Strange Night Air

I thought'd present you with something different this afternoon.

Once upon a time, I made what's called a 'Tesla Radio' because I thought it would be cool to listen in on thunderstorms with it. I have yet to capture a recording of an actual thunderstorm on the rig, mainly because I hide under the couch with my dogs when it thunders, but I did take the radio outside late last night and record a brief snippet of eerie random AM radio broadcasts.

There's really nothing to this device. A capacitor, a germanium diode, some wires. The complete schematics are featured in my original Tesla radio blog published on 06-08-2014, linked here.

I did add an audio amplifier (the box on the left in the photo is a pre-amp, and the box on the right is a simple 1 watt amp, nothing fancy about either of them) so I could listen in real time, rather than recording straight to my Zoom field recorder.

Why did I build this thing at all?

Because late one night, many years ago, hard-luck genius Nikola Tesla built one similar to it, and sat up all hours wondering what the heck he was hearing. He describes booming unintelligible voices. He was convinced, it seems, that he was witness to actual communication in some strange tongue by parties unknown.

Now, keep in mind Tesla's world early 20th century was unlike ours. There were no radio stations, no TV stations. No cop on the corner with radar. No weather radars, no Wifi, no commercial RF noise of any kind.

So what was he hearing?

Beats me. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a combination of noise generated by his own laboratory devices and a distant thunderstorm.

And what do I hear when I fire up my home-made device?

Well, listen for yourself.

If you've ever driven cross-country and searched for radio stations you'll be familiar with the sounds. It's the wash of faint voices between the stronger signals. Voices all speaking at once, drowned under the crackle and hiss, most of their words lost in the frenzy of noise.

A few words escape, now and then. Sin is perhaps the most popular, with hellfire and damnation close behind. I'm not sure when the preacher from Stephen King's "Children of the Corn" bought up all the failing AM radio stations across the world, but it sure sounds like he has.

Anyway, late last night I took my rig out on the patio, leaned my mic by the speaker, and had a listen.

It's a short recording. Around a minute in we get dueling nutcase preachers who sound like they're yelling at each other. The British gentleman speaking in the clipped tones of high society is at least calm. Ghostly bits of music wander through, disembodied songs in search of a stage.

I can recall driving alone, late in the night, fiddling with the radio while these same faint voices whispered and shouted and raged. It's an eerie feeling, being suspended in the open space between Here and There, with nothing but angry ghosts for company.

Ever felt that? Felt that you'd driven right past the walls of the waking world, and into some vast flat nightmare?

If so, can you remember the feeling of urgent relief you experienced when you saw lights at last? Even the lights of a run-down gas station blazed like cathedral windows, because electric light meant you'd left the ghosts behind at last.

Enjoy, if you dare. And remember -- the ghosts are always out there haunting the empty in-betweens, even when we're not listening. Because that's what ghosts do...

Click here to join the ghosts! Late night Tesla radio...