Enginursday: Ghostly Gadgets – The E-Box

Create a device to investigate the paranormal.

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During the day, you can often find me doing one of three things:

  • Working hard in my ~~top secret Engineering chamber~~ cubicle here at SparkFun.
  • Chasing my 1-year-old around the house. (Seriously, I just can't crawl as fast as she can! And she wants to eat everything! "No, don't put that resistor in your mouth!" Sigh. A mom's worst nightmare.)
  • Performing some script for a production as my alter ego, Elizabeth Saint. Note: This person also creates #GhostlyGadgets as referenced in the video below. :)

However, at night it's the perfect time to hunt for ghosts! But, let's replace the word "hunt" with "search" -- otherwise I just imagine myself wandering around at night with a gun shooting at open air, which is definitely not what I do! Only a crazy person would do that. In all seriousness, though, I'm a Paranormal Investigator and Researcher.

(For some reason the X-Files theme music started playing in my head when I typed that. Don't worry; I'm probably just playing out that fantasy where I'm Fox Mulder again. Don't judge me.)

It's OK if you are a skeptic because, believe it or not, I am too! One of the perks about being an engineer is that I get to play around with some awesome design concepts that have the possibility of helping me validate whether or not spirits exist. I will admit, I've captured some pretty convincing evidence over the years. To steal a reference from one of my favorite shows and one of the best shows of all time, I want to believe, but I still don't have all the answers.

In my attempts to contact the spirit world, I've created many interesting communication gadgets. I'd like to present to you one of my designs: The E-Box.

The E-Box


The coolest thing about creating the E-Box was that a good friend of mine, Nick Groff, decided to use it on his show Parnormal Lockdown in their "Franklin Castle" episode, which aired recently on Destination America. Franklin Castle is located in Cleveland, and it is considered to be one of the most haunted houses in Ohio.

How Does It Work?

If you watch the clip you'll notice that Nick describes the E-Box's function as follows:

When a spirit comes near the box, it can trigger a motion sensor to answer either "yes," "no," "hello" or "goodbye."

Facepalm. I love you, Nick, but just to clarify for everyone else, it's not a motion sensor. Completely my fault since I probably should have done a better job explaining it, but that's what I have you and this blog post for!

If you look at the top of the box, you'll notice the stenciled letters Y, N, H and G for my four responses. I actually used Bare Conductive Electric Paint for this.


This paint, in conjunction with the copper tape, acts as a trigger to a Capacitive Touch Sensor. By touching one of these letters, the controller is able to detect when the capacitance of that element has changed, signaling to an Arduino that it's time to play a sound file. The response is then emitted from the two speakers mounted on either side of the box.

To play my sound files, I used an MP3 Trigger breakout board. I recorded my own voice, laid down two tracks, manipulated each one to sound different from the other, and layered them on top of each other to make the audio more genderless. Is that a word? Point being, we don't know whether a male or female spirit is coming through, so I tried to make it sound like it could be either. These audio files could then be easily uploaded and stored onto the MP3 trigger. Listen for yourself...

OK, I honestly didn't expect the audio to sound so creepy, but I guess it fits in with the theme here. ;)

You'll also notice from the video that the box is extremely sensitive! I didn't even have to touch any of the letters to have them trigger, which is great, especially when trying to communicate with something like a spirit.

I look forward to sharing more of these designs with you in the future!

Here are several of the products used to make the E-Box.

MP3 Trigger

MP3 Trigger

Copper Tape - 5mm (50ft)

Copper Tape - 5mm (50ft)

Bare Conductive - Electric Paint (50ml)

Bare Conductive - Electric Paint (50ml)


SparkFun Capacitive Touch Sensor Breakout - MPR121

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Comments 6 comments

  • WemblyTinkerer / about 8 years ago / 1

    So Excellent. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who likes SparkFun and research into paranormal science. Your use of capacitance to monitor electric field variance is genius. Go DarkSaint!

    I'm monitoring crystal oscillator co variance to look for Hoagland's hyperdimensional energy.
    Thank you Sparkfun for making clock modules with tuning fork crystals. Arduino Pro Minis make it easy. Yay Sparkfun!

    • TheDarkSaint / about 8 years ago / 1

      So glad you liked it! I'm super curious about your design - keep me posted! :)

  • FSJ Guy / about 8 years ago / 1

    “No, don’t put that resistor in your mouth!”

    In a nerdy sort of way, that is hilarious!!!!!

    OTOH, edible electronic treats could be something Nate might want to look into.... :- p

    • TheDarkSaint / about 8 years ago / 1

      Ha - so awesome!! I think you might be onto something with those edible electronic treats. I'd buy (and eat) them!

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