How to Talk to the Dead
Updated: Jan 11
This is the script for Episode 2 of the How to Bury a Body podcast, 'How to Talk to the Dead'. Find the recording here and listen to more episodes on similar topics, weekly!
Hi, you’re listening to How to Bury a Body, Episode 2. I’m your host, Beth – not to be confused with death, but that’s what we talk about here. Today’s episode is all about How to Talk to the Dead. We have a lot in common with our ancestors. In fact, we have all been preoccupied with the same thoughts, fears, and general curiosities since ancient times. What are those thoughts, you ask? Well, what happens when we die? It seems we all have a predisposition to question why we’re here, and where do we go when our bodies are no longer working? It’s an obvious question and one that has never really received an answer. Of course, there are theories and speculation, stories and folklore, cave paintings and scientific studies. But one thing rings true: we don’t really know. At least that’s something we can all bond over, right?
It’s almost impossible to know what happens after you die. It seems as though something (or someone?) doesn’t want us to know. Maybe our tiny human brains aren’t capable of comprehending the afterlife. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried. One of the ways humans have tried to tap into this other plane of existence (or lack thereof) is by talking to the dead. Necromancy, if you will. Necromancy has been touted as black magic or sorcery, and often forbidden. It is the practice of communicating with the dead or reanimating a corpse – which the latter we won’t talk about today, but maybe in the future. Necromancy has one goal in mind: to learn the secrets of the dead. Many cryptic books and hidden ritualistic texts have described ways in which to contact those beyond the grave. We don’t want to summon any deceased flesh back into the waking world – this has long been thought to bring about dire consequences – even landing yourself in a fiery pit of your own. Or bringing up something devilish instead of your dead cat (remember Pet Semetary, anyone?).
However, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just ask those in the pale beyond what they’re seeing? Who are they with? Do they miss us like we miss them? Can they even tell us the future? How do they know what’s going to happen, if so? It’s innately human to want to talk to the dead. While scary, it still has a morbid allure that a lot of us are drawn to. So, is it possible to do so? How do you talk to the dead? Is it them that’s talking back? Let’s explore.
Ghosts exist because of our belief in them. In fact, we’ve heard accounts of ghostly figures for as long as we can remember or, at least, have record of. In the first century AD, a statesman in Athens wrote of a chain-dragging ghost haunting his halls. There have been countless sightings of apparitions, but have we gotten any valuable info from them? That’s debatable. Nevertheless, we hold funeral rituals, and have done so for as long as people have been dying. Dependent on the religion, we honor the dead by preparing them for the afterlife – wherever that may be. So we must believe in it. Is this blind faith? There are many ways to try and speak to the dead. Moving past the complicated rituals of yesteryear, we move into mediumship.
You may have instantly thought about psychic mediums like John Edwards or The Long Island Medium, to name a couple. One of our listeners actually wrote in on the H2BaB Instagram page about their specific experience. When prompted by the question of whether mediums can actually talk to the dead or if it is a hoax, @knotsandcats stated: “I’m a clairvoyant, and I can ‘talk’ to dead people. (with talk in quotation marks). It’s not a lie. Everyone can do this, but not everyone is open enough to believe in their possibilities. Remember, absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence.” I love this. The post was of the infamous Martha Beraud, a vintage medium who claimed to excrete ectoplasm, amongst other things, during seances and medium sessions. This was obviously a hoax and has led the public to question the legitimacy of mediums to this day. I like to believe that they are real, and not all those who can tap into the other side are lying. I refuse to believe that all of these individuals are trying to take advantage of those grieving. I mean, our listener sounds like they know what they’re talking about, and they’re not running a multi-million dollar show on talking to the dead (that I know of).
