“You ooze, you lose” (Ectoplasm)


Séances were once performed in hushed, darkened rooms, but those locales have been supplanted by wowed audiences and stage lighting. A field once reliant on intimacy now favors auditoriums. The stereotypical foreboding Gypsy has given way to congenial men in tailored suits and women with impeachable manicures, ideal for television.

Most of this is done to make mediumship more appealing, but one change made out of necessity was the exorcising of ectoplasm. This was any substance said to have spewed from a medium during a séance, and it was usually touted as having been draped over the sprit’s body before being imparted to the medium. It was supposed to be the deceased letting us know it was there.

Ectoplasm was offered as an explanation for the levitation, table-turning, and floor-tapping that was observed during séances. But this was Tooth Fairy science, where the reasons for a phenomenon are examined before the phenomenon has been shown to exist. It was described as vulnerable to light, so séances were conducted in the dark, providing convenient cover for those sneaking the materials in or removing them from their hidden location, such as the medium’s clothing, a body orifice, or under a trapdoor.

Manifestations were common during the séance heyday from the late 19th Century until the Great Depression. But after investigators exposed the ruse, ectoplasm fell out of favor with séance practitioners, and it had practically gone extinct by the middle of the 20th Century. I am aware of no medium today that claims to be producing this netherworld substance.

Normally, an ad hoc rationalization is fabricated when psychic fraud is exposed. Uri Geller instantly lost his power when Johnny Carson offered Geller spoons and other items to demonstrate his ability during a Tonight Show appearance. Since Geller had been unable to manipulate the objects beforehand, he was unable to ‘bend’ them and was left meekly attributing his failure to “not feeling strong tonight.”

Another time, James Randi was conversing with three Russian alternative medicine practitioners who claimed to be in possession of some type of psychically-charged water. They claimed they could identify this magic water through a dowsing tool. Randi challenged them to go into separate rooms while he placed the magic water in a container, then filled two identical containers with tap water. The three would then enter individually and try to identify the magic water. At this point, the experiment abruptly ended, as one of the Russians said the magic properties would seep out and infiltrate the regular water, making them all indistinguishable. In these cases, Geller and the Russians had to come up with a hasty rationalization, lest their entire ruse be upended.

Similarly, I checked out a Flat Earth page and one of its claims was that a north-south circumnavigation has never been accomplished. This was in error, as Ranulph Fiennes and Charles Burton did it from Dec. 17, 1980 to April 11, 1982. I posted this, but the Flat Earther who maintains the page will not have an epiphany and become a globalist, so to speak. Despite the Fiennes-Burton journey being verified by the likes of the Guinness Book, the Flat Earther will dismiss the circumnavigation as fraudulent. And I may be outed as one of the tens of thousands of world government agents the page insists monitors the Internet 24/7 to spread the spherical Earth myth.

East-west navigation, of course, also proves a round Earth, but the Flat Earthers  have somehow convinced themselves this is untrue. From flateaerthsociety.org: “Circumnavigation is achieved because on a compass East and West are always at right angles to North. Thus traveling Eastwards continuously takes you in a circle around the North Pole.”

Actually, traveling east takes a mariner east, not north. But Flat Earthers have their rationale and they’re sticking with it. However, a north-south navigation would punch holes in their own theory, so it has to be dismissed out of hand.

Ectoplasm, then, is sort of the east-west circumnavigation of séances. Mediums can be OK with it going away since the central point of communicating with the dead remains. In fact, it makes it less messy.

Around the time that skeptics and researchers were exposing the ectoplasm ruse, other physical manifestations of séances were also coming undone. Hereward Carrington, a James Randi forerunner, revealed how slate writing, table turning, sealed-letter reading, and spirit photography were accomplished. Exposés like this largely eliminated physical props in in mediumship, but again, this was not a fatal blow to the field because the props were superfluous to yakking with the dead.

The research showed ectoplasm to come from a variety of sources, none of them supernatural. This included cheesecloth, chewed paper, cotton, cloth, gauze, egg whites, soap, muslin, starch, handkerchiefs, animal livers, and newspaper and magazine photos.

Despite a general idea of what ectoplasm was supposed to be, its appearance, consistency, color, elasticity, strength, and constitution varied by whichever medium was producing it. It could be dry or wet, viscous or gelatinous, opaque or transparent. None of this would not have been the case had ectoplasm been genuine. That would be like blood changing in type, texture, appearance, and color depending on which nurse was drawing it.

In 1924, Mina Crandon, one of the country’s most celebrated mediums, was tested by Scientific American and Harry Houdini, and was unable to replicate her ectoplasm powers under controlled conditions.

Another well-known psychic of the era, the mononymous Carrière, flunked a similar challenge. She had claimed, through ectoplasm, to have produced an image of a man. But this was revealed to have come from a magazine. She said, yes, she knew that. She had read the magazine and that’s how the image of the man came to be imprinted in her brain and later excreted as ectoplasm.

With all due respect to Geller, Russian quacks, and Flat Earthers, that gets my vote for the all-time greatest ad hoc reasoning.




“Spooky Truth” (Ghost hunting equipment)


There are three primary explanations for supposed ghost photos. They could be the result of a defect, a hoax, or a ghost.

In the case of defects, the image normally looks like whatever ghosts are said to look like in a given time and place. Photographs of allegedly inexplicable bright orbs are sometimes said to be a person’s spirit, and such shots are frequent consequences of today’s technology. By contrast, the orb would merely have been a distraction in 19th Century photos since ghosts were then thought to be transparent, floating apparitions who kept their clothes on when they passed to the other side.

Hoaxes are easy to pull off today, but it is also easy for PhotoShop experts and other professionals to detect them. Before the ubiquity of cell phones and camcorders, still film images were allegedly the primary means for spirits and souls to manifest themselves. In truth, the science behind photography could always explain the anomaly. Even if a case ever came along that baffled the foremost photographers, it would not be proof of a ghost. It could be a world class hoax, an innovative photography technique, or something else. Passing it off as a ghost because we aren’t sure what it is would simply be negative evidence. If ghosts could be captured in still or moving pictures, we would see many instances of this, especially in morgues, hospitals, and scenes of fatalities. Photos and videos taken during and after 9/11, Oklahoma City, Waco, D-Day, and natural disasters are all ghost-free.

Which is why the final explanation is by far the least likely. Also, how a ghost would manifest itself on film or video has likely never been tested via the Scientific Method, and these ideas have certainly never been confirmed. Believers have likewise proffered no explanation for the process by which a person becomes a ghost. Even undertaking these challenges would be to embrace Tooth Fairy Science, which is when the specifics of a phenomenon are investigated before the phenomenon is confirmed to exist.

