Author Archive

The Fax Machine

A verbatim dialogue of a conversation between me and my friend after she agreed to be interviewed to discuss her personal experiences.

JJ: When I say the word “cyberghost”, what comes into your mind?

AF: What do you mean? Like a hacked computer that sends communicates on its own?

JJ: Not necessarily, I use the word “cyberghost” in a very generalized sense. It could range anywhere from haunted servers, computers, cellphones, or tablets. Just as long as it’s a supernatural occurrence, not someone simply pulling a prank on you through your phone.

AF: Well, I might not have exactly what you’re looking for because the event I have in mind is not to the extent that I believe a ghost was behind it. But, it was significant enough in my life that it shook me for a few days.

JJ: If you don’t mind me asking, what was this event?

AF: It’s kinda silly to talk about, but several years ago, my dad opened a tutoring business back home in Maryland. We spent the first two weeks building the business up like decorating the walls, setting up chairs and desks, and setting up the phone lines. At that time, we needed a fax machine but it was not in our budget to buy a brand new fax machine. So we decided to find the cheapest used fax machine that would fill our needs for my dad’s business.  As we were driving home from the store that sold the machines, we saw a garage sale nearby and decided to try our luck. Coincidentally, the owners were selling a fax machine that definitely fit our budget and without hesitation brought it back to our business. Trying to set up and optimize the fax machine was a difficult process for us because it didn’t come with an instruction manual, so to the best of our ability we thought we had successfully set up the machine.

JJ: What do you mean when you say you thought you had set up the machine?

AF: Well after we finished the set up, we decided to send a simple test fax saying “Hello!” to my dad’s business to see our fax machine would work you know, but our message didn’t go through. Instead, we received the strangest, most unsettling faxes. The first fax we received from our test was a message or something saying in all caps “you are” then a series a gibberish letters. Then, the next fax we received said “I see” in all caps then the same series of gibberish letters. I know when I explain this situation in words that it doesn’t seem spooky to you, but at that time, my dad and I were thoroughly shook and frankly haunted by the messages that our fax machine delivered. And just when we were trying to process what had just happened, a third fax arrived and it said in all caps “bye” followed by a different series of gibberish letters.

JJ: Oh wow, that is quite an experience. Do you ever think that the fax machine was just malfunctioning and that’s why you received those strange faxes?

AF: Yes, my family are rationalists so at that time our explanation for this unsettling event was that our fax machine was just broken and that is why we received those messages. But the more I tell myself that, the more I realize that a broken fax machine could not have sent the words like ‘you’ ‘are’ and ‘see” on its own. There is no way that the machine could have mixed letters together and coincidentally form those words. You know, I was hesitant to believe that supernatural forces were actually real, but it seemed like the only explanation. Thankfully, this cyberghost like you mentioned earlier seemed to be benign because it didn’t set out to destroy all the technology in my dad’s business or anything like that.

JJ: Do you still have that same fax machine in your dad’s business?

AF: No, after that incident we decided to toss it and save up for a brand new fax machine. Thankfully the one we have now isn’t like haunted.


AF’s story is certainly an interesting one, as it exemplifies cognitive dissonance. Because she is a rationalist, a situation in which a fax machine disobeys the commands of a human and sends a message on its own disturbs our sense of how our world works. She sent a test fax saying “Hello!”, but the message never went through, and instead received words that were created by the fax machine. Whether it was a machine malfunction or a supernatural entity that was trying to communicate through the fax machine exemplifies the uncertainty that is associated with encountering a cyberghost. Our rational mindset tells us that an inanimate object such as a printer or fax machine cannot be haunted by ghost, but when the machine begins to act autonomously, we begin to challenge the belief that the machine is merely malfunctioning. When AF began to talk about the messages that the fax machine began to print on its own, her tone of voice had some uneasiness to it, indicating that her encounter with the haunted fax machine instilled a sense of uneasiness to her. Because the machine acted on its own, AF felt as if the machine was trying to communicate with her, which is a very unsettling experience in my opinion.