But if they were, would their gifts be automatically discounted? There have been a ton of witnesses attending these events or private readings with famous mediums that swear there is truth to it rather than what is called “cold-reading” – aka figuring out enough details about a person due to their behavior or presentation of themselves in order to give a generic yet specific reading that convinces them you are talking to their dead loved one. But what about those details that no one could know, like the earring you kept from your grandmother, tucked away in your old jewelry box that no one sees but you? I’ve been to a psychic once, but she didn’t claim to talk to the dead (and frankly, didn’t get any details of my life right, even if she was cold-reading). But I still believe. In fact, this week I have a virtual group reading with Matt Fraser, the one medium on E! with the large personality and sparkly suits. I can’t record it, but I’ll report back. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. In any case, there are individuals that talk to the dead. @Knotsandcats put quotation marks around “talk”, presumably because they said they were clairvoyant. A clairvoyant person is “a person who claims to have a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact.” In this case, they probably receive these messages from beyond the grave. I know there are different types of mediumship, including clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, etc. If you’d like me to do an episode on this, let me know, and hopefully we could talk to @knotsandcats or even try to tap into the other side ourselves! I think we all do have the ability – or at least some of us are more open to it than others, like they said. I’ve had my own experiences, but that’s another conversation for another day. Like I said, I’ll report back on the Matt Fraser experience on next week’s episode! Hopefully we’ll get some juicy stuff (and I’m not talking about ectoplasm). Anyway, the most common way we think about mediums is that they hear the dead speak to them. There are other ways they can receive messages, such as through images or even smells and symbols, but there is one common thread here: they don’t need to be near a body to talk to the dead. They can tap into the other side with no attachment to the person’s physical body – aside from being near their loved ones or maybe holding onto an item of theirs. So what does this mean for people that go to cemeteries to talk to their loved ones that have passed on? Is it just a form of comfort to talk to a gravestone, or can they hear us? Let’s discuss.
We talked in the first episode about cemeteries and mausoleums serving as a physical space to honor the dead. They are a fixture of our society, and where would we go to honor the dead if they didn’t exist? But with this conversation about mediums talking to the dead wherever they are, is this really necessary? I mean, these days we see an abundance of people “talking to dead” through FB statuses or Instagram posts. They’re not just talking about them – their language implies that they’re talking TO them. I suppose if they are watching over us as a lot of us like to believe, they would be able to see the post. However, is this more of a cathartic experience for the person still here on earth and, er, the internet? Is it also a public showing of how much you cared? A display to other living and breathing social media users that you are, in fact, grieving? This is also a topic for another episode, but there is no doubt that technology is changing the way we grieve. In fact, there are inventions floating around for “talking headstones” where your loved ones gravestone can actually talk back to you in the voice you so very much miss. It’s possible to create chatbots that actually sound like someone, so why not use this after they die to remember them by, and kind of let them live on in a sense? Or is this playing God, so to speak? There are even reports of Alexa or Google Home being able to use these types of chatbots to let you talk to your deceased friends and family, with their actual voice. They can make these things sound quite real, but when would it start replacing your actual memories of the person in their real, waking life? I know that memories fade, and it would be nice to hear their voice again, but I wonder if a simple recording would suffice, rather than conjuring up completely new conversations. There are even virtual and augmented reality scenarios that are reuniting family members with their lost loved ones. Most notably, a mother reunited with her dead daughter in VR. You can find the link to that video in the show notes. But what do you think? Would this help or hurt the grieving process? It seems to me as though it may exacerbate things. I’m interested to hear what you think, so go to https://anchor.fm/howtoburyabody/message to send a voice memo. If I get enough, I’ll have an episode talking about your opinions on these deadly topics. With all of this tech, it brings about the question of whether or not the body is important for the soul to live on. What is a soul? Can we keep the soul living when the physical body is in a coffin, unmoving and not drawing a single breath? Does the soul live on if we download our thoughts and experiences into a robot? Some people think so, and they are trying to actively do so, but only time will tell if this will be an adequate replacement for someone. It sounds like a sci-fi novel, but this is our life now – and, consequently, our death.
