Electrical engineer builds devices to detect ghosts

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Electrical engineer Gary Galka is proprietor of D.A.S. Distribution Inc, a company that makes and sells a variety of industrial sensors for medical, aerospace, and factory automation applications. After his teenage daughter was killed in a car accident, Galka began to develop instruments to detect ghosts and scan for electronic voice phenomena that he says could have paranormal origins. Devices like his SB7 Spirit Box are apparently now a nice chunk of his business. The Hartford Courant profiled Galka:

Galka, 57, was raised Catholic, and said he believes in God and the afterlife, although he said he does not attend church. He donates one-third of the profits from the sale of paranormal devices to bereavement groups, including The Cove Center for Grieving Children in Wallingford and Mary's Place, A Center For Grieving Children in Windsor, both of which help children deal with the death of a brother or sister.

Galka's most recent invention is a device that he says can detect shadows in the dark.

According to the D.A.S. website, the Mel meters, which can pick up electromagnetic field activity, are specifically designed for paranormal investigators.

As for skeptics, Galka says he hopes that his family's experiences and the devices he has created will help people who don't believe in the afterlife to "take a better position."

"I feel compelled to help other bereaved parents … to show these parents that they can live beyond the grief and be comforted knowing their child is in a good place — to show them they can have hope."

"Saying He Has Felt His Dead Daughter's Presence, An Engineer Develops Devices To Measure It" (via Fortean Times)


  1. You’re selling them at cost right?

    Oh wait, you’re making a profit off of gullible people and using your daughter’s death to promote it? Fuck you then.

    1. My sense is that for him, they do “work” and that he is honestly trying to help others.

        1.  Obviously, nobody.  But at least he’s not cynically spreading a delusion he doesn’t share for profit  like some sort of TV evangelist.  The victim most affected by this guy’s delusions is himself. 

        2. I try not to worry myself with other people’s delusions until they come into direct conflict with my own.

        3. And I suppose you can prove these are based on delusion? I’m not asking anyone to prove a negative.  Both sides of the “is it real or not” argument are seriously lacking.

          1. No one can prove that the unicorn in my backyard, which only I can see, is a delusion.  I’m not asking anyone to prove a negative.  g’wan, get busy, prove that it’s a delusion, otherwise your argument is lacking (only not seriously (egads people what happened to “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”?) -sigh-)

          2. The basic argument against these devices is this: Since we don’t know for certain if ghosts exist or not (although there is very little quality evidence that they do) we have no way of knowing if any given device is actually detecting a ghost. Without knowing for sure the things exist, and their exact features and effects on surroundings there’s no way to connect what you detect definitively with a ghost.

            More over many of these devices are so poorly built that they can’t detect anything beyond their own flaws. And in their use no attempt is typically made to exclude other variables.
            You detected a cold spot in a room and claim as proof of a ghost. But if you haven’t proved definitively that 1. ghosts exist and 2. that ghosts can and do effect temperature in away that fosters detection. More over have you (and how can you) eliminate the other variables. Natural temperature variations, thermoclines, convection, drafts, sunlight vs shaddow, etc.  How do you distinguish a regular cold spot or draft from a ghost based one? More over what did you use? An infrared thermometer or thermal camera can only show you surface temperatures. To get the temperature of empty space you need a probe based thermocouple. Which type of temp reading is pertinent?
            And that example doesn’t even get into the issues around construction of unique devices claimed to specifically detect ghosts.

    2. Thanks for that little nugget of comment gold there, I am sure you have swayed Mr. Galka’s views on the afterlife and he probably has stop production on all his paranormal equipment and reliesed that his daughter has ceased to exist as a living human and he is completely comforted in this view. Thank you, you bastion of calm clear logic.

      1. The point isn’t to change the opinion of a loon, it’s to let Pesco know that this subject, while interesting in a “holy shit, people believe this crap!?” kind of way, doesn’t have the scientific rigor that people at BB tend to prefer.

        When someone is making money off gullible people who should, but don’t know better then we are gonna think that person’s a jerk – even if he’s genuine in his trust of whatever snake oil or snake oil detector is being marketed. Acupuncturists are mostly well-meaning and likely believe the lies they tell people, but that doesn’t stop it from being immoral to waste their time, money and the homeostasis of their body by stabbing them with needles without gloves.

