Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Talking to Ghosts on Cell Phones

In our politically divided, socially stratified world, it is nice to know that 48% of Americans can agree on one thing: ghosts are everywhere. Floating around, seeing you when you’re sleeping, knowing when you’re awake, silently judging all the life choices you’ve made since college.

But sometimes, just knowing that they’re out there isn’t enough. What about the times when you want to reach out to ghosts, to find out what really killed them, or see if they have any good dating advice?

In the past, communicating with the beyond was a costly and time-intensive endeavor. If you opted to bypass the traditional séance route, you had to find yourself someone who studied electronic voice phenomenon (the practice of looking for hidden voices in recorded white noise), or get in with Thomas Edison, who was supposedly at work on a “spirit phone” to the afterlife around the time of his death.

But that was all before Ghost Radar – an app that claims to use the hardware of your smartphone to ‘scan’ the immediate area for ‘quantum fluctuations,’ a.k.a. GHOSTS, which are then represented as blips on a radar screen, and in single words of text. It’s like Shazam for the afterlife.

Despite the uniform revulsion that both ghost hunting pros and nearly every person I discussed it with felt for Ghost Radar, I was kind of into it. I’ve always been intrigued by the supernatural, but never had any kind of ghostly experience. Maybe this was my shot. Maybe it would be enlightening. Maybe I could get my own “Text Messages from a Ghost” going on. So I downloaded it, and took my new ghost-hunting equipment out for a spin around town.


My adventures began at Washington Square Park. Though the park is now full of college freshman playing “Wild World” on acoustic guitars, it was once a potter’s field, and still has thousands of bodies buried beneath its cobblestones. Walking through the park’s center, I get nothing, but when I pause in a slightly less traveled area, I see a few blips, and the word “palace.” According to the Ghost Radar website, you’re supposed to talk to it, like a little house plant that you’re encouraging to grow. “What kind of palace?” I whisper into my phone. But nothing else comes up. Eventually, I decide to go get a burrito.


At Chipotle, the radar starts going wild, showing blips swimming around me. It spits out words, one after another: “Eager. Trail. Charles. Importance. More. Paint. Jet. Likely.” I wonder which of my two co-workers would let me run this app at their apartment, then look down and see that the screen says, “Both.” Though I do understand what chance and coincidence and apophenia are, I get a little chill.


Emboldened by my Chipotle success, I move on to St. Marks-in-the-Bowery church. I do get a nice contact high from the high schoolers smoking a doob behind me, but there don’t seem to be any quantum fluctuations afoot.


“Are there any ghosts here?” I mutter into my phone, trying to look like I am just asking Siri if there are any good Chinese restaurants in the area. “Ice,” Ghost Radar says a few minutes later. Parties are known for their ice! This is definitely working! I demand that my boyfriend talk to the Ghost Radar. “Uh, how long have you been in this house?” he mumbles, trying to keep his friends from noticing. “Require. His. Didn’t,” says Ghost Radar. It then clams up for the rest of the night.

Later, as we head to my apartment, I make a big show of turning off the app and announcing to any interested ghosts that I don’t want to talk to them any more. “I’m not using that thing any place where I have to sleep,” I tell my boyfriend. “Yeah,” he says, “because what if your phone just started going, ‘Murder! Torture! Look! Out!”

“Stop it!” I shriek. Though I am one of many drunk girls screaming at their boyfriend on the street on Saturday night, I am the only one screaming, “Tell the ghosts that you’re sorry and that you respect them!”

I wake up in the middle of the night, and hear a voice whisper “Hello.” I ask my boyfriend, “Did you say just something?” “No,” he says. For everyone’s wellbeing, I decide I just misheard a snore.


If I am learning one thing, it is that GHOSTS LOVE CHIPOTLE. “Porch,” says Ghost Radar, as blips flood the screen.


