09 August 2011

The Extraordinarily Dubious World of Ghost-Quackery

Do ghost-detecting gadgets really work? A look at the amazing thngs people are willing to believe in the 21st century.
Another shot was fired in the War on Science in 2011 when Brisbane's Courier-Mail printed a story on 'ghostbusting'. The big news was apparently that a couple of suburban kids had bought some ghost-detecting gadgets off the Internet and were using them to, well, 'detect ghosts'. This gadgetry included a 99-cent smart phone app that translates supernatural communication into English (at 99 cents, how can it NOT work?).

As is often the case with ghosty-type news, it was just product of lazy journalism. Actually, that's probably a bit harsh, because after allowing the usual quacks in the field to have their say, the reporter balanced their views with those of University of Queensland Associate Professor of Philosophy and paranormal sceptic William Grey, which is a bit like balancing a goldfish with a blue whale.

Professor Grey said that, 'anecdotal evidence should be scrutinised carefully', which I liked straight away because that is the exact point of my 'Haunting Question' book. He also added that there 'was no scientific basis for believing modern technology could detect paranormal activity', and, 'I don't dispute for a moment that this equipment will detect electromagnetic fields... What I find extraordinarily dubious is the suggestion that these technological devices can be used for detecting a ghostly presence.' Once again, spot on.

Further sanity was restored in the online comments section for the story, where most people lined up to point and laugh, and also offer the ghost hunters in question some top value shopping deals:

"Delusion takes many forms, doesn't it."
"A fool and his money are soon parted."
"LOL. An app that can interpret ghostly communications. Somebodies having their leg pulled."
"Gadgets to pick up the spirit realm? There are mugs everywhere."
"The only expert quoted in this article made it clear these machines have zero scientific credibility in this context, but as long as we're here I have a 'fairy detector' made out of an old Corn Flake box these guys might be interested in purchasing."
"what these boys are doing is the exact opposite of ghostbusting, they're actually inventing ghosts"
"I have a spanner that can detect paranormal entities.. I will sell it to you for $450."

'Invisible Helmet' sold in 1950s comics to children.
Unfortunately, one or two old porkies were also reheated and served up again in the form of 'Brisbane is Australia's most haunted city'. Claims that 'Brisbane is the second most haunted city in the world' have recently been proven by others to be false. It is quite simply a lie made up and spread around by the guy who runs 'Brisbane Ghost Tours'. The Internet, however, has the power to keep regurgitating this stuff back up for gullible punters.

Still, there is an obvious market for this ghost-hunting stuff, and surely it can only be a matter of time before Choice magazine exposes the technological quackery at the heart of this mini-industry. In the meantime, as long as 'news'papers like the Courier-Mail run these non-stories and give unwarranted exposure to people acting out immature fantasies of ghost hunting, gadget sales will continue to tick over.

It'd almost like they never noticed that at the end of every Scooby Doo episode, the ghost or the monster turned out to be just another con job by some shady character with ulterior motives. Surprisingly similar to real life, as it turn out.

1 comment:

  1. lol, 'you must never cross the streams'. we were all 12 and naive once.