Cartoon ghost / lemmlingA man right here in Connecticut claims he’s invented a ghost detector. And at least one newspaper has published an article about him which conveys his claim and leaves it unchallenged. This is all part of the “hauntings as news” motif I’ve noticed over the last couple of years and have blogged about on numerous occasions. At any rate, here’s the venerable Hartford Courant‘s puff-piece on this “engineer” who now claims to be able to detect ghosts (WebCite cached article):

In 2004, 17-year-old Melissa Galka, a senior at Granby Memorial High School, died after the car she was driving hit a tree in town.

Within days of her death, her father said, she begin communicating with her family.

“She started doing things like ringing the doorbell, changing TV channels, turning lights on and off,” Gary Galka said Monday. “Then one time she came into my room and I felt her sit on the edge of the bed.”

Now Galka has a thriving trade in paranormal detection devices, launched as a result of those eery events.

Note the obviously-sentimental and sympathetic lede in this story. The reader is supposed to believe what this guy tells us, because as a bereaved father, he somehow “knows” more about ghosts than any of the rest of us. While I sympathize with his plight — I really, truly, honestly do; I have lost relatives myself, after all — and while it makes for a dramatic story that reporters and editors are sure will “sell,” none of this grants Galka’s invention any veracity, and it doesn’t make what he’s doing “news.” It just doesn’t.

I also honestly doubt there’s anything new here. After all, “paranormal investigators” have been using EMF detectors to chase after ghosts, for decades. I’m not sure how Galka’s device is appreciably different from any of the myriad other EMF detectors that have been used this way … except that he seems to be marketing them specifically to ghost-hunters.

I suggest Galka and/or fans of this device — if they’re so convinced it does what they claim it does — put this device to the test, and collect a huge payday, while they’re at it. They should immediately submit an application to James “the Amazing” Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. I’m not sure why they would not want to do so; a million dollars is, after all, a lot of money to just leave there, waiting to be claimed.

It’s inevitable that grieving people will come up with things like Mel-Meter and the SB7 Spirit Box. It’s quite natural. And as I said, I really do sympathize with Galka. What I find unacceptable here is the Courant‘s lazy and uncritical reporting on Galka’s devices. The story clearly implies they do precisely what Galka says they do — i.e. detect ghosts — however, they in fact do nothing of the sort. In truth, ghosts do not exist; they cannot be detected; they don’t haunt buildings or graveyards; psychics do not talk to them; and science has never demonstrated that they exist. The Courant doesn’t even include a brief comment from a “token skeptic” — but it does add Galka’s own childish swipe at skeptics, expecting them “to ‘take a better position'” (as if it’s up to him, personally, to decide what “positions” are “better” than others). The nation’s oldest newspaper can do better than this … and it should. What a waste.

Photo credit: lemmling, via Open Clip Art Library.

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  • My Bullshit detector is telling me that this guys ghost detector is pretty much bullshit. 😉

    • I have to say, this story pegged the needle of my own bullshit meter. I had to pull the plug quick before it broke! 🙂

  • …and the JREF's million-dollar prize is still unclaimed, despite this forward leap of electronics.


    James Randi.

    • It’s because that blasted “Amazing” Randi is a vile freaking SKEPTIC! Nothing works right around skeptics … don’t you realize that? The laws of metaphysics break down completely wherever they happen to be! It’s because the Cosmos is taunting them, you see … !

      … or something like that, I’ve heard. 😉

  • MPer

    Perhaps this article and the comments could be slightly more respectful. Whether or not you believe in the Galka's story or his devices, this family still faced an unimaginable loss. Saying that your "bullshit meter" went up is just rude.

    • I was fairly sure I'd see a comment along these lines. There are so many ways I could reply to this, it's almost staggering. Instead of going over all the possibilities with a "shotgun" response, I will start with the most obvious point. The rest we can get to later, if you're willing.

      You assert that the Galkas' loss is "unimaginable," and thus imply that I have no idea what the Galkas have gone through. But the truth is, you have no way to know whether or not I've suffered a loss similar to theirs. For all you know, I have. Losses such as these are actually more common than perhaps you realize.

  • EVP's man

    Fact is EVP's are a reality. Fact is camera's do catch phenomenon such as that. Whether you believe it or not, this type of energy exists. The same can be said to you, prove that there are not any. The same proof of non existence falls upon you. Just because you say it doesn't you have no proof it doesn't. Three sides to every story including this one.

    • Thanks for your comment, EVP's man. Unfortunately, things do not magically become "fact" merely because someone says they are "fact." If you have compelling, objective, evidence that people are being recorded from "the Great Beyond," then display the fortitude to subject your evidence to true scientific testing, and let that determination being made. You can snag yourself a cool million dollars at the same time. On the other hand, coming here, making bald assertions and complaining about me, will NOT make your case for you.

      You had a choice: To exhibit the courage of your convictions; or to whine about me. Since you've chosen to do the latter, I can only assume you do not view your "evidence" as compelling enough to withstand scrutiny, so instead of accepting that reality and moving on with your life, you choose to lash out at the messenger (i.e. me, and skeptics generally). Good choice. It tells me all I really need to know.

  • brad

    no point trying to convince atheists of anything . it is a total waste of breath!!!!

    • Actually, I've found that "atheists" can be convinced of a lot of things. One just has to provide them with sufficient evidence to demonstrate whatever it is one is trying to convince them of. If you think about it, convincing "atheists" that the supernatural exists, should be trivial — assuming it does. Just gather enough compelling, verifiable, objective evidence of the supernatural, and you're sure to be successful. The problem is that "true believers" generally refuse to do this. They want their beliefs accepted, if only because they hold them, and consider the requirement to bring evidence to the table an intolerable burden and an insult to them. Really, this ought not be the case. Asking someone for evidence of their beliefs is no insult, and should not be difficult to provide, if they have any veracity.

      If you're referring to me as an "atheist" because I don't accept the existence of ghosts, I should point out, you're a little off. I'm not an "atheist," I'm an Agnostic. If you want to know what that means, please look at my Agnosticism FAQ. I also wrote this essay on the differences between atheism and agnosticism, and why I am not an atheist.

  • AstralProjectee

    The 1 million dollar challenge by Randi is BS. Bandershot is offering $100,000 to prove Randi's offer is legit. Bandershot asked Randi to take him up on his offer, Randi refused and had his attorneys offered him $10,000 to take down his offer. When Bandershot refused, Randi decided to take down his challenge but first he is publicly challenging famous psychics. Randi does not want to super human psychics, he wants God like psychic powers.


    • So, "Bandershot" (aka John Benneth) can't or won't stand up to Randi's challenge, so he petulantly spews a counter-challenge of his own. Right? You do realize, of course, that doesn't prove anything at all. Don't you?

      Challenges prove little to nothing, in and of themselves. Not even Randi's …. despite the fact that I mention it a lot. My point is not about the challenge itself, but the fact that so many sincere "true believers" seem unmotivated to take the money that, presumably, they think ought to be easy pickings for them …. assuming they are as convinced of their beliefs as they say they are. This speaks to their sincerity or lack thereof. In the case of Benneth/Banderhsot, their indignation and sanctimonious outrage at Randi's challenge, speaks to their thin-skinned or even childish nature. They're actually incensed that skeptics exist and that skeptics dare ask them to substantiate their claims.

      Well, too bad for Benneth/Bandershot et al. Skeptics like Randi and myself do exist. We have a right to be skeptical. We have a right to ask uncomfortable questions, and even ask for proof of your claims. And you know what? You can't change that. No amount of anger over the insolence of skeptics can alter it. Nor can lying about Randi's challenge.