This shortcoming has been no issue for paranormal investigators. Ghost hunting has been around for at least two centuries, but séances with mediums have largely been replaced by a glut of programs on third-tier TV channels, YouTube, and other mediums. Besides small video cameras and phones, the hunters are invariably wielding an assortment of other electronic gizmos and doohickeys.

Most of these pieces do indeed function as detectors, as they are intended to detect light, heat, movement, or electromagnetism. The substantial problem arises when one interprets those readings as ghosts as opposed to readings of what they are meant to measure. There is no science to suggest that ghosts emit anything in measurable amounts.

So when ghost hunters uses an infrared thermometer or motion detector to pinpoint a cold spot in a room, they might find such a location. While there is no reason to think ghosts are responsible for temperature changes, those chasing them might be causing it since more persons in the room will raise the temperature. Changes are also caused by heating, air conditioning, insulation, studs, wiring, pipes, radiant heat, sunlight, and wind.

Another item, particle detectors, make infrequent appearances in ghost hunts. But as Brian Dunning at Skeptoid put it, “For a ghost to emit ionizing radiation, it would have to be an awfully sick ghost or be composed largely of unstable radioactive metals.”

EMF meters are said by hunters to detect ghosts, though this claim is never augmented with any suggestion of what the deceased wanderer’s power source is. Also, Dunning wrote that, “Given the massive amount of EMF pollution on a TV ghost hunting set, the idea of being able to detect the EMF field of a ghost who’s not carrying any batteries is ridiculous.”

Skeptic Kenny Biddle found he could set off an EMF detector with just a computer mouse. But what should be seen as a major flaw is seen as a plus by ghost hunters. Their devices are erratic, highly susceptible to false positives, and have blinks and beeps that make it seem to believers like something ghostly is happening. Throw in some strange sounds that seem even more frightening in a darkened castle or mansion and you’ve hit poltergeist pay dirt.

Though they haven’t been used much since being brushed aside by electronics, dowsing rods are still utilized by a few ghost chasers. Whether the rod moves, and in what amount and in what direction, is determined by the hunter, who also interprets and announces what this movement means. His claimed ability cannot be tested, measured, or duplicated by another person, nor has any dowser proposed a plausible hypothesis for how this would work.

Usually touted as the spookiest fruit from hunts is ghostspeak on audio. These mystic missives might seem unsettling, but that’s only because they are so garbled and distorted. They are drenched in static, vary in pitch, and produce an unpleasant sound that can come across as someone who is pained, scared, or angry. In the many thousands of hours of these recordings, we have yet to have a ghost articulately announce in plain language, “Here I am. I am the ghost of King John’s tailor.” Ghost hunters claim that their prey speak on a plain that can only be captured by recording devices, providing another example of how they fundamentally misunderstand what these items are for and how they work. The proof of ghostspeak is so tenuous it has  included rationalizations that the same ghost is speaking in different languages within the same sentence, or that it will speak backwards only some of the time.

The Atlantic related the tale of what was likely the first ghost story of the photography age. In 1861, William Mumler noticed the shadowy figure of a young girl on a plate he was developing. He knew the cause was that he had inadvertently reused a plate that had been insufficiently exorcised of its previous image. He showed it to his spiritualist friend as a prank, which the friend gullibly swallowed. When Mumler tried to explain what had really happened, the friend refused to believe it and even had the image printed in spiritualist publications.

This started a trend that continues today, as almost any new recording or electronic device can be used to further the ghost hunter’s agenda. Beginning with Mumler’s double-exposed photo, telegraphs, telephones, cassette recorders, radios, televisions, camcorders, the Internet, iPhones, and Fitbits have all been seized on by believers as a means to access the paranormal realm. The only medium they haven’t penetrated is a peer-reviewed journal.



“Con and Quartered” (Ghost hunt)

I prefer when possible to immerse myself in the subject of my posts, so I was disappointed to be out of town when a local paranormal group offered the chance to spend the night in a house brimming with ghosts, ghouls, and goblins.
For one thing, the cost was $20, which is the best bang for your disembodied spirits buck. Similar evenings run $150 or more in other locales. Plus, I’ve never been able to experience one of these first hand, nor are the hosts used to having the questioning within their midst. It could have made for an interesting mix.
It was set for two four-hour blocks, beginning at dusk. These are always held in the dark, even though there is no reason to think spirits of the deceased are more active at these times. The times are chosen to create more mood and drama, which is fine if it’s being presented as entertainment, such as with campfire stories. I love a good ghost tale and have a huge collection of black and white monster movies and watching these during the daytime is mostly a waste. With this ghost hunt, though, the promoters were suggesting the sinister spirits were real.
The locale also plays on stereotypes, as the evening is spent in a four-story, 19th Century mansion. Along with castles, huge antique homes are the favored locales for ghosts, who always seem to bypass split-level ranch homes, subdivisions, and Dillard’s.
Attendees were promised they “will learn how to use equipment as well as how to review audio and visual. We will have our 16 camera systems hooked up as well as some other gadgets and gizmos.” Presumably some nitnoids and doohickeys as well. The hosts were none too specific about what these are, but none of them are manufactured for the purpose of capturing Casper and less-friendly apparitions. For that matter, no ghost hunter ever offers many specifics as to how their equipment works to find their prey, or how we can know the results are indicating a poltergeist presence.
The evening took place on Rock Island Arsenal’s Quarters One, which is the second largest federal residence behind White House, and which contains 51 rooms of potential ghostly malevolence. The hunt’s promotional literature lists three military officers who died there. It refrains from explicitly saying their spirits roam the halls, but it does follow that list by announcing, “There are SEVERAL claims of activity.” This is the one part I’m inclined to believe, as I have no doubt many persons think something spooky happened. It’s the confirmation of those claims that I find lacking.

Claims such as this: “There is a man in the basement who constantly calls one of our investigators the B-word. He frequently uses fowl language.” I guess they mean he’s either profane or howls like an owl. In truth, it probably does sound more ornithological than human. Alleged ghost voices are usually the result of electronic interference, wind, whistling pipes, cracks, and floors settling, and it requires conditioning, expectation, and suggestion to turn these sources into a misogynistic missive from the netherworld.

Other assertions are that a maintenance man who hung himself lurks about Quarters One, and that there are unexplained opening and closing of doors, pacing of floors, flashlights flickering, doors locking, men chatting, furniture moving, shadows darting, and children leaving footprints in the dust. This is proof of haunting as long as your criteria is unverified evidence instead of data collected under controlled conditions and that is subject to falsification and replication, and which uses defined terms.

