Michaeleen Constance Maher

Constance Maher Michaeleen was an American parapsychologist who used quantitative rather than traditional qualitative methods to investigate haunted places.

Maher attended City College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where she took a course in parapsychology with Gertrude Schmeidler, who introduced her to experimental parapsychology. Maher received her B.A. degree in psychology from City College in 1974 and, encouraged by Schmeidler, went on to earn her Ph.D. degree in basic and applied neurocognition from the CUNY system in 1983.

Maher heard about her first haunting case from a family friend, a woman whom she knew to have a history of psychical experiences. This woman, her sister and their mother, on different occasions, had each seen a dark figure retreating from them in the hallway of their apartment near Washington Square Park, in New York’s Greenwich Village. The figure always turned into the master bedroom or into a hallway leading to the bathroom, before it disappeared.

Maher modeled her investigation of this case on a pioneering study by Schmeidler, published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR)in 1966. Making a floor plan of the apartment, she designated the areas where the family saw the ghostly figures moving and heading toward “target areas,” and all other areas of the apartment as “control areas.” She then asked psychics who knew nothing about the family’s reports to go through the apartment and mark on the floor plans every place they sensed a ghost to be present. She also asked skeptical individuals to tour the apartment and mark floor plans according to where they thought the people who lived there might imagine they saw a ghost.

The psychics also circled descriptions on a checklist that were consistent with the ghost they had sensed and crossed out descriptions that were not consistent. Skeptics circled and crossed out items according to what they thought a credulous person might describe. When Maher evaluated the results of her tests statistically, she found that two of the four psychics had given a pattern of responses that resembled the family’s reports, whereas none of the eight skeptics had done so. These results permitted her to conclude that cultural stereotypes of ghosts were not responsible either for the psychics’ success or for the family’s original descriptions. The test results implied that something genuinely odd had taken place in the apartment.

Maher also used infrared photography and a Geiger counter in order to determine if physical signs of something paranormal could be detected. One infrared photograph showed an unusual streak of light in the hallway, but in her 1975 report (written with Schmeidler) Maher downplayed the photographic anomaly, saying she could not rule out imperfections in the manufacturing or handling of the film. Although the Geiger counter went haywire in a room where one of the psychics had reported something peculiar, when radiation levels were averaged for the whole apartment, they fell within chance limits.

Maher used Polaroid and infrared photography, videotape, and a magnetometer. In several investigations, she used a device she and its designer, colleague George P. Hansen, humorously called the “Demon Detector.” The Demon Detector is an ordinary computer attached to a random-number generator (RNG). An RNG works by employing a random source such as white noise or atomic decay to produce a string of oscillating outcomes, often likened to a series of very rapid coin tosses. Using this analogy, if more heads than tails are produced in a series, the Demon Detector is programmed to flood its surroundings with red light. Hansen rationalized that since metaphysical lore suggests that Demons enjoy basking in red light, then a Demon, if present, would be motivated to keep the red light on by influencing the random noise source to produce an excess of heads over tails. But when Maher and Hansen have used the Demon Detector, the red light has tended to remain off rather than on. In explaining this unexpected finding, Maher said that ghosts are not the same as Demons and traditionally thought to prefer darkness.

In 1999, Maher conducted a meta-analysis (a statistical comparison of data from a series of experiments) of the results of all of her quantitative investigations of hauntings. Its outcome strengthened the Scientific evidence for ghosts. Maher advanced a quantum wave/particle theory of ghosts.


  • Maher, Michaeleen C. “Riding the Waves in Search of the Particles: A Modern Study of Ghosts and Apparitions.” Journal of Parapsychology 63 (1999): 47–80.
  • Maher, Michaeleen C., and George P. Hansen. “Quantitative Investigation of a Reported Haunting Using Several Detection Techniques.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (SPR)86 (1992): 347–74.———.“Quantitative Investigation of a ‘Haunted Castle’ in New Jersey.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (SPR)89 (1995): 19–50.
  • Maher, Michaeleen, and Gertrude Schmeidler. “Quantitative Investigation of a Recurrent Apparition.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (SPR)69 (1975): 341–52.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007