Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Things That Go Bump #4

Bill O'Neil

George Meek
Meet Bill O'Neil and George Meek.

These gentlemen are one of two things. They are either visionaries and pioneers, or a pair of grinning scamps who pulled off one of the most complicated pranks in paranormal research history.

Together, they built and operated an enormous machine they called the Spiricom, which was said to allow clear, utterly unambiguous communication with at least one deceased gentleman known as 'Doc Mueller.'

You can hear the tapes. See the diagrams. But before we get into all that, a bit of background.

The year is 1979. Disco is on its last pair of wide-bottomed trousers. The acronym 'EVP' is barely know to anyone outside of hard-core paranormal researchers. I am sporting a truly unfortunate Beatles bowl-cut. 

Meanwhile, down in his basement, Bill O'Neil is using the so-called 'Spiricom' to speak to the dead.

Of course, he's not the only person to have made this claim. But he is one of the few who made high-quality recordings of his conversations. His methods were also wildly diverged from the usual Ouija-board and seance-room approaches usually taken. 

No, the Spiricom was a nuts-and-bolts machine. 

In a nutshell, here's how O'Neil and Meek claimed the Spiricom worked:

1) They built a tone generator. This tone generator combined 13 distinct audio tones, each lying within the vocal range of the average human male (from about 300 to 3400 Hz). Nothing special here, except in 1979 you couldn't simply fire up a computer to do this without building a specialized device.

2) They hooked the tone generator to a low-powered radio transmitter. Their transmitter spewed out the audio tone on a radio frequency of around 30 MHz. Is there anything magical or special about 30 MHz? Nope. 

3) They built a receiver, which received their 30 MHz tonal transmissions.  They set up a mic and a recorder and recorded the sounds from the receiver as well as the operator's voice.

Pretty simple, really. You've got a transmitter spewing out a steady tone, which is a combination of all the tones used by human males (why not include women? Sign of the times, I suppose). 

And then you've got a receiver picking up these tones, and a recorder taking it all down. 

According to Meeks and O'Neil, something happened between steps 2 and 3. For communication to have occurred, a group of entities based somewhere else would have to have received this tone transmission, modulated the steady tone into a rather robotic-sounding voice, and then transmitted this modulated version of the signal back to O'Neil's receiver. 

Keep in mind nothing O'Neil said was actually transmitted. The Spiricom receiver sent out nothing but the tone. So for the ghosts to know what O'Neil was saying, they had to be there in the room listening to him. 

Yeah. So you've got spirits who A) know somehow when the Spiricom transmitter is active, and B) can also be present in the same room to hear what the operator is saying. 

But forget that for a moment. Let us hypothesize that there are ghosts on the Other Side who know quite a bit about electronic engineering. That's not so far-fetched, really. 

Here's where things get weird.

If you believe Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Meeks, after a few months of working with the Spiricom device, voices began to emerge from the tone. Clear voices. Distinct voices. 

Voices that engaged in perfectly intelligent conversations with O'Neil.

Here's an example. The robotic voice is purported to be that of 'Doc Mueller,' a dead engineer who is speaking to O'Neil from the Other Side. There's nothing spooky or scary here -- forget the context for a minute, and it's just two old friends tinkering around in their garage.

Oh, Those Cigarettes

The 'Doc' is helping to refine the transmission, which is why he repeats 'Mary had a little lamb.' 

This (and the other recordings of O'Neil) is the the only piece of sustained conversational EVP I've ever heard. If it is real -- and that's a big if -- it has profound implications for science, philosophy, everything.

Carrots and Cabbages

I mean listen to the clip above. They're talking carrots and cabbages. Gardening. The weather.

This isn't pareidolia.   It isn't RF crosstalk. It may be faked, but it bloody well isn't an accident of noise.

There are quite a few recordings you can listen to.

Click  for links.

By now, you may be wondering why, if the Spiricom device worked so well, that you've (probably) never heard of it.

Good question. O'Neil and Meek didn't hide the plans. In fact, they encouraged others to build their own machine and replicate their results.

A few people did so.