    3. Gary Galka doesn’t deserve that kind of abuse, corydodt.

      His site sells generally decent-specification instruments that can also be used for scientific and industrial purposes. The prices are exceptionally reasonable, he’s not gouging anybody. Most of the products are completely mundane – weather station stuff, pH meters, sound meters and so forth.

      Due to “Ghost Hunter”-type TV shows, many people were looking for instruments like the ones they saw being (ab)used in the shows. This guy already was selling most of them  for other purposes. Was he supposed to refuse to sell unless customers swore an oath of allegiance to CSICOP or something? As far as I can tell there are no claims on the site about detecting ghosts – the closest is on the “EMF Meters” page are some  bundle deals with voice recorders and infrared thermometers.

      The people who buy these EMF meters are going to go out and measure things and will have to interpret those measurements. Some will thus start getting into more regular areas of science as they are exposed to the real invisible world of EM fields. The others would be able to delude themselves about things that go bump in the night with or without the instruments.

  2. “Detect shadows in the dark”? Seems like that would be about as challenging as detecting water at the bottom of the ocean, or snow on the north pole.

    1. In the dark, there is a darker darkness, so dark the average person would probably say it does not need to be measured for any particular reason, because it’s all pretty much the same. But then came a device so finely tuned, it could see the dark within the dark. Or ghosts, as we like to call them. Certainly not the shadow of a piece of furniture or another person in the room with you. Do ghosts give off shadows? Who knows, but we probably think they do, and think they are also probably electric. Because why would they not be. Exactly.

      Buy ghost hunting products, and don’t read this: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4081 

  3. Ah, devices for detecting weak electromagnetic fields.

    Those are sometimes used as hardware random number generators. You get excellent entropy from background EM noise.

    1. that’s one way of looking at it.

      It’s also a way to give the ghosts total control over everything we think is random.

    2. The noise is hiding under all sorts of strong, non-random signals, though. There are easier and better ways to generate random numbers, zener diodes, for instance.

  4. Before this devolves into a “lol ghosts” thread: the guy lost his kid, and he’s coping with that loss with the thing he’s good at.  I think ghosts are silly, but what I think about this thing he does doesn’t really matter; it keeps him moving.

    If I were, I don’t know, a football player or something, and I lost my kid, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to dedicate every touchdown to their memory and use that to be the best at whatever it is that I had left. This isn’t different. Cut the guy some slack.

    1. ” Cut the guy a break.”
      As said earlier…

      “You’re selling them at cost right?

       Oh wait, you’re making a profit off of gullible people and using your daughter’s death to promote it? Fuck you then.”

      1. Making a living doing something you believe in is sort of the point, isn’t it? The guy took a tragedy and flipped it into a business catering to people with the same beliefs that he has, and seems to be trying to help people who’re dealing with the same grief he is. 

        You call him a charlatan; that’s your right. But it’s probably more healthy for you in the long run to assume people are genuine and just, perhaps misguidedly, dealing with their own shit as best they can instead of assuming that they’re all out to screw somebody. 

        1. I appreciate that the guy believes in ghosts, I just don’t think that belief gets him off the hook morally.  I think he has a moral responsibility to examine his beliefs and figure out whether they’re true, same as me.  He’s not wandering a deserted island, after all, he’s part of a society in which he can do damage to other people by taking their money and spreading ignorance.

          If I went around telling people that, oh, say, the world is going to end on a particular day in 2011 and made a few million dollars doing it, I’m a bad person whether I believe what I’m saying or not.

          1. This is different, though – he isn’t prosthelytizing and trying to get people to give up their worldly possessions, he isn’t a doomsayer inciting a riot, he’s offering a thing for sale that people somewhere decided to look to buy. The article claims it’s a small part of his business. It isn’t much different than a guy selling gold crucifixes on chains – he doesn’t have to go through a moral inventory to sell things that fill a need if the demand is already there. 

