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Personal experience: I was a ghost hunter on a TV show and I know for a fact that ghosts are real, but not always

Ghostbuster, Mustafa Gatollari, spoke about the tricks that TV people use to deceive viewers. There are many tactics to make the audience think they are talking to the dead, reports Independent.

Photo: IStock

“There was a time in my life when I would rather be caught watching porn than tell people I was a paranormal investigator. And that's because it was hard to suppress the shame I felt seeing the many methods in popular programs, almost all of which are false,” says Mustafa Gatollari, host and producer of Haunted Discoveries and paranormal investigator on Ghostbusters. .

He began studying and researching the paranormal a few days before his 18th birthday. He was lucky enough to be on what is considered the gold standard of investigative TV shows: A&E's Ghostbusters. He also launched his own series, Ghost Discoveries, which he did with co-star and American Paranormal Research Association founder Brandon Alvis.

Through this work, Mustafa visited investigations in places that many researchers have dreamed of for years. But he has also seen people deliberately fake evidence of the paranormal — and how they use devices that, quite frankly, aren't worth the 3D-printed plastic.

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More than 50 percent of Americans believe that ghosts are real, and the belief in some kind of life after death is a globally recognized phenomenon that has been observed in many cultures and goes back thousands and thousands of years. There are many people in this industry who, like half of all Americans, seriously believe in paranormal research. Not all of them are charlatans who are trying to quickly cash in on human grief.

But there are also serious problems - starting with technological things.

If you've watched the so-called "ghost-hunting" show, you've probably seen the explorer lay down a cylindrical device adorned with flashing lights, a small speaker, and an antenna known as a REM module. If you bring your hand to one of them or touch the antenna directly, the device will emit a loud beep, and indicators on the capsule will light up, showing where the source of movement came from. Supposedly, if there is a ghost living in his afterlife, walking the halls, and he accidentally streaks past one of these capsules, it will work. Or, if you ask a ghost that you suspect is in the room with you to touch it and the REM pod will shut off, bam, and you yourself have received spirit communication.

In such shows, the researchers will install them and invite the entities to come and interact with the REM module as a means of afterlife communication. Prior to this, viewers watching the show become aware of ominous claims associated with the place: such as a young woman who has been murdered, or a white-haired man who is known to terrorize visitors by showing up when they least expect it, and they fall down the stairs to their death.

The researcher will stand within a few feet of the REM, allowing a tension of silence to fill the room. They will take a close look at the device and ask, intently and intensely, “Is anyone here with us right now?”

The REM module beeps. Wow!

“Are we talking to a woman now?” the ghost hunter will ask. And in response, silence.

“Are we talking to a man?” he asks. A pause, then a sound from the device. Blimey!

The Q&A format seems to confirm that there is indeed someone communicating with the REM but not physically in the room. However, there is a small problem - REM modules are completely useless for television purposes.

These devices are ridiculously sensitive to various radio frequencies and cellular communications. Electronics are also known to activate them. So when you have a film crew—cameramen, sound technicians, bored assistants tired of listening to people talking in the dark on their cell phones, and paranormal investigators equipped with lavalier microphones—it's impossible to trust any kind of REM module interaction like evidence of paranormal activity.

In fact, REM modules can even be activated at will - and from quite a distance, depending on the model - by simply pressing a radio button. Mustafa has been at events and investigations where some people, presumably because they like to scare people, deliberately simulate interaction with the REM module using walkie-talkies to give the impression that “something strange is going on”.

“There is something strange, but it's not a ghost - it's you wasting your life when you could apply a reliable methodology for documenting evidence of the paranormal. Yes, it’s so deep – for me, anyway,” says Mustafa.

It is for this reason that he and Brandon banned the use of walkie-talkies on set while filming their own show, and they only have one set turned off.

But REM capsules aren't the only problem with other paranormal investigations.

There is a longstanding theory in paranormal research that there is a correlation between supernatural activity and electromagnetic frequencies, or EMFs.

“I would completely reject this theory. There are respected researchers who have documented strange phenomena that are difficult to explain with known empirical means related to EMF,” says Mustafa. “However, in many ghost-hunting programs, EMF is measured using three-field analog meters, which I have also seen are deliberately controlled by walkie-talkies. As with REMs, this tactic is often used to support a false narrative of specific ghost activity, combined with leading questions asked of the darkness in places supposedly haunted. These devices are too sensitive and can lead to false positives and fraud. But that doesn't mean you should throw away EMI: finding a technology that is well isolated from external triggers is a good way to measure electronic frequencies in an investigation, and there are digital three-field meters that aren't as easy to manipulate that can be used as well."

There is another popular "technological" ghost-hunting trick: flashlight communication. The technique behind this works like this: turn the flashlight on/off and “divide the difference” so that the device oscillates between full on and off. You want to loosen it just enough so that if you touch the flashlight, it will blink.

Now lower the flashlight and start asking questions or invite the entities to come and touch the device to chat with you. The theory behind this is that electromagnetic energy from entities "touching" the flashlight will create enough energy to connect the light bulb to its power source, resulting in a "confirmation" beam.

Many research programs combine video clips of this "communication" to make it look like the flashlight is turned off after questions are asked. The only problem is that it's TV "magic". If you leave a twisted flashlight slightly disengaged in this way, the short circuit effect will work randomly. What ends up happening is that there are dozens of questions and statements that either contradict or have nothing to do with the narrative that the series is driving. And it is these statements that are left on the cutting room floor, so that all viewers are left with one thing: “Oh my God, here is the proof of the existence of ghosts with a flashlight!”

Many paranormal investigators have discussed the problem with the flashlight trick—because it really is a trick—in the past. If you talk to any electrical engineer or flashlight manufacturer, they will most likely confirm that the random short circuit effect is indeed the result of turning on/off the mechanism of the device, and not someone's grandmother telling them that she is proud of them or that she is everything. won't reveal her cookie recipe yet, even if she's dead.

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Again, not all ghost-hunting technology is inherently “bad” or intentionally false. They're just not reliable enough to be used as empirical evidence or "evidence" for paranormal activity, as Mustafa says.

“It is for this reason that my team turned to respected scientist Dr. Harry Kloor and aerospace engineer Zach Heino for help. We are a group of people who truly believe in the paranormal and are looking for actual scientific evidence. We want to take this field out of pseudoscience and into real research with real, quantifiable data,” he says. “We're not people looking to make a quick buck hunting ghosts. Whether you agree with what we believe or not, we honestly and openly do what we do.”

In his opinion, too many people have gone through too many strange experiences to dismiss paranormal activity as a pastime for misguided amateurs. As Brandon says, "if it's not normal, it's paranormal" and they want to be honest about it.

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