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SYFY WIRE Interviews

So helpful it’s scary: This ghost-hunting gear manufacturer is making PPE for frontliners

By Julie Tremaine

Even before the coronavirus pandemic shut down life as we know it, Shawn Porter’s “normal” life wasn’t all that normal. By day, he runs GhostStop, a company in Saint Cloud, Florida, that manufactures ghost-hunting gear. By night, he leads a team of paranormal investigators who go into rumored haunted places looking for evidence of supernatural activity.

GhostStop is a supplier and manufacturer of paranormal investigative equipment, building devices that aid in searching for supernatural phenomena, like K2 EMF meters that measure electromagnetic fields, 360-degree Ghost Cams to capture everything happening in a room at once, and laser grids to detect anomalies in a space. When the stay-at-home order came through for central Florida, though, Porter tells SYFY WIRE that “I thought it best to close down our shop to keep my crew safe and be part of the solution.”

But soon, he started hearing stories about equipment shortages from family and friends who work in health care. “It really nagged at me,” he says. “What can we be doing with our resources to help?”

Being an investigator by nature, Porter started looking into ways he could use GhostStop’s 3D printing equipment to make a difference. It turned out that the most help would come from providing personal protective equipment (PPE), which were in shortage, to local first responders. “I researched what could be made, and found some much-needed products that could be printed, and are approved for medical use by the National Institutes of Health,” he says. So he worked up some prototypes from publicly available specs and called in his crew.

GhostStop is now manufacturing PPE seven days a week, and to date has donated over 500 face shields and mask straps to central Florida hospitals, testing facilities, and first responders.

GhostStop PPE gear

“While we’re still working more limited hours than normal, we’ve got a schedule worked up so that at least one person is running 3D printers and manufacturing PPE every day,” Porter says. He’s making sure there are only one or two crew members in the factory per day, and they’re working in separate workspaces to stay safe and help flatten the curve while keeping them employed.

Porter also recently sent a box of PPE to a fellow ghost hunter who works as a first responder in King William, Virginia, who distributed the gear throughout his department and to first responders across the county. “It’s not just me,” he says, pointing out that his crew of nine other paranormal investigators "are not obligated to do this. They are impassioned to be a part of this goal and I truly appreciate them for it.”

Since the pandemic hit, 3D maker groups around the world have been pitching in to create the equipment front line workers are lacking, including a cosplay donation group started by a Disney seamstress and an event planner. Everything GhostStop has made so far has come from its own supply of printing materials and through donations. Filament to create the gear is in highest demand, as well as buttonhole elastic — which the crew is having a hard time finding — that holds the face shield in place. You can donate directly to the store, or shop its Amazon wish list. Porter recently added another 3D printer that will increase the group's PPE production by about 20 percent.  

“I just want to be part of the solution,” he says. “Sitting at home is great advice to flatten the curve. I did that for a few days. But if there's something I can be doing to aid even further, I feel obligated to do it. A quiet room of 3D printers creates nothing. When this room is humming with all printers going, it means we're creating solutions.”

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