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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

High-tech ghostbusting

 •  Hunt your own ghosts with links to groups, gadgets

By Greg Wright
Gannett News Service

Halloween is just a week away. Are you hearing things that go bump in the night? Think your house has a ghost infestation problem but nobody believes you?

Russ Lemkie and members of the GHOSM group walk through cemeteries and use digital cameras to photograph graves. Supposedly, digital cameras can pick up "orbs" glowing ghostly energy.

Gannett News Service

Before you call Ghostbusters, visit RadioShack, Circuit City or the Web to buy an infrared temperature sensor, magnetometer, trifield meter, infrared camera, digital camera, motion sensor or a cassette recorder — the electronic gear of choice for professional and amateur ghost hunters coast to coast.

Ghost hunters contend digital cameras can record eerie images, cassette recorders can pick up spectral voices, thermometers can find odd cold spots, and magnetometers and trifield meters can detect unusual magnetic field fluctuations that they say might be caused by the supernatural.

"They do provide corroborating evidence," said Nancy Coplin, director of the Pennsylvania Ghost Hunters Society, Johnstown, Pa.

But skeptics abound, even in the free-thinking field of the paranormal. They say light can play tricks on digital cameras, and photographic software such as Adobe Photoshop makes hoaxes easier to perpetrate. In addition, nearby computers or televisions can make electromagnetic meters go haywire.

Coplin said she agrees the instruments should be used in a controlled environment to prevent bad readings. But Coplin said she stands by her group's findings.

To back them up, Coplin points to the high electromagnetic readings and digital photos her club recorded of mysterious light orbs at a Victorian-era home in Johnstown, Pa., this summer. Residents claim an apparition — an old, gray-haired man who wanders around dressed only in boxer shorts and a T-shirt — haunts the house.

Coplin said she believes the ghost is a previous owner who died from a heart attack in 1964. He probably doesn't realize he's dead and is looking for his clothes, she said.

Other ghost hunters report similar results using electronics.

A couple in Lancaster, Calif., recently complained a ghost was terrorizing them. A translucent apparition in the form of a young man would touch them, whisper unpleasant things in their daughter's ear and snatch bedcovers off at night.

They called Dr. Larry Montz at the International Society of Paranormal Research in Los Angeles for help. Montz, whose group works with L.A. police on unsolved crimes, took psychics to the home. One "saw" the ghost of a neighbor who recently committed suicide sitting on the daughter's bed.

Investigators snapped a photo of the bed using an infrared camera and found proof, Montz said. A glowing, blue, disembodied hand appeared in the photo. The blue color indicated the ghost was cold — hot images appear yellow, orange or red in infrared, he said.

"Temperature gauges are critical," Montz said. "An entity will usually generate a cold spot but we've also found hot spots."

Off-the-shelf gear popular

Robin and Russ Lemkie, founders of Ghost Hunters of Southern Michigan (GHOSM), show off some of their electronic gear at Redford Cemetery in Detroit.

Gannett News Service

The gear ghost hunters use was not originally designed for spirit tracking.

Geologists and miners use magnetometers and trifield meters to detect underground gold and oil deposits that generate electromagnetic fields. Ghosts also can generate such fields, according to Montz.

A good magnetometer sells for $250 to $400, although less expensive but sometimes unreliable models are available, Montz said. Trifield meters, which sell for around $200, measure magnetic as well as electrical fields, radio and microwaves.

Ghost hunters prefer digital cameras because images can be examined instantly on built-in display screens, ending the anxious wait to develop film. Digital cameras also have a knack for picking up orbs.

According to ghost hunters, orbs are balls of light manifested by spirits. They are usually invisible to the naked eye.

Infrared thermometers, cameras and video cameras can measure the temperature of objects dozens of feet away.

Professional infrared thermometers can cost more than $600, although inexpensive handheld, liquid crystal display thermometers can be bought at RadioShack for as little as $25. Infrared cameras and video cameras can be rented for a few hundred dollars a day.

Ghost hunters said infrared gear also finds cold and hot spots that they claim is generated by ghosts.

For instance, Brian and Linda Lile, who run the Missouri Ghost Hunters Society in Butler, Mo., said the group recently investigated a nearby cemetery that is supposedly haunted.

Missouri has a rich ghost tradition. Several Civil War battlefields and former gangster hideouts in the state are reputedly haunted.

The Liles say that their investigation indicate that it's a spooky hangout.

The couple's thermal probe found isolated patches in the cemetery where the air was 30 degrees cooler than spots just a few feet away. A trifield meter and magnetometer also showed unusual readings, he said.

A normal magnetic field reading is between 0 and 1.99 gauss (unit of measure for magnetism), the couple said. But when a ghost is apparently lurking the meter can jump to as high as 8 gauss, said Brian, a former federal law officer.

Even an inexpensive cassette recorder can pick up ghostly voices. In August, members of the Ghost Hunters of Southern Michigan investigated the Soop Cemetery in Belleville, Mich.

As dusk fell, the group sat in a circle, began talking, and turned on the tape recorder. When they replayed the tape, a voice was in the background. It had a hollow sound, like a person speaking from the bottom of a well.

"Shut up," it said, according to members of the group.

A dose of skepticism

Russ Lemkie uses a temperature probe to look for temperature changes caused by apparitions.

Gannett News Service

Montz, who claims to be one of a handful of Americans with a bona fide parapsychology degree, said ghost-hunting electronics should be used with caution.

David Faggioli sells a trifield meter at his Web site that he said is designed not to be fooled by man-made energy fields.

But a simple electric fan, house alarm or electrical outlet can still throw off readings from many magnetometers and trifield meters, Montz said. And amateur ghost hunters should be wary of buying homemade ghost-hunting gear on the Web because some of it is unreliable, he said.

Montz also tries to debunk the theory that digital cameras capture ghostly orbs. "I would never use a digital camera because they have a glitch in them," he said. "That's where you get the orbs — from serious lens refraction."

Bill Lee, a physicist and president of AlphaLab Inc. (www.trifield.com), a Salt Lake City company that makes trifield meters, has his own theory. Lee said he believes some ghost hunters might be hallucinating.

"There are theories that areas with high electromagnetic fields may affect brains," Lee said.