          2. So what exactly is the difference between what he is doing, the doomsday scenario and what organized religion does by raking in billions a year to tell people that if they do X, Y, and Z they will go to an imaginary place full of happiness will all the people they loved that are now dead?

            On a rational, logical level none.  In reality religion gets a pass because they are protected by the law somehow.

        2. Being genuine and being a charlatan are not mutually exclusive groups.

          This guy is selling hope to people where absolutely no hope exists. Just because he can help people delude themselves for temporary emotional support doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for that person or the right thing to do. The undisputed scientific consensus is that this is bunk as bunk can be which means that the person he’s selling these flashing boxes to is going to either:
          a) Believe this crap for the rest of their lives and waste their money and time chasing nothing.
          b) Eventually realise they’re chasing nothing and then regret the years or decades they wasted and feel stupid for believing in such crap and trusting people who were well-meaning but batshit crazy.

      2. Just because he makes some profit doesn’t mean that he doesn’t believe in what he’s doing. Teachers, doctors, therapists and aid workers usually don’t do the bulk of their work for free either.

        Try imagining the world through someone else’s point of view some time. It’s possible to be wrong without being evil.

      3. What he said was: “Cut the guy some slack.” Slack is the intellectual property of the Church of the SubGenius. Take the money you were going to waste on the Ectoplasm Locator and give it to J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, Supreme High Epopt of the CSG. Don’t throw it away on something stupid.

        1. I don’t see anything stupid about other people’s totem objects. I see a lot of stupidity in wasting your slack judging people beyond your help.

  5. Feeling sad for him. Anyways at least he is a bit innovative in discovering new things unlike all of us who just sit and wait for the opportunity to knock our doors.

    1. The issue with that is he isn’t really discovering anything. See my comment above, and the skeptoid link from Pink With Idignation. He can “detect” anything he wants and claim its emanating from ghosts. I can detect the same things and claim they indicate inter-dimensional sasquaches, lizard men from outer space, leprechauns, or spiritual intelligence of breakfast cereals. At no point is it established that ghosts exist or what their properties are, so we can’t make the jump to detecting/studying them through these or any other means. And you can’t establish that ghosts exist simply by choosing a random variable to check and saying “this means there’s ghosts”.

  6. Mmm, false hope…

    Really though, it must be incredibly difficult to deal with that kind of loss.

  7. if Harry Houdini couldn’t get a message back then all else is false hope against profit.  Calling James Randi!  (oddsfish, the biggest delusion of all was to have expected more from people in the 21st century)

  8. Had an “uncle” (few steps removed in some direction or other) who was an engineer and went pretty batty in the same direction after his wife died.  I have his book, which he co-authored with his past life: definitely in the “facinating, high-functioning schizophrenic” category.

    “I feel compelled to help other bereaved parents … to show these parents that they can live beyond the grief and be comforted knowing their child is in a good place — to show them they can have hope.”

    I’m obviously not an expert on the matter, but I was led to believe that if your soul is stuck wandering around on earth as a ghost then you hadn’t actually made it to a “good place”.

    1. Exactly. As I was assured when I was growing up, the “afterlife” means that people like my sister (who also died in a car accident when she was 19) are supposed to go on to a completely different plane of existence, where they are eternally at peace, or are merged with all of creation, or with their creator, or something like that. Even in classical mythology dead people don’t normally cling to the physical world, manifesting in some capricious or emotionally cued way, unless there is something egregiously twisted about them or the manner of their death. Car accidents? Not so much. So any scientific arguments aside, I am a bit confused by how all this brickabrack is actually related to his daughter or his presumably Catholic-based beliefs.

      I mean, to put it crudely, the Catholic faith is supposed to assure him that his daughter is resurrected in Christ to dwell in light perpetual, not in his hall closet. So in his framework what we need ought to be ministerial counseling rather than E-meters.

  9. I’m sorry for his tragic loss, and he is (I hope) sincere in his delusions rather than engaging in deliberate dishonesty to make a profit and to cynically seek acclaim and a following from other bereaved survivors. This probably means he’s behaving more ethically than the executives of SyFy.

