If you have been keeping up with the multi-part documentary series Hellier, you may have heard their team mention the Estes Method. The Estes Method, also known as the SB7 Spirit Box Experiment, is one of the latest innovations in paranormal investigation. It is named the Estes Method due to where the method was conceived. Perhaps it has a little bit of the shine, because it was first used in Estes, Park, Colorado in the hallowed halls of the infamous Stanley Hotel.
It all began in January 2016 when Karl Pfeiffer, also a part of the 2019 Hellier docuseries, Connor Randall, and Michelle Tate were brainstorming on a new way to make contact. What became the Estes Method began as a simple concept: What if they isolated noise from an SB7 Spirit Box (a popular ghost hunting device that sweeps the radio for noise which paranormal investigators believe are manipulated by the spirits to communication) and fed THAT into a person, making them the receiver.
To back up a little, let’s talk a little more about Spirit Boxes and, in particular, the SB7. Spirit Boxes are a device with a fairly simple goal in mind: to capture and output communications from spirits. How does a spirit box do this? Well, it uses a frequency sweeper with different millisecond intervals. During this time you’ll hear snippets and phrases that are believed to be controlled by or spoken by a spirit. Now, even ghost hunters acknowledge that there is a lot of audio pareidolia that happens and that not every word heard is a direct communication.
Sound a little strange? Perhaps...but isn’t everything astonishing marked by a little strangeness?
The hope of the Estes Method is to further isolate and concentrate on the random radio feed. One must have the SB7 Spirit Box tapped into soundproof headphones (so they cannot hear the questions being asked) and be blindfolded (so they cannot guess/read lips at what is being asked). Once this has been established, the other investigators in the room (not the person listening) ask questions and see if the radio snippet of the human receiver match. The human receiver says out loud any words or phrases they can make out.
According to Week in Weird, “With time to kill, the group hooked Connor Randall up to a pair of headphones and sat him down in the Concert Hall’s basement hallway, where the team had been experiencing increased activity in prior weeks. While Connor sat quietly, eyes closed, listening to a direct feed from the SB7, Pfeiffer began to ask questions pointed at the ghosts in The Stanley. To his surprise, Randall began to spit out answers… and they were making too much sense to be coincidence.”
Greg Newkirk of Week and Weird and Hellier shares his own thoughts on the method, “Having seen and utilized the Estes Method myself, the results are nothing short of stunning, and that’s coming from someone who loathes all forms of spirit boxes, radio sweeps, and “random” speech generators used by paranormal investigators. The brilliant part about the Estes Method is that effectively removes the “group bias” of spirit boxes, a side effect which taints their usage.”
Like Greg, I have also been skeptical of the ability of spirt/ghost boxes because there seems to be so much room for, well, just listening to chopped up versions of the radio. However, it does make me wonder if what the Estes Method has created is some kind of digitally-enhanced mediumship or if it could even be considered digital/technologically-aided scrying.
Scrying is a method of divination (just like the Estes Method is a method to spirit communication). Scrying is usually done in order to receive answers and largely question-based (just like the Estes Method). In fact, the word ‘scry’ comes from the Old English word “descry” which means to “make out dimly”...which, also sounds like what the Estes Method is trying to accomplish. Often, scrying is depicted with the use of a crystal ball, although other tools can be used. The medium, in the Estes Method this would be the receiver, acts as a focus for attention and clears their mind as much as possible. Once this is achieved, the scryer can hen use free association with perceived images (like images in a crystal ball) or even the changes of candlelight to lead the questions asked to answers.
I’m ending this with a quick look at the Estes Method with how-to guide to create your own Estes Method experiment. The below instructions come directly from Greg Newkirk’s fantastic article on the subject (first ‘link’ in link section):
A willing Receiver and a willing Operator. In other words, someone to perform the Estes Method and someone to ask questions.
A solid, tight blindfold. This particular type of mask, affectionately referred to as an “eye-bra” by Randall, works best.
An SB7 Spirit Box, preferably the latest model. They’re much louder, which helps rule out fraud by unscrupulous Receivers.
A pair of Vic Firth S1H1 or S1H2 Stereo Isolation Headphones. These are vastly important. If you aren’t using these headphones or an equivalent, throw out all of your evidence. These cans were made for studio drummers and block external noise up to 25 decibels, ruling out unintentionally hearing the Operator’s questions or outright fraud. If you see an investigator using off-the-rack headphones or earbuds, they’re performing the experiment incorrectly and might be trying to pull a fast one on you and the viewer. Anything less than 20 decibels of sound isolation won’t cut it. Stick to the Vic Firths. A general rule of EVP playback applies here as well: beware of sound-cancelling headphones. These types of headphones work by playing a tone that deafens the ears to outside sounds; you don’t want your headphones accidentally muting a spirit voice that might whisper through your feed.
This image is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) and is by Flickr User tomasz lusiak and is entitled ‘crystal ball.’