The hosts noted that “Weird EMF spikes can be found in certain areas on 2nd floor.” This is probably true, and there are many reasons beyond ghosts that can explain with. The mansion rests on the banks of the Mississippi River, where ships and their electronic devices incessantly pass. EMF sounds that resemble speech are the result of flaws in the equipment and those handling the equipment and was addressed  in an earlier post.

Additional claims include:

“Visitors experience hot and cold spots.” This is very common for huge homes that have seen their sesquicentennial.

“Mists have been photographed.” None that cannot be explained using the terminology of photography. Shots taken in dark by amateurs will likely feature these flaws.

These items all highlight the key problem with ghost hunts, which is that every feature that seems out of place is inferred to be poltergeists. This in an instance of Tooth Fairy Science and magical thinking, plus it usually requires a great deal of imagination and desire to reach these conclusions.

I would have loved to have experienced it first hand to see what tricks were being used and to try and determine if those putting on the production believed it or were just selling it. I would have let my fellow customers have their fun and would not have pissed on anyone’s poltergeist parade. But I would have engaged the hunters privately and would have been most curious about what they would do with a ghost if they ever caught one. 

Ghost hunting is not in the same category as the anti-vaccine movement that inflicts newborns with Whooping Cough. It is not equivalent to activists who convinced two African governments to deny genetically modified food to famine victims. Nor are the hunters comparable to conspiracy theorists who torment victim’s families.

Rather, ghost hunters share terrain with proponents of a Flat Earth and ESP, in that they mostly are only impacting themselves. Still, they promote unproven ideas, encourage post hoc reasoning instead of critical thinking, and assume anecdotes are of more value than the Scientific Method. It is sad to see 21st Century adults gobbling this up and I would have liked the chance to confront it. My schedule did not allow for this, but that’s OK.  The Quad Cities Psychic and Paranormal fair is next week.


“Ghost is the machine” (Infrasound)


Most ghostly encounters center on location. They are more likely to occur in a 19th Century three-story New England mansion than in subdivision ranch home, and much more likely than at a Sav a Lot. They occur in homes built on former Indian burial grounds, but probably not on the site of a former fabric store. Also relevant is the time of day, as most ghostly encounters occur at night.

However, there may be larger factor than location, time, or even expectation. This was addressed in an article in Cracked, which has undergone one of the more amazing transformations in U.S. pop culture history. Once a Mad Magazine clone, it is now an online source with insightful articles on a broad range of topics featuring humor, intelligence, and social commentary.

And one of its articles told the tale of how a lab assistant’s ear bleed led to a potential discovery about what really happens during ghostly experiences. Scientist Vladimir Gavreau noticed his assistant was bleeding from the ear and, in the spirit of discovery and strangeness, put various vibrating pipes near the assistant and discerned that pipes of a certain length and weight led to mental and physical discomfort for the assistant. Garvrea had discovered infrasound, which is noise whose frequency is low enough that humans can sense it but not hear it. The hypothesis is that it drives a person bonkers to receive sensory input without knowing where it’s coming from.

This was put to scientific, albeit unethical, test when low frequency sounds were unleashed on an unwitting concert audience, with 22 percent reporting feelings of dread, chills, and depression. Researchers have found that sounds between seven and 19 Hertz can elicit these symptoms, along with nausea, disorientation, and loss of equilibrium.

A more proper test was conducted by engineer Vic Tandy after he and fellow researchers experienced all these unpleasantness in their laboratory. For added spookiness, they were also seeing gray shapes out of the corner of their eyes. Tandy deduced that these experiences were confined to a specific section of the laboratory. Also in this location, metal sheets would vibrate uncontrollably when placed in a vice.

He traced the culprit to an air conditioner ventilator emitting low frequency vibrations that bounced off the lab’s walls at 18.9 Hertz. It was even powerful enough to cause the blurry peripheral vision because the vibrations were subtly affecting the eyeballs. Once the ventilator was removed, the fear and apparitions disappeared.

Tandy further tested this idea in an allegedly haunted abbey. Local lore had it that visitors to the abbey cellar would become nauseous and see gray ghostly images in their periphery. Tandy investigated and learned the cellar’s shape was creating a chamber that caused frequencies to resonate at 18.9 Hertz. Unlike Ghost Hunters, engineers actually find what they are looking for, but no one would watch a show that solves the mystery after one episode.

I pride myself on considering new ideas and challenging my preconceptions. When I first heard that race was social construct, it contradicted what I thought I knew and what I considered to be reasonable, perhaps even obvious. But setting that bias aside and considering the science and evidence, my position changed. And it will change back if a better case is made for race realism. I have, in fact, read three essays that purported to make the case for race being a biologic reality. But they were skimpy on the science and failed to even identify the races, so my position for now is that race is a social construct. Similarly, while praising the Scientific Method and peer review, I have included in my blog an overview of the shortcomings and potential for manipulation contained within them. My primary interest is finding and promoting the truth.

So while the infrasound explanation is attractive to a skeptic, I must point out that not all studies have reached this conclusion. One example of this was a double blind study conducted by Dr. Richard Wiseman and associates. For the study, actor Todd Robbins read a story about a professor who had been murdered in the hotel room the volunteers had assembled in. All the while, low frequency sounds were pumped in (or not, depending on which group it was). The results showed no statistically significant difference in responses between the group that was exposed to infrasound and the group that was not. Nor was there any difference in the reactions of self-described skeptics and self-described believers.

For now, there have not been enough studies conducted on this issue to reach a sound conclusion. The Wiseman experiment may prove to be an outlier, or it may be part of metadata that refutes the infrasound-instead-of-poltergeist hypothesis. In science, nothing is ever proven, we can only add to the body of evidence that suggests one outcome is the most likely one. The feelings of dread may come from infrasound, they may come from ghosts, but whatever the source, we’ll keep searching for it, and that is good science.

“Dust in the lens” (Soul photo)


The photo above is from a fatal motorcycle crash last week and features a white, vaguely humanoid figure rising above the site. Some are claiming this image is of the man’s soul or of an angel. I even encountered one person speculating it was the demon who caused the wreck.

The idea of it being a soul escaping his dying body is contradicted by the fact that the victim died in the hospital, not on the highway. Some of the more creatively credulous have speculated that perhaps God lets spirits in such cases go to Heaven a little early so the person no longer suffers, and it only appears they are writhing, moaning, or crying. This, of course, is based on no evidence whatsoever, and is using an unprovable notion to justify another unprovable one.

