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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Spirit Box part 1

This is the first short story I wrote, circa 2009. Needs a re-write, but I still like it as it stands. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Poe and "Ghost Adventures." lol

Dear David,

     I’m writing this down as a record of events. I guess it’s my attempt to explain the last year. You can write this off as a selfish exercise to exempt myself from blame, and it might be. However, I also feel you deserve to know the truth as only I know it, being you’re my only sibling and closest kin. You have every right not to believe a word of this, but please give me the chance to explain.

     Where should I begin? As you know, I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal, although being more of a skeptic on the subject than a believer. The more I delved into things paranormal, the less convinced I became. It had become a fool’s game, however, to be drawn into the trappings of the peddlers of the occult. As you know, I had even delved into Satanism in my miss-spent youth, discarding the practice when it didn’t result in instant riches or power.

     Nevertheless, it had become quite the guilty pleasure to research every new angle that was presented by both hoaxster and “believer”; searching the library and web for the most ludicrous theories regarding the afterlife, sorcery, demonology, etc. It was after whiling away countless hours on the internet that I came across the “Spirit Box”.

     Bear with me and let me explain. The Spirit Box is an apparatus described to allow the dead to converse with the living. Incredibly, the box is based on the schematic drawings recently found hidden in a home once owned by none other than Thomas Edison. Yes, the Thomas Edison. Edison had discussed with colleagues the workings of such a device. However, after his death in 1938, no further mention of it was ever found in any of his papers. Until 2007, that is. The Spirit Box uses Edison’s basic principles, modified by using current radio frequency technology. I won’t go into technical detail, but the device allows spirits to manipulate the tonal qualities of the electronic transmissions to form words, which can be broadcast through a basic audio device. Sometimes muffled and garbled, the messages are short, usually no more than two to five words. Of course, none of this is accepted by the scientific community. Having piqued my interest, I searched diligently for further information. I came across an individual by the name of Fred Sampson who had video recordings of his sessions using the box. The conversations were chilling. Fred never expounded on his genius, or even defended the validity of his recordings; he merely presented them. I watched and listened to many a posted video of these supposed conversations with the dead with a mixture of excitement and skepticism. The more I listened to these tracks, the more intrigued I became.

      I finally decided to go beyond casual observer to experimenter. What did I have to lose? Having been laid off months before, living in what was once our mother’s house, free of rent, and receiving my unemployment check; I had nothing better to do to pass the hours of the day. I found a unit on an online auction site, lovingly constructed by a “believer” and follower of  Fred Sampson’s, from various radio components obtained from the local Radio Shack. I bid my fifty five dollars and became the proud owner of one Spirit Box. In four days, it was delivered to my door step.

     I set up the Spirit Box in my bedroom. A very simple device, a hard plastic box around eight inches square and six inches in depth, crudely spray painted black. There are very few controls; merely an on-off toggle switch, an adjustment for volume, and a red knob that is labeled “flux control”.  There are a series of LED lights that run across the top of the box, which fluctuate when the “flux control” knob is turned. A small two inch round exposed speaker in the lower center of the box completes the apparatus. There were no fasteners whatsoever. The box was sealed. There were no directions.

     I placed the box in the center of the room, plugged it in, half expecting it to begin sparking and smoking. Once I was sure I wasn’t going to burn the house down, I toyed with the controls. A static modulating hiss came from the box. Twisting the red knob further to the right, I began to here tones and bits of radio broadcasts, along with a continuous ticking noise, like the sound of a metronome. I spent the next hour asking simple questions, straining to hear a response. Nothing came. I turned off the crude machine, feeling disappointed if not a little bit foolish for buying it. I put the contraption in my closet.

