Originally written for the Righteous Indignation Podcast
This is going to be a tricky interview to follow for readers as it was conducted in two parts. I was originally meant to conduct this interview via Skype but due to power outages at the other end of the line and technical difficulties on my part delaying things, this wasn’t possible. Due to clashing schedules we instead decided to pass the Q&A back and forth via email. Due to the amount of questions I had, I split them into two.
The first set were sent across, the answers received, and then the second set off in response to the answers received in the first set. Unfortunately the second set of questions remains unanswered. Firstly I should explain what the interview was about and why I asked Al for an interview.
I was linked to the website of the Paracorder667 by a fellow BARsoc member a while ago when they pointed out that the claims were quite interesting and grand. The gadget is just one of many sold by the US company Moditronic that they claim can help you to detect ghosts. In fact, one of the first things you read when you visit the Paracorder667 website is:
“ENERGIZES AND DETECTS GHOSTS ! EASY TO USE ! PACKED WITH TECHNOLOGY !”
Energises ghosts? How do they know how to do that? What with? How does it work? I needed to know. The rest of the site from which the $89/£56 gadget is sold is also filled with some rather impressive and bold claims, none more so than those on the ‘scientific evidence’ page.
I felt that claims like…
“Paranormal entities entering our dimension have no choice but to interact with atoms, therefore displacing or reconfiguring their physical state. This induces ionization which is detected by the very sensitive PARACORDER 667’s ION/Electrostatic detection antennas.”
“Fact: EM Fields and Electrical energy depletion occur during paranormal events…”
…had to have some basis to them – surely the company wouldn’t make these claims without proof to back them up. There was also talk on their site about a scientific investigation being conducted into the way that the device detected and attracted ghosts and I wanted to know about that as it sounded possibly significant.
What do Moditronic know that the rest of the anomalous phenomena research field doesn’t?
A quick look at this video embedded on their website that demonstrates how the device works suggests that it’s a very sensitive EMF meter and that this simply causes the slightest fluctuation in the electromagnetic field to be picked up by the meter and interpreted as paranormal in nature by the people using the device. Electromagnetic fields are naturally occurring and are detected all of the time — there is nothing to suggest that fluctuations in an electromagnetic field are paranormal in nature (i.e. caused by a ghost).
I was sceptical, I’ve written about the misconceptions people make about electromagnetic fields and ghosts before, but I was willing to be convinced that this device worked.
What you are about to read is part one of the interview. It may seem like claims being made are ‘unchallenged’ but this was via email and I couldn’t respond to the answers until they were sent back to me.
Hayley: Could you introduce yourself for the benefit of the reader who might not know who you are?
Al: My name is Al Martinez and I hold a Bachelors in EE. Our company [Moditronic] resides in Saint Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565. We are a group of techs and ghost hunters primarily having fun. We have Tyler, Terry, Tom, Lenny and sometimes Logen on our team. Ghost tours are given by ghosthearse.com, our sister company.
Skeptics abound in this industry. I use to be one as well and still am in a way, I get all kinds of emails and pictures and try to debunk each one. When an email or picture is posted on our site, several emails go back and forth to the originator to make sure of the conditions surrounding such claims. Only 10% of the emails make it, the rest can be debunked.
Hayley: What is the Paracorder device?
Al: The paracorder is an ION detector and an EMF emitter pulsating at 6.9 Hertz
Hayley: How does it work?
Al: The device attracts and energizes ghosts by mimicking the Earth’s Vortex action.
Hayley: On your site you quite correctly say:
“Normal EMF meters, Tri-field meters & Gauss meters are not designed for ghost hunting, they are manufactured for specific measurements.”
What is it that makes the paracorder different?
Al: It’s designed and manufactured by people who have had paranormal encounters which dictates the circuitry design and overall functionality based on ghost hunting theory. There is only one Paracorder. What other ION detection meter contains an EMF pump pulsating at the Schumann resonance? There is no reason for this except if you are ghost hunting. That’s the difference; it’s a bottom up approach with paranormal theory involved.
Hayley: How do you know that the paracorder attracts ghosts?
