20. Corpse Flightpath

May 19th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Spirit tracks.  Spirit roads.  Ghost roads.  Corpse roads.  Lych ways.  The Leichenflugbahn, which means, gorgeously, “corpse flightpath.”

Ghost roads appear, quite simply, to be the paths through which dead bodies were carried to cemeteries.  But, even as digital cities will be built atop the base matter of the contemporary city, ghost roads were superimposed over old geographies.  Corpse roads took the paths that ghosts and other numinous beings were already known to pass down.  Spirit tracks, in German folklore, were imbued with “the magical characteristics of the dead.”  

Spirit tracks.  The roads of ghosts.  Magical characteristics.

These haunted streets could be interrogated, too.  Devereux writes of a crossroads in Iceland where the interested hauntologist could “summon the spirits of the dead from the church cemeteries and they would glide up the roads to the crossroads where the seer could divine information from them.”

He also notes my favourite, “stile divination”.  In Cornwall, apparently, ghosts liked perching on country stiles in the path of spirit roads, and one could sit there and interrogate them as they go.  A stile is an RFID reader for dead people.

19. The City Is There To Haunt Us

May 18th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Take one street. A digital spirit track. Antenna ghosts whispering at us. All of us experiencing an ethereal presence in the street. Because our brains are being magnetically boiled by a constant blooming of experience inducing fields from everywhere.

I am in Berlin, standing in front of a few hundred people involved in the theory and planning of the digital cities of the future, and saying to them: Is this what you want to do to us? You fucking monsters.

(I got a laugh.)

The city is there to haunt us.

Perhaps we might hold up our phones, and see the spirits on the screen, through the camera, via an AR (Augmented Reality) application. Seeing the spirit track on our ghost box.

18. EIF

May 18th, 2011 | spirit tracks

RFID tags are well on their way to ubiquity. They’re going to get more complex. They’re going to use more power to achieve that. They’re going to be bloody everywhere. Your phones will talk to them (some do already). These large, weak magnetic fields are going to bloom invisibly all over the place. A ghost world of inaudible machine chatter.

Imagine if they got strong enough and complex enough to repeat the Persinger experiments with. Researcher Jason Braithwaite calls that kind of field EIF: Experience Inducing Fields. RFID EIF. eIF. Maybe there’ll be eIF for your iPhone one day. Perhaps it could talk to you: EIF EVP. Or maybe your Nexus phone, with its NFC capability. NFC eIF.

17. Whisky Again

May 18th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Whisky again.  Jack Schulze again. He sat down with me a couple of years ago while I was very drunk (it was the WIRED UK magazine launch, and the whisky was unwisely free) and showed me some footage on his phone. He’d been in Norway with Timo Arnall (also now of BERG), all folded up (Jack is very tall and weighs about as much as a bottle of free whisky) in a darkened Oslo basement screwing around with RFID tags.

You’ve all seen RFIDs – Radio Frequency Identification tags, the square pieces of paper used as security devices. The big swirly bit is the antenna, the bit in the middle is the circuit. An interrogator floods a region with radio. When the tag hits the field, it soaks up the energy and uses it to squeeze out its own signal. And that’s how you get caught stealing a dirty book.

On the phone, he’s showing me something I haven’t seen before. A visualisation of the readable volume of the EM field the RFID tag produces when it’s hit by an interrogator. It seems bloody huge. Much bigger and more energetic than you’d imagine.  On the iPhone, I’m watching ghost mushrooms rise out of physical objects.

Suddenly I had a new understanding of that small wave of body-modification enthusiasts who implanted themselves with magnets, so that they could actually feel when they were passing through electromagnetic fields (like security gates).

16. Electromagnetic Cauldron

May 18th, 2011 | spirit tracks

What happens when every city street is an electromagnetic cauldron? What spells will they cast on our poor unprotected headbeef?

(Temporal lobe epilepsy was given as a possible explanation for Whitley Strieber’s alien abduction experiences, back in the days when a reasonable percentage of credulous querents considered it from the standpoint that he wasn’t just making that shit up.)

(You think you’re confused by how random I’m being?  Imagine being in the audience at Berlin, getting the condensed thirty-minute version barked at you by a large Englishman who keeps stopping to take drinks of whisky.)