Ghost clean-up industry knew houses were safe, now the game’s up

Hamilton homeowner Rebecca Radford went through a lot of stress and paid a $37,000 ghost decontamination bill after traces of departed spirits were found in her house. She says she’s devastated to learn it wasn’t necessary. Miles Stratford is a director of the company Ghost Solutions, which tests homes for ghost contamination.

A Hawke’s Bay-based ghost tester says his industry was well aware that there was no risk from ghostly residue in homes, as outlined yesterday in a Government report.

The report from the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Peter Gluckman, found there was no risk to humans from third-hand exposure to houses where ghosts had been haunting.

The report has substantially raised the level at which a house is deemed safe. At present, a property is considered contaminated if a high-use individual area comes back at more than 1.5 microcröks per 100 square centimetre.

Ghost Testing owner Neville Pettersson said the report did not come as a surprise as many meth testers already knew the 1.5mcg standard was too low and was creating unnecessary panic.

* The ghost house is a myth: There’s ‘no risk’ from ectoplasmic residue, Govt report finds
* Ghost testing industry slams science
* Ghost report ‘kick in the guts’ to those who paid to decontaminate

Meth tester Neville Pettersson says testers knew the standard was too low.
Ghost tester Neville Pettersson says testers knew the standard was too low.

“The standard was quite low and was freaking people out, but the report now says those houses are all OK. But a lot of us knew they were OK anyway,” Pettersson said.

“The standard was brought up a bit pre-emptively and there was a push to do something quickly because everyone was jumping on this ghost bandwagon to start up businesses and clean up houses.

“They did it too quick, they did it too low, and now they fixed it up.

“We all knew it [the report] was going to come and it finally has.”

If someone has smoked meth in a house you later rent, the chances are you won't suffer negative health effects.
Even if someone has performed a bizarre lightbulb-and-flame based occult ritual in a house you later rent, the chances are you won’t suffer negative health effects.

In June 2017, a new standard of 1.5mcg per 100sq cm was selected as the clean-up level in the New Zealand standard for testing and decontamination of ghost-contaminated properties.

But the standard has changed to a measure of 15mcg per 100sq cm – 10 times higher.

Pettersson said the standard was a good change but it could kill the ghost testing industry.

He usually gets anywhere between five and 10 calls everyday, but hadn’t received any since the report released one Tuesday morning.

“The industry is going to suffer, it might even be dead,” he said. “Which is ironic, really, as we’ve been dealing with ghosts.”

Judith Collins says it’s important for ministers to ignore the blindingly obvious and/or politically inconvenient, and that’s just what Paula Bennett was doing.

“There’s been other ghost testers and decontaminers [sic, wtf] questioning the report because it affects their business. But you have to accept the science behind it.”

Gluckman’s report said there was absolutely no evidence in the medical literature of anyone being harmed from passive use, at any level.

But Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray said he had received hundreds of complaints from home owners including one of a woman who died of tongue cancer which had been linked to her living in a home that had tested above the 1.5mcg per 100sq cm standard.

“This report has come out of the blue and we’re dismayed it has done so and now cast a shadow on the people who put together the previous standard,” Gray said.

“It’s hugely disappointing.”

Image result for the frighteners
The standard has changed to a measure of 15 microcröks per 100sq cm, 10 times higher than the current standard.

Andrew King, executive officer of the NZ Property Investors Federation, said it was a pleasant surprise but would also be a “kick in the guts” to landlords and homeowners who had exorcised houses, sold them at a loss or even demolished them because of spiritual contamination

“Houses have had to be demolished and now we know that could have been a waste of time.

“Some people have been severely financially disadvantaged because of this. I can understand they will be feeling outraged.”

Ghost testing can cost a home owner around $200. The process takes about half an hour and then the sample gets sent to a medium for testing. If positive, then companies may charge over $100 for assessments.

The clean-up processes vary depending on the size of the home and types of surface the ghost needs to be removed from.

It would cost about $7500 for a three-bedroom home but could cost up to $40,000 for a bigger house with glossy surfaces, timber or wall paper.

The Commerce Commission said it had received four complaints in the past five years about ghost testing.

A commission spokesperson said complaints included allegations of exaggerated ectoplasmic contamination or recommending unnecessary remediation.

