Geek Articles

How to Not Check for Ghosts in Equipment

Published November 1, 2019

Someone remarked the other day that sometimes our equipment gets used in the recording of the various “Find the Ghost” or Check-Out-This-Haunted house TV shows. Someone else became concerned that if our gear was exposed like this, maybe some of it came back haunted or contaminated by malevolent spirits. Aaron and I, since we develop all the quality assurance tests for Lensrentals, realized we’d probably better start a protocol to make sure none of our equipment was haunted or infected by malevolent energy.

I took on the background research myself. First was deciding what testing equipment we should use. I’m not actually trained in paranormal stuff, but luckily the internet is just FULL of people who are.  Even more luckily most of those people are willing to sell the ghost detecting gadgets they’ve developed through years of careful research. Within a few days, and at the cost of just a few hundred dollars, I had all manner of ghost detecting equipment delivered.

Clockwise from top left: Spirit Box RF detector; NIghtfire Ghost Detector array; KII EMF Meter; Laser Grid Pen for detecting visual disturbance; a Ghost Magnet EMF pump; And a Ghost Meter.

The cost of the equipment, I’ll warn you, pales beneath the cost of the batteries required to run it. You priced 9-volt batteries lately? I had to go buy a dozen 9-volt batteries.

Setting up for Testing

As I mentioned, we are not wise in the ways of ghost hunting, but I continued my research in a strip mall that boasted a Hot Yoga studio, a Tarot Card reader, an Essential Oils store, and a Vegan coffee shop. As you would expect, I was able to find all manner of experienced ghost hunters there. I was told we probably needed a Pentagram just in case there was demonic possession involved, and that these things were best done by candlelight.

I left Aaron to set up an appropriate workspace and came back to find this gaffer-taped monstrosity. Aaron’s explanation was that he thought, given we were working with camera gear, it should be a pentaprism rather than a pentagram. And since ghosts could be trapped in a lens, the pentaprism should be distorted by field curvature, astigmatism, flare, and coma so that potential demons inside lenses would recognize it. I can’t argue with that kind of logic.


We turned down the lights and burned a candle in the center for a while, cause that just seemed like the traditional thing to do. But being modern scientists, we also shined that laser grid pen up in there to check for the aforementioned visual disturbances, and because it looked way cooler. I honestly can’t tell you if there were visual disturbances or not but I figure that should scare any spirit energy out of the area.


As you can almost tell from the above shots, we had placed a Nightfire Ghost Detector at each corner of the whatever-it-is-Aaron-made. (After looking at it a while, I think it’s a pentaprism with an SLR mirror-sub mirror assembly overlay. But I suspect I’m the only one seeing that, so never mind. This ghost stuff may be creeping me out.)

Having made certain the working space was now clear of malevolent spirits, we turned on our EVP detector and Aaron brought each piece of equipment to be checked into the space over the ring of Ghost Detectors. As you can see, this Sennheiser microphone set off the blue lights on the Ghost Detectors. Clearly we started this work just in time. (As an aside, we also found the office microwave is haunted; even across the room it set everything off. Luckily the coffee maker is cool.)


Keeping this at the highest scientific standards, of course, we confirmed the equipment was actually haunted using the EMF detector. You can see both Ghost Detector and EMF detector agree there’s a ghost in this machine.


Aaron then activated the Ghost Magnet to pull the malevolent spirit out of the Sennheiser.


Unfortunately, as so often happens when you’re doing science, things didn’t go quite as planned. None of us had really considered what would happen after the spirit left the astigmatic-curved-pentaprism-of-containment.


At this point, we weren’t certain what the proper course of action was. Sarah thought we needed to perform an exorcism on Aaron. I thought since he already had one spirit inside him, we should run through the rest of the equipment first. I mean is multiple possession really worse than uni-possession? Aaron said this was all BS and we should just stop. Of course, if he WAS possessed and facing an exorcism, that’s exactly what you’d expect him to say. This kind of conundrum is what makes science so hard.

Speaking of making science hard, I have to admit we did sloppy controls by not checking Aaron for possession before we started this. It was quite possible he’d already been possessed because he eats food cooked in that haunted microwave every day.