Even if we go the angel or demon route, we have the sizable obstacle of none of the emergency workers or other witnesses on the scene reporting having seen this supernatural entity. It is only visible in the viral photo. The idea that spirts can be captured in an in-between world of video and photography dates to almost the advent of film. But if this really happened, we would be seeing regular instances of it. Yet no souls are seen leaving the body in videos of the Sept. 11 attacks. The extensive coverage of World War II battles features no departing spirits. The macabre compilations of suicides and other deaths on YouTube and other sites are likewise spirit-free.

Souls were once presented in Christian folklore as naked children, symbolizing an innocence that came with leaving a sinful body and world. Ghosts later became clothed adults, with chains for added effect. Today, they are most often detected in orb form since photo defects make the white circles more ubiquitous in photographs. This is especially true when the photo is taken at night or features a high contrast. The motorcycle victim, however, is a retro ghost since it somewhat resembles a body, though lacking extremities and facial features.

Proving either way whether the milky image is a soul is nearly impossible, so we will consider potential earthbound explanations. One suggestion is that the image is indeed the remnant of the deceased, as it is an out-of-focus bug that splattered on the windshield of the photo taker. However, that man, Saul Vazquez, said he took the photo out a side window, which he rolled down before snapping it. Indeed, for Vazquez to have taken the photo through his windshield, he would had to have been parked sideways on the shoulder. Besides, there’s no reason to disbelieve him when he says he rolled down the window.

So with a fauna explication not forthcoming, let’s consider a flora one. The image shows foliage emerging from the shade of trees in the area, so we may be seeing a tree trunk or light-colored branch. It could also be sunlight coming between the space between two trees.

But the most likely explanation is camera-related. Specifically, the image may be a dust spot that has affixed itself to the camera’s lens or internal sensor. This could cause a white or gray fuzzy appearance, such as what we see in the photo.

Also, the photographer had a large depth of field and the lens is stopped down to a smaller aperture. Investigating the picture, Snopes noted, “When the lens is stopped down and the aperture is significantly smaller, light rays coming from the lens diaphragm are perpendicular to the sensor filter. Because the angle is more or less straight, dust specks also cast direct and defined shadows on the sensor. That’s why dust shows up in images much smaller, darker, and with more defined edges at small apertures.”

Mix that with the photo being taken at a fatal crash site, then add a pinch of pareidolia, and the speck of dust takes on human spirit form. I’m anticipating a counterargument that this confirms Genesis 2:7: “Then God formed a man from the dust of the ground.”

“Frights and sounds” (Electronic voice phenomenon)


Electronic voice phenomena are recorded sounds that are interpreted by some as spirit voices. Without exception, this ghostspeak is limited to incoherent hisses in one to three word bursts.

When one can make a phrase out of it, it is likely the result of apophenia, the mind’s tendency to perceive patterns in random stimulus. It is what causes people to see a Face on Mars or Jesus in their Post Toasties. Other factors in hearing spirit voices on recordings are expectation and desire, but the biggest influence is equipment shortfalls.

Sound engineer David Federlein has noted that despite using much higher quality equipment than most EVP researchers, he has “never heard from the dead and I have been listening to tape and hard disc recordings for years. EVP are usually recorded by raising the noise floor – the electrical noise created by all electrical devices – in order to create white noise. When this noise is filtered, it can be made to produce noises which sound like speech. When you factor in other aspects of physics, such as cross modulation of radio stations or faulty ground loops in equipment, you have a lot of people thinking they are listening to ghosts when in fact it is nothing more than a controlled misuse of electronics.”

Indeed, sample rate conversion, vibration isolation, and noise alteration can all cause recordings to assume qualities separate from what they originally picked up. Even meteors can be a factor. While hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere, they leave a wake of ionized particles and electrons that can reflect transmission radio waves. The resultant sound lasts no more than a second, but it can transform a message sent via CB, cell phone, baby monitor, or ham radio into a wail of torment from a 16th Century knight.

As an anti-vax message on the Internet shows, scientific advances can be coopted by anti-science forces. So the advent of film and audio enabled mediums and ghost hunters to bolster their charade. One of the first instances of this was Attila von Szalay in the 1920s. He conducted recording sessions using a microphone in an insulated cabinet connected to an external recording device and speaker. He reported finding sounds on the tape that could not be heard on the speaker when he recorded. He interpreted these extraneous sounds to be voices from the netherworld.

Opening our skeptic toolkit, we find three items. First, von Szalay is employing Tooth Fairy Science, where research is conducted on a phenomenon before establishing that the phenomenon exists. This leads seamlessly to the next problem, the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. Von Szalay insinuates that if we hear voices, it means ghosts are speaking, and we indeed hear those voices, so voilà. Also crucial is that he never established that any of the equipment could be used for the purpose he was claiming. As an amusing postscript, the ghostly missives included “This is G” and “Hot dog, Art.”

In the early 1980s, William O’Neil constructed an electronic audio device called the Spiricom, which he said could enable him to dialogue with the discarnate. But he committed the same errors as von Szaly and, furthermore, no one was able to replicate his results using the device, meaning either that it didn’t work or only O’Neil had The Gift.

Along the way, Sarah Estep founded the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena and put this Tooth Fairy Science on an even grander stage by announcing that the voices came from other planets or dimensions.

It is telling that the only persons who pick up these voices are those that are specifically looking for them, even though EVP researchers use the same type of equipment as sound and video broadcasters, engineers, and producers. The spirits never announce their presence on CNN or NPR. Then again, maybe the discarnate favor the darkened rooms, hushed tones, and frightened hosts that shows like Ghost Hunters employ.


“The tooth comes out” (Tooth Fairy Science)


When my children put teeth under their pillow, they wake up with substantially more money than I did at their age.

If attempting to ascertain why, I could examine various factors, such as whether the amount the Tooth Fairy leaves has kept up with inflation, if the Fairy values incisors more than molars, and if the time in between lost choppers impacts the amount left. I could query 1,000 children, analyze results for socio-economic trends and determine if there is a correlation between the frequency of Tooth Fairy visits and the sell of home security systems. I may even endeavor to conclude once and for all if the Fairy is male, female, or androgynous. The findings could be put in a snazzy hardcover book with impressive graphics and detailed footnotes. Yet none of this would establish that a stealthy, mobile spirit is replacing extracted calcified objects with cash.

Tooth Fairy Science refers to doing research on an unverified phenomenon to determine what its effects are, rather than to ascertain if it exists. It is post hoc reasoning in research form. The phrase was coined by Dr. Harriet Hall.

This shoddy science is a regular feature of studies into ghosts, cryptozoology, reincarnation, alien visitors, alternative medicine, parapsychology, and creationism.