Al: We sometimes see activity increase when the paracorder is introduced in an investigation, but what’s more important is the [testimonial] emails on our site. They are not from us. Others have noticed better EVP sessions and greater activity as well when the Paracorder is in use. This is not an exact science though, so it’s hard to replicate but it does occur.
Hayley: You mention on your website a ‘scientific field study’ that shows the paracorder works, is this something that is ongoing?
Al: Based on scientific field theory, yes.
Hayley: Where could we find the details of the study?
Al: It’s on-going. EMF pumps are a new phenomenon and much field research needs to be done. The theory is sound. Details can be found in the [testimonial] emails.
Hayley: on the scientific evidence page you say:
“Ion/Electrostatic energy is present during a paranormal event”
Aren’t these fields going to be present anyway whether a possibly paranormal event is occurring or not? How can you tell the difference between naturally occurring electrostatic energy and the energy you claim is paranormal?
Al: Unless you’ve ever been in an active area investigating paranormal phenomenon, it’s hard to explain. Let’s just say that detection systems jump off the scale for no reason all at once with no plausible cause. On one occasion I personally had a meter go off then I got poked in the back and no one was behind me. I had keys pulled out of my back pocket and no one was behind me, witnesses in front of me saw that.
My jacket was tugged several times and no one was there. Do I have evidence of this? No. But meters go off and things sometimes happen, that is a fact.
Hayley: you also say on your site:
“FACT: EM Fields and Electrical energy depletion occur during paranormal events.”
Is this really a fact?
Al: Yes, it’s proven multiple times on TV and we have proof of that through our experiences. Charged equipment will not work, batteries are drained.
Hayley: How do we know that drain is paranormal?
Al: We have ghost tours where people with brand new batteries in their cameras find that they do not work. Not only one person, several folks complain of the same thing. Does it occur all the time? No. Is it coincidence? No.
Hayley: What studies back up the idea that the drain is paranormal or is this just a leap of logic?
Al: If you are looking for scientific studies you will find none, the word “study” in the context we use it is akin to “theory”, in essence, the word is correct as we study the phenomenon on a weekly basis. We’re not scientists, we are just engineers who happen to have stumbled on paranormal phenomenon one too many times to say it was a fluke.
If you are looking for visual scientific evidence I suggest you watch the TV show TAPS [ghost hunters], or GHI [ghost hunters international] or other ghost hunting shows out there. This does occur from time to time on their equipment.
I highly recommend a show that TAPS did on their first visit at the St. Augustine lighthouse. Please explain the dark figure looking down at them from inside the tower, it’s as plain as day on TV. We all know what we feel, see and experienced. If anyone wants to call us crazy, weird or liars it’s their prerogative. Skeptics walk a fine line and tend to be myopic at best. An opened minded skeptic is a rare find.
— — — — — -The interview ended here — — — — -
After reading the answers above I felt confident that the people behind the Paracorder were making these claims based on their personal beliefs and experiences and that the scientific study was actually just anecdotes being used as proof that the gadget detected ghosts.
I was still willing to be proven wrong though, so I compiled the following questions to probe further for details of the study being conducted and the paracorder itself. I sent these to Al shortly after I had the first set of questions back to me and I was looking forwards to learning more about the device and elaborating on the points he had raised.
q1 — regarding what makes the paracorder different than other meters you said “It’s designed and manufactured by people who have had paranormal encounters which dictates the circuitry design and overall functionality based on ghost hunting theory.” What does that last bit mean?
How do the encounters of the designers dictate the circuitry design and what ghost hunting theory is the functionality based on? How does that make it different?
q2 — Regarding how you know for a fact that it attracts ghosts you said ” We sometimes see activity increase when the paracorder is introduced in an investigation, but what’s more important is the emails on our site. They are not from us. Others have noticed better EVP sessions and greater activity as well when the Paracorder is in use” — Would you not say though that actually the reason people feel an increase in activity happens could simply be down to the power of suggestion? Also, are there only anecdotes to back up your claim? Anecdotes generally aren’t accepted as strong evidence in scientific communities.
q3 — regarding the scientific field study that is ongoing, who is conducting it? How? What controls have been put in place and what is the hypothesis being tested?
q4 – In response to my question about differentiating between naturally occurring fields and those that are paranormal you said:
“Unless you’ve ever been in an active area investigating paranormal phenomenon, it’s hard to explain. Let’s just say that detection systems jump off the scale for no reason all at once with no plausible cause. On one occasion I personally had an meter go off then I got poked in the back and no one was behind me.”
