Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Things that Go Bump: Mad Science Edition

I always knew infinity was blue.

Put on your vortex goggles and hide the unstable isotopes, kids, because tonight we're going to rip away the very bed-sheets of Space and Time and peer right up the skirts of Infinity itself.

The image above? It's a screen-grab from a video I made last night. But more about that later.

Right now, let's take a brief detour back to 1993, and pay a quick visit to a little enterprise which has come to be known as the Scole Experiment.

What was the Scole Experiment? Let me use their own words to describe their efforts:

The Scole Experiment chronicles the extraordinary results of a five-year investigation into life after death. At the beginning of 1993 four psychic researchers embarked on a series of experiments in the Norfolk village of Scole. The subsequent events were so astounding that senior members of the 
prestigious Society for Psychical Research asked to observe, test and record what took place.

-- From the Scole Experiment website

Okay, by now you may be thinking to yourself 'Aha. Tuttle isn't normally very enthused about psychic researchers. He must be short of blog ideas.'

Nay, nay. It's true I'm not usually a big fan of so-called psychic researchers. But this bunch captured some truly extraordinary evidence, and they did so in the presence of a professional magician on the lookout for fakery.

You can peruse their website and decide for yourself. But I would like to call your attention to a few intriguing photographs they obtained.

Click here for a page containing video screen grabs from various ITC (Instrumental Trans Communication) sessions. Two in particular caught my eye. Here's the first one:

Man in the Bubble


As I understand it, these images were obtained using a 90s-issue VHSC video camera aimed at a television screen. This setup is the basis for ITC, or Instrumental Trans Communications.

The Scole group produced a volume of fascinating material. There are circuit diagrams. There are images. There are drawings. Copies of newspapers. Odd little scribbles. You name it, they got it.

They also had a long conversation with a being claiming to be an extra-dimensional entity. Not a ghost. Not a spirit. Just an energy creature hanging out in its crib, playing with the 33rd dimension's equivalent of a HAM radio.

Of course not everything they present is thrilling. I'm still puzzling over this screen-grab. They see a face in the image. I see -- stuff. Video noise.

Even so, I couldn't get that 'Man in the Bubble' image out of my head. It's either genuine evidence of the paranormal, or it's fake.

Bubble Man.

At this point, I came to the same decision I came to years ago, when I first became intrigued by EVP recordings.

I decided to try and gather ITC evidence on my own, so I'd know it wasn't faked.

Furthermore, I built a special ITC rig of my very own. But that's for later. Right now, let's look at a standard ITC setup, and see how it works.

Standard ITC setup
It's simple. You aim a video camera at a television screen. The camera's video output is connected to the television's video input. Thus, you wind up with the camera filming its own output.

That creates feedback. Hold a live microphone up to the loudspeaker. That awful shriek is also feedback.

Here, we have video feedback instead of the audio version.

The theory behind ITC video images is similar to what some people say about EVP voices. The random video noise created by the feedback loop somehow allows spirits or other entities to create images, which are then recorded and can be replayed at will.

Okay. Regardless of how far-fetched all that sounds, the purely physical setup is pretty easy. Here's how my own ITC experiment looked:

That's a Sony Handicam on a tripod aimed at an ancient Sanyo CRT TV. The camera lens is about two feet from the TV screen.

That TV is old, people. It's pre-digital, which means it can't even get broadcast signals anymore. I use it to watch the occasional concert on DVD, but I disconnected the DVD player for the session. My point is that the TV isn't going to just randomly display images of people, for instance, because it is essentially a brick without a video source.

Here are a couple of static images I took when I started the experiment:

Stay away from the light, Carol Ann...

One quick note here -- I tried this first during the day, and I immediately spotted several fairly obvious reflections in the glass of the TV screen. There was me, for instance. The window behind me. A few other objects, none ghostly or extra-dimensional as far as I could tell.

So I dumped all that video and waited for dark. 

When the feedback loop is established, you get a strobing effect that takes about two seconds to move from full black to bright white. In between the extremes, you'll see mobile, indistinct shapes blossom and shrink and darken and die. 

It's these shapes that seem to hide the faces and other images.

And these are also the places where our old friend pareidolia comes out to play.  Pareidolia is what lets you see faces in the wood grain of cabinets, or in the clouds. We are hard-wired to make out faces, and do so quickly.

So my criteria for what constitutes an actual face is pretty high. A pair of dark spots and a slit for a mouth isn't going to cut it. 

No, I want to see an image like that of Bubble Man.

