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Paranormal Investigations and Belief in Ghosts 606

Esther Schindler writes "Sure, everyone uses technology on the job. But you may not have contemplated the tools used by paranormal investigators (at least, not until you began thinking about Halloween) who look for the truth in ghosts and other things that go Bump in the Night. In Paranormal Investigations and Technology: Where Ghosts and Gadgets Meet, CIO's Al Sacco writes about the most unusual of tool chests, with everything from thermometers to blimp cams." You want spooky? An anonymous reader passed a link to a survey that says a third of Americans believe in ghosts. Who you gonna call?
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Paranormal Investigations and Belief in Ghosts

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  • NS (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:34PM (#21135437)
    First Ghost!

    captcha: fainted
  • Photos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:36PM (#21135449) Homepage Journal

    Years ago a fellow I knew took to hanging out in graveyards with his camera and film sensitive to Infra Red (pick up the background IR, except where spirits, which apparently suck the energy out of their surroundings when they manifest themselves.) He claimed to have taken actual photos of ghosts hanging about graves, including some which were posessed. He offered to show me some of his work, but I wasn't in a mood for it as my Grandmum had recently passed away.

    So here's this bloke:

    Auerbach, on the other hand, strongly feels that ghosts and specters cannot be photographed. "If they could be, people would've already," Auerbach says.
    So this fellow with pictures was fiddling the film?

    I do believe in spooks! I do, I do, I do believe in spooks! Oh, sod, who was it then? []

    • Re:Photos (Score:5, Insightful)

      So this fellow with pictures was fiddling the film?

      He was probably sincere, but ghost hunters are infamous for seeing ghosts in everything, especially from photographic effects. Google for ghosts and "orbs", as one example. It's a well-known flash effect from dust, but a lot of ghost hunters believe that they're paranormal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geekoid ( 135745 )
        Interesting that how ghost photograph go along with photography technology.
        That why we have gone to pictures with ghosts that look like humes.(Actually a person from a previous pictures.
        To nothing for a long while because they fixed the camera.
        To blobs which are an artifact of digital photography.

        AS well as a myriad of things out side the camera body.
      • Oh, yeesh. Someone get this guy a cheap lens that suffers badly from chromatic aberration (I hear Sony cameras come with one included) and watch the drivel about 'auras'.

      • Re:Photos (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jimmy King ( 828214 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @08:26PM (#21135797) Homepage Journal
        Agreed. I used to be rather interested in paranormal stuff. I still am to an extent. It can make for a fun evening and it sure would be cool to find real, solid, tangible proof if such a thing is possible.

        In my experience, though, most of the people involved have no clue what they are talking about. They want to see a ghost and prove their existence so badly that they see them anywhere. They also do not understand the technology they are using.

        The fools in this article seem to be the same... at least one of them, who talks of photographing ghost orbs. Ghost orbs are the most ridiculous load of crap. You know what else causes those orbs? Dust in the air. Moisture in the air because you're outside at night when the temps are changing (I've got just such a picture about with hundreds of "ghosts"). That streetlight off in the distance that you didn't notice while just standing there because it's just a streetlight (I've seen this from a local ghost hunting group with pictures of a place that was maybe 10 minutes from where I lived at the time). Reflections off of shiny polished headstones. About a billion other things.

        I think the following quote sums up nicely exactly what the problem with the whole paranormal investigation field is, why it gets no respect, and why it deserves no respect.

        Wilson says his camera work paid off roughly seven years ago at an investigation at a private residence in Western Maryland. Wilson got called in after a strange mist appeared in the home on various occasions. After setting up various recording equipment, Wilson's team captured images of a reverse shadow that looked like a moving cloud of mist, Wilson says. He's still unsure of what he shot on film, but Wilson says it was vaguely human in size and shape and it actually passed through furniture. That is the most substantial piece of evidence that he's ever collected, Wilson says.

        To paraphrase, "I can't tell what it is in this picture, so it must be a ghost." That's their most solid evidence is a picture that they're not sure what it is. What the hell is a "reverse shadow" anyway? Light?
        • To paraphrase, "I can't tell what it is in this picture, so it must be a ghost." That's their most solid evidence is a picture that they're not sure what it is. What the hell is a "reverse shadow" anyway? Light?

          Going by the description, I'd say it was the wing of an insect flying very close past the lens. You see these pictures occasionally floating around the net - a few frames of film showing this weird-shaped black-grey shadowy thing passing across the scene. OMG GHOSTS, of course. Or shadow people. Ye

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by david.given ( 6740 )

          Here's an excellent picture of some orbs [] I took in a cave in Greece. What it actually is? Falling drops of water from the cave ceiling lit up by the flash.

