A few weeks ago when the oaken banquet table in the Great Hall developed a slant and was dumping mead into everyone’s laps, I found myself in urgent need of a spirit level. Being as how Ove the Blacksmith was under the table in a drunken stupor at the time, the first place I turned was the App Store because there’s an app for that.
But as I was typing ‘spirit level’ into the search function, a suggestion for something else came up, and this sent me on a week-long excursion into the world of the paranormal and the numerous ghost-hunting apps available.
The suggestion was ‘spirit box’.
Now if you’ve ever watched ‘Ghost Adventures’ on TV, you’ll know that that Zak bloke has a myriad of electronic tech-geekery gadgets at his disposal so that he can communicate with spirits and scare himself shitless each week. One of these is an SB7 Spirit Box, which sweeps through radio frequencies at speed and is supposed to facilitate spirit communications by producing white noise. It’s similar to the snow you get on the TV when you flip to a channel that isn’t tuned in. You all remember Poltergeist, right?
So with my curiosity piqued, I downloaded and installed a free app called ‘Sono X10 Spirit Box’, just to try it out.
At this point I probably should explain that, as a Gemini, I am always very much in two minds about things. I do believe that there are ghosts because I’ve seen them – I have a ghost black-and-white cat in my house that I’ve seen on a few occasions in the hallway, and that Mr Ragnhild has both seen and heard there too. Each time we’ve thought ‘how on earth did a cat get in here?’ and each time we’ve gone to investigate and found nothing. Then again, I find it hard to believe that an app that essentially turns your phone into a ghost-hunting device by using its sensors could actually work, so it’s time to get testing.
The Sono X10 Spirit Box sweeps through radio frequencies, but you do have to listen quite hard because you get snatches of speech from radio stations too. Still, on my first trial with it I stood in my hallway and asked ‘Is there an animal in this house?’. I got the clear response back saying ‘There’s a cat’. This is slightly weird in itself, as this phrase is longer than the Sono X10 stays on one frequency at any one time during the sweep.
I tried it again while on a walk with friends at a local historic site. We stood amongst the trees and asked ‘Can you tell us where we are?’, half-expecting it to come out with the name of the site. Instead, it clearly said ‘In the woods’. We all looked at each other in shock, as we all heard the same thing.
I always try things in threes, so I hiked my phone out once more while with mates at a local, and very old, pub. ‘How long have you been here?’ we asked. ‘Eight years’ came the response.
Of course, it’s possible that these were just random occurrences between frequencies, but bloody hell, if that’s the case they were all quite pertinent! However, the danger in using a spirit box comes when you ask a question to which you already know the answer, because you’re then automatically listening out for that response and will likely hear it, whether it’s there or not. It’s kind of like an audio version of pareidolia, where the human mind perceives familiar patterns or faces where none exist, such as seeing the face of Jesus in a piece of toast – the image isn’t really there, but your brain finds the closest match to a recognised pattern, and can even enhance it. The same thing can happen with audio stimuli, and it’s indeed possible to hear words or music when there isn’t any such pattern present. I bet you’ve all misheard song lyrics at one time or another!
Because of this, my advice would be to always use the spirit box in the presence of other people, and that way you can all verify the response you’ve heard and confirm you all heard the same thing. Plus, if a demon or something nasty comes through, you’re not all alone to deal with the bugger, right?
But could I leave it at just trying one paranormal app? Could I bollocks. So I downloaded two different Ovilus-based apps and decided to see what they could do. Now, an Ovilus device contains a large dictionary of words and uses the phone’s sensors (although I’m not sure which ones!) to measure changes in the ‘environmental energy field’ and then generate words based on these changes, enabling a spirit to communicate. To be honest, I’m not sure if a phone can actually do this but hey, I’m giving it a go.
The first app I tried was iOvilus by Digital Dowsing LLC. The blurb said to be patient with it as it can take time for messages to come through, but I switched it on and the thing began yammering straight away. Much of it didn’t make any sense, but there were a few things that came out that were very interesting.
The first was when I asked ‘Can you tell me my name?’
I initially got a five-letter word, which was basically my first name but missing two letters. This kind of makes sense as my first name isn’t in the dictionary on the app.
After that, it gave me four seemingly unconnected words:
I shrugged it off until got up to make a cup of tea, and noticed that there were five items together on my sideboard – a candle, a bag of loose change, a little bottle of oil, a box of perfume oil… and a coaster, a coaster with my surname printed on it.
Was this a spirit pointing me in the direction of my name, because it didn’t exist in the app’s dictionary?
The second time I tried it, I was watching ‘Doctor Who & The Daleks’, a film from 1963 starring Peter Cushing in the title role. I asked ‘Do you like what I’m watching on TV?’ and got this reply:
Another one that was a little bit weird was when I asked if the person was alone, and got five responses very quickly:
These are strange responses, that’s for sure, but given that a lot of responses do come through that don’t make a lot of sense, I can’t quite rule out that these just aren’t random patterns or the results of interference. It’s the scientific side of me, I think!
The other app was recommended by Huffington Post as ‘the only ghost-hunting app you’ll ever need’, so naturally I was curious to give it a go. It’s called Spirit Story Box, and displays not just single words but also simple sentences.
It’s not nearly as chatty as the iOvilus, but perhaps this is a good thing. I’ve only been using it for a day, but as I type now it appears to be commenting on what’s happening during the film I’m watching, which is quite impressive!
Probably the best response I’ve received was this evening too – I suddenly shivered, like you do, and turned to Mr Ragnhild saying ‘what was that?’ Straight away, the app said ‘brushed you’. Intrigued, I was trying to take a screen shot of it but the top button on my iPhone is a bit dodgy, and after trying three times and failing, I let out a growl of annoyance. Right then, another word appeared:
Of course, it’s very easy to say that I’m just reading the words and interpreting them in my own way, and yes, I agree that it is a very subjective experience. But the non-scientific side of me does wonder if perhaps these apps are tapping into something that we don’t yet understand, and maybe that’s the appeal of them – they’re driven by the quest for knowledge.
After all, who doesn’t love a good mystery?
Links to the apps are below if you want to give them a try: