A Spell binding Fresh E book Explores the Eerie Connection Between Tech and the Supernatural

A web order of Willem ’s Gravesande’s 1720 e-book Physices Elementa Mathematica with Jan van Musschenbroek’s magic lantern projecting a monster.
Image: Public Domain

In the intervening time, the root of attempting to contact spirits the utilize of expertise calls to mind those truth presentations that ship imperfect “ghost hunters” into abandoned hospitals. But as a brand recent e-book investigates, the practice has an whole lot extra historical previous and nuance on the abet of it than that.

That e-book is Queer Frequencies: The Extraordinary Memoir of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural by Peter Bebergal, who io9 closing spoke to abet in 2014 for Season of the Witch, his e-book about the intersection between rock ‘n’ roll and the occult. Bebergal’s latest uncommon exploration is each a historical previous lesson and eyewitness yarn, as the author attends a séance with an artist who specializes in photographing mediums, interviews an electronic tell phenomenon (EVP) researcher, and attends performances that push the boundaries of “stage magic,” to name precise about a of his experiences. Alongside the vogue, he digs deep into the previous, framing the up-to-the-minute watch proof of the spirit realm (there’s an app for that!) as a fascination that stretches abet 1000’s of years.

And earlier than any skeptics click on away from this web order, Queer Frequencies doesn’t claim to supply any proof that ghosts exist. As a change, Bebergal is manner extra attracted to why human beings dangle repeatedly been so fascinated with piercing the veil—as well to the kind of pondering that one have to catch into earlier than they are able to originate up to initiating out their mind to such fabulous prospects. The e-book is obtainable now, and we caught up with the author precise earlier than Halloween to be taught extra.


io9: Lots of the issues in Queer Frequencies can point out a particular moment that in point of truth sparked their ardour in the hyperlink between expertise and the spirit world—esteem the girl who believes she bought a tell mail from a deceased relative. Did you dangle your win moment esteem that, and what made you are looking out for to explore this topic in a e-book?

Peter Bebergal: I have faith I was prepped from childhood [to be interested in the subject]—namely growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Every thing used to be awash with things esteem monsters, the magical, In Search Of…, Bigfoot, and reruns of The Twilight Zone. I have faith the impact of a film esteem Poltergeist, as I relate in the e-book—that the spirits would in point of truth manifest in the dwelling thru the tv plight—used to be this kind of startling ingredient. It used to be so of the period—the TV used to be this kind of phase of our lives.

Then I met the photographer that I focus on in the e-book, Shannon Taggart, whose work [investigates] the historical belief that expertise used to be this medium whereby spirits might maybe maybe maybe construct themselves acknowledged. What used to be enthralling about Shannon’s work used to be that she wasn’t attempting to show cloak either manner that spirits did or did no longer exist, she used to be precise attempting to grab what would happen when she allowed the digicam to make this originate of ambiguous moment. You’re seeing something the place you’re no longer sure what you’re seeing. You might maybe well maybe maybe maybe maybe also argue it’s a glitch of the digicam, nevertheless it surely’s esteem if you happen to’re staring at a magic trick and for a sever up 2nd, you’re enchanted by that moment. That small minute sever up 2nd of doubt, or ambiguity, used to be something I wished to witness if I might maybe maybe maybe blow up. What used to be enthralling used to be that expertise perceived to be something that, historically, other folks dangle been the utilize of to enlarge these enchanted moments once we, precise for a 2nd, suspend disbelief.

Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) unwittingly discovers a vogue into the spirit realm in Poltergeist (1982).
Image: MGM

io9: Queer Frequencies’ watch of the intersection between tech and the supernatural starts manner earlier than the invention of the digicam—we’re talking Biblical times. What made you are looking out for to physique the topic with such historical context?

Bebergal: I realized that expertise doesn’t have to mean advanced circuits. Expertise might maybe maybe maybe very nicely be defined as any manner whereby human beings dangle materially tried to dangle interaction with our ambiance, with nature, with the spirit world, with the divine. Any time that we’re synthesizing the things around us—whether it’s with a crystal to are trying to witness correct into a spirit realm esteem John Dee did in Elizabethan England, or the actual individual that is hacking an FM radio to are trying to hear spirits—there are so principal of resonances. It’s no longer precise that they are looking to be in contact with spirits, nevertheless in many methods what they’re each doing, which I secure entirely enthralling, is taking a self-discipline cloth object and the utilize of it in a vogue that it wasn’t necessarily intended for, or the utilize of it in a vogue that isn’t constructed into the ingredient itself.

It practically seems esteem there’s something relating to the human being that’s a hacker at our core, attempting to grab the ingredient and peep how we are able to reimagine it, taking it apart and seeing the draw it in point of truth works, and seeing if we are able to end something totally different with it. I wished to witness if this up-to-the-minute belief of the hacker used to be something that can even very nicely be traced as a long way abet as any individual the utilize of a seeing stone—brooding about how human beings dangle tried to utilize technical manner to dangle interaction with our ambiance in methods that can maybe maybe maybe appear unorthodox, or infrequently even risky.

io9: Speaking of latest tips, I didn’t heed until I be taught Queer Frequencies that there are in point of truth apps for attempting to contact spirits thru your cellular phone. What used to be your ride esteem with that, and how end you have faith this curiosity will proceed to evolve? 