Strange iPhone

I recently saw a Facebook post from my acquaintance here at USC saying that something ‘strange’ was happening to her iPhone that she bought from craigslist.  Seeing this, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to arrange a meeting with my friend to discuss these occurrences, in hopes of discovering a potential cyberghost. Luckily, I was not left disappointed. The following is a transcript of the conversation between me and my friend.

JJ: So my understanding is that you purchased an iPhone 6 on an online website called Craigslist, and you say that its acting like its “haunted”? Could you describe this scenario more in depth?

SF: Yeah I’m really glad someone paid attention to what was happening to me, it is totally something interesting. And yes, I needed to buy a cheap used phone as a temporary because my main cell had broken, and I’d needed to be in contact with family members that week. The transaction went smoothly and setting up my account was successful and that was that. But the next day, the iPhone began to act a bit odd, like unlocking the screen without me touching it or the screen lighting up even though I never received a notification, things like that. I simply brushed these off knowing that I had bought a used phone and it used phones go through that normal wear and tear.

JJ: Yeah I definitely understand that. That same sort of thing happened to me on my old iPhone; it was an apparent problem with the software.

SF: Oh definitely, like I said, it was a used iPhone and I sort of expected some problems to occur. But the phone began to act even stranger.

JJ: What sort of things started happening?

SF: Well you know how there is a built-in flashlight app for the iPhone? My phone’s flashlight began to flicker on an off without me even touching it. I don’t’ exactly know if there was a pattern to the flickering but it almost seemed like it was flickering on and off in Morse code. I started freaking out because I was thinking what the hell is going on with my phone?! I pressed the home key but the home screen looked normal to me but the flashlight kept flickering on and off. I panicked and didn’t know what to do so I dropped the phone on the floor without even thinking, which I know sounds stupid, but I was I was in a panicked state.

JJ: So what you’re saying is that your phone just flickered the light on and off randomly? Without you using your phone?

SF: Yes, I swear that is how it went. I was reading my textbook when all of the sudden my phone started flashing and I thought I had received a text but there were no notifications. To be honest, in my mind, I thought the phone was gonna explode or something because the flashing and flickering sped up, like it was systematically flashing.

JJ: What happened after you accidentally dropped your phone?

SF: The flashing suddenly stopped! It was the strangest thing that has ever happened with my phone.

JJ: In all honesty, what do you think had caused this incident? Do you believe that it was your phone just malfunctioning, or something else?

SF: I really wish I could say it was just a used phone breaking down, but my head keeps telling me something different.

JJ: Some supernatural entity caused your phone to act that way?

SF: Maybe, I’m not saying ghosts exist because there have been a couple ghostly encounters I’ve heard about from family members. But I’ve never heard of a ghost stuck inside a phone before, which is why I’m hesitant to say a ghost was behind the situation with my phone. But the flashlight flickering was almost too systematic that it couldn’t have been the phone malfunctioning. It was almost like Morse code with the dots and the dashes.

JJ: Ghost inside of the phone, like a cyberghost?

SF: Well that’s one way to put it. I just think a broken phone could have done all that on its own, there has to be something else behind it.

JJ: Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. It’s disappointing that we can never know for sure. Well, thank you for sharing your story with me and taking time to talk with me.


Digital Ghost

The Case of the Ghost that Appeared in Photos

A good friend of mine, we’ll call him LG, is known as the lucky one in our friend group who often came in contact with the supernatural, and it is common knowledge among all of us that his family is a big believer of ghosts. When I asked if I could have a discussion with him on the topic of ‘cyberghosts’ he was ecstatic to share his story about how one time a ghostly looking figure kept appearing in his selfies (a picture of yourself). More specifically, LG is an avid user of Snapchat, which is a social media platform in which users can take and send photos that get deleted after being opened by the recipient.

