles as Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP. Today’s ghost hunters can still use a cheap tape deck to chase ghostly voices, or they can lay out a lot of money for the privilege of being known as a “Certified EVP Researcher!”

Wikipedia has this to say about the possible supernatural origin of EVP:

Most commonly it is believed that EVP are the voices of discarnate entities such as spirits, inaudible to the human ear but able to be picked up with electronic equipment. Some believe this suggests the voices or sounds may have been produced directly on the recording device via psychokinesis. Others believe the sounds may have been outside the range of human hearing, possibly produced by psychokinetic manipulation of sound waves. Additionally, some believe certain EVP may be psychic projections from the researchers themselves, or possibly communications from alien entities.

So I wanted to know more about EVP – and started reading up on it. I haven’t been too successful – there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of free information regarding the theory of EVP.

But my! If I had a few hundred dollars I could easily spend it all in minutes ordering books and CDs online that are described by praise such as: “Home Study Course” “Certified EVP researcher” and “Certified Ghost Hunter.” I can also order correspondence courses, or attend adult education or community college courses that are taught by “Chief Investigators” or Reverends with shaky or meaningless doctorates.

The Reverend “Doctor” Dave Oester and Reverend Doctor Sharon Gill seem to be the kings of generating income from would-be ghost hunters. Owners of the website, the reverend doctors sell everything from books to CDs to jewelry, and in doing so make enough money to support their endless vacation (now in their 6th year!) of driving around the country in their RV and investigating hauntings in quaint towns and interesting cities.

Reverend Dave, as he calls himself, is ordained through the Universal Life Church – which is interestingly enough where I myself am ordained. And you can be ordained too, in minutes at the Universal Life Church Monastery website, for free! You could legally perform weddings! (Personally I like to sneak up behind a cute couple on a date and yell, “Surprise! You’re Married!” Hilarity ensues!)

Go ahead, go get ordained! It only takes a few minutes, and unlike the ghost hunting courses offered by Reverend Dave, it’s free!

Here are some other ghostly items from various sites, with some not-so-ghostly prices!

  • Paranormal Studies 101 – A course on Ghosts and Hauntings from my own city of Fresno
  • Bluegrass Commmunity and Technical College – several Ghost hunting courses.
  • Ghost-Mart – A discounted paranormal equipment supplier. Why pay retail? Get their best Digital Voice Recorder for a mere $80!
  • Technica – lots of real honest to goodness scientific equipment that you can use to find Casper. These tools are normally used for such mundane things as precise temperature readings, sound level metering, and radiation detection. Very expensive, but hey, you get quality ghost tools!
  • Ghosthunter – get the 3-axis digital AC Gaussmeter for only $260! What this has to do with ghosts escapes me – and I’ve got to wonder if the average ghosthunter could tell the difference between gauss and gauze.

My guess is that Freddy Jones would need an extensive trust fund to keep The Mystery Machine filled with these ghost-hunting goodies.

So far these ghost hunting tools are expensive, but at least you get value for value. I might not agree that a downloadable PDF is worth twenty dollars, but the writer actually went through some time and effort to produce it.

But The Ghost hunting Store goes so far as to sell you what you can download for free. They offer Audacity, a very nice multiple track digital audio editor, on CD for a mere $9.50. Of course this program is open source, and can be downloaded for free from the Audacity homepage.

The Ghost hunting Store also offers a 70 minute CD of “Pure White Noise” for a mere fifteen dollars. I think this is especially interesting since Audacity also offers the ability to generate white noise, which can then be directly recorded to an audio CD for a ghost hunter.

Okay, I don’t think this is fraud, because value is being traded for value. I do believe that the people at the ghost hunting store are being immoral for neglecting to mention the free, open source nature of their product.

I lamented in my entry on the Star Registry that I’m just too darned honest to get rich. I could easily design a gee-wiz EVP recorder that would generate impressive and meaningless results, and sell it under the “Reverend Calladus” name-brand. I bet it could become a tidy income for me. Unfortunately I’d have to throw away the bathroom mirror because I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the face afterwards.

I have managed to learn about a couple different EVP theories, and I latched onto the schematics of an EVP device from the 90’s. I’ll explain the theory of operation of that device, and in so doing I’ll explain why no ghosts are actually being detected with it.

I’ll also use these schematics to raise that vexing question of, “At what frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum are ghosts located, exactly?”

I also want to speak on the various EVP theories that I’ve so far uncovered – and why they are either incorrect, or meaningless. Here’s a hint – one theory suggests that upon death we will gain understanding of the advanced mathematics and information theory required for the Digital age!