I have three co-workers who believe our office is haunted. Curiously, this spirit only manifests itself when the workers are by themselves at night. Perhaps he is nocturnal and dislikes crowds. We have ample video and audio equipment in the office, and we could set these up and record what times bumps most occur, detect any unexplained shadows, and note any high-pitched whistles. This data could by analyzed and a conclusion reached about the ghost’s characteristics. But this would not take into account wind, pipes, electromagnetic interference, or a worker on floor above coming in at 11 p.m. We would have to assume the ghost’s existence and attribute these factors to it.

Similarly, cryptozoologists will shoot sonar into Loch Ness or look for disturbed vegetation in Bigfoot’s supposed stomping grounds, then attribute any findings they consider consistent with their monster to be proof the animal was there. As such, they do not consider other explanations, such as the sonar detecting a bloom of algae and zooplankton, or a warthog beating Sasquatch to the trap.

That’s because when Fairy Tale scientists uncover data that is consistent with their hypothesis, they assume the data confirms it. For example, psychiatrist Ian Stevenson spent years collecting stories from people who claimed to be reincarnated. He used these anecdotes to support his belief in reincarnation, and he used reincarnation to explain the stories, a textbook case of circular reasoning.

Moving onto alien abduction, John Mack talked with persons who claimed to have been taken by extraterrestrial beings. He assumed the stories to be real instead of considering that he might have implanted the ideas by asking leading questions, such as, “Was the alien about four feet tall,” as opposed to “How tall was the alien?” The mental state and susceptibility of the subject was not considered, nor were explanations like fraud, attention-seeking, or sleep paralysis. 

Alien abductees aren’t the only subjects that spend time on a Tooth Fairy scientist’s couch. So do alternative medicine patients. Chi, meridians, and blockages are assumed to exist in “energy” medicines such as craniosacral therapy, iridology, therapueitic touch, reflexology, chiropractic, Reiki, Ayuvedic, and more. I have addressed the rest of these in previous posts, so we’ll address Therapeutic Touch here.

First, Therapeutic Touch is neither. The practitioner’s hands are close to the patient, but are never on them. As to the therapy part, practitioners claim to be able to sense a patient’s “human energy field” with their hands, then manipulate the field by moving their hands near a patient’s skin to improve their health. Scientists have detected and measured minute energies down to the subatomic level, but have never found a human energy field. Nine-year-old Emily Rosa designed a controlled test of the practice which Therapeutic Touchers failed spectacularly. Any seeming success is because of the fluctuating nature of many illnesses, the placebo effect, confirmation bias, and nonspecific effects. The latter is a common error and refers to confusing the effects of practitioner-patient interaction with the supposed effect of the treatment.

In a test that proponents claimed proved Therapeutic Touch’s validity, researchers gauged the effects of the technique on reducing nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. All patients were on the same chemotherapy regimen and they were randomly divided into three groups of 36 patients. The first group received usual Therapeutic Test treatment, the second group got a similar treatment except the practitioners’ hands were farther from the patients, and the third group received no treatment. A single practitioner performed all the treatments, which was fatal to conducting a proper study because he should not have known which patients were receiving which treatment.

Since there is no evidence the energy field exists, there can be no evidence that how far the practitioner’s hands are from the patient would make a difference. The alleged energy can’t be measured, so there’s no reason to believe any energy was transferred to, or benefited, any patient. While the authors claimed the study showed Therapeutic Touch worked, they had failed to establish that the central feature of the practice even existed.

Likewise, parapsychologists are quick to point to rare instances of a subject performing better than chance as proof that various forms of ESP are legitimate. Unsatisfactory results are considered as the power being unable to be accessed due to cosmic interference, negative energy from a skeptical observer, or some other ad hoc reason. They look to justify the failure as owing to a particular cause rather than the cause being that the power doesn’t exist.

Then we have the creationists. The Institute for Creation Research website informs us, “The very dependability of each day’s processes are a wonderful testimony to the design, purposes, and faithfulness of the Creator. The universe is very stable. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Earth turns on its axis and always cycles through its day at the same speed every time.”

All of these phenomenon are explicable through known laws of physics and astronomy, and the ICR has affirmed the consequent by saying if there is order in the universe, there has to be a god controlling it, and since we see that order, a god exists. They attribute any majesty to this deity without bothering to prove his existence first. It’s one thing to do this as faith in one’s religion. It’s quite another to claim this as science while bypassing the entire Scientific Method.

I’m going to have to wrap this up. My daughter lost another tooth so I’ve got more research to conduct. 

“Silent Fright” (Infrasound)


Except for being potential topics on a skeptic blog, there would seem to be no connection between ghosts and psychic animals.

But they may have a common explanation through infrasound. These are extreme bass sounds under 20 Hertz, which is too low to be heard by humans, unless at a decibel level much higher than infrasound usually reaches.

Humans make infrasound with large music pipes, detonations, rocket launches, and sonic booms. It is also produced during large releases of energy, such as in extreme weather, earthquakes, meteor explosions, and turbulent mountain air.

Though inaudible, the sound can cause strange and uneasy feelings. These feelings are sometimes akin to seasickness, except the sufferer can never get off the ship. They stay queasy as long as the infrasound continues to pump. It can also cause unease, fear, dread, and sadness, as well as well as unpleasant physiological effects such as nausea, disorientation, and loss of equilibrium. The French movie “Irréversible” included infrasound in its opening scenes to produce these sensations in audience members. It was also tried on a suspecting crowd. During a controlled experiment in a British concert hall, scientists were able to instill morbid feelings in volunteers via infrasound. These feelings included melancholy, chills, and anxiety.

Nazi engineers recognized the phenomenon and tried unsuccessfully to build an infrasound weapon. It would have been quite the tussle if both they and Stalin’s mad scientists had succeeded, and auditory bombers had squared off against ape-men.

Infrasound may explain alleged paranormal activity since it cannot be seen, heard, or felt, yet overtakes people with feelings of fear, dread, and sadness.

Infrasound can also be used to monitor for earthquakes and volcanoes, and some animals can hear and communicate at this frequency. This may explain why they sometimes flee before natural disasters, and the ability is sometimes credited as being animal intuition by the New Age camp. Less frequently, creationists will claim it is God telling the rabbits and moose to commence their scurrying.

Besides poltergeists and animal mysticism, some have tried to connect spiritual experiences at church to long pipe organs that can produce infrasound. I find this unlikely. For one, these uplifting experiences are reported in all churches, the vast majority of which don’t have this musical capability. Also, the feelings reported are the opposite of dread and fear.

