Conversation with a Friend

So I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today.  It started off with us bsing around and somehow evolved into a talk on the paranormal, which most of my conversations develop into some way or another. 

Anyway as we dove into the realm of the paranormal certain topics came up in our discussion.  First we were talking about psychics.  My friend made a statement saying “you and I have our differences on our beliefs.  But I do think this guy is a sham.” (I am sorry I have no idea who the psychic was he was talking about)  As I read this, I found it a bit puzzling; did he think that I thought all psychics were shams?  Certainly I have never made that claim, so I explained my exact stance on this subject.

It isn’t that I think all psychics are shams, there may indeed be a legit psychic out there somewhere in the world…I don’t know.  However, there is no positive evidence to support the legitimacy of someone who claims to have psychic powers.  That is what I rely on, positive evidence.  If a person with legitimate psychic abilities could perform their skill under scientific observation in a controlled setting and show positive results; that would be enough for me to say “there is something to this.”  But I would just like say again; I have never said psychic abilities do not exist, as James Randi often says “I can’t afford to make that type of claim.”

Next we jumped into one of my favorite paranormal subjects, the ghost box.  I wrote an article on a few tests I have done on the legitimacy of this specific device which can be read here https://porkrhine.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/ghost-box-tales-from-a-broken-radio/ but again I hold the same stance on this as I did with psychics.  There is no positive evidence that this device can really provide any contact with spirits or entities; however that doesn’t mean that this box (broken radio) can’t transmit the voices and words of the deceased.  I believe that there are many reasons why this ghost box device fails any type of positive testing and I personally think there is nothing to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work…I could be the one who is wrong.  Again I rely on scientific evidence, but that isn’t to say that one day I won’t hear something that may convince me personally, that could happen.  For example if I were to record a conversation with my dead grandfather and he was telling me information that no one on earth could know, I may say “alright, I believe,” or I would at least think it is possible that this device is in some way a telephone to the dead.  However that has never happened and I doubt it ever will.  But that brings us to another point, which for some reason is hard for a lot of people to grasp.  What is proof?

Proof is defined as evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.  By this definition, nothing in the realm of the paranormal has been established as truth.  I have had many conversations with people who say something to the effect of “I have had personal proof that the paranormal is real.”  Ok, fine, however personal proof that can’t provide sufficient evidence to establish it as something true, it isn’t proof.  I guess what I am trying to say is, though a personal experience may “prove” that the paranormal exists to you, doesn’t mean it exists or that it is proof positive.  For example, someone may have an amazing experience where they see a full torso apparition walking throughout the house and it disappears into the wall; that might be enough to convince someone that ghosts exist, but that doesn’t mean that they do.  So there is a huge difference between personal “proof” and proof.   

This was actually the meat and potatoes of the conversation with my good friend.  He made a comment that he doesn’t believe I would accept that the ghost box is ever legitimate and I said I might if I had the experience I mentioned above about speaking with my grandfather.  He then proceeded to ask me about a specific situation where I didn’t accept and or admit that the ghost box was saying something that in his opinion was obviously saying.  Well if people don’t know, I am co-host on Strange Frequencies Radio (www.strangefrequenciesradio.net) and was talking about show episode 134, hour 2.  We interviewed Steve Hill, a man who claims to be an electronic medium and ghost box enthusiast.  He sent in a few of his samples which he found to be amazing and crystal clear.  My friend thought I was being closed to the possibility that the box was actually giving a direct and correct response to Steve’s question.  He also argued many people in the chat room and even my co-hosts heard what the answer was.  Ok, fine, the reason why I didn’t want to make a comment on the particular audio sample was because I was already primed to hear the response because the response was the name of the file that was sent.  So I didn’t think it was fair to me or my sense to say I heard something after I knew what to look for.  I would also like to speak on behalf of my co-hosts and say that they may have said ok that’s what it sounds like, doesn’t mean they give the ghost box credit or even conclusively agree that the ghost box was really saying anything.

However even if I wasn’t primed, and I heard the one syllable word that the box was claimed to have said, that still wouldn’t be enough for me to say that there is something to the ghost box, I mean not even close.  There are also other factors we have to consider, how long was Steve trying to get a response?  How many times did Steve ask the question before he got what he thought was a response?  What if I took the audio, played it for 50 people (like I have done with Steve’s audio before, I have to mention it has always been different answers than what Steve thought the box to be saying) and 40 people heard the same thing but it was different then what Steve thought it was saying, but 10 people heard what Steve said the box was saying…are the 40 other people lying?  My point is, a one syllable word isn’t extraordinary evidence to this extraordinary claim.

Thank you for reading.

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Ghost Box: Tales From a Broken Radio

Recently I have received a couple emails in regards to an article I wrote a while back about something called the ghost box.   The article expressed my skepticism on this device however I reserved my personal thoughts in hopes that one day I might be wrong and be shown that this device can really contact the dead.  So quickly, those who may not know what the ghost box is, it is a radio that is purposely broken by causing it to continuously sweep up and down the channels without ever stopping.  When it does this you are listening to a bunch of fragments of voices from DJ’s, commercials and songs.  You ask questions to the box while it is doing this and supposedly you will get responses from the beyond.  Some people in the paranormal field that advocate the use and testing of this box (because they have found it to produce “promising” results) are people like John Zaiffis and Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

I on the other hand have spent years researching and testing this device and have yet to have any test produce positive results or have any personal validation that it works.  There are tons of these modified (broken) radios out there with many different names.  The most coveted of these boxes is called the Frank’s box designed by Frank Sumption, there is a Joe’s box created by Joe Cioppi, Radioshack Hacks and The Mini Box (which can be purchased at www.paranormalsystems.com between the prices of $499.00 – $1,595.00, that’s right folks you can buy a broken radio for only $1,595.00 because it is crystal enhanced).