All they got, I'm afraid, was a steady tone from the receiver. No Doc Mueller.  No friendly ghosts with a bent for electrical engineering.

Which leaves us to consider fraud.

I understand scams and how they work. When conducted on any scale, fraud is designed to relieve fools from their money.

If Spiricom was indeed a fraud, it was spectacular only in its ineptitude. Neither O'Neil nor Meek got rich selling schematics. They didn't do the talk-show circuit. They both died quietly, in relative obscurity, and the without the solace of heaps of cash.

Believers will assert that O'Neil made the Spiricom work because he was, unknown even to himself, a gifted medium, who probably could have achieved the same results with a few candles and a darkened room.


Heck if I know.  I just build things. I do find it amusing to think that, if the story is true, the first thing a living engineer and a dead engineer do upon establishing contact across the Veil is to immediately start fiddling with the electronics. They didn't talk philosophy or discuss the true nature of uber-reality. 

No, they started improving the quality of the audio signal.

Is that plausible? Believable?

Again, I don't know.

But what I do know is that technology has marched on since the Days of Disco.

Tone generators? No circuits needed. Just fire up some cheap (or even free) audio software and build your own Spiricom tone. Save it as an audio file. Whew, that took a whole three minutes.

The transmitter?

Almost as easy. 

You can grab a nifty FM transmitter from Ramsey Electronics for around 40 bucks. Yeah, you'll need to build it, but that's easily done in an afternoon. As far as having a receiver and a recorder handy, well, that's child's play.

I'll have my own Ramsey transmitter soon. 

But there's no need to wait to run a few very simple tests. You can make a crude but operable RF transmitter with two 49 cent transistors, a capacitor, and a few other small parts in about ten minutes. I have several receivers handy.

And so I give you, gentle readers, my own Saturday afternoon version of a Spiricom device, shown below!

Yes, I know my workbench needs to be re-surfaced. It's a workbench. Small explosions are not unheard of.

But there it is -- a vastly oversimplified AM oscillator.

Does it work?

Yes, in that is spews out a tone (around 1000 Hz) on a radio frequency that spreads across the entire AM transmission band. Good thing I don't have close neighbors, even though the effective range is only a few yards. 

And here is one of my two receivers, which you may recognize as the Tesla crystal radio I built back in 2014.

All the aspects of the original Spiricom device are here. I generate a tone. I blast it out into space as a radio signal. I then receive the tone and record both the tone and my voice. 


Have a listen!

The recording above was made using my crude transmitter (that's the circuit on the console) and my crystal radio (the thing with the weird antennas). 

I recorded fifteen minutes of audio with this. Regrettably, Doc Mueller was a no-show.

Yes, there were a lot of faint voices in the background (and some not so faint blasts too). But those are merely stray radio broadcasts. What I was listening for were voices composed of the tone itself.

I got none. Which is hardly a surprise; Meeks and O'Neil didn't get anything at first either.

I decided to try a commercial receiver, something with a far more selective tuner than the one on the Tesla crystal radio. So I fired up my trusty  Realistic TM-102 AM/FM receiver (right out of 1983) and set it to a quiet spot low in the AM band for another session. Here's a sample of that.

Again, nothing but tone.

You'll hear more here about the Spiricom in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, I invite you to research the subject further, including comments by the detractors. 

Last week I mentioned Mama Hog might be reading Poe's THE RAVEN in this week's blog.

I really should think these things through before I start shooting my mouth off. Yes, such a thing is possible. But to make it sound good is going to take a lot of time, and frankly that's time better spent finishing the new book.

Instead, I leave you with a truly excellent rendition of THE RAVEN, read by none other than Christopher Lee. I invite you to turn down the lights and turn up the volume, because this is probably the best version of THE RAVEN available anywhere.

Then follow up by enjoying The Alan Parson Project's equally haunting musical rendition, from their debut album TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION.

Night night, folks!

1 comment:

  1. Your problem is technical--you need a savvy engineer on the other side! And how often does one of those come along on THIS side! Imagine getting one interested at just the right time and place (your place). I recommend trying music or a discussion on food. Food is always interesting.