Electronic Voice Phenomena

Fear and Soldering, an excerpt from Peter Bebergal's Strange Frequencies

I posted some pre-release interviews with Peter Bebergal about his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. The book examines the frequent use of science and technology in pursuit of the otherworldly.

In Strange Frequencies, Peter gets up close and hands on with such tinfoil fun stuff as ghost boxes, spirit radios, EVP recordings, spirit photography, brain toys, and more. In the following excerpt, reprinted from Strange Frequencies and used with permission from TarcherPerigree/Penguin, Random House, Peter delves into the history of the "ghost box" and sets out to try and build one of his own.

Fear and Soldering

In 1995, the October issue of Popular Electronics offered the article “Ghost Voices: Exploring the Mysteries of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP),” and laid out a few methods for modifying radios to be able to answer whether “the dead are trying to break through the veil between the worlds.” Various techniques are presented: a simple tape recorder with a microphone in a quiet room might record answers to questions that can be heard on playback (tried it, no luck); a circuit to build a small radio much like the Tesla radio I built; tuning a radio between stations and recording the static; and a white noise generator schematic to use instead of a radio to be sure stray transmissions are not being picked up. The tone of the piece is playful but not skeptical. The author takes no position, but Popular Electronics was written for the amateur hobbyist, and if any audience would be interested in such an article, it would certainly be this magazine’s readers.

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Author Peter Bebergal discusses his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

Boing Boing pal, Peter Bebergal, has a new book coming out later this month called Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. In 2015's Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock n' Roll, Peter explored what he identified as the "occult imagination" and how it had provided critical inspiration to many ground-breaking rock artists of the 60s and 70s (and beyond). In Strange Frequencies, Peter takes a hands-on look at how technology has always gone hand-in-hand with explorations of the otherworldy. He experiments with building a spirit radio, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings, a brain machine, and an automaton, and examines the legend of the Golem (arguably the "programmable robot" of Jewish mysticism), spirit photography, and the relationship between stage magic and magic of the supernatural.

To give you a taste of some of what's in Strange Frequencies, Peter recently appeared on Ryan Peverly's Occulture podcast. Peverly says that Strange Frequencies is the coolest book you will read all year.

And Haute Macabre has just published an interview with Peter conducted by the poet, Janaka Stucky.

JS: I’m glad you brought up divination because that relates to something else that was revelatory to me throughout the book, namely: that the ‘technology’ in the “technological quest for the supernatural” of the title isn’t just cameras, or televisions, or other mechanical devices, but also that crystals or sigils and other more fundamental tools external to our bodies are a kind of technology we use.

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The lore of haunted television sets

We've posted previously about Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), the weird sounds in electronic recordings that some paranormal researchers insist are actually voices of spirits. But I didn't realize that EVP is part of a larger genre of ghostly phenomena called Instrumental Transcommunication "said to occur on devices as varied as television sets, radios, computers, handheld devices such as ipods or iphones, and even fax machines," according to Mysterious Universe. In the 1970s and 1980s, one popular medium for these ghosts in the machine were television sets. (Remember Tobe Hooper's excellent 1982 film Poltergeist?) From Mysterious Universe:

Throughout the 1970s and 80s the ITC phenomenon as it relates to TV really got its roots, becoming quite popular with researchers of the weird, and there were numerous supposed video and audio recordings of these TV bound ghosts at the time. The investigators in these cases claimed that this phenomenon had even been documented with TVs that were turned off or completely unplugged.

One of the pioneers of using televisions to try and pick up signals from the dead was a German ITC researcher named Klaus Schreiber, who used an apparatus that he called the “Vidicomin,” which used a video camera aimed at a TV set that was switched on but not attached to an aerial, and the signal looped the output from the camera back into the TV. This loop was said to produce dramatic results, with various faces apparently blooming out from the white noise on sets, and on one occasion an actress from Austria named Romy Schneider supposedly clearly appeared on a TV in one such session years after her death.

