Ovilus I: 21st Century Snake Oil

The original Paranormal State Crew

The original Paranormal State Crew

With intrepid conviction, the host of the show sternly asked his question of the air between them, in this dark and cramped loft bedroom.

“What are you?” we heard him ask, as though his questions bore more authority than the next man.

But in a surprisingly clear robotic voice, the handheld machine stated it’s response with chilling candour.

“Demon.”

The desired response was achieved, audiences around the world sat in stunned silence at this mystical…nay, supernatural exposition of demonic interaction, but was there any truth to this technological séance?

The device in question is the aptly named Ovilus (also known as the Puck); I say aptly only because I can’t think of a more ambiguous and clichéd name to give it.  The Ovilus is one of many devices designed and constructed over the last five decades or so, in a long line of technology offered to provide some contextual evidence of ghosts and hauntings.

A product of Digital Dousing LLC, the Puck surely is a technological wonder.  In short, it’s a machine to replace all other ghost hunting machines.   Many believe the Ovilus to be the evolution of paranormal investigation, a tool to take the place of EMF readers, digital recording devices, dowsing rods and thermometers all at once.  It provides all-in-one convenience with a user friendly interface that can’t be beaten.

The Ovilus (First Generation) in all is glorious splendor

The Ovilus (First Generation) in all is glorious splendor

Ok, enough of that.  The Ovilus is a fraud.

It is nothing more than a collection of simple environmental detectors wired to a processer that mathematically produces preset responses.  In fact, it works very much like a handheld slot machine; if you pull the proverbial handle enough times, eventually you’ll hit the jackpot.

Now I  realise that I’m going to suffer the scorn of a great many people for having said that, but in this field of academically ridiculed research and investigation, we as a community cannot afford to bring further incredibility to our pursuit by trusting the comical voices of a magic box.

It seems though, in spite of my warning, and others like it, many would-be ghost hunters are ignoring the facts in favour of fantastic and completely unproven results.  In the above recount of the pinnacle scene in Paranormal State’s Episode “Hells Gate”, Ryan Buell used the Ovilus to generate a fantastic result, supposedly identifying the entity in question as a demon.  They went even further in their “investigation” (placed in quotes because I’m not entirely certain what they do can be called investigating), and came up with a name for this “demon”, supposedly solidifying their evidence as a positive finding.

All this is intended to lead us down a very particular garden path I’m afraid.  Even without a degree in electronic engineering, one can see how ridiculous this is.

Here’s the problem in the simplest terms I can lay out.  In order to design a working electronic measuring device, we must first know what it is we’re measuring.  In the case of EMF meters and thermometers, we know, based on many years of advanced science that these environmental elements exist and are measurable.  When an EMF meter is engaged it is seeking and measuring the magnetic fields that are generated by various items in our environment.  The fields are detected at various strengths according to their proximity to the device and a corresponding level indicator shows the user a reading.

Seems simple enough right?  The same is true for thermometers and even for dowsing rods, wherein the “signal”, a form of magnetic field caused by the interaction between water and the rock it flows over/within, causes the rods to be pulled in the direction of the flow.  This is easily translated into an electronic device.

However…as easily as the above instruments are explained, the Ovilus, which combines the operation of all the above devices, is not greater than the sum of its parts, and I’ll gladly tell you why.

Ryan Buell

Ryan Buell

In order for the Ovilus to provide a plausible result, in the form of a metered number or a phonetic word, the maker of the device would have to posses an advanced understanding of the meaning behind the interactions of the various environmental inputs (i.e. EMF signals), as those meanings relate to ghosts or spirits (or demons as the case is above).

The problem is…no one on earth has such an understanding.  The individual measurement devices contained in the Ovilus are based on real science, their principals are understood, but the same is not true for this frankenstien-esque incarnation of their science.

This is a clear example of circular logic getting the better of an entire community of learned people.  We cannot have a machine that defines an unknown phenomenon, when a definition of the phenomenon is required to build the machine in the first place.

I am saddened to see and hear that many reputable researchers have fallen for this trick of marketing, the Ovilus is intended to be nothing more than a toy, and since its adoption by the likes of PRS and Paranormal State, those people who wish to emulate Buell and the like, for whatever reason, will accept the result without critical examination of the principals behind the technology.

For any of those who disagree with my assessment, as I’m sure there will be many, I not only invite you to comment here, but I also invite you to have a look at the Digital Dowsing, Ovilus online user manual located at the link found below, and while reading, take special note of the abundance of indemnity disclaimers posted throughout the document.

If a device such as the Ovilus were a genuine and reliable tool for ghost hunters, would the manufacturer feel compelled to protect themselves from lawsuit to such a degree?

In closing, I will point out that Bill Chappel of Digital Dowsing has flatly denied that the Ovilus is capable of speaking for the dead in any way whatsoever.  If the designer of the device is reluctant to go on record as endorsing its capabilities, what confidence should we have in any results we get from the device?

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Martin J. Clemens

Author, Editor, Tweetaholic at Martin J. Clemens
Writer, Canadian, Fortean Addict...and lover of science and history. "As for me...I know only, that I know nothing..." I also blog at www.dailygrail.com and mysteriousuniverse.org
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