    All that said, he is hurting people. Pitching falsehood to desperate people in need of solace may appear to make them feel better, but that doesn’t make it right. The entire rest of their lives, and of those they meet, can be transformed by their new-found certainties. This is essentially harmless if it’s limited to believing their lost loved ones are at peace somehow, but if it causes them to evangelize a meddling religion or antiscientific claims about physical phenomena, there will eventually be consequences for society, and not good ones.

  10. I’ve watched Zak on Ghost Adventurers use some of these gadgets, I believe. My family doesn’t like the snide comments I make during the show and have banished me from the room while they watch. Interesting to know the background story now for the voice box.

    BTW, I’ read a great deal at one time about Houdini debunking the ghost whisperers of his era. Much of what has been said in this thread was said back then too. You’ll never dissuade those in pain not to go searching for answers, even if you don’t agree with the methods they take.

  11. How does he discern between the ghosts of people and those of the near infinite number of dead insects, dinosaurs and rodents roaming his home?

    Or do only self-aware living creatures manifest as electric energy, haunting those that miss them the most?  And if so, what relevance does self-awareness, personality and memory have when those traits are bound and defined by an organic structure that is at best non-functional, and at worst non-existent?

    Mans ego never ceases to amaze me.

  12. I tend to agree with the skeptical arguments made above regarding the actual existence of ghosts, the plausibility of reliably testing for their presence, and so on.  But the guy is bereaved, he’s doing this because he’s bereaved, he personally seems like a sincere believer in it, and he’s donating to bereavement charities.  I can support people being sincerely and selflessly wrong in small ways that aren’t terribly harmful.

    And I’m usually sympathetic to the “spreading ignorance” argument, but in this case his market is already ignorant. 

    1. Maybe we shound be upset with him for “supporting ignorance” then?

      If he’s bereaved then his time and money and that of his customers would be better spent in counseling so they could maybe eventually get to a point where they enjoy life outside of a belief in the non-existent.

  13. This is the opposite of coping. And even if the man is devastated by the loss of a child, he’s still an asshole for profiting off the sorrow of others.

  14. What makes you think all the buyers even believe in ghosts? If I had the extra cash, I’d buy one simply for the geeky maker coolness value of owning a device that was honestly purpose-built for detecting ghosts.

    Hell, half of these things are probably bought by people who are just fans of Supernatural.

  15. I believe that Toyota make the best cars on the planet.  If that turns out not to be the case, then that still does not mean, when Toyota sell me a car, that they are charlatans.  Even if they tell me that they make the best cars on the planet.

    I have no idea how this guy sells his kit, but logically, it’s not ‘detecting’ ghosts, but measuring phenomena which he claims is caused by them*.  So the ‘detector’ is not a scam, regardless of whether ghosts exist or not.

    ( * Assuming that it measures anything at all, of course.  If it doesn’t, then it *would* be a scam.  And it still wouldn’t have any bearing on the matter whether ghosts existed or not.)

    EDIT: That wasn’t terribly clear, was it? I mean that whether ghosts exist — whether what you are measuring is *caused* by ghosts — is a philosophical problem. What you are measuring, and how accurately, is a science problem. Cops do not have a “doing more than the speed limit detector”. They have an instrument to measure your speed.

    1. Whether what you are measuring is caused by ghosts only starts to be relevant once anyone, anywhere repeatedly and reliably proves the existence of them. A number on an electronic device is not proof of anything and in any case none of this is a philosophical problem. Philosophical problems are problems with no absolutely determinable right or wrong answer because the solution is built on the moral framework of the person being asked the question.

      “Does heaven exist?” is an example of a philosophical question because there is and can be no proof of its existence or non-existence. “Is this number on this machine caused by a ghost?” – for that question the overwhelming weight of evidence is that it is not.

      Furthermore your last analogy isn’t very good because the device the cops use is actually BOTH a “doing more than the speed limit detector” and “an instrument to measure your speed”. They set the speed limit of the road they’re monitoring and an alarm goes off when a car exceeds that speed.

      1. “”Does heaven exist?” is an example of a philosophical question because
        there is and can be no proof of its existence or non-existence.”