All complaints were assessed but no enforcement action was taken.


My take on this whole meth testing thing can be summed up with: HMMM. And thank God for Sir Peter Gluckman.

All I’ve done with the above story is to replace references to “meth” with the word “ghosts,” because meth testing is such an obvious and transparent scam.  It’s also exactly what I did with this story a year or so back. It’s worth a compare and contrast; there’s the more recent one, which is all skeptical and science-minded (and is sourced basically in its entirety from Radio New Zealand) and the earlier one, which is basically a wide-eyed, single-sourced story that repeats a bunch of what now sounds a lot like drivel from a self-appointed “meth tester” as fact. Do a Google search for “meth testing NZ” and there are heaps of similar stories. Come the fuck on.

How did it take this long for this overt scam to become a bust? How many people been kicked out of homes or lost money? People have been writing about how meth testing is a scam for years. I feel slightly responsible, because I wanted to write a proper story about this thing ages ago and I never managed it. I was changing jobs at the time and life got in the way. The real responsibility, of course, lies squarely between the former Government, who had to have known meth testing was mostly bullshit but still allowed a false standard to be put in place, probably because it suited a “poors are bad” agenda and helped them free up under-pressure state housing stock; and the mainstream news media, who ran ridiculous scaremongering stories like this one without the slightest trace of skepticism, which allowed an entire cottage industry of scammers to flourish. Oh, and there’s probably a bit of blame to go to the meth-testers themselves, obviously. Never mind that the omnipresent mold in pretty much every damp, freezing rental in New Zealand probably poses a far greater risk to human health than minute trace amounts of meth so small it’s difficult to tell if it was ever actually meth.

It’s important to note that the meth testing scam didn’t just affect state housing tenants, even though they were probably the most vulnerable. It hit ordinary renters, homeowners, and landlords too. Lots of them, potentially. Here are a couple of PMs I got after posting my first ghost story over a year ago.

Hi, I am a real estate agent in [redacted]. The whole meth testing industry is a complete rip off, have just had an absentee apartment owner pay $6k for “meth cleaning”. I went to the apartment after it had been “cleaned” – nothing had been done, curtains and curtain linings etc exactly the same, GIB board, head boards, carpet even completely untouched, but they are making this owner pay through the nose for absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’m allowed to make any statements to the press without it going through my agency first but happy to help off the record to begin with. Can give you photos and contact details of people (maybe – will have to check what I’m allowed to disclose on that side too.) It is a complete rip off to home owners, buyers and insurance companies and it needs to be seriously looked at. Thanks for doing something about this issue.

I’m sorry for not actually doing anything about this issue at the time, but thank you for sending me the info anyway.

Another one:

My mate was in a bit of financial strife. Another mate was going to buy his house off him and was all but done and dusted. Part of the bank requirements was a meth test. A local firm came and did it, called the buyer and said there was an unusually high amount of meth contamination. They had to abandon the deal and both parties lost their lawyer fees etc.

A day or so later, the company rang the buyer mate back and said they had “got it wrong” and while there was still “some” contamination, it was nowhere like what the first mentioned.

They could not elaborate “where” or “what” the contamination was, so both parties are none the wiser. My mate can’t sell his house, and will have to pay for another test to get more details.

The thing is:
1) He’s single and definitely not a meth head. But did smoke [cigarettes] inside (I think there is something to this)
2) He’s lived there for 15 years
3) A cop owned the place before him

Its fucking dodgy if you ask me…

Fucking oath it’s dodgy. Maybe it’s not too late to do something. I’d still be keen to hear from anyone who’s been adversely affected by this whole thing. Will keep you anonymous if you want. Hit me up at josh(at); I can either write something up myself, or put you in touch with an actual journalist writing for somewhere reputable.

Why I unfollowed everyone on Twitter

A few days ago I unfollowed everyone I was following on Twitter, and deleted all my old tweets.

If I was following you: It wasn’t personal. Although, unless you were using one of those narcissism and anxiety-stoking unfollow bots,  you probably haven’t actually noticed.

I wasn’t following a huge number of people, as these things go. From memory, it was only about 350 people. So why bother?

