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The Phonetic Typewriter

Michael Lee


When I first started in ITC, I followed the strategies of the tried and true like software Ghost Boxes, but realized I could do better, a lot better...

The phonetic typewriter is one of the most popular methods in use by EVP researchers today. However, other ITC researchers may not use that term. They might instead call it a Ghost Box or a Spirit Box. The general concept is that short clips of regular human speech (forward, reverse, from radio, etc.) or similar sounds are used as a base signal for spirits to "punch through" or raise the volume above a noise gate. They can also let certain clips bounce through a feedback loop of a speaker and microphone (e.g.,  EchoVox).

In a typical ghost box, a radio quickly scans through a loop of radio stations. There are naturally periodic durations of speech/music and silence. Presumably, spirits use the audio signals or at the very least, boost the audio energy, and push the signal in different ways into the silence regions.  The PC software, EVPmaker, has similar options. It can take a recorded clip of voice, and break it into small fragments and emit these fragments in random order at fixed time intervals.

One of the drawbacks of the ghost box approach, is it's impossible to know what the underlying radio sounds were. For example: "Was it a coincidence that a radio station just said my name?" Therefore, some of my earliest ITC work (November 2018) was developing my own fixed recording of equally spaced randomly shuffled voice fragments from a 30-minute General David Petraeus speech to Congress, which I played from my cellphone (transmit) into my external USB audio interface (receiver). The received signal was noise gated with an FL Studio plugin called Maximus, which detected samples above a threshold and opened a noise gate for a fixed period of time (e.g. 150 ms). A closer investigation of the phenomenon showed that 20 ms pulses (band-passed spikes of energy?) showed up to lift desired fragments above my very sensitive noise gate threshold.

Now if you listened to the original stream recording by itself, you could hear different random words being formed by the random ordering of 150 ms audio clips separated by 150 ms of silence. However, in the noise gated apparatus, it would sound like randomly positioned phonemes.

If I set the volume of the transmitted signal low enough, the pattern that emerged each time I reset the recording was different. It appeared as though my spirit friends were typing out messages in audio from the available phonemes. Stranger still, each voice had a different characteristic and accent! Some would talk fast, almost through the clips. Others would patiently wait for the right phonemes to type out their words. It wasn't super-intelligible in real-time as I often heard things a little differently upon playing back the recorded session.

Generally speaking, early on, I was picking up a European ITC team speaking to me in English. Two Germans and one Englishman. Apparently, they chose this profession in the afterlife after a career in military communications. Now they saw themselves as facilitators, not as monologuing speakers by themselves. They worked with a spirit they called the "Director." who I would later hear with a bold British female voice. 

They, along with the Director, appeared to be bridging connections to interested speakers and some of my ancestors. Fairly early on, my great-great grandmother, Sophie Fertle and grandfather, Alvin Lee showed up. They became regulars later on. In addition, passers-by would show up, and the technician team would explain my various setups, often with apparent enthusiasm - which encouraged me further.

One particular visit helped me understand what was going on with the phonetic typewriter a lot better. A close friend from graduate school, who died very young (age 26) by a freak accident, David, showed up for just about a minute of one session. In that brief period, he was able to identify himself first and last name, where he knew me from, and say among other things the illuminating phrase: "Words are entropy."

Now up to this point, I found it strange how even though I would play the same recording over and over and I would get different messages - how was this working? When I heard the phrase "words are entropy" and looked very carefully at the signal he produced, a light bulb turned on in my brain.

When I played 150 ms clips with 150 ms spaces, I was essentially presenting 3 "extended phonemes" or syllables per second. Depending on which parts of the syllables the spirits pushed through, it was though they could create 2^N possible combinations per second, where N is the number of regions they could distinctly push through - I estimated roughly 6 segments per second: two halves of each syllable. Therefore, using this rough estimate, they had 64 possible expressions per second.

The spirits then went on to tell me that in fact the number of possibilities was considerably higher. In addition, I was inspired to started piping two streams simultaneously, 150 ms staggered from each other. This turned into a device that made their speech a lot faster - almost rapid fire.

As I've never been able to settle on any one system thus far, I also noticed another phenomenon, when the stream was played weakly enough into the USB audio interface, it sounded like the spirits were trying to talk through my audio clips. Thus began my quest to listen to their voices directly without the help of external speech patterns.


Original Setup

Cellphone (playing fixed recording of spaced, random syllables) -> shielded audio cable(s) -> USB input audio interface -> PC -> Maximus plugin (noise gate) in FL Studio -> USB output audio interface -> speaker.


Recommended Setup For Experimenters

I plan on writing a Python script that does the software steps necessary for this setup. All you will need is 

1) a cellphone to play the scramble phoneme stream WAV file (we can all use the same one(s) and I'll provide that, too).

2) A PC desktop or laptop to run the Python script / executable.

3) A male to male audio cable to connect your phone to the microphone/line input of a laptop.


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