No examination of ghostly New York would be complete without a journey to this, the site of noted paranormal documentary Ghostbusters. “Information,” says Ghost Radar, as I enter the lobby. Eureka! Peter Venkman was right! “What information?” I say, casually, as if I am just having a phone conversation with my mom. Ghost Radar says “dinner,” then goes blank. I settle into a secluded area, and blips start coming from every direction on the screen. “Two,” says the Ghost Radar, “Card.” “What card?” I say. “Electricity,” says Ghost Radar. “Do you think my phone is an electric card? It is actually a telephone,” I say, loudly, perhaps a bit too loudly for a tourist-filled public area. “Cake,” says Ghost Radar. “Magnet. Stage. Poem.” And then it’s done.


“Ghost Radar,” I say, “I’ll level with you. I am a grown woman who sleeps with the lights on. I do not like screwing around with the mysterious forces of life and death. But I’m turning thirty, and I’m kind of freaked out about it, and my life just feels so stagnant sometimes… my friends have no idea what to do, my mom thinks I should just have a baby… I thought I might have a supernatural experience, and it would change me, and then I might have some answers, you know? About what I should even do with my life?” “Seat,” says Ghost Radar, which is what I am sitting in. “Afternoon,” says Ghost Radar, which is totally what time it is right now. “Spain. Without.”

“Go to Spain without what?” I shout. Is Ghost Radar about to complete a coherent thought? Is a disembodied being about to finally solve my personal problems?

“Grown. Plain. Classroom,” says Ghost Radar.

“What classroom? Which classroom?”

“North. Ancient. Price. Today. I’m. Port. Find.”

“Find what??!” I yell.

I leave it on for the rest of the day, but nothing else comes up. Ghost Radar has left the building.

If I do ever make it to that classroom on the ancient plains of northern Spain, though, I’ll make sure to send you a postcard.


Previously: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Seeing a Band Made Entirely of General Hospital Actors.

Gabrielle Moss is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She ain't afraid of no ghosts (except for the ones that tap you on the shoulder and stuff).

52 Comments / Post A Comment






you guys have been keeping me pretty busy lately

this ghost radar thing is hard work

gimme a minute
ok im here

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Gertrude I know. That's how I felt immediately. And then sad.


@ghost !!!


@ghost ghost, I have to be honest here. I...I didn't envision you as, well, blue. With googley eyes. I'll be okay with it soon, I promise, I just need so time to adjust. Please understand.


This is very good@l


If any app, ever, needed to be open source, that is the one.


I am totally going to be that ghost running around talking about cake when I die.


@Megano! I hear death is a cakewalk.




I've never heard of apophenia before but my father is on the schizophrenic spectrum so for better or worse I was taught firsthand by the expert of all apopheniac experts. Color me enlightened!

Also, ghosts have correct taste in fast food. And Apopheniac should be the name of a Radiohead cover band.


Yo guys, I saw They Might Be Giants in concert liiiike...four years ago? And they totally used the Spirit Phone to contact Eleanor Roosevelt. So we can all go home now.


I like the face on the apophenia article. It looks judgmental.


This takes on a whole new meaning in light of recent revelations about the actual inhabitants of the ghost world.


From the iTunes customer reviews: "We have used it many times with success... It takes a few min. to warm up and then it's accurate... "

I can't get over how great it is that someone rated it as "accurate."


@SuperGogo Maybe it was a customer review by the ghosts.


@SuperGogo I used it once on a ghost tour - under an old bridge sealed bridge which contains rooms where homeless/outcasts of the city used to sleep (c.early 1800s?). A big old red blip came on screen and floated about for a while. We showed it to the guide right after he had said the spirits usually hang out in this corner (it was in the other corner). But I am crushed, CRUSHED the app had no word functionality.

It's all nonsense, of course. But fun for spooking the already near hysterical ghost tour patrons.


The ghost OBVIOUSLY wants you to go back to school, at the University of Salamanca. Without, um... without funding!


@stuffisthings ghosts LOVE graduate school like they love casual Tex-Mex dining chains.


@Gaby@twitter OMG! Are the ghosts dead Hairpin commenters? Quick, ask them about appropriate uses for bleach!


