Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Things That Go Bump, Chapter 4: And Now, For Something Completely Different

It's nearly Halloween, so welcome to another installment of Things That Go Bump!

I've got a couple of new topics to explore this evening. We'll play with an Ovilus device, which is a box which alleges to convert spirit-induced fluctuations in the local EM and electric fields into clear speech. Then we'll examine a classic ghostly photograph which is, I believe, one of the most compelling images ever taken. Finally, I'll leave you with something special of mine I hope you'll enjoy.

On to the Ovilus, then!

The fisrt Ovilus device was built by a retired electrical engineer named Bill Chappell. Mr. Chappell went on to found the Digital Dowsing website, which is still active today.

To give you an idea of how an Ovilus recording sounds, here's an audio clip recorded by Gregory Myers of the Paranormal Task Force. The Ovilus is at a site used as a field hospital during the American Civil War.
Listen below:


It does seem as if the device is interacting with the paranormal crew, doesn't it?

I was intrigued but suspicious. Suspicious not of any chicanery on the part of the device users, but in the inherent workings of the device itself.

Basically, an Ovilus box is a speech synthesizer chip, a power supply, and some EM/RF sensors. Fluctuations in the local EM environment trigger activation of the speech synthesis circuits. This is turn creates speech. The theory is that unseen entities can alter the EM environment with such precision that they can use these fluctuations to build words and sentences.

My problem with this theory is that I'm a corporeal human with access to all kinds of tools and technology and I'd probably die of old age long before I managed to rig up a piece of gear capable to forcing an Ovilus box to recite 'Mary had a little lamb.'

So how are the 'spirits' just squinting at the gadget and making it talk?

Maybe that's how spirits roll. Maybe Google is a lot more advanced on the Other Side. Look, I don't have an answer for that question.

But I do have an Ovilus box, or at least the iPhone app that simulates it, downloaded from Digital Dowsing.

About an hour ago, I fired up this Ovilus simulator, and recorded the entire session for your listening pleasure. This isn't a terribly long piece - -about 8 minutes, I think -- so crank up your PC volume and hear what an Ovilus session is really like!


I admit it was a bit freaky when I asked what kind of creatures were in the room with me (meaning my dogs) and the Ovilus piped up and said 'animal.'

But since it also prattled merrily on about Monica and builds and speed, I'm pretty much ready to chalk the 'animal' word up to a mere instance of coincidence.

Next up, a photograph from 1959 -- the so-called Chinnery photo.

Take a look below:

Nothing much remarkable at first glance, is there? You see a man in the driver's seat (this photo was taken in England, where they drive on the wrong side of the road but that's okay because they also created Dr. Who). You see a lady in the rear passenger seat. The driver is one Mr. Chinnery. The photograph was taken by his wife, Mabel, after a visit to her mother's graveside.

What makes this photo remarkable is that the elderly lady seated in the rear of the vehicle is the deceased mother of Mabel Chinnery. Yes, it's her grave the couple came to visit; both living Chinnerys identified the woman in the back seat as the deceased mother of Mabel. And yes, that was her customary seat in the same car when she was alive.

It's 1959, people. Yes, photos could be altered, but it was a messy business, and the developer had to be in on the joke. By all accounts, the Chinnerys were staid, sensible people, people unlikely to indulge in such unsavory shenanigans.

The image of the back seat passenger appears quite solid. Her glasses are even reflective. I've seen a lot of faked ghost photos from the era in question, and 'attention to detail' is not a phrase often employed in the analysis of such photos. Most are so crude they're laughable.

Interesting, indeed!

Finally, the special treat I mentioned earlier.

Way back in 2004, I wrote a story called "The Powerful Bad Luck of DD Dupree." It's always been one of my favorites, since it's a spooky story set in the Mississippi I remember from 1973. Yeah, there's magic, of a kind, but it's a uniquely Mississippi kind of magic.

What do I mean by that?

I mean it's touched by tragedy. Everything here is touched by tragedy. Which isn't a condemnation, by the way. I'm proud, for the most part, of what my state has become. We've rejected the heinous, inexcusable prejudice of our past, and embraced a new equality. I'm proud to have played small roles in that, from time to time. Yes, the battle continues -- but the forces of good, cliche as it sounds, are winning.

But the past is still there, grim and unchanged. It touches us all. I hope you can see some of that influence in the story.

I sold the story to an online magazine called Abyss & Apex. The story remained up in their archives until some time ago, when the link to it went dead. I've asked the new owners if they plan to put the story back up, but haven't heard back, so I'm presenting it here as a Halloween gift to all of you.

You can read the story, right on your browser, by clicking the READ link below. Or you can listen to the story as I read it in my thick Deep South accent, which for once is actually appropriate for the subject matter, by clicking LISTEN.

Either way, I hope you enjoy it. Many of the characters in the story are based on real people I knew, as a kid. Wade Lee, the one-armed black hoodoo man, is based on a kindly, gentle soul who lived not a thousand feet from where I sit, in a shack exactly as I describe it in the story. The real Wade Lee also lost both legs and one arm in a corn picker. There really was a Piggly Wiggly, and there really was a grease truck, and maybe, just maybe, the shadows on a certain gravel road were a shade darker than they had any business being...

I hope you enjoy the story. Thanks for coming along on my October tour of all things spooky and scary. Oh, and that scratching at the window behind you?

I'm sure it's just the wind.

LISTEN to The Powerful Bad Luck of DD Dupree

READ The Powerful Bad Luck of DD Dupree


  1. That old lady looks like a guy with a mustache to me. And the glasses look more like glowing eyeballs of a ghost...

    Thanks for the story! Am off to read it pronto!

  2. Hope you like the story! And now that I've thought about it, one explanation for this photo might be a simple case of misplacement. What if a photo of a trip when the mother was living got mixed up with the graveyard pics?

    Still spooky though.

  3. I LOVED The story! Most excellent and perfect for Halloween!

    I thought of the fact that the photo could easily have been taken while she was alive--and forgotten about. But it doesn't much look like a lady to me and it has very spooky eyes. So it could be the mom. Or another spook looking for a ride...

    You're planning to go to a cemetery at night next year, right? Better chance to see spooks.

  4. Yep, a night-time cemetery trip is in the works. An ex-army friend offered to go along as security (thanks Matt!), so it should be soon.