Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hailing Frequencies Open, Zak - And It Sounds A Lot Like A NOAA Weather Alert!

Desperate for SOMETHING to watch on TV last night, I landed on Ghost Adventures and thought, "What the hell". So, I watched a couple of hours of Zak and the Scoobies navigate the dark, labyrinthine corridors of derelict hospitals and Hot Topics full of frightening demonic souls and equally terrifying Affliction tees. With every "dude", "bro", and raise of an overly-metrosexualized eyebrow, I fell deeper down the rabbit hole, simply unwilling or unable to turn away. Was I transfixed by the deftly executed investigation or mesmerized by Zak's shirts, which seemed to shrink with every subsequent frame?

I had almost had my fill of the endless litany of uncorroborative incidents (phantom touches, hearing or seeing something that wasn't on camera) when out pops a device that sends me giggling like a schoolgirl.

I believe it is called a "Frank's Box" or an "Ovilus" (sounds like a prescription drug) that serves, for want of a better term, as a 21st Century 'magic 8-ball'. It's handheld with lights and knobs and dials and meters and from a tinny speaker it broadcasts words from the ether. Or so it claims.

What I found out by digging around is that the outmoded mechanized voice comes from a pre-programmed vocabulary of over 500 words. The device amalgamates EMF, temperature, and other readings that it assigns a numeric value. This number then corresponds to a word in the unit's dictionary, which is probably comprised of a lot of words that would lend themselves to paranormal interpretations.

What the manufacturer, Digital Dowsing, would have you believe is that their device senses atmospheric conditions that have been altered by the presence of an unseen entity. It then "reads" this information and establishes that these particular readings mean the ghost wants to say X. Now, how they came to this conclusion is beyond me and I would LOVE to see the years of experimentation that led to this wonderful device.

To be fair, the site does inject the caveat that the Ovilus is 'for entertainment purposes only'. This, however, does not stop the likes of Ghost Adventures and Paranormal State from using it. Or from the willing to believe that it's anything more than a handheld Zoltar.

As some have pointed out, the device is far from perfect. A dying battery could affect what words it speaks and altering the parameters changes what is said. Furthermore, some claim that when it seems to speak with uncanny accuracy on these shows, the explanation lies in how judiciously that shot was edited in post-production.

I don't know of anyone who has worked with one of these, mostly because bunk and cashflow are seldom the best of friends. If you have your own personal experiences with the Ovilus or something like it, I would love to read your comments. Until then, I'm going to go work out and root around in my closet for the tiniest t-shirt I can find.

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