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.