When one thinks of ghouls, goblins, gremlins or ghosts, the last thing that comes to mind is hard, fact-based science. But untold numbers of dark detectives and spooky scientists brave the condemned, abandoned and possibly haunted architectural relics of the world to make a living at “ghost hunting” — locating or proving the existence of ghosts using scientific instruments, evidence and methodologies.
In the tightly woven professional circles of mainstream science, ghosts and those who claim they exist are met not only with repudiation and condescension, but also with disdain and disrespect. Often characterized as “whackos,” their methods and findings are dismissed as unsubstantiated hokum, shameless trickery or outright fantasy.
But true ghost hunters don’t rely merely on intuition and imagination: there is a scientific logic behind their investigatory techniques, even if the premises of that logic are not universally accepted (or in mainstream circles, considered plausible at all). Inspecting a home or other enclosure for evidence of an otherworldly specter requires a critical knowledge of physics, with special emphasis on energy, electromagnetic fields, thermographic and infrared imaging, and radiation.
For this reason, many tools and gadgets exist to aid the experts in detecting the presence of ghosts. An EMF detector measures fluctuations in the electromagnetic field in a certain area, one of the possible calling cards of a burdensome banshee. Ion detectors measure the amount of negatively charged ions present in a specific space, another indicator of paranormal pranksters.
The Geiger counter is a common tool of the ghost hunter as well, detecting any increased radiation in the haunted locale. High-sensitivity microphones are employed to detect the whispering or wailing of the dead, and temperature-sensitive imaging equipment can pick up the heat signature of certain spirits. If all else fails, scientific methods are discarded and the heavy hitters — psychics, clairvoyants, Ouija boards, etc. — are called in to nail down the exact nature of the haunting.
Obviously, there is no independent verification that these or any other techniques are effective in detecting ghosts. In fact to date, every ghost hunter has a perfect zero percent success rate, according to scientific standards of experimental evidence and that troublesome little thing called proof.
But who knows? Maybe that chill you feel down your neck isn’t just a draft. Maybe that knocking in the basement is just old pipes. Or maybe, just maybe, someone might be trying to sell you a ghost story.