Heaven Can Wait? Downloading Ghosts’ Memories

NeutrinoIn the future, could we download ghosts’ memories?  Maybe.  It might be decades away, but the technology is evolving.  I’m not taking this seriously, but it’s fun to ponder.

In the past, there have been three ways to communicate with ghosts in real time:

  1. Yes/No communications:  Things like “Rap on the table, once for yes and twice for no,” and using loosened flashlight bulbs and K-II light flashes for the same yes/no purposes.  Essentially, this has been a binary response.  It’s probably the most time-honored form of ghost communication, and the most readily repeatable.
  2. Real-time EVP:  I’ve seen the best results in unique experiments by John Sabol, working with Mary Becker.  This is a richer response than yes/no communications.
  3. Psychic/medium interpretations: Generally dismissed by skeptics and difficult (if not impossible) to prove to third parties.  The anecdotal evidence can be compelling, but the subjective nature of this work is problematic.

Emerging research suggests ways to download memories from people, via physical connections with the circuitry in their brains.  In time, could we develop a “wi-fi” method to do the same thing with people we can’t connect with, physically?  The possibilities are highly speculative, but startling.

Watch the April 2012 TED talk, embedded below.

Important: Though the concept of downloadable memories isn’t discussed until the last half (around 11:20) of the following 16-minute talk, it’s worth watching the entire video.  Most of his talk doesn’t apply to ghost hunting, but the ideas are revolutionary enough that, as others have commented: This makes Battlestar Gallactica real.

When you get to the part about Ed Boyden’s experiments, and the possibility of mapping the pathways related to brain chemistry, pay very close attention.  Juan Enriquez says (at about 12:08), “It’s not completely inconceivable that, someday, you could download your own memories… maybe into your new body.”

Isn’t this exactly what so many ghosts seem to be waiting for: A “Heaven Can Wait” moment, where they can continue their lives and achieve unrealized dreams and goals?

Juan’s video raises this question in a scientific context.

We probably have a long time in which to sort out the moral, ethical and spiritual issues. In fact, this potential might never be realized.

However, when I watched this particular TED talk, my first thought was about our apparently reliable (and relatively repeatable) real-time communications using binary (yes/no) methods.  The resonance — no pun intended — was startling.

Yes, it is a little preposterous to think in these terms, and I’ve wandered far out on a highly speculative branch, but… have ghosts been refining their binary communications, anticipating a development like this?

Also, how much science would we need, to realize the ghosts’ goals?

  • Would the ghost be happy to return to physical form in our time, or would he (or she) need time travel, as well?
  • With time travel added to the mix, could we go back to the past and “renew” the person’s life in his or her own time?  Would we do this right before the person’s historic demise, allowing the old form to fail on schedule, or does that (two copies of the same person in one time stream) raise additional problems?  (Quantum science suggests that this would create/follow an entirely different time stream, so we wouldn’t be altering our own past or the ghost’s actual timeline in our shared past.  That gets into pretzel logic, in a way, but… well, this is all speculation anyway, right?)
  • If we’re renewing the ghost in our current time stream, is the best physical form built from the ghost’s own cells? That could present health issues, with old illnesses brought forward to modern times, and immunity (vulnerability) issues for the ghost.  Even a modern, common cold might be devastating to him or her.

This technology isn’t going to be available for awhile.  Maybe not for a long time, if ever.

Nevertheless, as a science fiction fan and a ghost hunter, when I hear about downloading memories, the possibilities are intriguing… if unlikely.

Hearing Voices at Haunted Places?

woman's ear with earring - listening
Can you trust what you hear during a ghost investigation?

When you’re ghost hunting, are you hearing voices?  I don’t just mean EVP that you hear in real time or on playback.  I also mean anything that sounds like an actual voice.

It barely needs to be mentioned, but if you or someone you know is hearing unexplained voices — especially voices that give him or her instructions to do something — a  professional should be consulted immediately.  You must rule out mental confusion, or other personal issues.