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Boing Boing Gift Guide 2016

Here's this year's complete Boing Boing Gift Guide: more than a hundred great ideas for prezzies: technology, toys, books and more. Scroll down and buy things, mutants! Many of the items use Amazon Affiliate links that help us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine.

Gadgets / Books / Toys and Trivia

Illuminated magnifierI bought this illuminated handheld magnifier on Amazon for $3 (free shipping) last year and I use it a lot. It's a great splinter and lice checker. I've gotten my $3 of value from it just looking at tiny bugs and skin abnormalities. It has two built in LEDs and uses two AA batteries.

BUY

Squatty PottySquatty Potty is a $28 footstool that slides away under your toilet; you use it to bring your knees up to a squatting position while you poop, which makes pooping much, much easier. The product was launched with the best viral ad campaign of all time, which threaded the seemingly impossible needle of making an ad about a poop-assistance product; I bought one and (without getting into detail) I can personally testify to its efficacy.

BUY

Nintendo NES Classic EditionWhat’s Christmas without price gouging on the hottest geek gift of the year! Don’t fret. Soon, the rationing will cease and a $60 NES Classic Edition will be just a click away. And then, Mario my old friend, we will ALL be playing with power.

BUY

Cuisinart 14-Cup Food ProcessorThe latest model of the best food processor for people who are serious about broadening their happy foodie horizons. Read the rest

Manyland, a universe we draw together

We're making an infinite, shared universe where what you draw becomes real.

Limited edition vinyl: John Perry Barlow reads "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace"

EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow's visionary 1996 text A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace has stirred hearts since he penned it in 1996 -- and now you can own a beautiful recording Barlow reading it in his wonderful, gravelly voice. Read the rest

The blog of Philip Garrido, serial rapist and kidnapper: "sound control" gadget hallucinations.

In 1991, after having been paroled, convicted kidnapper and rapist Phillip Garrido snatched an 11 year old girl named Jaycee Dugard off the street. He kept her captive for 18 years, repeatedly raped her, and fathered two children from those rapes. Jaycee gave birth to the first child when she was 14. There may be additional child victims. And investigators are now also looking for clues that could link Garrido with a series of 10 unsolved murders nearby, in which prostitutes were sexually violated before they were killed.

Garrido maintained a blogspot blog which amounts to a disturbing look inside the internal thought process of a monster. That blog includes numerous postings about an electronic invention he wished to patent, that allowed him to "control sound" using his "mental powers." Snip:

This document is to affirm that I Phillip Garrido have clearly demonstrated the ability to control sound with my mind and have developed a device for others to witness this phenomena. by using a sound generator to provide the sound, and a headphone amplification system, ( a device to focuc your hearing so as to increase the sensitivity of what one is listening to) I have produced a set of voices by effectively controlling the sound to pronounce words through my own mental powers.

His brother told the press today that Garrido did a lot of LSD when younger. Phillip Garrido believes that having children with the child he abducted and raped cured him of pedophilia. Read the rest

Far Out: 101 Strange Tales From Science's Outer Edge

Were our ancestors water apes, hairless bipeds that lived an aquatic existence? Did Canadian inventor Troy Hurtubise really build an "Angel Light" that makes any object transparent when bathed in its glow? How come fish sometimes fall from the sky? Can pets actually predict earthquakes? These are some of the questions that scientists throughout history have seriously examined. For two years, Mark Pilkington, the fantastic Fortean behind Strange Attractor Journal, explored these weird experiments, scientific failures, and downright kookiness in his column Far Out that appeared in The Guardian's science supplement. Now, he's compiled those columns into a fantastic small book, Far Out: 101 Strange Tales from Science's Outer Edge. Each short entry tackles a single anomalous report or invention from science's cabinet of curiosity: electronic voice phenomena, The Cerebrophone, the memory of water, Skinner's Box, plant sentience, just to name a few. My only complaint about this terrific text is that it's not much, much longer.

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