Some Personal Haunting History
My partner and I lovingly call our house The Crone Zone. Yes, the dining room is dominated by a giant pagan altar. Yes, there is a witch broom outside the front door in All Seasons. Yes, the cutlery and cloth napkins are decorated with skulls and spider webs, respectively, and yes, it is haunted. So, the previous inhabitants, or one in particular, a Greatest Generation guy named Bill, tend to haunt our house. I’m naming Bill because he haunts us regularly and his name is pretty common. I am not naming his wife because her name is uncommon and she seems to largely stay out of things. Bill came up in a major way when we were renovating the living room (which involved solving a lot of the problems HE MADE such as drywalling the walls AFTER installing the carpet so that to get the carpet tack and subflooring out we were literally hacking into the gap under the drywall with a carpenter’s hatchet — like, the misery this man caused us I swear). Other spirits include a little girl most longtime residents of our block have seen. She’s a playful presence and tends to go from house to house.
Anyway, I Just Started Watching Random YouTube Videos While Working and Am Not Even Clear About How I Started Watching This Young Woman Communicating With Her Haunted Doll
It was another late night in the office. My girlfriend was downstairs chatting with a friend on Zoom. I was doing something or other and decided I wanted some vapid background noise. I turned to YouTube where their very clever algorithm (where I enjoy Stardew play-throughs, real life scary stories read aloud from Reddit threads, and ASMR) determined I might like this one young woman who uses dowsing rods to talk to her haunted doll. Reader, I did. She’s quite entertaining. I let several of her videos play in the background.
At one point, she began to use something that was like a spirit box. If you read our gift guide from this past December, then you might have noticed that I have coveted a spirit box. But it’s such an unrealistic purchase. They’re so expensive, and I’m not nearly serious enough of a hobbyist paranormal investigator (I am 0% this thing) to buy one. But this young lady was using an app!
While working and listening to her show, at one point, I took off my headphones and wondered aloud to the room and the ghosts that were maybe there, “Would you like to talk to me sometime?”
Then a “Ghost” Appeared on Camera
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, downstairs, a phenomenon had appeared on the Zoom call between my girlfriend and her friend. A floating, spectral disturbance appeared next to her on the couch, visible in the Zoom call. It stayed for much of the call, only to disappear just after they each made recordings of it (which you can see if you’re an A+ member in the upcoming January Insider).
When my girlfriend showed me the video, I told her what I had been doing upstairs at the same time. Flabbergasted, she texted her friend, who was equally freaked out. It was also, admittedly, hilarious! My girlfriend was like “why would you just ASK THAT” and I was just laughing.
And that’s when I thought…why not me? The dowsing rods looked fun, but I don’t have anything I could use. Hilariously, my conspiracy theorist mother got me an orgonite necklace for christmas to protect me from the EMF rays associated with working on the computer all the time. When my girlfriend was like “how does that work though” my mom gave up and was like “I don’t know! It just does!” It could function as a pendulum, but the damn thing is already kind of cursed.
And that, friend, is where I draw a line, right? It might seem like I would be into each and every hokey thing there is just because I believe in ghosts. Although, considering the number of ghosts I’ve seen and the physical manifestations of their presence I’ve witnessed, saying that I “believe” in ghosts sounds about as appropriate as saying I “believe” in mice. Like, I just know mice exist, even if I rarely see them, right? Like, they’re just real and sometimes they come in the house at which point you might hear weird noises and find things are moved around slightly or that there is evidence of someone else in your house, and honestly that’s where the similarities end because ghosts are far more hygienic. Anyway, I don’t really collect crystals much, nor do I go in for a lot of the “new age” style approach to the occult. I have been reading Tarot since I was nine and have a long relationship with witchcraft rooted in reviving and approximating and researching ancestral Polish and Irish practices, which I find is very healing and important work. And none of these practices involve worrying about 5G.
I Can’t Afford Actual Ghost Hunting Equipment: But Hey There’s an App for That
But first, I had to investigate the theory behind this. To the Wikipedia page for EVP we go!
These apps fall, as far as ghost equipment goes, under the sub-category of ITC, which is described as follows:
The term Instrumental Trans-Communication (ITC) was coined by Ernst Senkowski in the 1970s to refer more generally to communication through any sort of electronic device such as tape recorders, fax machines, television sets or computers between spirits or other discarnate entities and the living. One particularly famous claimed incidence of ITC occurred when the image of EVP enthusiast Friedrich Jürgenson (whose funeral was held that day) was said to have appeared on a television in the home of a colleague, which had been purposefully tuned to a vacant channel. ITC enthusiasts also look at the TV and video camera feedback loop of the Droste effect.
I *think* the theory is that spirits are made of some kind of “energy,” (the level to which I am not a physicist is very evident here) and therefore, because these devices are powered by electricity, it is something that is easier for spirits to manipulate and therefore communicate through if they wish. In this case, the idea is that the app allows the spirits to use your phone to communicate with you.
NOW, I am skeptical of the app and a lot of this EVP research and all of this. I think, personally, that ghosts exist and that surely there have been successful communications with them. Do I believe the claims of every single person saying they communicate with spirits? No. Do I think that ghosts can manipulate electronics. Unfortunately, yes? Because I’ve seen it happen? I once had a ghost wake me up two nights in a row by turning on my computer from complete shut down. It was the 90s, so this would have required a big ‘ol button push. And then when the computer woke me up, it showed itself as the most terrifying shadow I’ve ever seen walking along one wall. Neat! In the same house, my mother would see lights turn on by themselves. She called our neighbor who was an electrician about it, who told her it was impossible and asked her if she’d been drinking.