However, if you seem to hear voices when you’re investigating haunted locations — especially voices from the past — explanations can vary.  Here are a few.

1. It’s a prank. 

Audible voices of actual spirits are rare.  When I hear one, or a team member says they’re hearing a voice clearly, I first suspect that it’s a prank.  Rule that out before taking any voices seriously.

Whether it’s a hidden microphone or MP3 player, or someone using acoustics (or ventriloquism) to fool you, even the most convincing “ghost voice” could be a hoax.

People can deliberately set the stage so you think you’re hearing (or recording) a ghost.  Here are some reasons why they’d do that:

– Those people have too much time on their hands.

– They’re bitter people who want to make ghost researchers look gullible, and call it a “practical joke.”

– They have something to gain if the location seems really haunted. This includes owners of “haunted” hotels, shops, restaurants and museums, as well as homeowners who plan to write a book about their ghosts, with an eye on a movie deal.

– If it’s a ghost tour, “special effects” are routinely used in theatrical-style tours and presentations.  Read the fine print and ask questions before taking any ghost tour, so you’ll know whether the experience is supposed to be real or just for fun.

– A member (or the leader) of the ghost investigation team wants to impress others with his/her choice of locations, or how much more happens when he (or she) is there.  Predators and power-hungry people may see ghost hunting as an opportunity to achieve status, control over others, fame, or fortune.  Never underestimate what that kind of person will do to achieve his or her goals.

Nobody has the time to screen every location for microphones.  You’ve seen that question raised about some TV shows where they hear voices, or their EVP is a little too clear or loud.

The more life-like the voice in EVP, the more skeptical I am.  During an investigation, if I hear a “whoo-o-o” kind of voice (like ghosts in cartoons and old movies), or something obviously faked, I leave the site immediately. I don’t even go looking for the source of the sound.  It’s not worth my time. Someone at that location is playing pranks, and that kind of nonsense is a slap in the face for any serious ghost researcher.

2. You’re hearing normal sounds from a nearby location.

In an early episode of Ghost Hunters, the team were investigating Brennan’s, the (actually haunted) famous New Orleans restaurant.

Unfortunately, Brennan’s had scheduled a party in a room near the Red Room, where the team were conducting their investigations.   The Ghost Hunters team had to leave early, because they couldn’t rule out normal noises and interference from the party.

At another event, someone proudly played some “genuine EVP” for us to hear.  Later, the person mentioned that the next-door neighbor had a party that same night. Sadly, the EVP had to be discounted since party noises couldn’t be ruled out as the cause.

Never underestimate the effects of echoes and other reflected sounds.  If you’ve ever visited a site where the acoustics are extraordinary — such as Boston’s Mary Baker Eddy building with the Mapparium — you know how baffling it is to hear an apparently-disembodied voice, clearly.

If someone brings a bored companion to one of your investigations, see if he or she is listening to something.  No matter how low the volume seems, when you’re filtering EVP or even listening in real time, the voice or music can seem ghostly.

3. It’s a poltergeist.

If your ghost (or apparent ghost) is talking, shouting, or making loud noises, it might be a poltergeist.  Some people believe that poltergeists aren’t ghosts, but personality disorders venting a psychokinesis. Many people are certain that poltergeists are ghosts or even demons.  Others (including me) believe they’re a collaboration between a spirit and someone in a volatile emotional state.

4. You’re confusing psychic perceptions and external noises.

If you think you hear voices speaking aloud at haunted locations, check with others on your team.  Do they also hear something?  If they do, investigate the source.  First, you’re looking for a prank.  Then, you’ll rule out other, perfectly normal explanations.

If you can’t find a normal reason for what you’re hearing, and/or nobody else hears what you do, consider a paranormal explanation.