Expert psychologists say that it’s perfectly normal, and even healthy, to hold conversations with the dead. Most of us will even sense our loved ones around us after they have passed on- smell their cologne, get a penny dropped in their old shoe randomly, or even hear their voice calling out our name. The debate is on, and probably always will be, about whether or not these are hallucinations or real contact with the other side. Of course, different religions believe in different afterlife situations. There’s reincarnation, heaven, hell, limbo - and the list goes on. We can do a series on those beliefs in the future. But it still remains that we would like to figure out the truth. There are some people that have gotten really close to death – or actually have taken their final breath – that appear to have tapped into whatever happens after we die. I watched some of that series with Morgan Freeman, The story of God, recently, and in the first episode, a man has a brush with death in the ocean. As he is tumbled around in the waves and starts to lose consciousness, he starts to accept that he may not make it out of this alive. He sees what he refers to as God, but it is this overwhelming sense of calmness and the brightest light show that you can ever imagine. He now is a spiritual man that believes in this energy being as the one creator of our universe. Light and energy very well may make up our perception of reality. Could this be true? Near-death experiences like this have been reported on TV, in the news, in books, and in casual conversation. This sense of euphoria could be the brain’s way of making death less painful for us – OR it could be a glimpse into what we are going to experience once our body stops working. We wouldn’t need to do anything with our dead bodies then, right? If our soul lives on? That’s our real self, wouldn’t you think? It’s a lot to think about. Perhaps it is a glimpse into the afterlife, because how many times have you heard of a patient on their death-bed, very close to crossing over, start talking to relatives that have already passed on? While they seem to be less and less aware of those in the waking world around them as they near the other side, they seem to become more attuned to some other reality. Again, this could be the brain’s way of coping with the most traumatic experience – death. But it’s nice – really nice – to think that our loved ones that have already passed are there to greet us when it’s our turn to join them. Do you have any stories of near-death experiences or know someone who has passed on that seemed to be talking to some higher power? Go to https://anchor.fm/howtoburyabody/message to send a voice memo! I’d love to hear them and share them with our H2BaB audience. The more we know about death, the better we can prepare for it in life. That’s the whole point of why we’re gathered here today.
Now on to the cool stuff. The paranormal stuff. The ghost hunting show stuff. There are ways that the human mind can tap into the other side, and of course, humans have wanted to amplify this. It is well-known in the paranormal community that some aspects of technology seem to capture paranormal phenomena better than we can do without that sort of help. The naked eye doesn’t catch milliseconds of apparitions that a camera lens can. And as far as talking to the dead? Well, there are gadgets for that, too. To name a few of the most common, there are EVPs captured by microphones, ghost and spirit boxes, Ouija boards, pendulums, dowsing rods, haunted objects, and even ghost apps for your phone. Even if you don’t have extrasensory perception (or at least haven’t tapped into it), you can attempt to talk to ghosts. But where did these devices come from? Who invented them, and how do we know that they work? There are different degrees of “results” that can be obtained from each of the aforementioned techniques. Oftentimes, it takes a recognizable phrase or word that can be backed up by fact to “prove” the legitimacy of the tool. This can be something like the name “Mary” being spelled out on the Ouija board, only to find out upon further research later that there was a woman named Mary that died in the house you were holding your Ouija board session. It’s hard to scientifically prove something that we don’t necessarily have hard evidence for. You would have to prove without a doubt that this isn’t just a coincidence. I guess that’s where you just have to believe. Sometimes the feelings you get in a “haunted” place are enough to persuade you that ghosts are real, whether we know exactly what those ghosts are or not. A point my fiancé has raised to me several times is that everywhere and anywhere could be haunted. People typically think that “haunted” locations have to be old, cursed, or places where people died particularly tragic deaths. But deaths happen all over the place, and often they happen in pretty mundane places like an aisle at a Walmart. Does this turn the LEGO aisle into a haunted toy factory? That’s debatable. Does the soul follow the body? That would explain why graveyards are so often the focus of paranormal investigations. But if our soul doesn’t need our body to live on, why would they just stick around with a bunch of unmoving, decaying body parts in the ground? Maybe it’s the idea that their loved ones might come and visit, but it’s sad to think that they may be tied there – especially when the cemetery is particularly unkempt and forgotten. Heck, I know of graves right near where I live that have simply been built on top of, and I haven’t heard much talk of haunted corporate offices around here. I want to dive deeper into these methods to talk to ghosts, and maybe we can finally understand, once and for all, what ghosts really are made of. Do you think they would tell us if we asked? All we can do is try, and the goal is to find something that science can’t debunk. But what if science just doesn’t understand the unexplainable? What if it’s not something that science can explain, because our minds aren’t capable of absorbing the information that is so otherworldly and unknown? I guess that’s why humans have been fascinated with the aspect of talking to the dead since the dead existed. So basically, 5ever. Tune in next week to find out if locations matter when trying to talk to ghosts, and if my medium group reading turned me from a healthy skeptic into a solid believer. Bye!