I’ve personally investigated paranormal activity since the age of 18 and I don’t claim to be able to tell these differences so I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. Also, isn’t it a leap of logic to claim that because you can’t explain the measurement, it must be paranormal? Couldn’t it just be that you personally can’t explain it but someone else possibly could?
q5 — Regarding Electrical energy depletion occurring during paranormal events, you’ve provided personal anecdotes again and you mention there is no scientific evidence and no studies have proven this to be true — why do you claim it is a fact on your website if it’s just a personal opinion you’ve reached through your own experiences?
You say “We’re not scientists, we are just engineers who happen to have stumbled on paranormal phenomenon one too many times to say it was a fluke” but how can you be sure these things are paranormal in nature? Isn’t that also a leap of logic?
q6 — You’ve referenced television shows such as Ghost Hunters (that follows T.A.P.S), do you really feel you can trust anything on these shows despite how many times they have been shown to stage activity, and even investigate hauntings that aren’t real? Robin Hood, for example, or the witch of Rose Hall for another.
You say “Please explain the dark figure looking down at them from inside the tower, it’s as plain as day on TV. We are there all the time, there are motion sensors hooked up to lights up there, if that was a person the sensors would turn the lights on.” — I can’t explain that as I wasn’t there with them, but I would say it’s more probable that it was a person or something being staged than the idea that it was a ghost. We can’t rule out those explanations, so to say it MUST be paranormal is illogical.
q7 — Regarding your comment that “We all know what we feel, see and experienced.” This isn’t quite true, there has been lots of study that shows how the human mind is easy to fool and that we misremember and misinterpret things, especially if we have expectations – we are pattern seeking creatures after all.
The reply I received was rather short. It read:
“I’m sorry, I’ve burned enough time. You should have enough answers for your interview. My response took over one hour to formulate properly, I don’t have any more time for this. Take it as it is but we are believers and ghost hunters, fake or not, whatever the notion, this is who we are.”
I was disappointed and told him that I felt it was a shame that he would willingly sell a gadget for $80+ to the general public but wouldn’t take the time to answer some questions that could help him prove the paracorder667 did what was claimed.
He took offence to my comments and replied with an email that said:
“Are you a skeptic or are you trying to start trouble? Your tearse email is full of FALSE ACCUSATIONS. I don’t appreciate that. How old are you?
I don’t appreciate being accused of refusing to answer your questions so your accusation is false as I already did. I am a very busy man and have no time for filling out books of information for an obvious amateur. Next time have all your questions in one page (no need to pay me for the council).
…I find you combative and offensive. I see your tabloid style angle so I would appreciate you setting your web somewhere else, “this fly ain’t no food for you”*
LEGAL NOTE: be very well aware that the law can reach across the pond over to the UK. Please be careful.”
This obvious amateur would like to point out that all she wanted was to find out whether the Paracorder667 is ‘the real deal’ when it comes to ghost detection, rather than just potentially another gadget that people claim detects ghosts through the use of pseudo-scientific theories and confirmation bias.
However, I did notice that a day or so after the email exchange took place a disclaimer appeared on the bottom Paracorder website (under their legal statement) that read:
“Information presented on this website is primarily for information and entertainment purposes. While our site makes every effort to provide accurate and complete information based on best practices of ghost hunting theory, it provides no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of said furnished data as the proof of the paranormal is a work in progress.”
You can see a cached version of the website without the disclaimer days before the interview took place by clicking here if you don’t believe me
I think the addition of such a disclaimer probably speaks volumes on its own…
With all the interviews we have conducted on the Righteous Indignation podcast with people who have products or services they sell with claims attached to them that are questionable and unscientific, this is the only time anyone has not answered our questions.
If anybody from Moditronic wants to answer the questions that weren’t answered in the original interview, feel free to get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on July 24, 2011, in article, ghost, irrational, misattribution, paranormal, pop culture paranormal and tagged detect, equipment, find, gadget, gadgets, ghost, hunting, paracorder, paranormal, prove, research, skeptic. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.