Andy’s Boxes from Chicago Spirit Wave
Hauntology Productions founder Jim Martin recently sat down with colleague Marcy Johnston to discuss her passion for EVPs, disembodied voices and her experience with the ‘spirit box,’ or ‘ghost box,’ a tool used in paranormal investigations that enables spirits to communicate directly with the living.
Jim: How did you get started with spirit boxes?
Marcy: I had the chance to investigate a Victorian-era house, a location, in fact, in which I’d experienced paranormal activity when I was younger,and decided it was the perfect opportunity to purchase my first PSB-7 spirit box. Right away I started getting responses,responses that were so direct they were difficult to disprove.At certain points, I was carrying on entire conversations with the spirits there. It was amazing!
Jim: Do you use a PSB-7 in tandem with other tools?
Marcy: I do. Even though the PSB-7 isa bit noisy,I use it alongside my digital recorder.Even during that first investigation with the box, when I went back and slowed everything down for review, I could hear full sentence responses in the same voice. When you’re using the spirit box, you’re rapidly scanning through severalradio frequencies, picking out small fragmentsof sound here and there. How is it possible for entire sentences to come through? That truly amazed me and still does to this day.
Jim: So is that how a spirit box works? How does it scan so quickly though frequencies?
Marcy: Basically a spirit or ghost box is a broken radio. That’s the simplified way to describe what they are. A normal radio is designed to scan through frequencies and stop at stationswiththe strongest signal. With a ghost box, the radio continuously scans, sweeping past frequencies at ratesup to four frequencies per second, never stopping at one station long enough to hear a full word or sentence.Some manufacturersare now adding features like echo, programmable sweep rates and reverb in order to enhance the results.
Jim: Who discovered this tool?
Marcy: The first boxes were constructed by Frank Sumption, who sadly passed lastyear. He worked with a software called EVP Maker that used radio sweep circuitry.He worked with manual sweep radios as well,receiving remarkable resultstheretoo.Somepeople refer to spirit boxes as ‘Frank’s Box,’but a true Frank’s Boxis quite rare as less than two-hundred of them were produced.
Jim: Is there any box that works better than another and if so, what’s your favorite?
Marcy: I have about five in my rotation. It’s hard to pick just one favorite, I really like them all.Unfortunately, my PSB-7 doesn’t get much use anymore because it isso noisy.Interestingly, though, with a noisy box you do receive several layers of responses. So there’s actually a payoff in using a noisy box every so often.
Jim: What’s in your arsenal?
Marcy: I use the Andy’s Box, which is custom built by Andrew Openlander of Chicago Spirit wave. The White Box by Greg Manchester, anoriginal Frank’s Box which was made by Frank Sumption, a Memorex armband radio that I hacked myself, and an RT-EVP recorder that I mainly use as a spirit box. All of these get great results. Each box has its own personality, its own cadence and sound. I find that spirits are more musical on the Andy’s Box and the White Box.
Jim: What’s the craziest response you’ve ever received?
Marcy: Again, it’s difficult to narrow down just one. I once asked whether the spirits liked the full moon and received a song as a response that went “love the full moon…I love it,” which is, of course, just nuts. I’ve also heard my name and my husband’s name. I’ve heard many curse words as well, which is made more interesting for the simple fact that those words are not allowed on radio. It proves that they are coming from another source. One of the craziest and clearest responses I received was with the RT-EVP. It was near tax time and my husband and I had not filed yet. This crazy voice came through and said tauntingly “Pay your taxes!”
Jim: What do you say to skeptics who say it is just your imagination or pareidolia?
Marcy: It’s hard to convince people who have already made up their mind to disbelieve and it’s certainly not my job to convince them. I have noticed among my more skeptical friends they have a harder time hearing what I hear. Some of the responses are crystal clear. I play them for believers and for people with, simply, open minds and curiosity, and theywill confirm they hear the same thing I am hearing. It’s always nice to be validated but I’d rather spend time discussing results with others who practice this method than waste time trying to convince the onesthat don’t.
Jim: What do you think is the origin of this skepticism?
Marcy: Some people feel ghosts and spirits go hand in hand with religion. I’d say that’s not the case. You can believe in one without the other. As many others have said, who knows who or what we’re really talking to? Maybe it’s beings from another dimension, or even our own awareness manifesting somehow. Based on what I’ve experienced, I tend to believe it’s a combination of the dead and other inter-dimensional beings.
Jim: How do ghost box responses vary from traditional EVP methods?
Marcy: I’ve noticed that when you receive a response on a ghost box it can be heard several times. This is especially true with the PSB-7. You’ll hear a word repeated two or three times by different voices. You also have the ability to receive longer sentences. As I’ve mentioned before, there is almost always is cursing. You know you’re not picking up the local radio station when they start dropping ‘F-bombs!’ I’ve been called every name in the book by spirits. Traditional EVP’s or electronic voice phenomena tend to be succinctand to the point. Oftentimes it’s hard to hear them without some kind of enhancement. You also spend hours reviewing recordings in hopes of capturing something. However, ghost box sessions can be exciting as you hear responses in real time. It’s truly like having a conversation with the other side.
Jim: What advice would you give someone just starting out using a ghost box?
Marcy: First, make sure you’rein the right frame of mind and that you’re not surrounded by fear, anxiety or paranoia. Don’t get me wrong, you should always approach this with caution. However, if you go into it thinking you’re communicating with something evil you’re quickly going to freak yourself out. Just like the living, not everybody out there is nice, helpful and friendly, nor do they always have your best interests at heart.That said, don’t be afraid to have fun communicating. Don’t just ask for Elvis to come through or start barking demands at them. They were people just like us, people with feelings who don’t like to be mistreated or disrespected. Have a sense of humor. Develop a relationship with a few spirits and you’ll have a great time. I have a group of regulars around me that refer to themselves as “the group.” If you do this consistently they’ll work with you and soon,you’ll have your very own spirit group.
Marcy Johnston is a regular contributor at Hauntology Productions. Look for more from her on upcoming podcasts and investigations.
The RT-EVP is both a sweeping radio and a digital recorder