Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The stone tape projector; what is it?

This post is an eye-witness account of what was said and seen during a demonstration of Richard Felix's stone tape projector at Ghostfest 2012, followed by my opinion of it. It follows on from my assessment of the theory behind the device.

The device

At the core of the stone tape projector is a large box, approximately 50cm at each side. It was reported that the box contained a police scanner and that various components were made of Bakelite, due to its high silica content. There was a blue light, which was emitted from the top of the box. Next to the box was a plasma globe, which was described as a Van de Graaff generator. A cable ran off the stage and was attached to the stone of the prison building. A smoke machine was arranged so that its stream passed through the blue light. We were told that this was no ordinary smoke machine. It allegedly emits special ‘high-silica’ dry ice. The sketch below should give an idea of the arrangement of the components which make up the projector.

Diagram of the Stone Tape Projector

The machine was started up and the beam from the blue light illuminated the stream from the smoke machine. Images of spirits would be displayed on the smoke. The audience were encouraged to take photographs of the smoke and if anything interesting appeared, to come to the front to show everyone. There were a few dozen people who came forward, and some of the pictures they had taken did have reasonable facsimiles of faces in them. Here is an example taken by York Skeptics that night. Unfortunately none of our photos contained such a face.

The Stone Tape Projector in action

An engineer’s perspective

In my opinion the entire machine is a prop. The plasma globe and blue light seem to be there only to make it look scientific. I don’t believe the box contained any kind of scanner, or any Bakelite. Even if it did I struggle to see what difference it would've made. The claim about Bakelite being high in silica is also incorrect; it contains none. If the smoke did contain a quantity of silica then breathing apparatus would be required by the audience and crew. In addition to this the same smoke machine had been used earlier on in the show. If the smoke machine was so special it seems very unlikely that it would be used for stage effects.

I think that a better name for this device would be a pareidolia generator. As far as I could tell, the only essential components of the machine were the smoke machine and the audience’s cameras. If one was to take repeated pictures of any cloud, be it dry ice, water, or smoke from a fire, one would be able to identify all sorts of objects in the images.

In conclusion the stone tape projector is, as far as I can tell,  a gimmick. It is based on scientifically flawed concepts, and is poorly implemented. Even the name does not seem to be original. The BBC made a drama in 1972 about a haunted house, where the haunting was the replaying of events which had happened in the past which were stored in the fabric of the building. This programme was entitled The Stone Tape.

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