New researchers, especially highly sensitive and psychic investigators, may need time to learn the difference between external and internal perceptions.  In my 1999 report about Gilson Road Cemetery (NH), I described the psychic “hearing” of Alan, an experienced investigator, contrasted with Jane, a skeptic on her first ghost hunt:  Alan knew he was hearing the voices, psychically.  Jane insisted the voices were audible, external to her, and real.  Alan was fascinated by the experience; Jane was terrified.

Audible ghostly voices are extremely rare at haunted locations.  They’re only slightly more commonplace than full-body apparitions.

“Noisy ghosts,” one of the literal translations of the word poltergeist, are also quite rare.

Pranks and normal explanations are more likely.  You’ll also want to rule out auditory, psychic phenomena.

It’s most important to investigate any voices you hear (or record) while you’re at the haunted location.  The normal explanation for them — such as a nearby party, or a companion listening to MP3s or the radio — might not be there when you return for your follow-up investigation.

EVP Survey Results

For over six months, I’ve been collecting EVP results from a wide range of paranormal teams and individual ghost researchers. My goal was to see if there are patterns we can use to improve our EVP research techniques.

After studying hundreds of cases, here are my suggestions for the best EVP results:

1. Ask questions. Ask each question once or twice. Repeating the question doesn’t seem to help. Also, your results won’t improve if you rephrase the question. Phrase it clearly — not using modern slang — and ask it just once or twice.

Remaining silent won’t improve your results. At least 90% of the successful EVP recordings were responses to statements or questions. Allow breaks for the spirit to reply, but don’t just sit in silence. If you’re quiet, the ghost is likely to be quiet, too.

2. Assume that the ghost is male. If you’re using contextual cues, talk about things that will interest a man. (Unless you’re sure the ghost is female, don’t ask about kitchen chores or things classically assigned to women.)

If you have a name for the male ghost, use it. If not, it’s okay to use general references such as, “Sir, we’d like to talk with you.” Or, “Hey, guy, I want some answers.”

3. Expect anger. For the most intense responses, investigators should sound as if they are angry, antagonistic, or afraid. These emotions — even if portrayed in theatrical ways — are likely to resonate with the spirits and evoke a reply.

If anyone on your team is genuinely frightened, or good at venting anger, he or she should be included in your EVP research. The ghosts may be more responsive to real emotions in someone’s voice and demeanor.

(This is not a license to taunt or “provoke” ghosts in cruel ways.)

4. Adjust your recorder for quiet voices. Most voices were recorded at normal or quiet levels. Set your recorder at a high sensitivity level, and — if it’s an option — choose an omni-directional microphone.

(Some microphones only record directly in front of where they’re pointed. Others record anything in the general area, in front of the microphone, in back of it, or on any side. You want the latter, so you’ll record voices and sounds from anywhere around you.)

5. Stay with your recorder. Hardly any EVPs were reported when recorders were set up, and left running while the investigators explored another room or area.

Survey statistics

Over 90% of the EVPs were recorded in response to an investigator speaking or asking questions. Fewer than 10% were recorded when the investigator was quiet, or when the recorder was left running while the team went to another room.

More than 80% sounded like the voices of male adults. The remainder were mostly female adults. Very few sounded like female children. Only one researcher reported recording male children’s voices, and his results seemed like an anomaly; most of his recordings included male children.

An equal number of EVP voices replied in normal or quiet tones. Slightly less than 15% shouted at the investigators, even when the ghost was clearly angry.

In other words, the anger was conveyed with the words used or the tone of voice (including hissing sounds and obvious sneers), not in volume.

Most of the EVPs were clearly related to the comment or question by the investigator (or investigators) recording the EVP session. However, when asked to repeat something (or if a question was repeated with the same or different phrasing), most ghosts did not reply a second time.

About 1/3 of the recordings seemed to include random words and phrases, apparently unrelated to the questions asked. (This ratio seems consistent with results from Ovilus, Puck, and other real-time communication devices.)

When a mood was evident in what was said, the responses were almost equally distributed among the following emotional levels: Apathy, anger, pain, grief, fear, or boredom. Only anger seemed more prevalent, and that was only slightly.