Old dude with glasses. That image isn't pareidolia. It may well not be real, in that someone may have cut out a perfectly mundane photo of a man with glasses and stuck it to the TV screen for a single frame, but it jolly well isn't pareidolia.

"Come on, Tuttle, quit stalling! You said you held an ITC session. Did you get anything, or not?"

Well. Yes and no. Mainly no. 

See for yourself:

If that image is the result of an extra-dimensional communicator, he needs to try a little harder. Yeah, okay, two eyes and a mouth, but that's obviously just a random formation of lights and darks. Bzzzzt, better luck next time.

What about this next image, which is a lot more complicated?

I asked for an image of a dog, and that's not actually a bad image. I believe it's nothing but pareidolia, but I can see where some might not.

But we're a long way from photographic-quality images such as the Bubble Man, aren't we?

Yes we are.

The truth of the matter is this -- analyzing ITC data is a lot more laborious than doing the same for EVP recordings. You have to wade through the video files one frame at a time. Let's see, at 30 frames per second and 60 seconds per minute that's 1800 frames per minute, or over 21,000 frames for the single 12 minute video I shot last night.

I'm about four minutes in. And I've been at this for seven solid hours.

So a complete analysis will have to wait. Sorry about that; I know I promised a good blog entry today, but the sheer math of it has overwhelmed me.

We won't even talk about trying to use Windows Movie Maker to do a frame-by-frame analysis of a longish video clip. We won't talk about that because I don't like to use those kinds of words in public. Suffice it to say I will be on the lookout for a basic cheap video editing package.

Again, my apologies for not finishing all this today. I will finish analyzing the video. Until then, these screen grabs will have to suffice.

The image I opened this blog entry with doesn't look at all like the blobby grainy green images I've shown, does it?

That's because this image was generated using the same camera in a device I built myself Saturday afternoon, after seeing the first grainy strobing pictures produced by the old-school CRT tube.

Televisions work by refreshing the screen 60 times a second or so. I think that's part of what causes the strobing effect we saw earlier. So, I decided I'd eliminate that by using four mirrors placed at ninety degree angles to reflect the camera's unblinking little lens right into its own viewfinder.

That way, I'd create an optical feedback loop, without all that headache-inducing strobing.

Here's how my 'infinity mirror' array works:

And here's what it looks like, without the camera.

And with the camera:

The screw assembly on the right is there to make minute changes to the pitch of Mirror 1, to keep the image centered.

Running it is simple. Just hit record. It doesn't matter whether the room lights are on or not; I zoom in until the viewfinder fills the screen, and that's that.

Here are some screen grabs. Turns out infinity is blue, just like we all suspected.

A screen within a screen within a screen....

Everything seemed to rotate slowly, counterclockwise...

Then things would (literally) spin off into the distance.

The little screen icons on the camera viewfinder, repeated to infinity...

What I didn't see were any faces. No faces, no dogs, no big text messages reading HI WE ARE FROM THE AFTERLIFE.

Looks like the process needs the strobing and the noise to conjure up faces and so forth.

I have an idea for a modification of the mirror array which will add some noise without strobing. If I can, I'll add it for next week's blog.

Until then, I'd like to hear your comments on the matter.

Did the Scole group fake their results? Is the Bubble Man image paranormal, or the result of scissors and rubber cement? What do you think?

I'm on the fence. But I need to shoot a lot more video before I have a strong opinion either way.


Got the mirror array video uploaded. Click below to view:


  1. Ok, this blog was fascinating! First, your image of the man and you said 'I don't think so.' Well, look at it again, and then move away and then closer to the screen, back and forth, - I swear the guy's face gets clearer and then amorphic! As fot the other stuff - I don't know. I wonder why electronic equipment is the "deciding factor" on presence of ghosts or uber-dimensions... I mean, what about our aura's, reiki? There's energy there, what about the rays of the sun? Why only via tape recorders and TV screens? Fascinating stuff, Frank - thanks for sharing? (I obviously think about this way too much) One day I'll tell you why we moved from a house in CT because my mother swore it was haunted....

  2. Frank, this is so amazing. If I ever get to North Mississippi, we are going to do some serious ghost hunting. You are so darned clever with these ITC set ups.

  3. Elyse, I'd love to hear the story of the CT house! I love hearing accounts of people I know to be telling the truth.

    Denise, heck yeah, we can chase some Southern ghosts! And the setups are actually pretty junky. I spent a whole dollar on that mirror; the rest of the parts are odds and ends.

    Which reminds me, I should go turn it on now and see if anyone is talking!