The strongest piece of evidence for infrasound’s impact was provided by Vic Tandy, a part-time law lecturer at Coventry University in England. Tandy had a pair of unsettling experiences at the school. First, he felt the unease associated with infrasound while also seeing a gray blob come at him out of the corner of his eye. Another time, his fencing foil was moved by strong vibrations. It is unclear why a law lecturer was armed with a fencing foil, but I’m guessing it was in case the gray blob came back.

Frightened, but determined to find a scientific explanation, Tandy used instruments to measure sound waves and see what he could detect. As a control, he did this during the daytime with others in the room, and checked to see if the dread returned and the foil vibrated. In both cases, they did. Tandy eventually deduced that infrasound was coming from a ventilator in the air conditioner. When the air conditioner was turned off, the vibration and sinking feeling both stopped. This finding suggests that infrasound is a possible explanation for some instances of Sick Building Syndrome.

And it likely goes a long ways toward explaining many paranormal experiences. Ghosts don’t haunt newly-opened malls or condos, but prefer mountain castles, and there is a connection beyond ghost hunters expecting to find them there. Mountaintop castles are regularly bombarded with strong gusts of wind, which can make their way through tunnels and winding staircases and manifest as infrasound. This can be interpreted as paranormal, especially when combined with the post hoc reasoning of attributing any bumping sounds and beeping electronic gadgets to a ghostly presence.

“My return trip to the psychic fair” (Undercover at a paranormal expo)


This past weekend, the second annual Quad Cities Psychic and Paranormal Fair was held. Sponsors encouraged attendees to keep an open mind, but I did leave room in there for three questions for those plying their mystic merchandise: What is this? How does it work? How do you know it works?

We’ll take one merchant at a time, followed by analysis of their psychic prowess.


What is this?

I can talk with animals, I can do Akashik readings, and I do intuitive readings.

What is an Akashik reading?

An Akashik record is an energetic record of your soul across all lifetimes. It goes a little deeper than other types of readings.

How does it work?

We open your records by saying a prayer and then you I ask you questions and we have a conversation and I give you the information that comes to me, and we have a dialogue.

How do you know it works?

Because I feel the energy coming in and it makes me shudder.

Analysis: Sounds like a draft.


What is this?

I do animal spirit readings

What is that?

You pick out the cards and based on what animals you pick, it tells me about you. For instance, the turtle represents Mother Earth, so that would show you’re concerned about the environment.

How does it work?

We pick one card for each of the directions and one card for the middle, and we can reference what that says about you. Then my guides come through and protect against negative energy so we know the reading is accurate.

How do you know it works?

Because people ask me, “How did you know that?” And I say, “I don’t.” I never know what’s going to come through. I’m just a conduit for the animal guides.

Analysis: I recommend the zoo instead. You get more than five animals and you cut out the middle man since they can guide themselves.


What is this?

Angel-reading cards

How does it work?

We let you know what the angels have to say. She has her deck and I have mine, so you two angel readers for the price of one. It reveals what they want you to know. Angels are around us all the time. The archangels will come and let you know who or what can help you.

How do you know it works?

Because I’m certified.

Analysis: She’s winging it.


What is this?

Craniosacral therapy.

How does it work?

It has to do with the cerebral spinal fluid, which is what houses all of the nerves in the nervous system. This therapy bathes and nourishes and protects it. It’s it the meninges, in the cranium, and goes all the way to the sacrum. And the idea is that there’s a rhythm that’s involved in the expansion and contraction of the craniosacral system. The sutures in the cranial bones allow for some flexibility and the idea is to make sure the system is able to expand and contract without any restrictions.

Is it for specific issues like a sore arm or for general health?

It works for everything.

How do you know it works?

It’s similar to massage or chiropractic, but focuses on the scalp. It balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. One is for fight-or-flight and the other is for digestion, rest, and immune system functioning. What craniosacral therapy does is beneficial in resetting those two contrary nervous systems.

Analysis: Recommended for dandruff.


What is this?

Crystals and stones.

How do they work?

They have different aspects for healing. For instance, this chart shows that agate is for bringing stability to your life, or that topaz makes you more financially stable. You just put them in your pocket and use them as a focal point.

How do you know it works?

Because different people have channeled information about them.

Analysis: Change the channel.


What is this?

Biofeedback and chakra imaging. It’s going to tell me what your chakras look like and how balanced everything is inside of you, and I get intuitive information as well.

How does it work?

It has biosensors. You put your hand here and it reads your heartrate and it tells me exactly what you look like. It’s very accurate. It’s less influenced by the things around you than is the Kirlian photography. Whatever is vibrating close to you in your auric field will be the most prominent.

What does it reveal?

It gives you confirmation for the things that are going on that you need validation for, that you maybe didn’t want to look at. I channel spirits a lot so I can see what a person is going through.

How do you know it works?

The validation of the people that I’ve read over the years.

Analysis: Valid reports of those seeking validation reporting being validated.


What is this?

Past-life readings

How does it work?

The spirit gives me a vision and I start describing that and it goes into more detail. I ask the spirit to show me what is most important for you to know right now, just look for patterns, things that need healing, or help you understand why you are the way you are.

How do you know it works?

Some people I can see are lighter when they get up out of the chair because a weight has been lifted. For instance, if you have a phobia about snakes or closed spaces, you go back to when that began, then it cures it all the way down the timeline.

Analysis: Not recommended for weight loss.


What is this?

Shamanic healing

What is that?

Your energy body sometimes picks up energy that is heavy. It can be the result of accidents, traumas, or a childhood experience. What we do is detect them and clear them out of your field. We get information along the way so as we’re reading somebody, we might get information about what is going on.

Is it physical healing or more mental?

That depends on the energy in your field. You might have physical pain in the back of your shoulder because there’s some heavy energy directed toward it. If someone stabbed you in the back metaphorically, you can feel it physically.

What is the healing process like?

We remove that heavy energy and return it to normal. Sometimes it’s in thought form and caused by our belief systems and the way we were raised. We hold onto that but it doesn’t really serve us. The energy comes from our ancestors. It’s in our DNA.

How do you know it works?

We see the change in our clients. Do you sense energy here that is stuck in your back?

My back seems fine, but I’ll remember to be on the lookout for energy blockage there.

Analysis: Won’t be back.


What is this?

Essential oils. They all do good stuff for the body.

How does it work?

Smell it. That gets it into your system. You can put a dab in your palm or your wrist. That puts it in the bloodstream that takes it to the rest of the body. Normally we say put it on the bottom of your feet because it has all the reflex points.

(Looking at chart) So if you have frankincense, you could use it on these illnesses?

Frankincense is an excellent oil, yes.

How do you know it works?

Young Living is the only essential oil that has the research behind it.

Such as what?

