Sunday, 18 October 2015

Impossible Box? Or Just Box? A Review of the claims surrounding the IB-1 ITC Device.

I don't know if you've noticed, but there's a pretty penny to be made from paranormal enthusiasts, and there are plenty of vendors lining up to collect that cash.

Probably the most commonly used piece of kit in the paranormal investigators arsenal, apart from the humble camera, is the digital recorder, used for recording so called Electronic Voice Phenomena. This availability of the equipment and a lack of understanding of the psychological and physical factors underlying the phenomena means that EVP has replaced "Orb photography" as the main source of "evidence" for amateur investigators. Like orbs, parapsychologists and more serious (sensible?) investigators pretty much dismiss EVP as unconvincing.

Here's a description of EVP from the paranormal Network, for tape recorder you also substitute digital recorder :

“Briefly, electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) is the process of capturing messages from the spirit world, including our loved ones in Heaven, by using an ordinary tape recorder. Yes, someone in your family or your special friend who has passed on, can record or imprint their voice onto your tape....” []

Whilst believers maintain that EVP are the disembodied voices of the dead, skeptics have long maintained that there are a number of quite rational explanations for the phenomena, mainly audio pareidolia arising from the recording of white noise.

But EVP is only one form of so-called Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC), the other being "direct radio voice", the most famous of which is the Ghost Box ( alternately Frank's Box or the Spirit box).

Here Farnk Sumpton, the ghost box's inventor describes it in his own words how the :
".... In the box, the raw audio is created by sweeping the tuning of a radio electronically across it’s band, or tuning range, the resulting bits of speech music and noise are the raw audio. Radio is simply a convenient source of raw audio. However, that’s only a guess as to how the box works, there does seem be an RF component, or at times an actual signal received, or some other method of getting an external voice into the radio in the ―the box. Some of the manipulation of the raw audio seems to take place inside the electronics, again, presumably ―they can manipulate the electrical signals. I don’t have the equipment, or know how to be able to test these ideas."
So the audio output comes from scanning radio, which the box manipulates.... it seems like even the inventor of the box didn't quite understand how it works... or perhaps he understood all to well.

So what you have here is random snippets of audio grabbed as the device scans through radio stations, effectively analogous to the white noise of the EVP method, and again we have the same audio pariedolia leading believers to convince them they are hearing the voices of the dead.

When faced with these objections from skeptics, Ghost box supporters allude to the fact the resulting audio cannot be random as the voices answer directed questions. Psychology has an answer for this too, know it alls!

Subjective Validation tells us: there is a cognitive bias by which a person will consider a statement or another piece of information to be correct if it has any personal meaning or significance to them. Obviously this is also an incredibly important psychological phenomena in many areas of the paranormal, physics, for example use it to a tee in getting the gullible to accept cold-reading as genuine information.

The following diagram, from a CSI article on EVP by James Alcock shows the process of rationalisation that the believer undergoes when assessing EVP or other ITC samples:

Alcock states in his conclusion: 
"Remember — we process information in two different ways through two more or less separate parts of our brain and nervous system. On the one hand, part of our brain works on a very intuitive / emotional / automatic level, and on the other hand, another part of our brain works according to the logic and rationality that we develop over our lifetimes. These two systems often produce contrary results, and this is especially so where paranormal phenomena are involved. The “believer” removes the contradiction by bringing the intellect into line with the intuitive interpretation, that is, by coming to accept the paranormal — in this case, the voices — as reality, and thereby reshaping the intellectual understanding of the world so that belief in such phenomena appears to be rational. Over time, an impregnable belief system develops which is supported by a very substantial base of personal experience (interpreted in such a way as to support the paranormal belief), as well as anecdotal evidence provided by others." Alcock (2014)
Anyway that's some rational explanations for EVP and ITC phenomena onto The Impossible Box, a revolution in the field apparently. 

This is the 21st Century meaning that the Ghost box has now developed into a downloadable app for computers and tablets.

