Ghost hunters have been played by promoters of pricey ghost tech gadgets.
Out in Popular Mechanics is a detailed article on the dubious history of ghost hunting gadgets. Three skeptics and a seasoned paranormal scholar chime in on the pseudoscientific basis behind these instruments but, in a revealing twist, two well-known “gadgeteers” of Ghost Adventures refused to talk. And one had a blunt admission.
It was my pleasure to talk to the reporter and provide a contribution to the piece Proton Packs and Teddy Bears: The Pseudoscientific History of Ghost Hunting Gadgets:
As a scientist, Hill says she’s offended by the pseudoscience of ghost hunting. “They’re suggesting to people that environmental anomalies translate to paranormal activity,” she says. “You cannot make that jump. You’re dealing with something that involves an in-depth knowledge of the environment, electromagnetic waves, radiation, how temperature can vary because of various things around the house.”
One of ghost hunting’s most vocal skeptics is Kenny Biddle, who through his YouTube series “I am Kenny Biddle” debunks what he sees as paranormal fraud by disassembling paranormal gadgets. “It usually takes about a month or two with each device to figure out what’s going on,” Biddle said. “Some of them, I found, usually take chips from Christmas lights that have a set of patterns and they use that chip to light the LEDs.”
Kenny and I started the Anomalies Research Society as an alternative to credulous ghost hunting. Kenny is a equipment technician and photographer. He regularly debunks ghost hunting gadgets including possibly the silliest but still widely used “digital dowsing” thingamabob, the Ovilus. This gizmo is described as an instrumental transcommunication (ITC) device that “converts environmental readings into words.” That is, “energy changes” trigger words to be formed from the built-in dictionary. Though, the words aren’t randomly generated, the manufacturer says, the results do seem completely random. They actually make no explicit claim that the results are actual words from ghosts, but that is exactly how gullible paranormal investigators use it. There is zero basis for this claim to be true; it’s completely implausible and illogical as well. Bill Chappell created the Ovilus (in its various editions) and other devices popularized on the Travel Channel’s top ghost bros show, Ghost Adventures starring Zak Bagans. Jennings Brown, author of the Pop Mechanics piece, told me that Chappell declined to be interviewed for it even though he’s a top ghost tech guy behind Digital Dowsing “[leading] the way in product innovation for the paranormal market place. For over 10 years we have produced some of the most iconic devices used today..”
Produced and used but not tested or verified, not one. Bagans initially said yes to an interview but reneged soon after. Hmm… But Chappell revealed in an email to Brown: “I do not believe in Ghosts or Spirits.”
The inventor says he’s built hundreds of devices and performed countless experiments over the last decade trying to understand the phenomena of EVPs and instrumental transcommunication. “The unmistakable conclusion,” he wrote. “It is us, we are the ghosts.”
So there. Chappell tried, it didn’t work. Good on him for admitting it. Yet,the Ovilus 5 still sells for $335 in the online store. Ghost hunters continue to be played by promoters of these ghost tech gadgets. Regardless of the admission by Chappell that we create the ghosts, believers will continue to use the device because it’s dramatic and provides results, albeit worthless. Those blips, blinks and snippets of words are interpreted as something greater, a giant unwarranted wishful leap in conclusions. They enhance the belief in communication beyond death. It’s a dream, it’s not real. And Chappell just admitted it.