Paranormal Investigations and Technology: Where Ghosts and Gadgets Meet

Meet one type of specialist whom you may never have hired or outsourced—ghost hunters. Whether you've got a ghost in the machine or in the house, these paranormal investigators can bring a technology tool chest with everything from thermometers to blimp cams.

Fri, October 26, 2007

CIO — You've probably never used a blimp cam, but when you're a ghost hunter like Vince Wilson, you need to improvise with technology tools.

Wilson, a well-known paranormal investigator, built the blimp cam in 2005 using a digital video camera, four large Mylar balloons and a number of propellers for an investigation at a well-known ghost hunting site: the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, Md. This former school is long rumored to be haunted by a young girl who reportedly died from pneumonia during her first year there, after having been forced to attend. Many of the alleged ghost sightings involved a small girl sitting in a second-floor window, Wilson says. One problem: The building had been gutted and there was little or no structure inside, let alone a second floor. So he built the blimp cam and floated it up to the window.

image of Vince Wilson's blimp cam
Wilson's Blimp Cam

"We never got anything really cool [at Patapsco] as far as ghosts and haunting is concerned," Wilson says. "But I still think the blimp cam is a very valuable device for us to have for future investigations."

That's just another day at work for Wilson, who has authored two books, Ghost Science: The Essential Guide to the Scientific Study of Ghosts and Hauntings and Ghost Tech: The Essential Guide to Paranormal Investigation Equipment. Along with Loyd Auerbach, Wilson is considered one of the world's best-known paranormal investigators. In layman's terms, they're ghost hunters. Spook spotters. They evaluate people who claim to have extra sensory perception (ESP), who think they can propel objects, or heal illnesses via "mind/matter interactions," among other tasks.

Vince Wilson
Vince Wilson

This time of year, it's hard to resist peeking into their technology toolboxes. But get one thing straight: They're not ghostbusters. The term "ghostbuster" implies both tracking and containing apparitions like Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd did in Rob Reiner's 1984 smash hit Ghostbusters. Both men make no such claims. In fact, in the decades Auerbach and Wilson have been investigating the supernatural, neither one has ever contained a real specter—though Wilson claims to have seen one on a moonlit night in Louisville, Ky. (And, yes, he says he was scared.)

What's the first item in a spook spotter's arsenal? It may sound familiar to many IT veterans: Wilson calls his portable coffee pot his most valuable ghost-hunting tool.

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