Invention Geek – Edison Spirit Phone?

Question from Christine G.:
I think the inventions where people try to explore “the other side” are pretty interesting – whether they’re a hoax or real or whatever – I just get a kick out of what different people come up with.

Anyway, I was googling around on the subject online, and I found some stuff about “spirit boxes” that ‘supposedly’ allow people to pick up voices from ghosts through some modified radio. I thought this was a new idea, but then I saw something where it said Edison was the first one to try to come up with something like that? Did he really?

Happy Halloween!!!

Happy Halloween to you, Christine! And thanks for the timely question!

You’re right about the ‘interesting’ ideas some people come up with, otherworldly or otherwise. As for your question about Thomas Edison’s involvement with the paranormal, specifically a means to “speak to the dead”:

The idea that Thomas Edison was working on a spirit phone began with an interview he gave to B.C. Forbes for American Magazine in 1920. The article stated that Edison was working on a device that would allow him to communicate with the dead. The magazine included a picture of Edison working in his lab with the caption -“Thomas A. Edison – the world’s foremost inventor who is now at work on an apparatus designed to place psychical research on a scientific basis.” A misquote supposedly from the article was often published: “if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.”

In 1926, Edison claimed in a New York Times article that interview was a hoax. “…I really had nothing to tell him, but I hated to disappoint him so I thought up this story about communicating with spirits, but it was all a joke.”

No patents were ever filed on such a device by Edison. No notes, drawings or prototype for such a device was ever found. So although no one knows for sure, Edison probably never worked on a spirit phone or any other invention to communicate with the dead.