Anyway, since we were a little leery about aggravating any possible demons inside Aaron, we decided it was best to play along and let him try to prove this wasn’t real by disassembling the ghost detecting equipment and see if it looked legit. Of course, I already had it on best-internet-authority that this stuff was top-notch ghost hunting equipment, but I played along to humor him (or it).

Disassembling the Ghost Detecting Tools

Ghost Detector Array

This is pretty simple, pop off the blue LED cover, open the case, pull out the circuit board and attached antenna.


Looking pretty much like a couple of resistors wired to an LED, one would think, perhaps, this is not the most sensitive ghost detector in our armamentarium. And we have to admit further experimentation showed that about anything would light this up: cell phone ringing a few feet away, hands moving near it, the aforementioned microwave across the room, the air conditioner turning on.

EMF Meter

We had more hope here, this was a bit pricier piece of kit and came with a warning to ‘not buy inexpensive Chinese counterfeit versions’. Two screws open up the case and let us take the circuit board out. It’s certainly a little more interesting than the Ghostmeter board, with all manner of capacitors and such, not to mention 5 different color LEDs.


The larger chip you see is a Texas Instruments LM324N 4 channel amplifier that costs $0.28 each in quantity making this probably the most expensive and high-tech of these devices. We were sort of semi-impressed with this until we opened up the other one (we had accidentally purchased two in our initial enthusiasm) and found that while the board was the same, the capacitors were different both in voltage and capacity.


This might explain why we saw one meter go multi-light crazy much easier than the other even when they were side-by-side. I’ll also note that I’m not wise in the ways of electronic engineering, but a scientific EMF meter (which costs a few hundred dollars) has a pretty unmistakable three-direction antenna, for, like sensing the direction of the EMF field. These $40 devices don’t have any antenna. I’d think knowing which direction the ghost is coming from would be a useful thing. Sarah said maybe ghost energy isn’t directional or something, but on the ghost shows their always yelling “Look! Over there!” so I’m pretty certain there’s direction involved.

If these things are used to detect Bigfoot though, I’d insist on some directional input. Bigfoot is pretty scary, you’d want to know which way he was coming from.

Ghost Detector Meter

I had some hope left for this device since it was in clear plastic, which I thought might mean “We want you to see our complex electronics”. Plus that orangey thing at the top might be covering the aforementioned three-directional EMF antenna. Not to mention, it was this device that confirmed Aaron was possessed.


This one does get the nicest case award, held together with multiple screws as well as edge clips. But once taken apart that orange cap covered, well, ghost storage space, perhaps.


The circuit board though, is nicely laid out, with an analog meter, a couple of LEDs that flash, and a speaker that puts out a tone when it senses EMF. No directional antenna though. And with further testing either every human in the office is possessed, or it just senses humans. And microwaves.

The Ghost Magnet

Well, I was really interested in what this thing did to attract ghosts. It says it’s an EMF pump, but I’m not sure what that means. When we turned it on though, the red light was pretty bright and it made a kind of ominous humming noise. When we opened it up, though, it had a battery, wired to a light and something that looked like a motor glued to the top of the case.


Not certain what this was, we removed the glue, put batteries back in, and turned it on.


Turns out it’s a fairly high-frequency piezo-vibration motor. As I’ve said before, I’m no expert on ghost hunting, so I have no idea why ghosts would be attracted to vibrators. I would have thought they were past that kind of thing. After this, I had to agree with Aaron that it seemed unlikely this device had really pulled a ghost out of the haunted microphone.

So What Did We Learn Today?

Not a damn thing, really. Well, except if you believe in this stuff, then what ghosts are attracted to are things with high-frequency vibrating motors. Do with that information what you will.

Oh, and that Lensrentals goes to every length possible to assure our testing is the best in the country. Can you tell me one other rental house that checks for haunted equipment? I thought not.


Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

Halloween, 2019

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Geek Articles
  • Doug C

    Doesn’t an EMF meter simply detect EMF frequencies? Items such as cell phones, microwaves, fridges, faulty wiring, junction boxes and fuse panels ect. It detects and assists debunking and show there is shitty wiring in the place or an appliance isn’t well insulated. I have never heard of it “detecting if something is a spirit or human”. I use it and only use it for the above mentioned reasons. To go around walls, floors and ceilings ect, panels, wall plug ins, to ensure there isn’t any EMF emitting from those items. If there is a high amount then it can be potentially a health hazard. That is the most important use of those types of tools. I have no idea who pulls ghosts out of items or determines what’s inhuman with them, but I wish them all the luck in the world, and perhaps stronger meds.

  • Lunalyze

    The pump is actually to amplify magnetic field around the device by spinning a magnet on the end of the motor, not for sucking up ghosts lol. The theory is that spirits are able to draw energy from magnetic & electromagnetic fields. Frequently people report batteries being spontaneously drained & electrical equipment malfunctioning during / after ghosts manifest.

  • Michael Clark

    They all run on 9V batteries? So this entire “ghost hunting” fad is just a ruse by the makers of 9V batteries to create more devices that use their 9V batteries? Who’d ‘ave thunk it?

  • Devil’s Advocate

    I bet Steve Huff loves you……

  • SolJuJo

    I liked the bit “…, like sensing the direction of the EMF field…” as you admit there’s another field in the ElectroMagneticField. 😀 Sublime. Maybe you need a person possessed by a ghost possessed by another ghost to find out it’s true use? Which is difficult to find as the world’s population is continuously growing, but can the ghosts catch up? On the other hand, so many people have died before us. It might be possible, there are already multiply possessed ghosts in most of us, so some kind of matryoshka possession going on. I mean, how many can do a proper exorcism these days?

    Which then would be a very good explanation for a lot of things going on in this world… and for all these different voice we hear on a quiet day.

  • KeithB

    The Laundry Series by Stross would be a good guide for computer geeks.

  • Claudia Muster

    All good and fine, but the important question is: Do you rent them?

  • Ilya Zakharevich

    > “So What Did We Learn Today? Not a damn thing, really.”

    Com’on, Roger! Aaron might have missed it?—?he is too young, but you should have remembered the hunt for sellers/buyers of nuclear materials after breakup of Soviet Union! Let me remind you: all the traders turned out to be honeypots: sellers were government agents (from different governments) trying to catch buyers, and buyers likewise!

    So it should be obvious WHAT you discovered: this is a government conspiracy trying to discredit the ghost technology! As you found out, they managed to flood the market so that now it is practically impossible to find a legit seller?—?and they sabotage the whole ghost-hunting arena by taking the working time-tested fine-tuned design, creatively maiming them, and flooding the market with the broken versions.

    As you have found, they remove antennas, replace girators by vibrators, randomly exchange discrete components, re-tune the circuits to the noisiest frequencies available?—?and, frankly speaking, I already forgot what else! But this could not have squeezed through a real scientifically sound test procedure?—?as you (triumphantly!) proved! (It is just that implications?—?for a moment?—?skipped your attention!)

    Congratulations! Without you, I could have never realized what is actually happening! Thanks for this eye-opener!

  • Not THAT Ross Cameron

    Hey guys, I bought a kit zoom coz the internet says it was sharp. But I keep getting these not quite sharp photos. Sometimes there’s this ghostly flare that produces weirdly shaped blobs of light. Other times things in the image taken on an other-worldly green or magenta glow. I reckon it’s been possessed by a ghost, causing all these spectral aberrations. It’s the only logical explanation. Thank goodness Lens Rentals is branching out – can I hire out the ghost magnet to purify my zoom lens and restore it to the sharpness I’ve been promised. Maybe you offer a kit with the penta-prism to help safe-guard your customers in such delicate operations. Perhaps you offer specially lined bags so I can return the magnet, with ghost, for storage in Lens Rental’s ECS (Ecto-Containment System)?

  • Hammer Time is still my favorite post ever. For those who don’t know it:

  • Ciaran

    And with further testing either every human in the office is possessed

    Damn, it must be highly contagious. Like the Ebola of possessions. I’m not renting from this place again! 😉

  • Ciaran

    I bet Canon and Nikon could build a possession compensation mechanism in their DSLRs. But only Nikon would make it automatic.