Mother reunites with dead daughter in VR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p8HZVCZSkc
High-tech headstones let you talk to the grave: https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/high-tech-headstones-https://www.youtube.com/speak-grave/story?id=10078212
physical spaces to talk to the dead
History of necromancy: https://www.ranker.com/list/necromancy-facts/jen-jeffers
Talking to dead people on FB? https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/dcb49bbf-d3fc-430f-bd6a-4b333efcc2f1
Sensing the dead and having “hallucinations”: https://theconversation.com/sensing-the-dead-is-perfectly-normal-and-often-helpful-81048
Atheist talking to graves? Discussion on Quora: https://www.quora.com/As-an-atheist-do-you-go-to-the-cemetery-to-talk-with-dead-loved-ones
Yahoo discussion: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20131226073608AAXQvv7
Dead greeting the dying: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/18/o.end.of.life/index.html
Meditation and “messages” and symbols”: https://peacefulpresents.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/how-to-talk-to-dead-loved-ones/
73 types of mediums: https://www.amandalinettemeder.com/blog/different-kinds-of-psychic-mediums
I’m married to a medium: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/married-to-a-psychic-medium_n_5aa7171fe4b009b705d570e9
Cjades Ouija playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-GdH7Tb0Zs373zJtav6SZWqbasBAfSOY
Ghost apps and paranormal researcher interview!: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/10/5/17942874/ghost-hunting-apps-tools-halloween-october
Other purported EVPs: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/ghost-sounds-evp-recorder-stories
EVPs in an article about why EVPs aren’t really ghosts: https://theconversation.com/hearing-ghost-voices-relies-on-pseudoscience-and-fallibility-of-human-perception-48160
More EVPs by a paranormal group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaYrsjvYsVk
Spirit box history: https://thespiritboxmyspiritualjourney.weebly.com/spirit-box-history.html
Spirit box example: https://medium.com/@astrovav/the-statistics-of-spirit-boxes-2cf021bf6c3
And the Estes method: https://www.astonishinglegends.com/astonishing-legends/2019/2/16/estes-method
Dowsing rods: https://www.britannica.com/topic/dowsing
Examples of expensive ghost hunting equipment: https://www.ghoststop.com/EVP-Recorders-Ghost-Hunting-s/1.htm
Why Ouija boards don’t work: https://www.vox.com/2016/10/29/13301590/how-ouija-boards-work-debunked-ideomotor-effect
“Scientific” explanations for why we think we hear ghosts: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/6-possible-scientific-reasons-for-ghosts/
Manipulated vintage seances: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/12824/12-weird-vintage-pictures-s%C3%A9ances
Seances are just talking to yourself: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2015/oct/30/science-of-the-seance-why-speaking-to-spirits-is-talking-to-yourself
Cynicism of psychic medium abilities to talk to the dead: https://www.livescience.com/10164-psychics-talk-dead.html
Scientist challenges medium session: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/may/12/psychic-claims-james-randi-paranormal
Mediums read for a person that never really existed: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vdxeqb/i-asked-psychics-to-connect-with-my-non-existent-dead-sister
Stories of cold-reading mediums: https://www.newsweek.com/2014/11/07/talking-dead-280717.html
Kids twist things like imaginary friends: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/10/28/why-do-so-many-kids-see-ghosts-we-asked-some-psychologists/
Seeing/hearing ghosts is schizophrenia?: https://psmag.com/environment/bloody-mary-bloody-mary
Einstein quote about energy: https://www.livescience.com/16951-einstein-physics-ghosts-proof.html