Paranormal investigation has gone hi-tech in the 21st century. Ghost hunters are equipped with machinery that can register and record vibrations, electromagnetic disturbances, and sounds below the threshold of human perception. But they aren't the first generation to use machinery to detect or communicate with the dead. The rise in communications breakthroughs came about the same time as the rise in spiritualism, and it's no wonder that people thought new technologies like photography, electricity, and recorded sound could open a door between the visible world and the afterlife.
"All this new technology seemed very mysterious and magical to the general public," said Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquiry. "To many people it was plausible that someone could invent a telephone to the dead."
According to Radford, all these gadgets and all this talk about energy got mixed together and altered people's perception of ghosts. The SPR started using tools to try to quantify phenomena. Before the advent of psychical research, ghosts were Dickensian specters, shackled and moaning. By the 20th century, ghosts became energy, a blip on a machine.