Ghost Hunters Kinect With Spirits

Microsoft's Kinect is the latest tool to aid paranormal investigators' efforts to observe and engage with ghosts. All that can be said with some degree of certainty is that something strange may appear on the screen while a Kinect is in use -- something not physically present. Ghost hunters want to believe it's a spiritual entity. Skeptics can't explain it -- but they're sure it's a lot of hooey.

Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller may have been intended to keep gamers moving and free from handheld devices while in the throes of play, but some intrepid explorers have been using it for a different purpose altogether: hunting ghosts.

Thanks to its skeletal-tracking and infrared-sensing capabilities, Kinect can “see” as many as six players in a room. What makes spines start to tingle, however, is when it seems to see more people than are physically present.

Use of the device in this way was demonstrated in the Travel Channel’s paranormal investigation show Ghost Adventures, and was features in a scene in the horror film Paranormal Activity 4.

Now, YouTube is overrun with videos by Kinect users who believe their devices have spotted spirits, as a simple search on “Kinect ghosts.” There’s even a website dedicated to the topic, as a Polygon report recently pointed out.

Boon for Paranormal Research

“The paranormal field has always adapted technology from other industries for use in documenting phenomena,” Brandon Alvis, founder and president of the American Paranormal Research Association, told TechNewsWorld.

“Kinect is yet another example of researchers using any technology available to continue research of a possible existence of life after death. I believe that Kinect is a fascinating tool that will aid in documenting ghostly phenomena,” he said.

“It is very possible that this technology could take paranormal research to the next level in finding credible data for the existence of ghosts,” Alvis added.

The Little Chill

“It makes sense that any group using technology to investigate ideas would adopt new tools to further their work,” Christine Arrington, a senior analyst for games with IHS, told TechNewsWorld.

“Additionally, it sounds like it makes good TV,” she added. “Just reading about a figure appearing next to you on the screen gives me a little chill.”

The video above shows paranormal investigators using a modified Kinect camera system to capture an unexplained presence in the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 12, 2014. This video was recorded by Rick Callahan during a Legend Trips event.

Whether such figures reflect beings actually there or are simply artifacts of the technology, of course, is the question.

Not So Fast

“Ghost hunters are certainly gadget lovers, because use of a gadget like an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter or camera makes it feel like they are being objective in their data collection,” said Sharon Hill, a geologist, researcher and skeptical advocate.

That allows them to believe that they are not the ones seeing the apparition — the device is, she told TechNewsWorld.

“There are many problems with this,” Hill maintained.

Logic Leap

First and foremost, the devices used by paranormal investigators measure environmental variables — not ghosts, Hill asserted.

“They infer that changes in the environment are indicative of a ghost,” she said. “They’re not. They fail to control the area for other factors such as other people, drafty windows, etc.”

In addition, “they never seem to do good baseline measurements,” Hill added. “They just go anomaly hunting, and any anomaly equals ghost. That’s a total leap in logic, and it makes no sense. They never test it — they do not carefully document results and ask experts.”

Modern conceptions of ghosts’ characteristics “do not mesh with what we know of physics,” Hill pointed out. “I’m more willing to rely on centuries of well-supported data on the laws of nature than throw it all out and assume there is a paranormal entity trying to interact with me. How can you rule out all the possible normal and conclude paranormal? The best you can say is, ‘I don’t know.'”

Ghosts Are in the Mind of the Beholder?

Moreover, when it comes to anything on TV or the Web, “we must always consider hoaxes or enhancements,” Hill warned. “TV shows are edited — we have no clue as to what was really going on. It is absurd to think anything you see on ghost TV shows constitutes evidence of any value, and any user-submitted videos are worthless as evidence, even though they might be curious.”

In short, “the paranormal investigators are too quick to reach a paranormal conclusion. After all this time — centuries of looking to prove ghosts exist — they STILL have not done it, technology or not,” she said.

“We can measure subatomic particles and identify microbes or detect characteristics from astonishingly distant objects in the universe,” Hill pointed out, “but we are using gaming controllers to look for ghosts, because we still can’t find them? Perhaps it’s all in the mind of the ghost hunter.”

Katherine Noyes has been reporting on business and technology for decades. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

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