Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Unreal estate

Following hard on the heels of yesterday's post about belief in the occult causing you to receive visits from the Shadow World, today we have: a real estate company who will provide a paranormal investigation of any home you're considering buying, to make sure that it doesn't come with spirits pre-installed, as it were.

Bungalo, a company with offices in Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Tampa, is offering a special during the spooky month of October, providing a "Paranormal Inspection Report" of properties for sale.  Their site says:
To perform the Paranormal Inspections on our homes, we brought in known experts in the paranormal sciences.  Utilizing their keen insight into the paranormal world and the latest realm-to-realm communication technology, these paranormal pros have examined our homes from top to bottom for anything out of the ordinary. 
The inspectors then disclose their findings to you, the home buyer, through an official Paranormal Inspection Report, which you can find on any listing’s document vault on our website.  If an inspector does encounter any unwanted paranormal activity in a home, the space in question will be properly cleansed for the buyer’s peace of mind.
One of their inspectors is paranormal researcher Becky Moyer, who wanders around with a device called a "Spirit Box" that detects the EMF fluctuations many believe are associated with the presence of supernatural entities.

[Image licensed under the Creative Commons LuckyLouie, Nightshot2, CC BY-SA 3.0]

So I looked into that a little, and man, there are a lot of models of "Spirit Box."  One of them, the "Ghost Meter EMF Sensor," is only $34.95 (plus shipping and handling), and I thought it might be instructive to take a look at some of the (804) ratings customers had given it.  Many of them were laudatory, claiming that the thing had found ghosts pretty much all over the place, but a few of them were less positive:
  • I get no response with this even in circumstance where I know there should definitely be a reading of some type.
  • Doesn't work.  A waste of money.  I should have got a different version of it, this thing beeps at unnecessary stuff, the fridge, the cereal, the car, the dog, the window.  This is such a gimmick.
  • Goes off on most things like couch, plastic stuff, and clothes. I guess most things I own are haunted.
  • Only beeps when close to rocks.  Otherwise it stays idle nonstop.  Won’t blink or beep.  Spent 2 hours in a cemetery without a single light blip until I got to the entrance where the rocks were.  As soon as I walk away from the rocks it stopped.
And then there's this one, that should win an award in the Run-On Sentence Competition 2019:
  • Do not buy I want [sic] all around my house and there was only one place in my house I thought would [sic] haunted because every time I was there in my shower I felt like somebody was behind me so I go all around my house nothing beats [sic] go figure when I go into the bathroom it goes crazy I wanted to determine if something was making [sic] sure enough it was the vent making it go off when I turn them then [sic] off it wouldn't do it the second I turn them back on it went crazy so it detected a vent not a ghost
So I guess it's useful if you're not sure where your vents are.  Or, considering some of the other reviews, your couch, fridge, cereal, car, dog, window, rocks, or clothes.

In any case, it's to be expected anything you use will get mixed results, because if there was unequivocal evidence of ghostly presences, that would pretty much settle the debate over whether the paranormal world exists.  I actually have an EMF Ghost Detector app on my phone, and periodically I'll wander around my house to see what the Spiritual Plane is up to.  Not much, most days, although it does kind of go crazy when I get near my computer, which could either be because (1) it's a piece of electronic equipment and thus emits an EMF signal by default, or else (2) it's possessed.

The latter is as good an explanation for some of its behavior as any.

In any case, back to the real estate company's offer.  What I'm most curious about is the last bit, which is how you "cleanse" a place of paranormal entities.  I'm guessing bringing in a Catholic priest to do an exorcism is a bit extreme, so what are our other options?  Burning some incense?  That wouldn't work if it was, say, the spirit of a dead hippie.  Telling the spirit, politely but firmly, to get lost?  Can't imagine it'd be that easy.

But the agency's website didn't elaborate on that part, so I guess we'll just have to assume that they have their methods.

I kind of wish there'd been this option when I bought my house.  Our younger son said he always felt like there was "something there" when he was alone downstairs working in the workshop (which is where he spent a great many of his waking hours).  He said he didn't think it was hostile, but did catch movement out of the corner of his eye more than once when everyone, including the dogs, were upstairs.  And considering how weird this house is in other respects -- the previous owner was notorious for ill-conceived and (often) partly-completed home improvement ideas, what my dad called "Do It To Yourself Projects" -- it wouldn't surprise me if there were strange forces at work here.

But nothing was mentioned in the Disclosure Form, and in any case we've been here for seventeen years, so I guess we're stuck with it either way.


This week's Skeptophilia book-of-the-week is from an author who has been a polarizing figure for quite some time; the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins has long been an unapologetic critic of religion, and in fact some years ago wrote a book called The God Delusion that caused thermonuclear-level rage amongst the Religious Right.

But the fact remains that he is a passionate, lucid, and articulate exponent of the theory of evolution, independent of any of his other views.  This week's book recommendation is his wonderful The Greatest Show on Earth, which lays out the evidence for biological evolution in a methodical fashion, in terminology accessible to a layperson, in such a way that I can't conceive how you'd argue against it.  Wherever you fall on the spectrum of attitudes toward evolution (and whatever else you might think of Dawkins), you should read this book.  It's brilliant -- and there's something eye-opening on every page.

[Note: if you purchase this book using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to support Skeptophilia!]


  1. So have you ever tried running in five-finger toe shoes? Love Dawkins too.