Bebergal: Obviously, the truth that americans dangle created iPhone apps is precise phase of this pattern that we’ve been seeing for millennia. As rapidly as the digicam used to be invented, the predominant ingredient other folks wished to full used to be peep in the occasion that they might maybe maybe maybe engage with the spirit world. Same with the telegraph. The iPhone app is in point of truth a supreme continuation of this tendency that now we dangle. I have faith what happens, despite the truth that, is as the expertise increases, [so does] our ability to—I don’t are looking out for to yelp deceive, nevertheless surely to utilize extra trickery to are trying to induce these forms of moments. As digicam expertise modified into extra improved, it used to be more durable for fogeys to are trying to point to that there used to be some totally different manner whereby a spirit used to be one way or the other exhibiting on the film.

A horrifying scene from Netflix’s horrifying-as-hell ghost saga The Haunting of Hill Home.
Photograph: Steve Dietl (Netflix)

I end have faith it’s crucial to yelp, despite the truth that, that precise because something is a trick doesn’t mean it’s intended to deceive. Customarily tricks are intended to make these states of consciousness that we ride—that we one way or the other purposefully set up ourselves in entrance of. My indispensable other and I dangle been staring at The Haunting of Hill Home and there are some in point of truth startling moments in that checklist. Why is it that we are able to feel chilled to the bone by something that we’re precise staring at in our living room? We heed it’s Netflix and we’re going to peep one episode after the barely an excellent deal of, correct? Even supposing there’s a trick that’s occurring there, there’s peaceful something about those activities and other folks tips that we purposefully peaceful are looking out for to determine with. And expertise has continued to be the vogue whereby we are able to end that.

My win ride the utilize of those apps, despite the truth that, I discovered truly problematic, because they don’t promote them as ambiguous. They promote them as very literal, and I have faith if you happen to are trying to literalize any of these forms of things, that’s the place the skeptical mind at once begins to gash up. If you precise allow for it to be a playful interaction with these tips, I have faith that’s extra probably you might maybe well enter into those states of mind. But when someone tells you “This ingredient is in point of truth going to talk to spirits,” I have faith it’s no longer barely as trustworthy.

io9: Now that originate of everybody has a digicam on them in any admire times, end you have faith other folks dangle change into extra skeptical?

Bebergal: I have faith you are extra susceptible to dangle other folks feeling that they aren’t going to be restricted in the occasion that they attain upon something that they’d esteem to grab. What’s enthralling is, why are we living in a time correct now the place there are extra books on witchcraft being printed extra than any totally different time, with the exception of maybe the gradual ‘60s? Regardless of how improved we seem like, technologically speaking, even having an incredibly remarkable computer in our pocket, it in no manner is limiting our ability to surprise and to determine with these tips. I do know that it’s easy to be skeptical and verbalize it’s all bunk—nevertheless I don’t have faith that’s a in point of truth enthralling query: “Pause spirits exist or no longer exist?” The enthralling query to demand is, why end we proceed to determine with these items on this form? Why has expertise repeatedly perceived to dangle been a automotive by which we’re looking out for to determine with them, even though the science that in most cases makes these technologies imaginable tells us these realities are no longer correct?

io9: There are moments in the e-book the place you seem barely unconvinced—esteem if you happen to encountered “ectoplasm” as phase of a séance. But did you ever dangle an ride that made you end and query truth a chunk of bit?

Bebergal: Let’s set up it this form—I was very initiating to that occuring. I in point of truth notion the plight that used to be going to happen used to be after I was doing the electronic tell phenomena experiments. There dangle been about a places the place there used to be a tell that perceived to yelp the observe “skeleton” once or twice. But, again, it gave me a chunk of bit of a creepy feeling, nevertheless it surely didn’t in point of truth toddle the gap. If something had took plight, I would dangle written about it. But what used to be enthralling used to be to be in that plight the place I was in point of truth the utilize of EVP form tools and the utilize of these ways and finding myself in that manner of pondering the place these items might maybe maybe maybe in point of truth be correct—it is its win originate of uncommon headspace that you simply catch into.

But I end have faith that [the main place] the place I felt that I wasn’t repeatedly sure what used to be occurring used to be, again, after I was having a peep at Shannon’s photos. [The séance that we attended together] didn’t dangle any uncommon moments, nevertheless having a peep on the photos after the truth, and how the photos in most cases corresponded so carefully to the fable to what had been described, might maybe maybe maybe additionally be very eerie. I don’t know if it’s precise that pictures seems to full the finest job of that originate of ingredient—I have faith phase of that is because Shannon lets in for ambiguity. These originate of things that americans dangle been doing, esteem electronic tell phenomena, in point of truth require a literal mind of believing or no longer believing and I’m no longer very ultimate-looking at that. I take to live in these ambiguous places—when something asks me to have faith bulky-on, my response is to no longer have faith in any admire.

The chapter the place I described these gadgets esteem [meditation tool] “the Dreamachine,” the place you in point of truth allow yourself to be initiating to recent methods of pondering, are principal extra remarkable than having an ride the place you have faith you’ve maybe seen a ghost. Unfortunately or fortunately I didn’t dangle any experiences esteem that, nevertheless that’s no longer to yelp while penning this e-book I didn’t dangle moments of what I would name real enchantment.