          Somewhere --- unfortunately, I seem to have lost it --- I also have a photo with a ghost on it. What it actually is? A strand of my own hair straying in front of the camera lens and being illuminated by the flash. It forms a vague bright blur overlayed over the image that could quite possibly be interpreted as a human figure. I must try and duplicate it

    • He was either lying or mistaken.
    • Re:Photos (Score:5, Funny)

      by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @08:32PM (#21135841)
      pick up the background IR, except where spirits, which apparently suck the energy out of their surroundings when they manifest themselves.

      Fascinating. If that was me I wouldn't be trying to photograph them. I'd be trying to run a heat engine off them. You've got an object here that's going to be consistently cooler than ambient temperatures? That's a perpetual motion machine right there.

      • Re:Photos (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Zak3056 ( 69287 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @11:20PM (#21136979) Journal

        If that was me I wouldn't be trying to photograph them. I'd be trying to run a heat engine off them. You've got an object here that's going to be consistently cooler than ambient temperatures? That's a perpetual motion machine right there.

        About a year or so ago, I wrote myself some notes about a possible short story, and had a premise very similar to what you mention. The gist of it was that "souls" (for lack of a better word) were proven to exist, and then promptly exploited for the special properties they exhibited, creating a clean, limitless energy source. The downside? To the "souls" being used in this manner, the process was basically hell--fire, brimstone, unending torment, etc.

        Hmm. Maybe I'll work on that now, since you've brought it back to mind... thanks!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lurker2288 ( 995635 )
        But, you'd need an army of ghosts, and maybe a team of guys to run the machine capturing the energy. Maybe they could be based at Canary Wharf.

        Pardon if it's too obscure, but based on your sig, I thought you might get it. Cheers!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wavicle ( 181176 )
      Years ago a fellow I knew took to hanging out in graveyards with his camera and film sensitive to Infra Red (pick up the background IR, except where spirits, which apparently suck the energy out of their surroundings when they manifest themselves.)

      The IR sensitive film on the market is only sensitive at very near infrared wavelengths. See this [] spectral sensitivity curve. Note that 500nm is about the bottom end of color the human eye can see and peak sensitivity occurs around 550nm.

      "Suck the energy out of th
  • by Das Modell ( 969371 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:39PM (#21135475)
    ... ghosts are bullshit!
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

      ... ghosts are bullshit!

      Perhaps so, but they do tend to keep these people busy, rather than trying to create a bot out of your computer. I'm fine with them, Bigfoot hunters and UFO weenies, so long as they behave themselves.

      In Soviet Russia spooks believe in YOU!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      "... ghosts are bullshit!"

      Show some respect, man. Ghosts were people, too!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:40PM (#21135483) what's the big deal? Ever read "The Bible" or other associated works? They're full of as much fantastic nonsense as any ghost-spotting con artist could ever dream up.
    • While pejorative in tone, this is essentially true. There's little practical difference between ghosts, angels, demons, and gods, other than how much power they have and their moral alignment. If you find any of them plausible, there's no reason you shouldn't believe in them all, other than peer pressure and social convention.
    • Actually, the stuff about ghosts at least seems more consistent and plausible than the religious myths. With the ghosts, there's various explanations for their existence, some ideas that they require energy and take it from the environment as thermal energy, etc. With the Bible et al, it's just a bunch of crazy stories about supposedly omnipotent gods who think that insects have 4 legs and bats are a type of bird.
  • Gigameter, ghost trap, and a friendly overweight green ghost to help you out. I thought that was the standard package when investigating paranormal activities?

    Others [] would argue that all you need is an intelligent ape, a talking car, bubblegum gun and skeleton elevator inside which you change clothes.

  • A third? (Score:2, Informative)

    by rrohbeck ( 944847 )
    I thought it was well over 70% who believe in ghosts - at least the old bearded one in the sky.
  • This bodes well for that movie I hope to make. It has a vampire and an explosion.
  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:44PM (#21135523)

    a third of Americans believe in ghosts

    More than that believed Saddam was behind 9/11 - it's not about people being stupid it's about effective storytelling and PR making people believe stupid things. See the "Amityville Horror" for a leading example. One of the major players (M. O'Gara ) in spinning that story to the public ended up spinning the story about SCO that people will be familiar with here.

    • by antic ( 29198 )
      I think you're going easy on the sheeple of the world. Sure, the storytelling helps, but it takes two... No one questions what they're told, read or see. No one looks for a natural explanation before a paranormal one.

      IMO, that's about people being stupid.
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        I think you're going easy on the sheeple of the world.