        Not quite. If someone says that “heaven” is a literal place that conforms to the same laws of physics with which we’re familiar, and it exists as a tetrahedron 100 miles on each face, floating 100 feet over the intersection of latitude 38 and longitude 122, we CAN indeed find proof of its existence or nonexistence.

        By the same measure, we can determine that the “heavens” claimed by many religions are simply impossible to exist unless one wants to engage in special pleading. But more to the point: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, which “believers” can and will never provide.

      2. “‘Does heaven exist?’ is an example of a philosophical question because there is and can be no proof of its existence or non-existence.”

        Not quite. If someone says that “heaven” is a literal place that conforms to the same laws of physics with which we’re familiar, and it exists as a tetrahedron 100 miles on each face, floating 100 feet over the intersection of latitude 38 and longitude 122, we CAN indeed find proof of its existence or nonexistence.

        By the same measure, we can determine that the “heavens” claimed by many religions are simply impossible to exist unless one wants to engage in special pleading. But more to the point: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, which “believers” can and will never provide.

      3. How on earth do you think anyone is going to “repeatedly prove” the existence of anything without a device to measure it?

        And, no, the device that is determining whether you are doing more than the speed limit is called a “cop”.  A machine can’t do that; it can’t measure intangibles like the law, only physical properties like velocity.

        They laughed at Marie Curie for saying her photographic plates could detect “radiation”. Women, huh? Of course, they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. I’m not saying that this guy is closer to the Curie end of the Curie/Bozo spectrum. I’m just arguing a general principal.

  16. A closely related circuit which often gives spooky readings is the electrometer. Any static electricity or separation of charges due to contact and separation of dissimilar insulating materials nearby will show strong readings (rises with the square of the separation of the charges). Using a very high impedance op-amp one can make an electrometer which can detect the movement of a cat at over 20 feet away.

    The circuit described below was the basis of a fun science fair project (albeit with some added LEGO/aluminum foil/analog storage oscilloscope to make a triboelectric curve tracer).

     An electric field detector can be made for under $25, (or even less if one gets samples from TI):
     *use an op-amp such as the  LMC6001 (25fA leakage current, DIP), or even better the LMP7721  (3 fA leakage current, but unfortunately surface mount),
    *wired as an impedance converter (output connected to inverting input, non-inverting input pin bent away from the chip as an antenna, [optionally with a spherical electrode on an insulating handle as with lab electrometers])
    *with a split-power supply (even number of batteries with the ground at the mid-point between + and -) and
    *filter the output with a 50 Hz twin-T filter (60 Hz in the US) – see “The Art of Electronics” by Horowitz and Hill p.279-80 for the filter design… 
    *Never touch the op-amp chip with your bare hands. Any surface contamination will conduct, degrading the input impedance.

    This is quite a fun toy, too.

  17. I always though some ferrofluid between two glass plates would work better for detecting ghost.  “if there is anyone in here, please put your hand on the plate”  I saw Ghosthunters have a supposed conversation based on their spirit friend waving a hand in front of an EMF detector to answer ‘yes’ to a question.  This way would be lots harder to fake by pressing the send button on your phone.

  18. If you detect a ghost haunting your house it’s not exactly “in a good place”. Unless you’re going to make the argument that if ghosts exist at all then Heaven must too. Which at this level of crazy is, I guess, not the worst leap.

  19. His continued association with the “Ghost Adventures” crew does not help his credibility in the least.  For the spectators, 99% of the entertainment value of that show is in openly mocking the douchey personalities and gee-whiz gullibility of the hosts.  I have watched the show for years just for the consistent laughs.

    I personally find the idea of life after death to be a great disapointment:  I was promised eternal rest.

  20. “Galka’s most recent invention is a device that he says can detect shadows in the dark.”

    Perhaps someone ought to explain to this “engineer” what a shadow is (hint: they can’t exist in the dark). 

    The notion of a shadow existing in the dark is as absurd as an echo existing in silence and a reflection in the absence of an object to be reflected.

  21. I don’t think that will work.  Unicorns are attracted to virgins–not magnets.  But perhaps you are going on the theory that the magnets will attract virgins which will attract unicorns?

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