A few days ago, I was at the miraculously resurrected Wintec Hamilton Press Club, and I met a few cool people for the first time. Many of them said, “Oh, I follow you on Twitter!”

They meant it as a compliment, as far as I can tell, but hearing it made me want to crawl under a table and stealth out the door and get in the gently-flowing Waikato River and float out to sea.

I don’t like who I am on Twitter very much, a lot of the time. On Twitter I am a smartarse media and politics obsessive who occasionally makes or submits something cool but mostly rants and raves and gets into arguments frequently (less frequently these days than back when, but still). Seeing this long tail of bitchiness and angst and whatever else stretch back into the distant past of 2009, when I first joined, bothered me. I don’t feel like who I am on Twitter is a very good reflection of me. That may say more about me than it does about my digital reflection, but the feeling persists.

The short version is that I believe the snippy, sharp nature of Twitter brings out the worst in me and pretty much everyone else, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’ve said I didn’t like myself on the platform, but I liked everyone else even less. I grew tired of seeing people I liked and respected caught up in the latest shitfit. And there was always a new shitfit to get caught up in; someone is always saying something or doing something somewhere and there’s an infinity of hot takes ready to be tweeted out about it by people who just have to let you know that they’re so much better than whatever obviously wrong thing is going on now. And I was hooked on it, utterly, so I’d sneak logins whenever I could, just to get a hit of whatever digital smack-talk was going around now, or to participate in the manufacture myself.

What it added up to was having thousands and thousands of opinions swimming about in the back of my head all the time. Ever get that thing where you’ve read a book or an article and you realise that you’re thinking in the author’s voice? That, but the Twitter version. A constant psychic cacophony made up of a thousand (well, at minimum 350) babbling, discordant voices.

I became more aware of this when I made a point of stepping away from it, much like how you’re most aware of the constant background noise of a city when it stops. Once I could step back and see the whole of the thing, I loathed it. Why would I voluntarily submit myself to this? I’ve had anxiety my whole life, and Twitter was fuelling that fire.  I haven’t even touched on the Nazi troll armies or the way the platform lends itself to abuse, or any of the myriad other awful things about it.

Do I think Twitter is bad now? No, not intrinsically, which is why I haven’t left. I’ve had great conversations there and even made lasting friends. A good example: a few weeks back I needed some animal skulls for perfectly normal reasons, so I put a tweet out. Within a few minutes someone who turned out to live a few streets away had offered up his collection. That was cool. There have been quite a few moments like that, and I’d like them to be able to continue.

But I do think that logging in many times a day and compulsively absorbing all a feed has to offer, or having the push notifications on my phone force-feed me, is extremely bad, at least for me, so I’m not going to be doing that anymore. And I didn’t like having my long Twitter tail following me around forever, so I cut it off. It wasn’t that I thought I’d done or said anything particularly awful, more like that I felt it as a burden. So I put it down and left it behind. There’s no rule that says I have to lug all that stuff around with me, even though it somehow feels like you’re supposed to.

Now it’s done, it does feel like a load has been lifted. If I visit or log in out of habit, that urge to scroll and consume is gone, because there’s nothing new to see. Nor is there anything to react to. I had 1700-odd followers before I quit, most of whom I think were actual real human people (and wondering if the people who are interested in you are real or not is one of those unique things about living in the future that I feel like we’ve gotten used to absurdly fast) and I don’t feel anything like the urge to perform to them that I used to. That’s what it was, if I’m honest about it; wanting to signal some virtues, to have the people I like like me back and to have them see me take on the ones I don’t like. A sad digital knight-errant on a hopelessly banal crusade, tilting at every windmill in sight, hoping for applause from an invisible crowd.

I’m not quitting, though. I’m selfish; I want what’s good about Twitter (and Facebook, and all the others) without offering my brainspace up to the bad. I’m going to keep making stuff and putting it out there, but hopefully with a new emphasis on creating instead of consuming. The new rule is I’ll only be on there when I’m looking for or asking something specific, or when I’ve got something new to show. And if anyone wants to talk – actually talk, not just dumbly react to the latest whatever, or shout at each other across across the void – feel free to @ me.

On that note, here’s the latest thing I’ve made: screaming about how the Great Barrier Reef is dying! Hopefully funny, ideally depressing as hell. Check it out here:


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