        We are the sheeple. As an example the carrots are good for night vision story that I grew up believing was a story planted in the British press in WWII to distract from radar and it continues in peoples minds to this day. Effective PR and story telling shapes what we believe hence the success of Yuri Gellar, naturopaths and paranormal research not having to come up to the same standards of anything else. The Iraq example was to show that in a situati

    • Well if you grow up believing in what you're told, what do you expect? People can be taught to believe in many things. Just ask Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot.

      Growing up in a religious environment seems to prevent rational thinking in many people.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:48PM (#21135553)
    I thought that 70% of Americans are religious. All religious people believe in ghosts. It would be great if only 30% of Americans were so gullible.
  • Several universities host ongoing paranormal research [], including Princeton University, the University of Arizona, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Hertfordshire in England, and the University of Virginia. Obviously, there's enough evidence out there that needs to be confirmed or debunked (depending on your point of view) that centers for paranormal research are justified.

    Zonk, why don't you leave the editorializing to those things you know something about, unless
    • $1M Challenge (Score:3, Informative)

      Obviously, there's enough evidence out there that needs to be confirmed or debunked (depending on your point of view) that centers for paranormal research are justified.

      Now there's nothing a good academic center likes more than funding - I think we can all agree on that. So, why haven't they taken Randi's One Million Dollars [] from him to buy more Aeron chairs?
      • I've often heard of the offered million dollars, but never read more about it. It's interesting that they do a preliminary test and then a formal test; and that, as of yet, no one has even passed the preliminary test phase. ;)
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Actually, there is NO evidence, and I think half those places you mention have shut down this wasteful endeavor, if not more.
      I mean 100 years of research, and nothing.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )
      Paranormal research is useful for finding out just why the human mind so easily believe certain things, with no evidence and no logical explanations. In other words, the people at the anthropological, philosophical and psychological departments get useful data from the poor sods at the paranormal research departments.
      And it wouldn't surprise me that the real reason why the CIA did research on parapsychology wasn't because they thought there might be something to it, but to figure out how to better exploit
    • Several universities host ongoing paranormal research, including Princeton University

      Actually, see []. The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory has closed. At any rate, how does the existence of these laboratories say anything? There are places you can go to study Christianity, and Islam and Judiasm, does that mean that obviously there must be something to them?

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:50PM (#21135569)
    Don't cross the streams. That would be bad.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Do you know what would really happen if you tried to cross a pair of proton streams? Nothing, because protons have a positive charge, and like charges repel each other. There's no way you could make them cross, no matter how hard you tried. Of course, what chance does Real World Physics have when it comes against a Hollywood Screenwriter?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Entropius ( 188861 )
        Sure you can. If you send two protons directly at each other with a center-of-mass kinetic energy of E=q^2/(2r), where q is the charge of the proton and r is the radius of the proton, you'll get the things close enough that the protons interact via the strong nuclear force.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It's not the proton streams themselves that cause the problem, it's those spiral-shaped things around the streams they use to shape and contain the proton streams.
  • So? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jediman1138 ( 680354 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:51PM (#21135577) Homepage Journal
    Not suprising, considering 49% of Americans believe this guy [] is going to come back.

    Not knocking the religious, just saying that 1/3 of Americans believing in the supernatural should not surprise anyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:55PM (#21135605)
    Dr. Michael Persinger can give people the experience of seeing god by manipulating the field around their head. []

    There is evidence that ghosts appear in regions with high electrostatic fields. The fields are often/usually the result of the piezo-electric effect of rock under pressure, ie in mountain regions. The other thing that will give people the willies is sub-sonic vibrations.

    I think trying to find ghosts is the wrong idea. These guys should be looking for the things that make people see ghosts.
    • by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @09:24PM (#21136237)
      For months I saw something that seemed to be a person moving just at the edge of my vision, on rare occasion, usually late at night when I was alone reading a book. But when I got up to look carefully, no one was there, or could possibly have been there.


      Or...maybe not. I went to the optometrist for my regular check-up, and she found a bunch of "floaters" in my eye. If I look at a blank wall, I can see them sometimes, they drift in and out of my field of view, and if I look steadily, the optic system edits them out and they vanish.

      So, of course, when it was late at night and I was already tired, and moved my eyes after staring at something steadily (the book) a floater would sometimes wander into view briefly, and I'd "see" a moving shadow for a second or two.
  • is that surveys show that 60% of Americans []believe surveys fill out by Americans.
  • oblig quote (Score:2, Funny)

    by mackil ( 668039 )
    Scully: "So now we're chasing ghosts?"
    Mulder: "Who you gonna call?"
  • Spooky? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AbbyNormal ( 216235 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @07:59PM (#21135643) Homepage
    People using science and tools to try and explain things that are currently unknown or understood? I don't think that is too spooky. True the second article is about people and their beliefs, but I don't really find it that strange.
  • I have this grand plan about being the cause for paranormal events in a house i'd like to buy but cannot quite pay the amount it's worth. What!? You have a house to sell? Mmmmhmmm BWHAHAHHAHAH :o 600K townhome for 400K? With a couple ghosts you say? I'm cool with that. Where do i sign?

