This Call Cannot Be Completed: Debunking Christopher Moon's "Telephone to the Dead"

This Call Cannot Be Completed: Debunking Christopher Moon’s “Telephone to the Dead”

One of the common urban legends that has become a “fact” to most people in the world of paranormal research is that famous scientist (inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph, etc) Thomas Edison was working on some type of device that would allow communication with the dead.

This legend was started by an interview with Mr. Edison that appeared in the October 30, 1920 issue of Science magazine. He was quoted as saying “If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical and scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, and other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this earth. Therefore, if personality exists after what we call death, it’s reasonable to conclude that those who leave this earth would like to communicate with those they have left here. . . . I am inclined to believe that our personality hereafter will be able to affect matter. If this reasoning be correct, then, if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected, or moved, or manipulated . . . by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something……”

This quote became the basis of the current claims of many different ways to have two way communications with the dead. However the most important fact behind this interview has been lost or ignored by those who are using it to add credibility to their otherwise nonsensical devices.


Many people including the creator of the Frank’s Box (Frank Sumption) and Christopher Moon (The proponent of the Telephone to the Dead) both claim to have had conversations with Mr. Edison about the design and even upgrades to the devices that they use.

Because of these claims there have been even more devices based off of these bad ideas. There are devices that create words using different techniques such as random radio signals, random number generators and even using a random word generator hooked up to an EMF meter to use the electro-magnetic fields to interfere with the creation of what is being claimed as communication from the dead.

The curators of the Thomas Edison National Historic Site have stated: “This seems to be another tall tale that Edison pulled on a reporter. In 1920 Edison told the reporter, B.F. Forbes, that he was working on a machine that could make contact with the spirits of the dead. Newspapers all over the world picked up this story. After a few years, Edison admitted that he had made the whole thing up. Today at Edison National Historic Site, we take care of over five million pages of documents. None of them mention such an experiment.” They have told us at Rocky Mountain Paranormal that this is the most requested document that they do not have and has never existed.

So the answer to the question “was Thomas Edison working on a machine to communicate with the dead?” can be very easily answered…

He was not.

This story points out once again that people involved in paranormal research need to stop following the stories that have been told to them, actually do some research, and not rely on what other “researchers” have told others. Critical thinking is the most important tool that we as researchers have and we (you know who you are) need to start using it.


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  1. Sandstone

    12/08/2008 at 7:51 AM


    I love it when someone outs one of these ‘true stories’.

    So much for the telephone to the dead! But not all is lost, I hear there is now an Internet connection to the other side!

  2. juniorjunkie/Aprilee

    12/08/2008 at 2:49 PM

    Uhhhhhhhhhhhh, I seem to recall a Ghost Hunter’s episode where they were quite astonished by “Frank’s Box”. It’s been a while back, but I think they actually were accompanied on a televised investigation by someone “weilding” one. My question at the time was…couldn’t someone simply place a two-way radio inside the box and “create communications” from another location? But then, it WAS TAPS!

  3. RCPS-Bill

    12/08/2008 at 10:34 PM

    WTF you mean there’s a collect call coming from the telephone to the dead?

    Just a glorified cover of the failed stereo tuner to pick up voices of the dead experiments from the 80’s and 90’s.

  4. bellaboo

    12/10/2008 at 1:19 PM

    if frank’s box were ever to make it big, won’t chip coffey and other psychics be out of work? no more demons or ghosts will need them to communicate to the TV audiences and the “clients”…

    i tell ya, sometimes these charlatans don’t think the business and marketing end of their latest “discovery” out very carefully.

    i guess moon could start a pyramid marketing scheme and chip could become a box salesman.

  5. Alan

    12/11/2008 at 9:38 AM

    This is just one of many myths that are percieved as fact by the paranormal community. The sad truth is many of the groups out there now were completed educated on the subject of researching the paranormal by these television shows. Most of what they say on these shows is mere speculation and much of it has no solid footing in logic or reason. I’ve heard their theories on cold spots, parasitic battery drain and electromagnetic fields. Unfortunately I am now a bit dumber for having ever watched any of those shows.

  6. Ro

    12/11/2008 at 8:03 PM

    When ever someone mentions Frank’s Box I get a shiver down my spine. I don’t see how anyone could have ever taken them seriously.

    Edison was the Brad Pitt of his day and probably just wanted more attention.

  7. BatGirl

    12/13/2008 at 4:14 PM

    Thank you! Thank you for publishing this! I am really angered by those that profit from other peoples grief. It is sickening.

    Oh, and when did we prove that spirits even exist to contact?

  8. Stu-RMPRS

    12/14/2008 at 11:29 AM

    “Oh, and when did we prove that spirits even exist to contact?”

    Exactly BatGirl! The whole “Franks Box” and “ITC” thing, in my opinion, is sloppy research at its worst.

  9. Ghost Diva JaniceO

    12/14/2008 at 3:21 PM

    Interesting!! Edison is probably having a good laugh…wherever he is.

  10. Brandy of SPIRITS of St. Petersburg

    12/15/2008 at 10:39 AM

    About two months ago, I started an EVP page for the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg ( I wanted a little bit of information about EVPs and came across the Edison story. I also ended up doing some research and found conflicting reports — some said that he did do this, some that he didn’t. Mostly skeptic sites claimed that he didn’t do this (interestingly enough). So, it’s an interesting article to say the least.


  11. John S

    04/28/2009 at 4:59 PM

    You can read a reasonably careful historical white paper on this topic at the URL above.

    We found that the documentary evidence suggests that Edison was interested in the problem in the final decade of his life. The evidence does not confirm however that any plans or devices in fact survived. There are also some interesting aspects of the history of mediumship that play into this story. Bottom line, neither skeptics nor believers will be satisfied with the true history, which we did vet with leading experts on Edison.

  12. Dave

    05/06/2009 at 8:42 PM

    Of course it was in the last decade of his life…it’s like Cosby said – they are old and trying to get into Heaven!

    I don’t even think so much of what goes around is urban legend even based on reality, rather the well thought out lies of those who stand to sell something like a book, tv show, or some piece of useless electronic gadgetry.

    It’s amazing how easy it is to debunk just about any urban legend one can research (well, from a skeptical viewpoint anyhow). Great article!

  13. butch

    03/20/2013 at 3:05 AM

    i read in popular mechanics that radio waves as far back as ww2 have been recieved over fifty years later by different electronics. something about them traveling around earths ionosphere(?)and ven returning from parts of space.
    also these people with gadgets never take iinto account the presence of under ground aquifers, earths own magnetic anomalies,and etc.all!
    how reliable could these EVP’S and sensor/detectors be?
    not hatin just sayin.

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