Things That Go Bump: Spirit Boxes


People have been trying to communicate with the Other Side for as long as there have been people, and a need for a little extra income.

That sounded cynical. Well, so be it. Because the history of talking to dead folks is rife with tricks, cons, and sleight of hand. Look no further than the Spiritualist movement of the early 20th century, and the shenanigans that went along with that.

Am I saying that every medium, through all of time, was a money-grubbing fake?

No. I will say that the majority were, and are (I'm looking at you, Theresa Caputo). 

Chicanery as a profession in the form of calling up ghosts is a lucrative one. One one hand, you've got desperate, heartbroken people desperate to find comfort. And when I say desperate, I mean not just ready but eager to empty their bank accounts to hear a few words from the Other Side.  

The dynamic practically creates the fakers and the con artists. Look, you've got a vast flock of sheep bleating to be fleeced -- it's just human nature that some people rush in with shears.

I do know a few people that I believe have genuine talent. They aren't the ones on TV, though. They're out there, working quietly to ease tormented souls. They don't drive fancy cars, or tool around in private jets, and they certainly don't fill arenas at a hundred bucks a head.

Which, in a roundabout sort of way, brings me to tonight's topic -- that of so-called Spirit Boxes.

What is a spirit box, you ask?

It's an AM/FM radio with a seek-and-find feature. You've seen them. You press a button, and the radio finds the next clear station, saving you the trouble of turning a tuner knob. 

But the spirit box radios have been modified, so that the seek feature works, but the 'find and stay put' feature has been disabled. So the radio just keeps cycling through the band (either AM or FM), endlessly looping through the spectrum. 

Listening to such a radio, you'll here random snippets or words, or songs, of commercials, of music. There's nothing magical or paranormal about that. It's just a radio. Take any old-school radio with a tuning dial, turn it rapidly, and you've got nearly the same thing.

Spirit boxes have taken off in the last few years as a paranormal research tool. They're cheap, easy to get, and they speak. 

I've seen quite a few online videos in which a breathless operator claims to have captured a ghost voice using a spirit box. Um.

I take some issue with most of these claims. 

Of course you're getting voices. Words, even. That's inevitable. It doesn't mean there's anything unusual going on.

Unless, in my mind, two conditions are met.

First, the communication would need to be genuine. If I ask the spirit box my name, and it says 'Corolla,' either the spirit is confused or I just caught part of a car commercial. That seems an obvious concept. 

Second, the voice recorded would need to extend past the scan rate of the spirit box. In the examples to follow, I set my box for a scan rate of 150 milliseconds. That means it doesn't stay in any one place long enough to capture a long word, or series of words. 

I have heard recordings that match both criteria. They are rare. I have never personally captured an example of such.

No, when I use the spirit box, I get the sorts of things you'll hear below. 

Some might assert that this lack of communication is due to my own lack of any mediumistic abilities. That might be true. It might not. I have no way of testing the claim, so all I can do is shrug.

In any case, I conducted a spirit box session of my own this afternoon, using the popular P-SB7 Spirit Box unit. I recorded the session using my Zoom H1 mic.


The full session is about ten minutes long. 

My first 'response' occurs about 2 minutes in. I ask the box 'Does anyone have anything to say?' and a few seconds later, you hear faint voices. I have no idea what they are saying, and they are obviously just snippets of a radio show. I wouldn't consider this evidence of anything except the presence of at least two nearby active transmitters. Click below to listen.


Next, we have an apparent response to the question 'What is your name?' A few seconds after I ask that, a male says 'stupid.' So, we either have a ghost with low-self esteem, or again, I captured a stray word from a radio program. 

But had the stray word been 'Roger' or 'Penelope,' some might claim that as evidence of the paranormal. That's why I impose my second criteria on spirit box recordings -- unless the reply is longer than the scan rate allows, it's just coincidence, in my mind. Had the voice said 'Well hello, my name is Roger, I'm quite dead, and you need a haircut,' okay, I'd be inclined to suggest something unusual was taking place.

Click below to listen.


Finally, I'm putting up a link to the full ten minute session, in case anyone is curious. If you find something I missed, please email me and let me know.

I intended to take the spirit box to a local cemetery, but it looked stormy. Getting both soaked and struck by lightning doesn't appeal to me, and anyway if ghosts can use radios I can't imagine why they'd have any trouble beaming voices into my house.


Finally, here's a link to a spirit box session that, if genuine, does appear to consist of actual communication. I make no claims as to the veracity of this material -- it's just an example of what I think real communication might sound like.


See you next week!