    I wasn't serious...but if you really have a house to sell *WHOOOOOOOO* *WHOOOOOOOO*
  • I've yet to see a photo/video of a ghost that convinced me of anything.

    Thinks to consider:
    - We're biologically programmed to see faces/figures in randomness. Seeing a vague human-like face in smoke is not a ghost. It is smoke.
    - "They said it wasn't fake" Right...
    - Special effects to make ghosts seem to exist are easier than you think. Most of the time the cheesiest solution is the correct one.
    - Orbs are nothing. They are freaking motes of dust that are out of focus and caught in the lamp/flash from the ca
  • Disclaimer: its a TV show. I understand that.

    What I really like about that show is that unlike most 'psychics', they go into a 'haunted' house trying to DISprove a haunting. If they have a 'personal experience' they note it, but it doesnt count. Audio holds a little creedence, but not a ton. Video evidence holds much more, but only if they cant reproduce what they say - and they try to.

    You can watch episodes online (tho the website seems to be behaving oddly atm) []
  • Ghosts vs. Neutrinos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Glowing Fish ( 155236 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @08:34PM (#21135849) Homepage
    What is there more evidence of...ghosts, or neutrinos?
  • What's the Slashbot/atheist/rationalist/skeptic/debunker's perspective on EVP? That the people doing it/listening to it are mentally ill? ;)
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      People get so hung up in their belief they see 'proof' in anything...and some lie.

      EVP has never held up to any test, and is completely crap. Add that to the fact that very few(if any) even understand what they are doing with the equipment and have no experience with sound and how it works.

      EVP has been look at many, many times alway false with no question.

      Bring on some proof.

  • I saw a British documentary recently about an investigation of a haunted house. In particular, the house had one room where just about anyone who had slept there reported hearing a child screaming, and a sudden uneasy feeling. This was traditionally attributed to the ghost of a child who had died in the room. One paranormal investigator surveyed the room and found out that the mattress coils in the 200+ year old bed was made of highly magnetised material. He was able to show that the magnetic fields were s
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Very interesting, although I don't understand how magnetics could possible to this. I don't know anyone who ahd had an NMRI that have hallucinations, and I don't know of any magnetic testing that confirms that.

  • I believe in ghosts.

    I can't understand why most in the science and engineering fields, not only don't believe but disregard it, with out little thought.

    As an engineer, I'm required to find solutions to problems. Some times, I'm required to look out side the square and consider things that at first might seem strange, but when understood, make perfect sense. This helps me be more creative and allows me to explore the possibilities.

    It seems like it would be a core requirement of any scientist to be able to ex
  • by paulthomas ( 685756 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @08:44PM (#21135929) Journal
    I just finished college, and I am currently (until the 10 Nov.) on a bit of a hiatus from doing any work that remotely requires the use of my brain. For the past couple months I have been working at a small breakfast cafe that operates out of a house built around 1900.

    As old as the house is, it has slightly unnerving properties: the floors creak, drafts blow napkins and receipts, etc.. I find it very easy to come up with reasonable naturalistic explanations for what my co-workers consider paranormal. All of the servers at this restaurant believe that it is inhabited by a ghost -- one that interacts with the world we experience. A poltergeist.

    Most also believe in astrology and homeopathy. One server recently paid ~ $15 for a chalk tablet cold remedy. No matter how hard I try to dispel these harmful beliefs, I am (ironically) met with skepticism. For instance, today someone told me that they believed in symbols foretelling the future. I suggested that any notion of psychic ability is likely due to confirmation bias -- we are more likely to remember when our intuition was correct than when it had failed us. I also told this person about the JREF/Randi Prize.

    At this point in most of my conversations with my mystically inclined associates, some "scientific explanation" is offered dealing with photons, leptons, "we're all made of light," and other new-agey pseudo-quantum-physics.

    I am at the point where I have almost given up, except to always ask people to examine how they know what they proclaim to know without resorting to their feelings. I find it very hard to not come across as condescending when having these conversations.
    • I know, I know! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      It's the quantum!

      Listening to the skeptics guide to the universe podcast. It has helped me learn how to deal with these people and how to bring them back to reality.

  • That's how the Washington Post puts it:

    More people believe in ghosts and ESP than believe in President Bush.

    Nearly a third of Americans believe in ghosts.

    A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll found 34% of people believe in ghosts. And 23% even claim to have seen one.

    If you feel haunted -- think how President Bush must feel. []

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