Electromagnetic Ghosts

When they're not tormenting humans or scaring pets, ghosts are interfering with technology, appearing on video screens, making radios and TVs crackle and playing with the lights. Alongside cold spots, EM interference is one of the 'recognised' signs of a haunting. One variation, known as EVP (electronic voice phenomena), specifically involves anomalous voices or other sounds on electronic audio recordings.

An electromagnetic ghost may be a Walking Techbane if the interference is strong enough.

Not to be confused with Virtual Ghost (which is a "ghost" projected by technological means); Haunted Technology, (when the ghost is actually inhabiting a machine); or Ghost in the Machine (which is nothing to do with ghosts at all). This trope covers any supernatural activity that makes electrical systems malfunction as a side effect of their presence.

Please note that this often happens in worlds that do not have 'magic' as such but still have ghosts.


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    Fan Fiction 

  • House on Haunted Hill (1999) (remake): Ghosts show up on a camcorder screen just before murdering a contestant.
  • White Noise is about "electromagnetic voice phenomena", where voices from beyond appear on audio and video recordings.
  • In The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis's character discovers the ghosts actually exist when he can hear them on a tape recorder.
  • The Ghostbusters of Ghostbusters use a device that measures electromagnetic disruption to locate ghosts.
  • The Innkeepers has Claire and Luke using recording equipment to pick up EVP and find the ghost that they think is haunting the hotel.
  • The 2010 movie Ghost From The Machine (Phasma Ex Machina) has the protagonist build a device that creates an intense electromagnetic field in order to bring ghosts closer to the land of the Living, in an attempt to resurrect his dead parents. However, it also brings back his neighbor's dead wife, and the psychotic murderer/suicide who used to own his house...
  • In Poltergeist, the ghost researchers use this sort of equipment to monitor the ghostly activities in the house. After one supernatural occurrence, one of them even notes "It's electrical - you can smell the charge."
  • Samara Morgan in The Ring imprints images on a blank videotape (cursing it in the process) and can manipulate televisions when someone's week is up, up to and including emerging from the screen. Before her death, she had similar abilities to psychically imprint images on electromagnetic film

  • In Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Dead, the Dead are able to manipulate, damage, or generally mess around with radios, telephones, televisions, arcade games, jukeboxes, computer networks, satellites, and radio telescopes. Justified because one of them was an electronics genius in life, while another is Albert Einstein's distant cousin.
  • Tim Powers is fond of this trope. In his Fault Lines trilogy, ghosts can call people up on phones and appear on TV talk shows (at least, on the version being watched by the person they're haunting).
  • In Richard Matheson's Hell House, the haunting is literally electromagnetic, as ghosts are essentially an energy field which survives the death of the body. As a consequence, they can be destroyed by a good, hard degaussing unless they are protected in some fashion.
  • The ghost from The Haunted Air makes a clock radio's LED display run in reverse, and causes a television to show programming from The '80s twenty years later, even when it's unplugged and had its internal components removed.
  • Anthony Horowitz's short story The Phone Goes Dead has a woman struck by lightning and killed while using her mobile phone. The phone's next owner, a teenage boy, soon starts receiving calls on it from beyond the grave.
  • In The Night's Dawn Trilogy, the Possessed - human souls returning from death via Demonic Possession - disrupt any nearby 27th century equipment. When the Possessed take over a planet, they must rely on archaic mid-20th century technology as modern equipment ceases functioning or is bugged beyond usability.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Supernatural normally invisible ghosts show up on camcorder screens and the EMF detectors used by ghost hunters.
  • Averted in The Stone Tape despite the wide array of electronic equipment used to study the ghost. Eventually the scientists realise what they hear and feel is the brain's reaction to whatever is imprinted into the walls; this is why some people are more sensitive to paranormal phenomena than others.
  • An episode of Deadtime Stories has the ghost of a young girl contact a preteen on her cell phone, in the form of a video that suddenly appears on the screen.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Geist The Sin Eaters affords ghosts several Numina that allow them to do this, such as Ghost Sign (imprint a message in a medium) or Left-Handed Spanner (make technology go haywire). As such, several Sin-Eaters have necromantic Ceremonies that rely on these tropes, like Spectral Photography (take a photograph of an area, get a glimpse of the most dynamic ghost activity that happened in the last few days) and Dead Voices on Air (leave a specially-prepared camera behind, and it will capture whatever ghostly activity occurs in the meantime).
  • Wraith The Oblivion characters can do this using Inhabit, which allows possession and control of inanimate objects.

  • Depending on the production, the ending of Blithe Spirit as ghosts Elvira and Ruth destroy the house.

     Video Games 
  • In response to a supernatural event in F.E.A.R., the lights go wild (most of the time they just flicker, but in some instances, they overload and shatter or just mysteriously break), your radio crackles and "unknown origin" is shown as the source of the transmission. Alma also appears on monitors occasionally, like a visual equivalent of an EVP. Her contractions cause an EMP like effect in F.E.A.R. 3.
  • While most supernaturalness in Dead Space and Dead Space 2 is inside Isaacs head something is interfering with RIG transmissions.
  • Many of the powers in Ghost Master are electrical in nature such as blow fuse,blackout, wild and crazy and strange behaviour. Technology is also one the 'fetters' or places ghosts can be anchored.
  • Silent Hill had a radio which gave off static in the presence of monsters.
    • In Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, you can only see ghosts by looking at them with Harry's cell phone camera, and "echo memories" (which are sort of... lingering traces of emotionally-charged events?) cause the phone to give off weird static/feedback.
  • In Sengoku Basara 3, Oichi has a similar "static effect" sometimes when she speaks, in a reference to this phenomenon.
  • Taping EVPs and scanning for electromagnetic signs of ghosts is a crucial part of The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure.
  • Rotom from the Pokémon series.
  • A haunted TV appears in Dark Fall: Lost Souls, displaying cryptic images that provide clues to the code for the ring mechanism.

    Web Original 
  • The Slender Man is often shown to muck up electronic equipment, causing static, audio and visual distortion, missing frames, added frames, and general horror. A video camera is also a way to see him when he is otherwise invisible. In Marble Hornets, trying to film him tends to make it worse.
  • Jay Are's backpack in The League of S.T.E.A.M. is supposedly a device for picking up EVPs.

  • The webcomic Chainsawsuit plays with this in one of their panels, where the ghost in question is the ghost of an old bunny-eared TV set spouting static.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventure Time episode "Beyond This Earthly Realm" has Finn getting stuck in the Spirit World, where it seems he can't interact with anything in the physical plane and no one can even see him but Ice King, who has "wizard eyes", then gets stuck there itself. It turns out they can effect things subtly, which Finn discovers when he moves around near a television and sees the static start to change.