I recently came across some rather bold claims recently about a device called the Impossible Box marketed by Ghost hunter apps and Steve Huff of Huff Paranormal. I wrote about some rather revolting escapades of Huff's here. In addition to this, Hayley Stevens wrote here of some of Huff's other rather tasteless exploits involving another recently deceased celebrity.

As for Ghost Hunter apps, forgive me but taking a look at some of their other products, I can't help but shake the idea that they are more into making money than serious investigation.

Ghost radar anyone? Its uses "advanced paranormal technology"... what that is, is anyone's guess.

The most interesting thing about the radar app is how the hell would you even know that it worked? There's no other method of verifying the presence of a "ghost". How do we know it doesn't just ping at random? That's how other, cheaper, ghost radar apps work. It supposedly detects "energy signatures" but as no one has ever measured a ghost's energy signature, or established that ghosts HAVE energy signatures... OR EXIST AT ALL, its bloody useless in other words.

Anyway back to Huff and hisclaims about the Impossible box or IB-1 which he's clearly very excited about.

So apart from being a bit ghoulish, Huff's other passion is ITC, Here's what he claims about the downloadable Impossible Box.

His claims about it…
Followed by my responses....
Spirits control the app and you will hear them speak when they want to speak. No more constant chatter (unless they want it that way)
Ah! So it works how we tell you it works... unless it doesn't then that's because "ghosts". This seems like special pleading to separate the impossible box from other ghosts boxes, even when its operating just like them. Cake and eat it much?

Huff claims that spirits control the IB-1 via a Q3 meter which can be found on Amazon sold by Huff's partners Ghost Hunter apps, but the only information I can find as to how this works is though "signal disruption". Why conclude that signal disruption is due to spirits? Again, as spirits have never been shown to exist, one simply can't draw that conclusion, signals are disrupted frequently and for perfectly natural, identifiable reasons,

A non-English if you get English replies using this mode, it would be IMPOSSIBLE. (or is it)?

Unless your mind is using cognitive and selective bias to interpret the snatches of audio as English.... which it will if you're an English speaker! The fact that it scans non-English stations isn't relevant, as the device doesn't grab whole words but units of sound or phonemes from internet radio then assembles them for the listener to make sense of.  Phonemes are common amongst languages, and unique ones often have similar sounds to others that exist in the English language. Human vocal cords are only capable of producing so many sounds after all.


Huff puts so much stock in this claim that he states its the whole reason for the prefix "impossible", meaning that when its taken apart by anyone with any common sense, the product goes from "Impossible Box" to "box" doesn't it?

NO AUDIO BANK. This is all random live streaming internet radio (like the SCD-1) but with the Impossible Box we do not always have a constant stream. In fact, in some of my testing I have had up to 4 minutes of silence during a session. The spirits speak when they want, and they activate the scan.

Again the Impossible Box operates the way we say it will, unless "ghosts". Plus there's something here that's blatantly misleading: the SCD-1, an earlier model essentially, as mentioned above, draws units of sound or phonemes from internet radio then assembles them for the listener to make sense of. As that's the case a lack of an audio bank isn't really relevant.

Thousands of SCD-1 have been sold. This takes the SCD-1 to the next level with its direct replies and spirit control. Also, it cuts WAY down on evidence review as we no longer have to filter through constant scan and chatter like a traditional ghost box or even the SCD-1
This amounts to.... "Look lots of mugs fell for our last scam... you should fall for this!" And sorry "relies on spirit control" how was this tested? It sounds to me that the operation is quite random and Huff is excusing this.

This is the simplest but probably the most powerful spirit box ever created. Yet it is the cheapest ever created (for a REAL ITC tool, and not a toy app).

Nice reasoning there: those cheaper apps are just toys! How cheap is this app exactly? Why its a snip at $49.99.... seriously that's a pretty hefty price for an app that essentially has the same effect has turning a tuning dial on an old fashioned radio! Also its a blatant lie as Huff's own SCD-1 retails at $49.99 also! Is he suggesting that this predecessor was only a toy? Doesn't inspire much confidence in his latest effort does it?