Here is a reference book that talks about the basics of essential oils and their purity. It shows photos of some of the farms where the plants are grown. We own the majority of our farms. The soil is completely organic and completely pure. There hasn’t been any chemical touching it. We repopulate, we replant, you can look up each oil and find out tons of information about it, and its constituents. It also tells you historically how it was used, it has information on the various blends you can create and what those are good for. I could just go on and on.

(She could go on and on, although apparently without addressing the research my question was about). But you’re saying they’ve done studies about this?

Young Living is full of doctors and researchers and scientists constantly doing research. We lead the world in frankincense research for cancer and tumors.

You can use frankincense for cancer?

Frankincense is one of the best cancer fighters around, and lemon is also very anti-tumoral and fights cancers.

I was thinking chemotherapy for cancer patients, and here they should have been gardening.

If a cancer patient had started using frankincense 10 years ago, chances are things could be different. Even if they’re in chemo now, adding this to their regimen could help. Ours are pure, the other essential oil companies’ products are chemically made.

And these don’t contain chemicals?


They’d have to have chemicals in them.

Young Living oils do not have chemicals in them, no compounds, nothing.

Anything beyond a pure element is going to be a compound or a mixture.

Young Living uses plant products.

But they still contain chemical compounds. Even water is a chemical compound.

I’m not a scientist. (This won the day’s “No Shit” Award)

Well, what is this graph here with the chakras?

The oils have very high frequencies and energies. Some of them are better at promoting chakra health depending on where you use it. This tells you frankincense is very good for the head or that lavender works around the heart. If you want to anoint each chakra as you’re mediating, this enhances that. And then there’s a blend called White Angelica that repels negativity and increases your frequency and your spirits.

Do you use them?

Oh yes. I threw out all that junk – medicines, cleaning supplies, makeup, and it just took a weight off the house. The negativity of those chemical products was not there.

Analysis: Compound fracture


What is this?


How does it work?

I massage your hands and feet and feel for the pressure points. I can sometimes tell what’s going on in your body and adjust it or help you overcome your issues or detect the energies.

How do you know if something needs fixed?

(Takes my hand). Do you feel that little pop there? That’s what I feel for and know that something is stressed.

How do you know it works?

My clients say, “That feels better.”

Analysis: Good if you need to outsource your knuckle-popping.


What is this?

Thomas Edison’s spirit phone, the spirit phone to the dead. You turn it on and can her your loved ones’ voices come through.

How does it work?

I’m going to talk a little more about it in a presentation at 1 p.m. (I’m sensing he wants me to pay. I foresee not doing so).

How do you know it works?

Thousands of people have heard the voices come through. (Or sounds that were voices with the help of apophenia and a tremendous amount of conditioning and prompting).

Analysis: Hang up.


What is this?

Energy readings.

How does it work?

I just read your energy and a lot of things come up and I can provide guidance. It’s like most other readings except that I don’t use cards

How do you know it works?

I’m usually right on with what’s going on with people. And it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of detail about them. It’s just kind of where you’re at and what kind of balance you need. Do you come to these kind of events very often?

Well, they’ve had two and I’ve been to both of them, so I guess I’m a regular.

You must have some kind of an interest in this stuff.

You’ve got me down. You ARE an energy reader, you know me.

That’s what I sensed from you, that you had an interest in this kind of stuff. (She sensed it within two minutes of meeting me at an event that focused entirely on the topic!)

Analysis: Weakly reader


What is this?

Past-life Hypnosis.

Who is Elizabeth?

She is who I was in a past life.

How does this work?

I do it as a therapy. If someone has a lot of weight they can’t get rid of, we delve into why, and sometimes it will be several past lives. One woman had 100 pounds she could not get rid of. In a past life she was a small child and her father left them, then her mother died. She was scrounging for food and starved to death. That had happened to her in a couple of lifetimes. Her compensation in this life was to always have her refrigerator and cupboard full, and to eat constantly, from her previous life’s fear of starvation.

How do you pick up their past lives, or do the clients pick them up?

I tell them, go back to whatever, and tell me what you’re experiencing.

How to you know it works?

It could be just that their subconscious mind venturing to some area that help them resolve issues. Can I proves there is such a thing as reincarnation? No. Can I prove it doesn’t exist? No.

Oh, you’re a Ph.D. What in?

Chemical hypnotherapy.

Analysis: Doctored credentials.


What is this?

Paranormal investigations

What is it?

We do mostly residences. We check them out and see if there’s a ghost there.

How does it work?

These are some of the tools we use. This is an EMF reader, and this is a K2. We also have motion detectors and cameras.

When you pick something up, how do you know it’s a ghost as opposed to something else causing the frequency or electronic disturbance?

If it’s a ghost, it will have a lot more electricity and it has a lot of dead space around it. You can tell because it will answer your question. You can ask it to beep once for yes or twice for no.

Can they ask you questions?

For that, we use a radio to detect what’s going on and you can pick up the voice.

Analysis: There’s a 50 percent chance they’re right about it being a ghost. The only other voices that come through the radio belong to the living.


What is this?

Rune readings. They come out of Viking culture. The runes were given to them by the gods to help clarify their mind.  

How does it work?

I have people put their hands in the bowl and spin around, until one feels good. They do that five times. Each symbol has a different meaning and they play off of each other. I just tell the person what it says. It’s up to them to relate it to their question.

How do you know it works?

Because I’ve done it for myself many a time. If I have trouble or questions or need clarification, I pull them out and think, yeah. It helps to clarify the situation, and sometimes it reveals something you didn’t want to acknowledge. Sometimes it’s what other people have told you many times.

Analysis: I can relate because other people have told me stories just like this many times. It’s called subjective validation.


What is this?

I’m an astrologer

How does it work?

When you’re born, all the energy is tattooed onto your soul and that’s what we read, your energetic soul. It tells me a little bit about where you left off in your past life, you soul’s intent for this lifetime, and some of the major areas you need to focus on.

How to you access it?

I just need the time and place of your birth.

How do you know it works?

Because I’ve lived through it and heard a lot of testimonials. It’s been scientifically proven that every planet, star, and asteroid has its own energy, so that energy comes down and effects all of humanity.

What kind of energy is it?

I don’t know, other than we each have our own specific energy that we’re made of. The cosmos are very chaotic right now and so it’s very chaotic down here, with the earthquake in Nepal and riots in Baltimore. The earth is absorbing all that energy.

Analysis: Baltimore Flop.


What is this?

This is acupressure and reflexology, and we also have a biomat.

What is a biomat?

