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.