Ahhhhhh why did I download this. My house is pretty quiet though. Words seem unrelated. Hrm.


Ok, I'm not going to lie. I downloaded it. There is apparently a ghost in my office and it says "went". My coworkers do not share my excitement.


@MilesofMountains i just downloaded it at work and it said "effort". maybe the ghosts are telling me to stop downloading ghost radar and reading the hairpin.


@MilesofMountains maybe this explains why my office is always so cold!


@honeybadger I always thought it was the cheapskate office manager turning the heat down! Now I know THE TRUTH!


Once I played Ouija Board with my best friend in my bedroom and the spirit we were talking to, after telling us the first names of our future husbands, suddenly demanded that we "open the door". I was convinced for longer than I should have been that I had unleashed a force from the beyond on my unsuspecting neighborhood. I never used the Ouija Board again.

The Lady of Shalott

@roadtrips I was terrified of using Ouija boards at sleepovers. Flat-out terrified. One time some girls were using one and I had to go sit in another room to avoid being possessed by spirits of the undead.

I don't know if any spirits became manifest because the girls told me I was "lame" for sitting out and refused to tell me if anything happened.


@roadtrips I LOVED used Ouija boards at sleepovers. Although I will admit to Ouija board manipulation.


@roadtrips: I'm kind of obsessed with the show Long Island Medium, and in one episode Theresa (the medium) saw a Ouija board in a tattoo parlor and freaked out and saged the whole place, because apparently dark spirits use Ouija boards? So now I'm even more scared of Ouija boards than I was before, because Theresa knows her spirit world shit.

Ten Thousand Buckets

@roadtrips I owned and played with one for years almost specifically because my mother said I wasn't allowed to. I hid it in the back of my closet until I got really freaked out by it for no particular reason (not even in the middle of using it or anything!) and threw it away. They still give me the heebie jeebies to this day.


@roadtrips Look, if direct lines to the afterlife were made by Milton Bradley and readily available at your local Target, every day would basically be an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer...


@roadtrips I freakin' loved the Ouija board. We talked to Harriet Tubman! (My friends were all nerds. Confirmation bias?)


@The Lady of Shalott

During my confirmation classes in high school, a priest who is licensed or whatever to do exorcisms told us that if we used Ouija boards, the demons would be able to possess us more easily.

Lia LoBello@facebook

i think i need to download ghost radar.


@Lia LoBello@facebook yup. downloaded.


i just downloaded. I'm at home & live in an apartment building. There is a ghost next door (apparently). The only ghost. It's been there for about 45 mins now. Because of the architecture of my building, I can kinda see into my next door neighbor's window. There's an eerie glow (some say TV, now i say GHOST). The words were TEA, HOT, WARMTH (maybe a million other words in between)....and then...VODKA. Seriously. So I added vodka to my tea (it's a GHOST I do what it says). And I drank it.

And then, the ghost went away.

Thank you ghost, and hairpin, for feeding me more vodka.

sarah girl

So I downloaded this and didn't realize that your phone would actually SPEAK the words instead of just displaying them and just about shit my pants. NOOOOOO


@Sarah H. A(R)GH that is the only reason I didn't get it! I was afraid of that! DO NOT WANT


All I can think about this is I really, really want to take apart the code and futz with it.


Downloaded it. My bedroom is a hellmouth apparently. It went nuts spitting out words for ten minutes (California! Brass! Dirt! Land!) until I got bored and switched over to the Moses the Cat blog.


@yoursmalltime don't worry, it sounds like a speak;n;spell voice. Not scary. and the giant logo "boledpickles.com" or whatever the connected url is is very reassuring as well.

Miss Maszkerádi

I'm downloading right now and I'm so excited. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING to take my mind off the embarrassing catastrophe that just happened to my distant homeland in Euro 2012.....including potentially terrifying paranormal activity-spotting. Thank you Hairpin.