    And Lightroom would ignore it all. But you could use the Aura Density slider instead.

  • bdbender4

    This is the best thing since the hammer thread!

    PS. Being of a certain age, I remember when transistor radios were new, and priced/branded according to how many transistors they had. In addition to the chip, that EMF thingy has 7- count ’em, 7 – transistors! Woot!

  • Franck Mée

    You forgot to mention that Pentax DSLRs have the best weather-and-ghost sealing and are therefore totally demon-resistant.

  • David Bateman

    “And with further testing either every human in the office is possessed, or it just senses humans. And microwaves.”
    To be fair, since you are all alive, I hope you all have at least one soul or spirit. Unless you needed to sell that to get OLAF working. If you need a dead thing as a control. Shouldn’t get areading from that. But then it might be possessed, such a catch 22.
    Hard to do good science with this stuff.

  • AK83

    Hey Roger, still enjoy your posts:
    I think your assessment of Aarons level of possession may have been correct, so all the results would appear to be null and void.
    My suggestion to dispossess Aaron(ie. the exorcism) would have best been achieved thusly:
    I’m estimating Aaron to have a weight value of about 80kg(just a round figure estimate). If the human body is composed of approximately 65% water, then 35% of 80kg would equal about 28lt of water. As the possession was assumed to have been a demonic spirit, then it makes sense that another spirit(of less demonic type) would have sufficed as the substitute.
    So, using displacement theory, 28 litres of (say) a 15 year old McCallan single malt whiskey consumed, should in effect displace all other spirits.

    OK, maybe Aaron doesn’t like single malt whiskey .. substitute any other palatable spirit to Aarons liking.

    Only possible downside could be that, while Aarons probable demonic possession has tainted the results the way they were recorded, 28lt of whiskey could affect his hand eye co-ordination by a similarly large anomalous factor.

    if required I’ would gladly offer my services, both to consume 28lt of single malt whiskey and maintain reasonably accurate hand eye coordination at the same time .. I think. If not, nothing to lose .. I probably wouldn’t remember a thing, and you’d still have achieved the same end result .. net zero loss.

    I eagerly await the invitation to the 2020 event!
    (ps. the 12 year old single malt is 80% as good as the 15yo stuff, just that the 15yo stuff ensures that ‘things go down more smoothly’)


  • Tig Tillinghast

    I bet Canon and Nikon could build a possession compensation mechanism in their DSLRs. But only Nikon would make it automatic. And, of course, the mirrorless offerings wouldn’t need it.

    And then Sony would put in the next A7 model firmware upgrade anyway; at the behest of their crack team of menu item naming and translation engineers. It will reside, as one would naturally expect, in menu Funny Shape 3, page 34/63, item 8.

  • Martti O Suomivuori

    Microwaves are evil.

  • Nicholas Bedworth

    Good work guys! Can’t let one’s scientific attitudes interfere with enjoying a good natured sense of humor. Of course it’s amazing that consumers buy such devices. That’s right up there with people who would spend thousands of dollars on camera lenses with marginal MTFs!

    Imagine… ???

  • Your comment on ghost salmonella could explain the condition of some of the restrooms around here. . . .

  • Well I missed it in April 🙂

  • DC_Alan

    April fools? In October? ?

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Not only are you an optical master, and guiding light in the murky depths of marketing lingo, but also a first-rate comedian and ghost buster! Is there anything you can’t do, Roger? How many more talents are you hiding from us?

    PS: How about getting a priest to bless the microwave oven? Maybe after that all of your food would be purified, and could be used to combat the rampant cases of ghost salmonella among the LR staff ?

  • Maya

    I had had enough of sample variation in lenses, now you’re telling me I need to check my ghost meters as well ? Damnit !

  • J.L. Williams

    I’ll bet Augie and Cody are pretty stoked that somebody finally gave them a visual shout-out for their work on that ghost detector array circuit board. Way to go, guys!

  • Franck Mée

    I sense a demonic possession in this “I just need to take apart everything I touch” thing you have… 😀

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