In the future, I’ll be conducting additional surveys related to ghost hunting techniques and practices. I hope you’ll participate, so we can pool our information to improve our research results.

[Thanks to Joanne W. for helping us restore this “lost” article.]

 

Homemade EVP Devices?

Image from the Instructables article.

I’m fascinated by things that are emerging from mad scientists’ labs… or at least the kitchen tables of kindred spirits (no pun intended) who think like I do.

Here are a few odd, recent discoveries:

I’m not sure what to think of the Super Beacon Auto-mapper Crystal Quantum Radio.

(I try never to dismiss anything that might help us figure out what anomalies really are.)

Well, the price tag on that tool is a little steep for my experiments.

Then there’s the Beta-Blocker Spirit Radio, at that same website.

As Alice said, “Curiouser and curiouser!”

I recommend cruising through that website.  If you’re an electronics geek, you may get some ideas for tools we can actually use in this field.

But wait… there’s more!

The photo at left shows a homegrown variation.  It might just work. It’s the Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio.

The complete directions are at Instructables:  Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio.

The following video… well, the guy sounds pretty snide at times. However, the tests he demonstrates are worth noting.  Be sure to listen to the sounds produced by the color yellow. What is the radio reacting to?

httpv://youtu.be/aFxBmEpGIBw

The “lost journals” of Nikola Tesla might be someone’s clever work of fiction.  Nevertheless, Tesla’s life may need closer investigation.

In those “lost journals,” it says:

Around 1918, Tesla started to receive what he considered to be voice transmissions, except the voices he was picking up were not human. Instead, Tesla wrote that, “The sounds I am listening to every night at first appear to be human voices conversing back and forth in a language I cannot understand. I find it difficult to imagine that I am actually hearing real voices from people not of this planet. There must be a more simple explanation that has so far eluded me.”

This is consistent with Tesla’s comments in Talking with the Planets, publishing in 1901:

“My first observations positively terrified me, as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night; but at that time the idea of these disturbances being intelligently controlled signals did not yet present itself to me. “

If you build this radio and test it, please let me know about your results.  I’m very interested in homemade devices, and in voice-related ghost hunting tools in general.

Frank’s Box – Reviewed

Frank’s Box is a device optimized by Frank Sumption, sometimes described (but not by Mr. Sumption) as “the telephone to the dead.”

Telephone
Is “Frank’s Box” a telephone to the dead?

Frank Sumption wasn’t the first to work with this concept, but results from his research have been among the most impressive so far.

Others have tried variations of the concept — a radio receiver that scans a wide range of stations, “grabbing” snippets of sounds and words, to form messages — with some success.

(The popular “Shack Hack” was one attempt, but it lacked the clarity or durability of its higher-quality counterparts.)

Frank – now deceased – seemed to make these boxes, one at a time, and no two looked the same or produce identical results.  (The photo above is symbolic.  As far as I know, no Frank’s Box looks like an actual telephone.)

I read the EVP-ITC list online for several months, and I exchanged correspondence with Mr. Sumption, but — even — I’m uncertain of what was (and still is) going on.

I tend to take things at face value and… this seems to be a fairly complex subject with conflicting opinions.

(There’s been a lot of static on the EVP-ITC list, due to very vocal skeptics.  That said, I have heard recordings on that list that claim to be genuine and — if the recordings truly represent what a Frank’s Box can do — they’re groundbreaking.)

I haven’t worked with a Frank’s Box myself.  If and when I do, I’ll happily provide a review.  (The boxes are very difficult to find in the wild, and I’m not sure how or why Mr. Sumption decided to offer them to people. I know both genuine researchers and questionable personalities who own them.)

For now, I try to keep my critical thinking skills engaged, and remember that absolutely anyone can fake “results” to support or dispute what others are saying.  Particularly if money is exchanging hands… well, as the TV show used to say, “Be careful out there.”