It’s cleansing and energizing. It has amethyst crystals woven throughout it. Even to just lay on it for a while is refreshing. You feel yourself sinking, sinking, sinking into the sea of warmth and you’ll feel it penetrating. What happen is, the far infrared heat passes deeper into your internal organs.

What is acupressure?

The pressing of certain points on your body, and I know where they are. It stimulates those acupressure points and relaxes the muscles and helps you feel better. Or if you have the flu, it would help boost your immune system.

What is reflexology?

I have this handy-dandy chart here. You can see here that your internal organs are represented on your feet. So just by pressing the corresponding point, it stimulates the healing process to these organs. It increases the flow of chi, which is your life force energy that flows through these energetic chakras called meridians. The ideas is to stimulate so your body release neurochemicals.

How do you know it works?

Well, women who can’t get pregnant can get pregnant. People with huge sinus issues walk out and can breathe, a person has a headache and it’s gone. People don’t understand how it works. But reflexology goes way back to Egyptian times. Acupuncture goes back to Chinese medicine 3 to 5,000 years ago. If it didn’t work, people wouldn’t be using it.

Analysis: Seems to be working in reverse. I only got a headache after hearing all this.


What is this?

I paint your soul. It takes about an hour and a half.

How does it work?

You give me your name – it has to be your birth name – and your birthday, and the spirit guides me to create these. It talks to me and that’s how it happens. It’s been happening since I was very young. Some people say, “I don’t like this or that,” but that’s just it. That’s what God told me to paint. The spirit tells me what you are, not what you want.

How do you know it works?

Because I always see it. I don’t question it any more.

Analysis: Souled out.


What is this?

Aura photography. Everybody has an aura energy that is around them. We have a camera that takes a picture of it.

How does it work?

It’s based on Kirlian photography and you put your hand here and it gets the feedback off of it, and you can see the colors. It means different things depending on what’s going on. It’s energy that’s put off and it also gives details as to what’s going on in your chakras. You can see your energy throughout your entire body.

Analysis: Aura of gullibility.


What is this?

Attunement. This pyramid will connect to the universal vibrational energy field being emitted to our planet. You will be attuned to an amazing, powerful, and more highly-refined spiritual energy by opening your upper chakras to receive those given to you.

How does it work?

Pyramids have been around for many centuries. This is a model of the Giza pyramid, and the energy of a Giza pyramid is as a transmitter. Then this over here is a 4-4-4 pyramid, meaning it is four feet wide, high, and deep, and you sit inside it. Your body is an electromagnetic field and on a daily basis, it collects harmful debris from the environment, from X-rays, from cell phones, and from things we don’t even think about. The worst is people energy. Everybody’s intuitive, so if you’re in a group and they’re all negative, you can feel it. When you’re in the pyramid, it reverses the polarity of the negative charge that’s attached to you.

How do you know it works?

Scientists figured it out.

Analysis: My intuition feels negative about this.

I will close by relating that I found one merchant I believed in, one who proved she could deliver as promised. Consistent with her claimed ability, the concessionaire handed me a 7-Up and popcorn. And I’m pretty sure the corn was GMO.

“Hole-y Ghost” (History of ghost hunting)

HOLEYGHOSTThe chilling image darts across the surveillance video, a vaguely human-looking figure gliding past the police station entrance in Espanola, N.M. The video made the national rounds, being aired on CNN and Good Morning America.

Enter professional skeptic and spoilsport Benjamin Radford to ruin everyone’s fun. Radford was able to detect that the image was an insect walking across the camera lens, a far less spooky six-legged creature. Radford deduced that the bug’s smooth movement indicated its weight was being distributed on more than two legs. Another tipoff was that the image cast no shadow.

While this was another fruitless ghost chase, the field is burgeoning. But in spite of countless books, video cameras, cell phone photos, TV shows, and institutes dedicated to finding ghosts, there is not even agreement on precisely what they are. This makes finding, capturing, and tagging one all the more difficult.

Ghosts are usually described as being the remains of a person that has died. Most often, they are thought to be stuck in a netherworld border checkpoint, unable to attain a higher level of existence. However, there is no evidence that this higher realm exists, nor for that matter, that there is a post-mortem labyrinth for them to be stuck in.

In some attempts to modernize ghost-hunting, assertions are made that these spirits are energy of the deceased. But during decomposition, a body’s energies are released into the environment. So the energy does endure, and that is as close to a positive spin that I can give to anyone desperate to find evidence of an afterlife. But there is no reason to believe the energy continues in any recognizable form, or that it passes to another state of consciousness.

Since ghosts are largely undefined, they are freed from the laws of physics and chemistry, and can do whatever a ghost hunter wants them to do. Indeed, ghostly appearances have changed over time. In the 19th Century, even clothes had ghosts and their owners appeared very similar to what their Earthly incarnations did. They were generally transparent, levitating, and had wide freedom of movement, but they looked much like they did when alive. These ideas were consistent with the era of Dickens, Poe, and Washington Irving. Similarly, the notion that a ghost resembled a floating white sheet likely came from burial cloths laid on the dead.

Later, ghosts became less concrete, such as how they were portrayed in The Amityville Horror. Today, white orbs in digital photographs are the most frequently cited evidence of ghosts.

Other examples of alleged evidence are cold spots or breezes, a funny smell, or a sense of being touched. All of these are explicable through mundane reasons. A draft in a 19th Century castle is consistent with the abode, not evidence of a ghostly presence.

Animals are sometimes credited with having a greater awareness of ghosts, an idea doubly good for the believer since it is esoteric and impossible to disprove. Come to think of it, the idea is triply good for pet psychics.

The Winchester House in California is said to be haunted, as are abandoned prisons, asylums, and castles, along with graveyards. There is no reason to think a ghost would be in any of these places, as opposed to lurking around a ranch house near the end of a cul-de-sac, but it fits the narrative better.

Other evidence cited includes photos and videos, but these images are attributable to camera flaws, bad photography, misinterpretation, and fraud.

One of the more common methods used today is electronic voice phenomena. These are popular among believers since body noises, rustling clothes, wind, creaks, whistles, stray radio signals, whispers, camera sounds, and magnetic interference can all be interpreted as ghostly. A more incredulous observer would be asking, “How does an immaterial being bump into something or make a noise while walking (or even walk, for that matter)?” Or, “How does an entity lacking vocal chords and a tongue shriek and babble?”

Trying to put a scientific spin on the field has backed ghost hunters into a haunted corner. If ghosts can be scientifically detected or recorded, there would be irrefutable evidence of it by now, either by happenstance, or through the thousands of endeavors that have attempted to do this very thing. By contrast, if ghosts are unable to be detected in photos, videos, and audio recordings, any supposed proof though these mediums is no such thing.