Contacting the dead on-line
They say dead men tell no tales, but who says they can't send E-mail?
True believers call it instrumental transcommunication (ITC), a phenomenon that has the dear departed contacting the living via computer, audiotape, and other electronic media. ''The easiest way for them to communicate has always been telepathically,'' explains Mark Macy, president of Boulder, Colo.-based Continuing Life Research, a group devoted to exploring ITC, and author of Conversations Beyond the Light. ''But they're learning...electronics, because that's the only way they can seem to get our attention right now.''
In most cases, ITC consists of words that appear on audiotape recordings made in silent rooms, says Sarah Estep, founder of the American Association-Electronic Voice Phenomena in Annapolis, Md. ''It's very rare to get more than 9 or 10 words,'' she says. Computer messages, however, appear to be less taxing. ''They can go on for 50, a hundred words,'' she says. ''Some of it is quite deep philosophically.''
So deep that it may be difficult for mere mortals to decipher. In one instance, says the association's newsletter, a German researcher typed the question ''What fields or energies are you using to influence our physical fields?'' onto his computer. When he returned to the machine a day later, this answer awaited him: ''Unbalanced electrostatic-Electron-Physiology-Mystical-Radar-Telepathy.''
Behind such messages, says Macy, is an organization ''on the other side'' comprising a thousand or so spirits just dying to speak to the physical world. According to Macy, it's even got a name Timestream and its members include Our Gang creator Hal Roach. Macy says that on Nov. 21, 1992, 19 days after he died, Roach typed out a computer message to researchers in Luxembourg: ''I am at present a member of the artistic team of Timestream and am working together with old friends like [director] George Cukor.... I am eager to learn more about this new world I'm living in now.'' Of course, there are skeptics. As one Net user who calls himself Tim the Enchanter posted: ''I am a dead person myself.... How could you tell if I was lying?''
If you want to contact the dead on your own, don't expect miracles. First, says Estep, you have to establish a link via audiotape. And, notes Macy, you need a ''contact field'' or ''energy bridge'' to serve as a power supply for these contacts. Having the right kind of hardware can't hurt either. ''I suppose if an experimenter started getting serious with a Mac, the spirit could probably come onto the Mac,'' says Macy. ''But so far they're just using IBM-compatibles.''
''I do not share Miss [Shirley] MacLaine's beliefs about paranormal activities.... I've never heard anyone say, 'I used to be Abraham Lincoln' with any degree of certainty, if you catch my drift.''
Tom Snyder on Prodigy
''I like to play dramatic roles, but it is hard for someone my size to be taken seriously.''
Dudley Moore on America Online
''Hollywood seems all about showbiz. To sit in a local bar and talk to people not involved with the business at all is sort of
refreshing. People in New York will tell you what they really think, then punch you in the face.''
Jon Stewart on America Online
''Ask me something that's not putting me to sleep.''
San Antonio Spur Dennis Rodman on CompuServe