    After a few days had passed, I revisited the box. I decided to put to use some of the trivial information that I had amassed over the years in regards to the spirit realm, although jaded on any of its validity. I went to bed at my usual time, but set my alarm clock for When my alarm sounded, I arose and began to prepare for my Spirit Box session. Once again, I placed the box in the center of my bedroom floor. Light from a nearly full moon streamed through my window, so I covered it with a heavy blanket. I found an old candle, saved for the occasional power outage, and set it up on a makeshift foil candle holder. Lighting the candle, I placed it within arms reach of the box. Then I waited for “dead time”. In the world of paranormal research, “dead time” begins at , and is said to be when spirits are most active. At the appropriate time, I turned off all the electric lights. Once my eyes adjusted to the candles flicker, I switched on the black box, which took on a rather sinister appearance in the dim light. The steady clicking and hissing of the machine filled the silence. I adjusted the red knob, slowly turning it to the right, anticipating everything, expecting nothing. The bits of radio broadcasts came through. I could occasionally here complete words, totally unrelated to each other. “Sale” (static, tick) “In sai…” (static, tick, tick), “In relation…” (tick). Feeling foolish, I took out the prepared notes that I had scribbled earlier in the day, and began my “session.”
      David, I realize this must sound like lunacy, but please bear with me.

     I began with a simple “hello”. Instantly I heard the word “hi” come through the small black speaker. Was I imagining things? “Hello?” I repeated. Again, the word “hi” in a male’s voice came through as clear as a bell. It was not a fragment of any radio broadcast. The word came over the static, not from behind it, or mixed in with it. I can’t explain it any better than that.  In shock, I choked out “hello” in an odd falsetto. The box responded, “Hello, hello …HELLOOO.” I turned off the Spirit box as quickly as I could, flicking off the toggle switch as if I were touching a hot stove. I slept on the couch that first night; with every light burning in the house.

     In an attempt to ease my apprehension of using the box, I went online and read of others experiences with the Spirit Box. Most users of the box seemed unaffected by their contacts with the dead, something that I found hard to fathom. Can one be so nonchalant about such an experience? Maybe in the name of research, they simply do not let their own personal feelings enter into their accounts. Or, fundamentally, they don’t truly believe in the very research they are involved in. After much speculation, I began to rationalize that there was surely a logical explanation for my experience. With some trepidation, I decided to make another attempt. I couldn’t bring myself to set up the Spirit Box in the center of my bedroom before I went to sleep, so I left it in the closet for the time being, and set my alarm.

     Upon waking, I went through the ritual of covering the window and fetching the candle. I took the rough edged black plastic box down from the closet shelf and placed it on the floor, plugging it in. Lighting the candle, I turned off the lights. As a precaution, I decided to recite the Lord’s Prayer before turning on the box. I sat cross legged on the hardwood floor, facing the box, sitting as far back from it as I could and still reach the controls. Switching on the power, I was greeted with the familiar hiss-tick. I sat still for a good two minutes before reaching for the red knob. As the knob turned, the LED lights came to life, the glow skittering back and forth as fragments of sounds invaded the small room. Having discarded the notes from my last undertaking, I had no plan of attack. Once again, I began with “Hello.” Nothing. (Static, tick, static, tick). “Hello,” I repeated. Once again, there was no response. A feeling of relief came over me, followed by a frustration, edging on anger; anger at myself for stupidly pursuing such an absurd notion. What had I originally heard? Nothing but a fractal of a distant radio signal, electronically repeated by a charlatan’s “magic” box.

     Then it came. “Hi,” (static, tick, tick, tick) “are…  you there?” I pushed myself back violently with my legs, standing in one motion. After taking a deep breath, I spoke, a mere whisper, “I’m here.” “What is your name?” again, in a whisper.  I listened to the hiss-clicks for a good fifteen seconds, then, “…your name?” came through, very faint, followed by “…in the” and a snippet of violins, and other little clips of radio broadcasts. Was it asking for my name? Or trying to verify my question? “What is your name?” I said loudly, and a little too forcefully. “MORRIS." It was a shout, so loud the small speaker vibrated. I switched off the box and tried to regain my composure. I wished I’d had a friend to call, or a relative, a relative that would still speak to me, but of course I do not, as you well know. I was filled with an excitement I needed to share, but with no one to call. I went out into the chill October night and chain smoked on the front porch of  mother’s old Victorian for nearly an hour.

To be continued 12-20-11

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