How To Catch A Ghost With Your iPhone

Actual ghost-hunting equipment can be super expensive. Here's how to catch a ghost (maybe!) with a 99-cent iPhone app.

There is, or was, a ghost in my apartment.

I don’t think it was ever out to get my roommate or me, but while it was here — if it remains, it has gone inactive, for which we are both grateful — it played a pretty good trick on us: it left an unknown, unidentifiable object in the middle of our kitchen floor.

The object (pictured) was about two inches long, wooden, and pronged like a pair of pliers, with the tip tied together by string. I was visiting my parents when my roommate found it sitting in the exact middle of our floor immediately after she scrubbed it down. I only learned of her discovery because she posted a picture of it on Facebook, with a series of increasingly frantic comments beneath: “Katie, COME HOME.” “I’ve never seen this thing in my life!!!” “Ah! I just broke it in half and threw it in the garbage.” “Omg, I’m actually going to put it back together in case I made the ghost mad.”

When I came home, we went through everything in our apartment, trying to match it up to something it could have fallen off of. We never found anything that made sense.

I don’t totally believe that a ghost stopped by my apartment to drop off a piece of wood in my kitchen and then leave. But I don’t totally not believe it. And that’s what probably makes me the ideal customer of a ghost-hunting iPhone app called Ghost Hunter M2, released last fall.

Believing in Ghost Hunter M2 as something that “works” requires two steps: first, believing that ordinary measurements like audio signals, seismic signal intensity, cameras, and the ever-popular electromagnetic frequency (or EMF) can measure paranormal activity. The second step is believing that a phone can even take these measurements in the first place. (On this issue, in the paranormal message boards, you’ll find mixed reviews.)

I guess there is actually a third step, too, which is probably the one most crucial to your enjoyment of this app and apps like it: believing, at least a little bit, in spooks. [Ed. note: I think this is actually the first step.]

If you can get that far, the app certainly claims to do a lot to help you find them: the “help” pages for Ghost Hunter M2’s various functions are either totally brilliant or totally bullshit. An example: “The Fast Fourier Transform Visualizer Instrument (FFT-V) utilizes this device’s acoustic to electric transducer system, driven by powerful algorithms, to analyze complex audio signals.” Sure! Sounds serious.

The “science” of ghost hunting is probably not something you want to look too deeply into if you still want it to be fun afterward — I mean, how patronized would you feel, as a ghost, on Ghost Hunters? “You want me to bang on the wall AGAIN? You know what? No.” Ghost hunting tools, in my opinion, are about pointing a box into the dark and hoping it lights up. What the lights mean is sort of beside the point; all you’re looking for is a reason to feel legitimately afraid.

Ghost Hunter M2 will provide you with that excuse, if you want it.

When I carry my iPhone around my apartment to test it out, it’s only a few moments before the “Audio Detector Instrument” picks up a signal, which ostensibly means that there are audio frequencies undetectable to the human ear that are taking place in my seemingly quiet living room. Not long after, the EVP — Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or words “spoken” aloud, in this case formatted based on “an advanced and proprietary computational phonetic pattern detection algorithm” — chirps, speaking the name “Greg.” I think: I have a cousin named Greg. I should warn him about … something.

The one area in which I can reasonably “test” the app’s functionality, EMF, does seem to check out. EMF readings should spike near objects that produce electromagnetic fields, like microwaves, TVs, and electric outlets, and the little number on my screen does seem to jump dramatically when held close to these objects. (High EMF readings that can’t be explained by objects like these are, as they say, symptomatic of ghosts in the vicinity.)

As far as whether any of the other functions make even a little sense, I have no idea. What I can tell is that the little light-up “buttons” on my ghost hunter’s dashboard are blinking rapidly, and occasionally the audio measurement emits a high-pitched, sonar-like sound that I am sure would be spooky if it weren’t the middle of the day. It’s an attractive and very official-looking app, and whatever it does, I definitely like looking at it.

Later, when I’ve sat down and set my phone, app open and running, to my side, Ghost Hunter M2 speaks to me again. This time it says, “wallet,” so I decide to get up and examine mine. Everything looks in order, but I suppose you never know. It would, I think, be very much like my house ghost to tell me to go check out my wallet, and to never have even touched it at all.