Gadgets & Apps

Home-Grown Ghost-Hunting Gadgets

So, I was doing the digital equivalent of navel-gazing — Googling my own name — when I came across another Bill Chappell, a guy whose career, like mine, intersects with the world of audio. With one main difference: he translates paranormal phenomena into sounds, and even words.

His Web site is called Digital Dowsing — from dowsing rods, the sticks used to divine the location of underground water or valuables. And the guy's pretty busy. He builds his own components, and he has apps coming for iPhone/iPod Touch.

The main idea seems to revolve around spirits creating electromagnetic energy and feedback. Devices with names like "The Puck" and "The Ovilus I" detect that energy, convert it into a number — and spit out a word or phoneme tied to that number. Which seems fair.

This video shows some of the equipment in use, at the spooky Meeker Mansion in Puyallup, Wash:

Those guys are part of a group called the Paranormal Underground. And I gotta say, their patience is amazing. Maybe they're focused on sending out positive vibes to any lingering spirits — but I think if I was in that room I'd be sending out my own negative energy.

The thing I don't understand is, people keep asking if the spirit wants to play — to tap on something in the room, or maybe play hide and seek. What if the spirit used to be a real jerk — say, a 50-year-old jerk? Would speaking to them like they're a child help? I think I'd wear a helmet.

This other video is more pro-level:

It's Adam Blai using the Ovilus at the U.S. Hotel in Hollidaysburg, Pa., to piece together some kind of omnibus haiku. They get bonus points for using night vision — but I kept expecting to hear words more appropriate to the sound: "Harder, Better, Faster Stronger."

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