Miss Maszkerádi

@CountessMaritza it's saying "EEEEEEEEEE" on the screen and just told me to go to a bar. I like this app.

Miss Maszkerádi

@CountessMaritza now it just said "living, previous, century, Ellen, Jane." Holy crap.


Wow where to start.. I just registered this site to reply to this.. Im currently about to be 30 as well and I also admit that I question where I am because I have a place to live, but I don't have a car, and I have never been married... Ive also been seeking that exact same thing you explained with supernatural experiences...

Now where it gets weird from what you reported up top... My name is Damian, I was born august 9th 1985 in Northern Spain, Raised atheist, I was adopted by a Joesph Mastroianni of the United States and raised in Santa Barbara, California.. back in June 2012 I decided I wanted to plan a trip to Spain to find my real parents... in august shortly after my birthday - several ghostly activities started to occur in my apartment, and as of writing this right now: tons of coincidences in my life all at once that it has forced me to think about coincidence differently.. last week I balanced a buddha beer bottle over a beanbag turtle, and over the buddha bottle a round statue that held a screw and yes... a screwdriver perfectly balanced on the tip of the screw... as i was standing in awe at my creation, i bent over to pick up something and the screwdriver fell but landed on the base of the statue still in perfect balance.. I didnt realize it at the time but I wrote about this later as "To suceed in life is to keep balance in the up and downs in your life", after this day I got into lucid dreaming, astral projection, and even managed to contact spirits on an app similar to yours... My life has actually improved... over 9,0000000000%

I have been so happy waking up daily, and my plans for my Spain trip have been excelling. The people around me, my family and friends think I'm going crazy because all of a sudden, I'm smiling more, I'm more positive, I tell the truth - my friends hate this - apparently as of this whole new truth syndrome Ive taken on - its as if I can sense all the bullshiters around me.. also in general life my situational awareness and reflexes have boosted signifigantly - I get green lights everywhere I go (I travel on a skateboard), I can't see more then about 5 feet due to 10 years of computer use... and in my spare time hobby: I dj music to an online game where 100% of the time the music I dj even if its stuff I have never heard - lines up with whats happening in online matches - all the time.. every genre of music I have tested.. and its constantly accurate it scares me in its accuracy sometimes..

All of this was all at once for me, and Ive met a few people my age that this is also happening to - as well. I think the human race is undergoing a spirtual awakening - not religious - but more inner-god related.

Everything is possible,



GHOST RADAR WORKS!! I downloaded the app, and never really messed with ghost hunting and stuff at the time. But I downloaded the app, and decided to mess around with it. For about 2 or 3 weeks I would go to the app every night and invite good friendly spirits. I'd get some random stuff, but here and there some very strange coincidences (as in the form of answers). This short piece here is not why I am positive ghost radar works, that's next. But for instance one night I asked 'are you friendly?'
.. it responded, "Flowers." I then asked are you a boy or girl?' .. It responded "Dan." There was some other stuff during those two or three weeks that kept me interested, but THIS NEXT THING is what has me convinced. So around 3 weeks in, I invite friendly spirits as usual. I'm laying down on my bed looking around very intently, and right above me a little flash of ghost tail (like an orbs tail 'videogame style' gleams in and out. It was about 6 inches long and very noticeable, but also very quick. I jumped a bit and yelled "WHOA, I SAW THAT!!" Right after (like a second and a half) I said that, my ghost radar said "Noted." I was blown away! I just saw a ghost, yelled I saw that, and then it confirmed what I had seen by saying noted! 5 minutes later I'm looking around all intently again and the Ghost Radar App says "Eventually!" I don't remember if I thanked the ghost that night or not, but I have thrown thank you's to it many times telepathically since then. I really do thank that spirit. It gave me the proof I need in the paranormal and everything. It was awesome.

Since that night, I quit with ghost radar and searching for spirits in my house after that night, it's been about 4 months now. Just because it's not my place, I live with someone. I got the proof I was in search of, and will be going ghost hunting somewhere else soon here though.


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