When Italian paranormal investigator Massimo Rossi announced the GhostArk in 2015, he promised the chance to buy the world's first all-in-one piece of ghost hunting kit.
As massive fan and supporter of GhostArk, it pains me to have to write this article but I've already been writing about the device's progress and shipping so it would be wrong of me not to write open, honestly and impartially about the latest developments in the release of probably the most anticipated piece of ghost hunting kit ever.
After months of waiting while the device was being designed, tested and built, last week the ghost detector finally shipped around the world, sent direct to customer who had pre-ordered the device from the Chinese-based manufacturing plant. However, upon opening their packages, customers have been less than pleased with what they've found.
According to customers' post on GhostArk's Facebook page, the device is dogged with technical problems and poor workmanship. Many reporting poor quality screens, buttons that don't work properly and problems inserting memory cards into the device.
It's early days but so far about half of the customer who have received their GhostArk have tested them and those who have seem to have problems. Most of the complaints relate to the device not being able to read the SD card, which is required to be inserted to boot the device up.
One customers said "this unit is total crap! It doesn't work! The SD card constantly fail upon turning on. After three tries you might get a successful card read."
This could be due to the fact that the device was shipped with cheap, Chinese memory cards. Perhaps users might be more lucky with a good, branded SD card like SanDisk or PNY.
The SD card isn't the only problem. Many have criticised the quality of the product. One poster said "the dials are not positioned on the unit properly" suggesting that the device's core navigation dials do not line up with the labels marked around them.
Others have said that the power button is unreliable. One customer had to loosen a screw near the button to get her device to stay powered up, while another has had to resort to wrapping a rubber band around the device to to keep power button pressed down.
From initial feedback the GhostArk appears to be cheaply manufactured. The covers for the knobs comes off easily and some of the buttons are wobbly, loud and rough when pressed.
There maybe some pretty major teething problems but it's not all bad news. An excited customer posted "Just got my GhostArk. Boy, this is great! So excited. It's very overwhelming to see and have it in my hands."
When asked to rate the device out of ten, one early backer said, "being that I haven't used it yet, it's hard to say. If it works and does what it says I'll give it a 10. Seems the right size. Fits in your hand. Looks good."
But while the device might be aesthetically pleasing, no one has yet posted any photos or videos of the GhostArk in action, although one customer had tried out some of its features, "the radio sweep, EMF reader, pressure and temperature sensors all appear to be working fine. The EVP mode is suspect. The recordings sound much different than my digital recorder, as during a playback, I could barely hear the radio in the background."
Worryingly, some unhappy posters on the company's Facebook have made much more damning claims about the quality and safety of the device. One user claiming that his in-ear head phones became warm while using the device and that the device becomes hot while charging. He even went as far to say "DO NOT leave this unit plugged in, it's a potential fire hazard. SUPER DISAPPOINTED!"
One user even posted a video
of the device emitting a worrying, loud, buzzing sound.
It's not just technical problems which have got customers up in arms, it's also the level of service received from the Italian company. Many customers are upset by the lack of directions. GhostArk repeatedly promised the device would be shipped with a printed instruction manual but that never materialised.
All user of the device were also supposed to have access to a web portal which would allow them to upload and analyse data directly from the device, there's currently no sign of this platform.
Over the weekend, GhostArk have responded to customers' concerns on their Facebook page. They posted the following update:
"Some customers have reported problems related to the shielding system and box assembly of the GhostArk. We have immediately informed the people responsible of our manufacturing company Moko Technology so that problems of this kind won't happen anymore, and we can communicate that the second batch of 400 units will be sent before the end of the month and that all devices will be perfectly functioning without any defect."
"All those customers who have received the first batch of GhostArk devices and who have reported problems related to the shielding system or box assembly can kindly send the defective devices back to Moko Technology in the form of registered letter and inform us by writing an email to firstname.lastname@example.org in order to communicate shipping and the problems encountered; we will send you another, perfectly functioning, GhostArk device."
"We are very disappointed for what happened because our prototypes and pre-industrialized versions are perfectly functioning, and we are very sorry for our clients who received defective devices, but we are working hard in order to be sure that it won't happen anymore."
"In the past also Pebble, Volvo and many other big and well-known companies had to fix some problems at the beginning of their history; things like these can happen, but first of all we must solve all the problems related to the GhostArk, and we will do it."
"The main goal of the GhostArk team is having happy and satisfied customers without causing any trouble or concern."
"Given the situation, we kindly ask for your comprehension and to support us, and we apologize for all the problems our customers had with their device."
"The GhostArk project has been developed by four qualified and expert engineers. The GhostArk devices realized both as prototypes and as pre-industrialized devices are all perfectly functioning, and they were tested by the whole GhostArk team."
"The engineers who developed and realized the project are Antonio Converso, Chief Engineer, Antonino Battaglia, Mario Ursino and Stefano Mariani and the product designer Marco De Masi responsible for design and body. "
"Those engineers worked really hard in order to develop: EMF meter and sensors, management of data files, radio and voice recording system, management of audio files, display and its system, shielding, navigation system, system of the GhostBox, mixing audio signals and amplification. Each system was properly tested in the minimum details."
The response seems fair enough, although they could have been a little quicker to respond. However the one thing which is missing from the post is whether the cost of shipping will be covered by the company.
Technical faults do not mean that the whole product is a scam. I still firmly believe GhostArk intended to deliver a quality product but for whatever reason, they have failed with the first few units. So far we're only talking about the small amount of customers who have received their purchases. GhostArk have ensured customers that later shipments will be in working order and if GhostArk deliver on this promise then there's no reason that they can't smooth this over.
At the time of writing this article, only the first 200 GhostArks have been shipped to customers and only a small percentage of those have been delivered. The manufacturing plant in China is currently taking a break from production and shipping due the Chinese spring festival. This will hopefully give GhostArk time to ensure these devices are of a higher standard before the factory's doors reopen and the remaining devices are shipped to those who pre-ordered.
Clearly GhostArk have been under pressure to ship this product out to some very excited early backers, but I feel they've taken it to market about six months too early. They've been under so much pressure to deliver that they've sent out tracking codes weeks before products shipped and now it seems that the units are in the hands of consumers with very little testing.
I'm still very excited about GhostArk and am hopeful that Massimo and the team will resolve these issues, but they really need to open up and start communicating more with their customers and supporters. Perhaps if they'd been more open in the first place about the progress of production, they wouldn't have had to rush the device out. After all, no one wants to receive a brick in the post.