Warning: explicit language
Stepp Cemetery is located deep within the Morgan – Monroe State Forest, south of Martinsville. The grave markers that remain indicate that the site is the final resting place for at least 32 people–mostly young women and children–the oldest of whom passed away in the early nineteenth century. The richness of legend that surrounds the small, derelict graveyard earns it a spot on every list of Hoosier haunted locations.
Starting in the 1950s, visitors to the burial ground began reporting sightings of a lady shrouded in black, hovering on a chair-like tree stump above a stone simply marked “Baby Lester.” Some claimed it was the ghost of a local woman who’d lost her infant son 20 years earlier. Other stories circulated about a spirit in a black gown, sometimes called Anna, who would weave among the headstones mourning the accidental deaths of her husband and teenage daughter. A different branch of the Stepp Cemetery mythology leads to a tale of two brothers who dueled to the death in the graveyard for their inheritance.
On June 27th, 2015 I made the journey to Stepp Cemetery with my daughter and son for a brief paranormal excursion. We walked around, explored the old markers, took pictures, and conducted an EVP session that included turning on Echovox.
Echovox is an ITC (Instrumental Trans-Communication) experimentation app for smartphones and tablets. It is a bit different from a ghost box, in that radio signals do not factor into the equation at all. Instead, it has a built-in database of word fragments (phonemes) that it randomly plays through your device’s speaker. In addition, any sound captured by your device’s microphone — be it the sounds uttered by the Echovox, the user’s voice, or ambient sounds — are echoed, chopped up and puréed to create an audio “soup” that an entity hypothetically could use to communicate.
As with nearly every ITC device, the results are highly subjective. You simply cannot assume every syllable uttered is caused by spirit interference. Just because the Echovox puts two syllables together does not mean that some entity is trying to communicate. Through the random parts of speech, the echo and reverb with this app, if you listen long enough, through the magic of pareidolia, you might eventually hear something. Does that mean it’s all just nothing?
So why use this type of software when it’s so highly suspect and our puny human brains may not be able to differentiate between paranormal and pareidola? Well, why not? The unexplainable does happen, right? Our interests in the paranormal probably developed due to a supernatural spiritual experience that set us on this path — but we’ve come into a time when the field is jaded and chock-full of black t-shirt experts who (unfortunately) may act completely catty and smug in what they think they know.
But I know, when you’re trying to communicate with anything, you need to be able to connect syllables together to make words. Uh… Because that’s how words are made in order to make communication. Oh shit, I feel a rant coming on.
Ghost hunters claim to be all science-based, debunking being their prime directive, but mostly throwing light-up gizmos at a wall like spaghetti in the name of research to see what sticks. Meanwhile, their digital recorders are not shielded from radio waves and they piss themselves when a “disembodied voice” gets recorded. That’s logical. They get ectoplasmic hard-ons over flashlights that turn off and on due to the reflector expanding and contracting. Battery powered heat cycles from the afterlife? Science, bitches! This whole replication of what we’ve learned from watching ghost TV seems to give some diluted folks a license to throw the next black t-shirt expert under a bus for his contaminated-Ouija-dust-orbs-from-hell-pic in some strange big-dick-Ovilus contest. It’s really weird and unoriginal, man. Especially while we’re all sitting here in darkness waiting for great grandma’s ghost to tell us hello when she doesn’t even have fucking vocal chords.
This isn’t an endorsement for Echovox — nor is this some blanketed enraged criticism against paranormal groups in general — this is a call to get a grip. I love teams, most of the ones I’ve met are super sincere people. But for the folks who have only studied at the University of Ghost Adventures for their scientific pedigree (the vast majority), and then turn around and have the audacity to actually make fun of Zak Bagans, seriously? Shouldn’t he be revered as a muscled-up-mentor-messiah? Baganites? Do you know who Harry Price was? Montague Summers? Hans Holzer? Konstantīns Raudive? Do you understand that paranormal TV is meant for entertainment purposes and is not developed to be how-to ghost hunting tutorials? Just curious.
Sound ridiculous? Good. Because it is. But the reality is we are passionate hobbyists in a field of undefinable scientific parameters using a hack methodology — and none of our proof can be manifested in a lab (but cool shit does happen, right?). Although experience as a seasoned and critical thinking investigator bears merit. Trying to be respectful and doing things your best does matter. But there is a balance between spiritualism and science here and you can’t define it. None of us can. We can barely tune into it — even the real pioneers / researchers of ITC (they do exist). So get over it. If you think you can, go ahead and do the field a service and throw yourself under that proverbial bus by your own black t-shirt because your disconcerted position is as irrational as the folks who know that they “cross spirits over.” Why hasn’t your elite evidence gotten you on the cover of Time? Just curious.
Not to say we all shouldn’t be discerning with anything anyone tells us or sells us, especially concerning ghosts, fairies, the nuts on a Sasquatch, or anal-probing aliens. Not to say you should buy every piece of equipment and swallow every bit of metaphysical snake oil shoved in your face. But if you’re completely shut down to the possibilities of ITC, or have deputized yourself as some authoritative paranormal cop, your logic is merely a negative stumbling block, because, like I noted before, your dead great-grandma’s ghost has no fucking vocal chords.
You cannot simply discount, judge, or discredit the experiences or efforts of others in an arena that NOBODY can prove simply because it doesn’t fit your precepts or preferences. And that’s a two-way street concerning your individual journey as well. If no one ever extended you that type of grace and encouragement, I am truly sorry.
So, do I feel the messages I received at Stepp Cemetery using the Echovox were from beyond the veil? Possibly. Possibility is always there. This is my path to explore and grow my understandings — at my own pace. Even though Echovox is new to me personally, I find it intriguing that it said Lester less than 10 feet away from Baby Lester’s grave. None of us said the name Lester for the microphone to record us and put that specific word into the audio “soup.” It almost seemed that before the name was spoken, you could almost hear the sound of an effort being made to figure out how to manipulate phonemes for that name. I find the complete phrase at the end of the video, all in the same voice, hardly improbable as just random dumb luck too. I suppose you could have a thousand monkeys typing on typewriters and eventually one of them will give you Moby Dick, but since my visit to Stepp, I’ve let Echovox run for hours, at variable configurations and never heard a semblance of a whole word. Just mumbled gibberish.
But I suppose that could all be dead great-grandma too.
There is a high wire act between a curious mind and healthy skepticism, and trying to find a steady sweet-spot in being open-minded and too open isn’t easy — but the weight of cynicism and faux expertise has no place here. Find a positive position if you are a genuine contributor to the paranormal hip-hop-hooray-hobby parade or get off the damn road, and turn in your black t-shirt for Christ’s sake. In the end, ultimately you’re either gonna prove paranormal phenomena is real only to yourself — or whether or not you’re an asshole to everyone else. That’s it.
What is the frequency of your intention?
— Evel Ogilville