Like I said before I have always been pretty skeptical about this device, but I will explain now, why I’m convinced this “tool” doesn’t work.     

The Steve Hill challenge

I have worked with lots of people in the paranormal whose sole purpose in this “field of research” is nothing but instrumental transcommunication better known as ITC.  The first individual I would like to talk about is a good fellow whose name is Steve Hill. 

Steve Hill calls himself an electronic medium, meaning spirits talk to him through devices such as the ghost box.  He claims to have more success than the average Joe who was to just pick up this device and start asking questions.  When Steve heard I was skeptical he sent me a few “mind blowing” files in which he claimed his name could be heard crystal clear.  When I heard these files I must say at first I thought they were amazing, because I could clearly hear the name Steve Hill.  Well there are a couple things I didn’t take into consideration at first, for instance the file name was “ghost box says name steve hill” and also after the radio says what sounds to be like Steve Hill, Steve says “Yes I am Steve Hill”.  This is what is called “priming” or “front loading” which is essentially telling someone what to hear.

So after this I was asked to be a guest on Steve’s radio show so I, a skeptic, could talk about how I felt about this file and device (because remember Steve thought I thought it was legit, because I at first thought it was an amazing file).  What Steve didn’t know was I had performed a test to prove this file wasn’t saying Steve Hill. 

With an audio editing program I was able to delete Steve confirming he was Steve Hill at the end of the file, I also saved it as a different name, something like “ghost box file.”  I asked 50 random people what they thought the file was saying and not one of them said Steve Hill.  So after everyone had come up with their own idea on what the file was saying, I told them what the file was thought to be saying.  Again no one could hear Steve Hill, why?  The reason is because they had already decided on what they wanted to hear.  They had already primed themselves. 

When I told these results to Steve live on his show, it didn’t even sway him to think it wasn’t saying his name.  So I asked “are all these people lying?  If you say no then we must accept that the box was also saying their answers as well.”  Steve’s answer baffled me “well Bobby perhaps I just hear things on a different frequency then others do.”  I decided that was when I would forfeit the fight with Steve; he had already made up his mind that his broken radio actually possesses spirits that communicate with him and no matter how much evidence I had against it, his mind couldn’t and can’t be swayed. 

The Jeff Rezman challenge

I was a guest speaker at an event called Fortfest last year.  One of the speakers was a man named Jeff Rezman.  Jeff and I have been friends for a couple years and he and I are sort of like Spiderman and The Green Goblin.  What I mean by that is we are good friends outside of the paranormal (Peter and Harry) but when it comes to the paranormal we are archenemies (Spiderman and The Green Goblin, I of course being Spiderman). 

Now Jeff gave a lecture on the authenticity of the ghost box and it was hard to keep quiet and for the most part I did, until he started doing a live session with the crowd.  His technique was clever, he never said what he thought it was saying however he would prime the crowd by saying “did you hear that?” and someone from the crowd would respond with what they thought the box was saying. 

Now another thing I discovered about the box and people who believe this device is intelligently speaking to them is that it can never tell you information that you don’t already know.  For example at Fortfest Jeff was asking the box questions like “what color is this gentleman’s jacket right here?”  Everyone present knew the color of the jacket that the person was wearing so the name of that color is the answer everyone is expected to hear.  Another example is where Jeff asked “what color are the walls here in this room?”   Again everyone present knew the color of the room so the name of that color is the answer everyone is expected to hear.  After I realized what was going on I explained it to the crowd.  I explained I could prove it by giving the box a Zener card test (which I just happened to have handy).

The test was really simple I would sit behind Jeff so we were both facing the crowd.  I would allow one independent party to sit with me to write down the shape on the card (circle, star, square, cross or wavy lines) so people knew I wasn’t lying.  We were placed in a position where no one in the room could see the card except me and this independent party.  For the sake of the spirits present I announced out loud all the 5 shapes the spirit could name and began the test.  Again the box didn’t name one card correctly, why?  Because no one present except for myself and the independent party knew the shape that was on the card. 

Me testing the Ghost Box used by Jeff Rezman

Me testing the Ghost Box used by Jeff Rezman

The box called out wrong shapes but also called out things like angel, Jeff tried to say that since there were fairy looking creatures on the backs of the cards this must be what the spirit was trying to identify.  Well if that were the case then the spirit world is very dumb because I strictly announced that there were only 5 shapes it could pick from.  Again this test swayed some from the crowd that the box is nothing but a broken radio and wishful thinking but it couldn’t and can’t change the opinion of someone like Jeff Rezman. 

I have tried hundreds of tests with different ghost box type devices some include me using a box while someone else in a different state used a box and we asked questions about each other, hiding something in a certain area while someone else had the spirit tell them through the box where I hid the item and countless sessions in alleged haunted locations asking the box to name the name associated with the house.  All these tests failed, never getting one thing right. 

I mean if continuously sweeping up and down through radio channels works as a device on talking to the dead then we should be able to keep our finger on seek on a car radio and produce the same results.  Truth is, our brains are designed to seek patterns out of nothing; it’s how it makes sense of things.  It is why we can see Abraham Lincoln in the clouds or hear voices telling us things on broken radios.  It is called pareidolia.

However I would like to say that this is a lousy invention and it proves some people will cling to anything and I mean anything for some sort of self validation of the spirit world, they will even speak to broken radios.