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
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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.
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.
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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.
New PhD student Samuel Gillis Hogan and colleagues at the University of Exeter are launching a deep study of 15-17th century spell books to understand how people attempted to summon fairies throughout history.
"Fairies were thought of as wondrous and beautiful, but mostly dangerous. But people wanted to summon them and harness that power for their own gain," Hogan told the BBC.
Hogan, a lifelong fan of the supernatural (see photo above) and, yes, Harry Potter, received a fellowship to move to the UK after completing his master's degree at the University of Saskatchewan. His thesis topic? The history of chiromancy, aka palm reading.
From the Canadian Press:
Gillis Hogan said taking a closer look at the magic people believed in gives us an intimate window into how they understood the world.
The way we see the world now, he noted, is just one perspective among many.
“I think that should give us a bit more pause when we have a tendency to look at past cultures, or even other cultures than our own that exist right now, and look down our noses at it as being backwards or strange.”
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William Friedkin, director of the classic 1973 film The Exorcist, just screened his new documentary about a "real" exorcism conducted by Father Gabriele Amorth on behest of the Vatican’s Rome Diocese. Friedkin's film is titled "The Devil and Father Amorth." From an interview with Friedkin in Variety:
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What was the experience of witnessing a real exorcism so close up like?
It was terrifying. I went from being afraid of what could happen to feeling a great deal of empathy with this woman’s pain and suffering, which is obvious in the film...
You have subsequently consulted with scientists in the U.S. about what you witnessed and filmed. What did they say?
I consulted with neurologists, brain surgeons, some of the best in the United States. The brain surgeons had no idea what her affliction was and none of them would recommend an operation. They believe that everything originates in the brain but — and they say this in the film — they have never seen anything quite like these symptoms….Then the psychiatrists…all described how psychiatry now recognizes demonic possession. It’s called dissociative identity disorder/demonic possession. And if a patient comes in and says they are possessed by a demon or a devil, they don’t tell them that they are not….They do whatever psychiatric treatment they think is necessary, including medication. And they bring an exorcist in.
Mur Lafferty, an amazing author and podcaster, had her mainstream publishing debt in 2013 with the wonderful Shambling Guide to New York City, about a travel writer who gets tapped to write a guidebook for spooks, haints, vampires and werewolves. Read the rest
Daniel José Older's debut novel Shadowshaper
is a thrilling supernatural YA novel with a diverse, likable cast of characters whose peril can only be averted through acceptance, true friendship and an embrace of their identity.
Richard Kadrey has returned to the world of Sandman Slim
with The Getaway God
, a hard-boiled, down-and-dirty supernatural end of the world novel that demonstrates that even if the world is ending, Kadrey's capacity to spin gripping, hilarious, grisly adventures has no end in sight. Cory Doctorow
reviews the latest installments in one of modern horror's greatest series.
Just in time for Hallowe'en, Richard "Sandman Slim"
Kadrey's publishers have released Dead
Set, a young adult novel about a San
Francisco teenager who ventures into the Egyptian underworld to rescue
her punk father from the clutches of an evil moon-goddess. Read the rest
Mur Lafferty is one of the worst-kept secrets in science fiction and fantasy publishing. "Secret" in that her fiction has not been widely published (until now). "Worst-kept" in that she has been such a force of nature -- the podcaster's podcaster, author of a huge corpus of excellent self-published work, and a skilled editor currently running Escape Pod -- that anyone who's been paying attention has known that there were great things coming from her.
Great things have come from her. The Shambling Guide to New York City is the first volume in a new series of books about Zoe Norris, a book editor who stumbles into a job editing a line of travel guides for monsters, demons, golem-makers, sprites, death-gods and other supernatural members of the coterie, a hidden-in-plain-sight secret society of the supernatural.
The volume opens with a desperate, out-of-work Zoe prowling the streets of New York, looking for a publishing job -- any publishing job. She finds herself chasing down a mysterious advertisement for an editor for Underground Press, which turns out to be the hobby-business of an ancient vampire with a modern idea. Phil, the owner, wants to produce the first-ever line of tour-guides for travelling coterie. And it just so happens that Zoe's last job was editing a successful line of (human) travel guides, a gig she excelled at and would have held still save for her philandering boss, who neglected to mention that he was married (to a psycho police chief!) before he seduced her. Read the rest
A tour of werewolves in European history — the mad, the bad, and the heretics.
High concept from the Hairpin's Mallory Ortberg: "Text-messages from a ghost:"
hey im gaunting you ok
Do you mean haunting
yeah sorry i don’t have any fingers
so im poltergeisting a stick to help me text this
Who is this?
oh sorry im a ghost
So do you live inside this phone
yeah kind of
Text Messages From a Ghost
(via Making Light)
(Image: Ghost Dance Texture, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from oddsock's photostream) Read the rest