I will only put MY NAME to an app or product that works for REAL ITC. The Impossible Box and SCD-1 were both my vision, and the uber talented Anthony Sanchez made them reality. BOTH of these products are for true, serious and real ITC (spirit communication) work. Period.

Yes because you can trust the integrity of a man who constantly exploits the deaths of prominent people to hawk overpriced apps! Talk about wilfully manipulating people by using your para-celebrity! EXCLAMATION.

Great, I'll take twelve!

Lets move on to Huff's evidence video. 

First of all ever wonder why EVP and ITC evidence is presented as videos more often than just audio? After all its just voices we're listening to. Surely an audio file would suffice?  The answer is it gives the producer of the video opportunity to provide captions alongside the audio, thus leading the viewing into hearing what they are told to here. The suggestion is made and the viewers brain fills in the gaps. Want to test how powerful this test is try the easy demonstration at end of the post.

Anyway... the video gives us three examples. The first is suspiciously clear. The second, the typical garbled nonsense one would expect from a ghost box scanning radio stations. The third...  its only bloody Anton Marconi, who must have been a Mario impersonator, he seems to be speaking in the most faux Italian accent ever! Without the captions the last would be pretty indistinct.

Looking at further video evidence that Huff provides, its clear that the Impossible Box puts particular effects on any sound coming through it, all the messages sound the same.

In the following video Huff claims, laughably, that ITC has been PROVEN to be direct communication with supernatural entities. Really! Wouldn't that require first proving such entities actually exist?

Collect you Nobel Prize Mr Huff...

Or is this just a case of circular reasoning: this device proves that ghosts exist. because we've proven that the output is produced by ghosts!

He also claims that skeptics have failed to debunk the SCD-1. This is a load of tosh. Skeptics, and even many believers have been all over ITC for decades. The SCD-1 specifically has been ripped apart multiple times on this thread for example. 

Check out at 7.04 in the video when Huff mistakenly calls the IB-1 a "traditional spirit box" then quickly corrects himself. There is no difference really... so its scanning internet radio,,, so what. Its just a dressed up Frank's box.

"Spirits hate white noise..." Yep, That movie sucked.

Huff claims the white noise has been eliminated but the truth is in many of the audio snatches there is plenty of white noise... I guess he'd say that's because the ghosts want to include it... why if they hate it Huff?

Watching the further demonstrations of the IB-1 by Huff in the video above, it becomes quite laughable, the eerie otherworldly nature of the "voices" seems more and more a factor of the reverb placed on them in mode 2. When the reverb is removed the audio is a bit laughable. The source of the noise and the nature of the audio is quite evident- snatches of music frequently play for example, and those remarkable undeniable voices that seem so clear completely disappear when you listen to the audio alone minus Huff's captioning.

You can test this for yourself below.

An informal demonstration you can try yourself:

Click on the following links, but don't actually watch the video, just listen to the audio. Write down what you hear without being led by Huff's captioning. Then rewatch the video and see how well your impressions match up to his.You should also find that with the captioning now availiable the voices are much clearer.


Click on them then come back to this tab, or turn your phone face down!


Let me know how your guesses measured up here: The Rational Paranormal

Hopefully you determined as I have that not only is the whole EVP, ITC scene a load of bunk, but Huff frankly is making money from a piece of old tutt. Its a modern take on a thoroughly debunked method.

Save your $49.99 and more importantly, don't get conned.

Here's a list of a few sources I found useful and maybe helpful to you if you want to learn more about ITC.

This page from OCPRS was massively informative, probably the best source I looked at, examines a variety of ITC devices.

Skeptic's Dictionary as always was massively useful

This article from CSI by James Alcock provides an excellent overview of the history of ITC and the psychological phenomena of the assessment of such samples

Hayley Stevens blog features a ton of well informed posts regarding EVP and ITC.

Huff's youtube channel is here if you want to conduct a few more ITC tests

Check out this one where he accidentally contacts hell... hate it when that happens