However, it would be impossible to mention what’s popularly called “the Frank’s Box” without talking about Christopher Moon’s work.

CHRISTOPHER MOON

Chris Moon is a paranormal researcher. He was the founder of the controversial magazine, Haunted Times, which seems to be under new management now.

When I first met Christ, I thought he was a funny and sincere guy. I still believe that he can achieve remarkable and authentic results with the Frank’s Boxes that he owns. I want to like him, but I have some significant, unresolved questions.

A historical note

I used to link to archives of Chris’s website, instead of his current sites. Then, even the archive sites (like the Wayback Machine) removed their links.

At the time, I said, “I can’t recommend that website. It could be dangerous to your computer.  It was a continuing problem, since I first wrote this article in 2010.  Here’s a screenshot from Google on 4 Nov 2013, showing Google’s warning.”

Haunted Times site - viruses?

So, given that history, I’m cautious about linking to ChrisMoonPsychic.com, but my concerns could be unfounded. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Chris’s successes with the Frank’s Box brought the device to the attention of serious investigators.

Some people believe that much of that success is due to Chris’s own gifts as a medium, as opposed to the device he’s using.

At a 2010 conference, my own experiences left me with no doubt that something extraordinary is going on with Chris Moon or one of the Frank’s Boxes he owns, or both.

The box “said” things that no one could have known, except me. And, it “spoke” using words — and an accent — that Chris couldn’t have predicted, even from unguarded hints I might have given.

CLAIMS AND RISKS

The credibility of Frank’s Boxes open doors even wider to problems we already have in this field: Charlatans and con artists.

People can be very vulnerable when they’ve lost someone dear to them, or have fears related to death.

After all, if you could pay a certain fee or fulfill a request, and you could talk directly with someone on the other side — via a “telephone to the dead” — well, I think most people would.

Would a Frank’s Box work in the hands of an unscrupulous medium?  I’m not sure.  I haven’t seen anyone except Chris Moon use one.  I don’t have enough experience to confidently endorse either Chris or the Frank’s Box.

OPPOSING OPINIONS

Another high-profile researcher says she owns several actual Frank’s Boxes (acquired from Frank Sumption). I’m not sure if that’s true.

When I spoke with her, she insisted that Frank’s Boxes aren’t reliable for ghost research. She said that a Mini-Box is a better choice.

I can’t trust that information, either.

Here’s why I’m skeptical: She promised to return in two or three weeks, to demonstrate her claims… and has avoided me, ever since.

Until I’m more confident about these kinds of devices, I recommend experimenting. Try every real-time communication device that you can. (Borrow them, or spend time with someone who owns one. Do not spend money you can’t afford to lose, on devices that may not work.)

Compare your results at home (or at any single, stable location) against results at “haunted” sites.  Frank Sumption seemed pretty adamant that the box works anywhere you have it. He’s said there’s no point in taking it to a “haunted” site.

So, from what I’ve seen, a Frank’s Box can be remarkable.

Is it always…? I have no idea.

I am 100% convinced that it can work in the hands of Chris Moon.

The voice I heard on it would have come through in any location.  The deceased had no connection with the location where Chris made contact via the Frank’s Box.

However, I can’t claim that Chris always uses integrity with the Frank’s Boxes… or in any other aspect of his business. At the time I met him, and shortly afterwards, there were some very big red flags.

For me, the biggest one was a claim that supposedly came from a famous (but deceased) scientist. That claim was about me, personally.

To date, I’ve seen no evidence that it’s valid. That makes me uneasy. But, as you can see, everything I’ve seen in connection with Frank’s Boxes has been unsettling. Are those boxes fraud magnets? Do they cause the owners to say things that aren’t trustworthy?

I haven’t a clue. Frank passed away some time ago. At the moment, I’m glad he never did get around to giving me one of this boxes.

But, I’m still curious about them, too.

If you’ve had experiences with a Frank’s Box, especially if you’ve used one yourself, I hope you’ll leave a comment below.