Anyway, so, okay, we are existing in the space where I think that eeeeh yeah we can believe that a ghost might manipulate an electronic device, we have an actively haunted house, and we have an app that claims to facilitate communication. How does it work though? Roughly, it has a bank of sounds that are recordings of words in various languages that have been chopped up to form phonemes that can then be, in theory, arranged by spirits to form words which, again, in theory, have meaning. Skeptic concerns include: Does it have pre-programmed responses to questions it picks up on the mic? Does it in any way echo what it hears the user saying on the mic? The developer hasn’t disclosed this, but of course, it’s a possibility.
So, there is nothing left but to test it, which we did! Now, I am a witch, so we took some precautions, and I’ve not experienced any negative repercussions from engaging in these spirit communications after the night we did so, which is nice. I recommend that anyone do the same before communicating with spirits. Some things that I do include setting up a circle of protection, however you prefer to do that, and also burning frankincense, my preferred spiritual cleansing agent. You’ll notice a little mortar next to me on the table in the video and though you cannot see the smoke in the video, it is in fact actively burning frankincense resin on a piece of charcoal.
We got set up, which involved a lot of lighting silliness, because I am in no way a YouTuber and we have no professional lighting. So my girlfriend was literally dragging a floor lamp around our dark living room until things looked reasonable. We are also dogsitting a tiny dog for a friend, who snuggled on my lap for the duration of the spirit communications, making me feel very much like a fancy heir-cum-turn-of-the-century-spiritualist-with-my-tiny-lap-dog. Then, because the recommendation for the app is that you ALSO have a recording of yourself using it so you can go back through and re-listen, my girlfriend dutifully helped out Autostraddle for free, as she does, by filming me trying to talk to ghosts.
My notes from the experience:
Notable is that when I first asked for like spirits that mean us no harm, I heard some audible “yep” or “yeah” noises but when I said “spirits of goodness” we were interrupted with an audible “weeeeellllllllll…” which, okay, I can relate.
Then, when I mention the former inhabitants of the house and that we want to talk to them, you can hear an “es/is/ist occult” which, I couldn’t figure out if they were judging me, or if they were occult enthusiasts. Considering how things go, it was probably the former.
The first spirit I tried to speak to, Bill’s wife [redacted] whose first language was German and who honestly has never been much of a presence, didn’t give me much but did say ‘house’ and some other words. It could have been nothing. It could have been German. I don’t speak German!
So, then I asked Bill if he had anything to say. The most favorable evidence in favor of the app at this point was the fact that it immediately sped up in terms of activity. Like, saying that brought the noise level noticeably higher. Bill was like absolutely I have things to say. My partner and I locked eyes. I heard “Bill” said multiple times and maybe “hello” and maybe “thank you.” But also, lol, maybe “fuck you” as well as “I tried.”
Then, when I said, “We’re really grateful to be here,” I heard him say, “No,” which, again, okay. That’s where we’re at emotionally. Okay. When I said “yes” I think he said “shut up” and then either “bitch” or “witch.”
I decided to try and take things down a more diplomatic avenue and asked Bill what he liked about the house, to which I did hear “stairs” which, yes, we have a lot of those, actually. We have 20-something some odd steps leading up to the front door.
Then Bill says either “You hate us” which is what I took it as the first time or “You ask too much.”I’m not sure, because that is what I heard on the second listen with the recording.
This is where things took a turn. See, we definitely suspected that the app maybe echoed what we said or played some kind of word association, so it would make sense if all that continued when I asked pretty basic questions, but when I asked “Do you like us?” the app seemed to answer “um” and when I asked “Are you confused about that?” it was followed by a long silence and then something that sounded like “I don’t know what to say.” Considering the kind of truce-esque relationship we have with our ghost after the huge showdown we had in the past over home reno, if this were legit, that answer matches up with our other experiences sharing a space with our ethereal roommate.
When I said “We’re kinda weird, right?” The spirit box JUMPED IN, and while I couldn’t make out the words, the silence sure was broken. Bill thinks that, yes, we’re weird. Clearly.
And I said to Bill, “Like, we’re gay, right?”
To which there was ABSOLUTE SILENCE.
Then I go, “You can say it.”
And he goes “What? No!”
After that, things descended into chaos. One of the last things I made out is “I pray for you” which is hella ominous. I tried my best with all the noise for a while, and then I cut Bill’s mic. I RUDELY asked if anyone else was there, forgot to thank Bill, rushed in to thank Bill and then heard “Fuck that.”
The rest of my attempts to speak with other spirits were not nearly as animated. I got some names, maybe, but not much else. We thanked everyone, sent them on their way, and called it a night.
Because, really, we can talk about Bill all night right? Bill is a greatest generation Army vet, and this was his family home. He collected matchbooks, which I know because I found a box of them and he did seem to smoke — and sometimes we smell it. He tends to like to walk around the house and, as I’ve alluded to, gave my girlfriend and I a really hard time a couple years back when we first started doing work on the living room, which I think was maybe “his” space. All in all, we’ve found a way to coexist, but I always did get the feeling that he was very much like “Queers! In my house?!” and now, well, that’s kind of confirmed, if the Necrophonic App has any legitimacy to it.
Cons of the app: largely unintelligible, likely completely fake.
Pros: seems to have adequately captured the Greatest Generation conservative vibe I was getting from the ghost in our house anyway?? The DEAD SILENCE after I said “We’re Gay, right?” was straight out of a Thanksgiving Dinner. Like, damn. That was the most believable part.
Bill?…Bill??? Some footage from the experiment.