The Mr Ghost EMF Detection device was crowd founded on Kickstarter in late 2012 with the title ‘Mr Ghost: iPhone EMF Detector - Fancy yourself a ghost hunter? Mr.Ghost plugs directly into your mic port to detect electromagnetic radiation sources.‘ The project, launched by Aaron Rasmussen, is basically an EMF detector that plugs directly into the headphone jack of your iPhone and once you’ve downloaded the associated Mr Ghost iPhone App it will allow you to start reading the Electromagnetic Fields around you.
What does this have to do with fancying yourself as a ghost hunter? There’s a wide-held belief within ghost hunting communities that ghosts either emit Electro Magnetic Fields of their own, or cause the Electro Magnetic Field around you to fluctuate when they manifest. With this in mind many ghost hunters will use Electro Magnetic Field Meters to read the Electro Magnetic Field in a location to try and detect any fluctuations that they can pin on a supernatural cause. This is something that Rasmussen touches on in his video for Kickstarter.
“Or maybe you know what an EMF detector is because you’re a ghost hunter, in which case you can go and check out your scary attic. Since we’re hunting unknown sources we’re going to be using the “gyro mode”. Oh whas’s that? There’s something under here. It’s just my alarm clock, but seriously though, that thing freaks me out.”
Typically the ghost hunter will take a base reading of the location when they arrive that they can compare later readings to throughout the time spent there. If the reading from the Electro Magnetic Field Meter is 8 milligauss(mg) at 9pm when at 4pm it was 5mg and it continues to rise or fall then this might be associated with a ghost being present.
Of course, the main problem with this lays with that base line reading that everything relies on. Unless you take your base line readings over a course of days, weeks or months then you’ll never truly know what a normal EMF reading in a certain room or area is going to be. The EMF in a room might naturally fluctuate from 5mg to 8mg over an afternoon and you wont know that unless you’ve taken a much more detailed reading of a location over a prolonged period of time. Even if you have though, there is no evidence whatsoever to support the idea that an unaccounted fluctuation in the EMF is caused by ghosts.
Magnetic fields are physical fields produced by electrically charged objects. The electric field is produced by stationary charges and the magnetic field by moving charges – or currents. EMF is often described as being a static field that does not charge or fluctuate over time whereas, in fact, it does change over time – just very slowly. When fluctuations in the EMF are detected at locations that are reputed to be haunted it is more likely and probable that the fluctuation is caused by items in the building that are electronic or things that are electrically or magnetically charged – rather than the spirits of the deceased. There is no evidence that demonstrates how spirits could manipulate the EMF.
With this in mind, the Mr Ghost device for your iPhone will be useful to see what levels of EMF occur in different areas of your home, but it isn’t going to help you to detect ghosts any time soon. It’s probably also wise to state right now that EMF radiation does not cause cancer despite a casual link being thrown around by many. In fact, even in the Kickstarter video for Mr Ghost we see Aaron Rasmussen measuring high EMF around his alarm clock and moving it away from his bed as a result, as though realising his alarm clock is now dangerous. The Skeptics Dictionary says
Many people fear that EMFs cause cancer; however, a causal connection between EMFs and cancer has not been established. The National Research Council (NRC) spent more than three years reviewing more than 500 scientific studies that had been conducted over a 20-year period and found “no conclusive and consistent evidence” that electromagnetic fields harm humans. The chairman of the NRC panel, neurobiologist Dr. Charles F. Stevens, said that “Research has not shown in any convincing way that electromagnetic fields common in homes can cause health problems, and extensive laboratory tests have not shown that EMFs can damage the cell in a way that is harmful to human health.”*
So, although this product seems to be a bit of fun with a cheeky sales pitch thrown in, the misinformation hinted at in the video and elsewhere has real implications for those who believe it so I’m skeptical. I used to collect EMF meters when I believed they could detect ghostly energy, and this just seems like the latest fad in a long line of EMF detection fads… but hey, what do I know?
You can read an article by me on the use of iPhone Apps by ghost hunters in the latest issue of The Skeptic magazine. Subscribe now.