LG claims that the night of Halloween of last year, he wanted to take a selfie of his costume (as a pirate) and send it to his friends in his snapchat. Right at the instant when he took the photo, he immediately saw something out of the ordinary. He says that there was some sort of “wispy, transparent figure” in the background, which at first sight made him run out of the room out panicking. I asked LG to give more context to better understand the situation, and he stated that “it was a dimly lit room with just my lamp on and I was alone because my roommate was already out partying. I remember sitting in my desk chair posing for the selfie and I swear I saw nothing odd before I took the picture. But the second I actually push the button to take the picture, I see this tall shapeless figure behind me and next to my drawer.” When I asked him to describe in further detail what he saw that night, he seemed to get a bit nervous, as if he didn’t get a good look.  The figure that LG saw on that Halloween night was a “smoky apparition or something that didn’t look at all human”, and he asserted that he didn’t stick around to get a better look because he was already running out of the room when he saw what had appeared on his cell phone.

Unfortunately, LG wasn’t in the room long enough to take multiple photos to make sure the appearance of this figure wasn’t a mere fluke. When I questioned the veracity of this “ghost” that happened appeared on his phone, LG assured me that there was not enough light in the room to create a figure out of light-blur, nor was he moving the camera when he took the photo. Conseuqnetly, I took his word and for now, I believe that this ghost only made an appearance when LG took a photo on his Snapchat camera and stayed invisible to the human eye. I am intrigued at how this ‘cyberghost’ functions, as it presented itself when it was captured by a camera. It really makes me wonder if there are invisible apparitions that we can only detect with certain forms of technology. This idea reminds me of the spiritualism movement in the 19th century, which is a time period in which individuals would use technological advancements such as photographs to verify the existence of ghosts (an effort to explain the phenomenon of ghosts and spirits through science).

When I asked if I could attach a picture of his selfie with the ghost at the end of this collection piece, LG became hesitant and declined my request, claiming that he was personally against letting a picture of himself go public.

Needless to say, LG didn’t sleep in his room that night, or the next night.


The Digital Ex Girlfriend

About a year ago, my good friend Danny went through a rough break up with his girlfriend of three years due to something he labelled as a “distance issue”. He claimed that during the last year of his relationship, he and his girlfriend’s main form of communication was Facebook messenger and Snapchat. When he split with his girlfriend, she cut off all contact with him and blacklisted his phone number which created a huge empty gap in his life, in which he spent many hours blankly staring at his cellphone expecting texts from his ex-girlfriend. Danny admits that he was in a state of “psychological distraught” because he believed that he was still in a relationship with his ex, and he even went so far to believe that he was even communicating with her via text messages. Now this is where the story gets interesting; how on earth was he able to talk to his ex through text messaging when they cut off contact months after their breakup? Well, Danny was going through so much emotional trauma during this time period that he was fully convinced that he was still in a relationship with his girlfriend. But how do you explain Danny’s assertion that he was still texting her? Although he never admitted that a “cyber ghost” was communicating with his through his cell phone, the same idea can be applied in this situation. Danny claims that his girlfriend had sent him ordinary/casual text messages such as “I miss you” or “let’s go to the movies” or “let’s hang out”. Clearly, Danny was so intent on the fact that he and his girlfriend were still in touch, but from a rational standpoint, his belief seems implausible, as his number was blocked on his ex’s cell phone. This situation raises the question whether Danny’s conversations with his girlfriend is just a manifestation of his psychological and emotional state, or was really a unknown cyber entity that participated in Danny’s imaginary relationship.

From Danny’s perspective, a loved one who was a major part of his life suddenly ceased to exist, and an event as abrupt as this resulted in serious consequences to his mentality. The fact that his girlfriend sent him texts could be an unsettling “cyberghost” phenomenon that sent Danny text messages as a cruel ploy to make him think he is still in a relationship. More realistically, this “cyberghost” was merely a creation of Danny’s imagination as a coping method to deal with the emotional pain. Nevertheless, the fact that Danny received text messages from his girlfriend who blocked all forms of communication is a very intriguing and interesting story to be discussed.