Ghosts, Technology, & People Oh My!

Last week I attended my first colloquium in a long time. The last one I went to was for COR 401; Howard Snyder was talking at it and long story short I barely retained any of the talk because it was of little to no interest to me. Don’t get wrong, I absolutely think Howard Snyder is incredibly intelligent and wise, he’s just better at communicating his thoughts in written form.

Anyways, moving on.

Matt BernicoDr. Matt Bernico began his talk entitled, The Gesture of Belief, by telling us a story about when he got a Gameboy Color. His favorite game to play on it was Pokemon Yellow. He talked about how there was this theory that if you hit the B button quickly it was more likely that you would catch the Pokemon you were throwing your ball at. Upon doing further research about the topic he came to find it was entirely false and how the algorithms in the game couldn’t even allow for that to happen. Even though he knew no matter how many times he hit that B button, nothing was really going to happen, he still believed in the ritual of the thing. Hitting B super fast was just something he, and many others did. (There are apparently those who still believe something almost magical happens when this is done.)

You might be thinking, “Gee, what in the world does Pokemon have to do with the topic of ghosts and other paranormal entities?” Well let me tell you. Bernico gave this example in reference to the idea that “we engage in technical rituals in hopes it will do something but it doesn’t.”

This applies to the idea of going ghost hunting or going on ghost adventures. People who participate in this type of activity more often than not invest a lot of money into finding and communicating with ghosts. Bernico told us about a Spiritual telegraph that essentially allows one to communicate with paranormal entities through a series of dots and dashes. Bernico remarked that, “talking with the dead through dots and dashes was only slightly more miraculous than talking to the living in the same way.”


Then he went on to talk about EMF Readers which apparently can detect when these paranormal entities are around and how close you are to them. He explained that this device assumes that there is a correlation between electromagnetic fields and ghosts and somehow with this device humans can become sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

Spirit Box

Moving on to the next device that ghost hunters have found useful over the years, the Spirit Box. This device lets you actually communicate with ghosts. You are able to “hear their voices”…or just pick up on a random radio signal floating around the air…but I digress.

Paranormal Puck 2

Next is the Paranormal Puck, commonly seen on Ghost Adventures apparently. This one literally looks like a hockey puck except you can use it with your Android or iPhone, all you have to do is download an app. With the app you can essentially send text messages to this puck that ghosts are able to read and then reply to. Crazy stuff man.  

So why in the world did Dr. Bernico go on so long about devices that crazy ghost hunters use? Well let me tell you. He referred to this devices as “apocryphal technology” which basically means that a piece of technology doesn’t really work in the way that people believe it to work. However it does work in the sense of the belief that it works. Sounds confusing, right? He went on to explain that the object itself and its relationship with the user is what helps shape the belief that this object works in the way that it claims it does. Once a user has a firm belief that these devices will let them contact dead people they hear what they want to hear and then add meaning to what they have heard.

I found this whole topic to be riveting. Not only did Bernico explain complicated ideas behind technology well, but he made this whole idea of finding paranormal entities interesting. While he himself does not believe in ghosts, it was riveting to listen to him talk about the ways other people believe in them.

I think we as a people group believe in crazy things like this a lot. We think that something works in a way that simply is not possible, but we go on believing that it is. And we certainly don’t like to be told that our belief is wrong. Sometimes, I think the belief itself is stronger than any type of scientific fact that goes against it. That being said, it is refreshing to know that there are people out there who are willing to do months of research over a topic such as ghosts and apocryphal technology just so that are able to understand the situation at hand more.

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