Alison Smith is a cool skepchick over at skepticalanalysis.com. She has it out for TAPS, The Atlantic Paranormal Society, the club behind the show “Ghost Hunters.” Alison noticed that TAPS constantly referred to themselves as a non-profit organization, so she did a little research to figure out if that was true.
She began by checking the WHOIS info on the group. This is public information you can find by visiting Whois.net. I just went to register.com and looked up the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com, which told me (in part):
The Atlantic Paranormal Society
88 Brayton Ave.
Warwick, RI 02886
Email: [email protected]
Created on…………..: Wed, Sep 20, 2000
Expires on…………..: Sun, Sep 20, 2015
Record last updated on..: Thu, Mar 30, 2006
So, since they’re in Rhode Island, Alison checked with the RI Secretary of State, who had no record of TAPS as a non-profit organization. TAPS has been around for quite a while — the web site has been there for at least six years — so there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t be registered by now as a non-profit. Alison noted that they’ve been accepting donations and holding fundraising raffles on their web site under the guise of being a non-profit.
Non-profit issues are tricky if you don’t have a lawyer around to help you out — I was pretty unclear on all the issues myself when I started skepchick.org, as I got a lot of contradictory advice, even from professionals. Knowing that, normally I’d be willing to give an organization a pass for getting a bit mixed up. Plus, it doesn’t appear as though TAPS collects a large amount of money through donations (though of course they’ve refused to reveal their financial information so there’s really no way to tell). However, when Alison contacted them to inform them of their misleading use of the term “non-profit,” they gave her quite the blow-off. She has also mentioned that their e-mail messages and voicemail messages have been rather aggressive and intimidating, which annoys me to no end. So, go read Alison’s article here and see if you agree that TAPS is purposely misleading the public on the group’s non-profit status.