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Edmund (Pseudo) Scientific Sells ‘Ghost Detectors’

Online Extra

Matt Lowry

Volume 34.1, January / February 2010

In early September, I became aware of something that shocked me as both a skeptic and physics teacher: Edmund Scientific, one of the oldest and most respected outlets for selling science equipment for educational use, has gone over to the dark side. They are actively marketing and selling paranormal woo-woo on their Web site.

The item that attracted my attention was their self-proclaimed EMF Ghost Meter, which is nothing more than a standard EMF (electromagnetic field) detector that detects low-frequency EMFs such as radio and microwaves. I have no beef with Edmund selling EMF detectors (I even have one in my classroom), but what galls me is that they are actually marketing this device by calling it a ghost detector, implicitly giving credence to pseudoscientific flummery. As they say on their Web site: “The preferred unit of paranormal investigators, this Ghost Meter can be used by laymen with professional results. The unit responds instantaneously to EMF fluctuations and spikes in energy with a detecting range of 50 to 1,000 Hz. The VLF range is 1,000 to 20,000 Hz. An easy-to-read LED display and silent on/off push switch make for seamless, simple operation.”

Such devices are often used by so-called ghost hunters as they bumble around in the dark, freaking themselves out at every cool draft of wind and creaky sound. In reality, there is absolutely no reason to think that EMF meters are detecting any kind of “ghostly entities,” as a simple application of Occam’s Razor often shows that what the meters are actually detecting is the low-frequency EM waves given off by nearby lighting fixtures, electrical lines, or even the other equipment carried by the ghost hunters themselves.

But it gets worse. In addition to their Ghost Meter, Edmund is now selling what they call a 3-in-1 Paranormal Research Instrument, which is an EMF meter, a digital temperature sensor, and a flashlight. I suppose Edmund also wants to tap into the gullible “cool breezes and drafts are evidence for a ghost” market along their journey down the paranormal rabbit hole. Edmund has gone even further by selling what it calls a Remote Viewing DVD, which claims the customer can “learn the history and latest applications of this amazing field of ‘intuitive science’ and discover for yourself how to devleop [sic] and use your own RV-ESP skills.”

I recently checked the Edmund Web site, and all of these items are now listed as “temporarily out of stock.” Hopefully, this is because the company is attempting to (tentatively) reverse course, but maybe it’s because they’ve been so successful in marketing woo-woo to the gullible.

To me, as a physics teacher, this discovery is as bad as opening up their catalog to the biology section and finding products for sale that promote creationism. The misleading advertisements and products on the Edmund Web site are unacceptable, and until they change course I will no longer purchase any of their products. Readers who wish to contact Edmund Scientific can reach them at scientifics@edsci.com or 1-800-728-6999.

Matt Lowry

Matt Lowry is a high school physics teacher (and part-time physics and astronomy college professor) with a strong interest in promoting science education and critical thinking among his students and the population in general.