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 "recognized" 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.
- A commercial for Esurance implies this. A man is walking past a house at night and sees all of the lights flashing and believes that something terrible is coming. In truth, the family is out to eat and the son is playing with a light control app on his parents' smartphone.
- 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 their self-titled franchise 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 (1982), 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.
- The Frighteners: When the ghosts haunt a house, light flickers and objects move by themselves.
- In Scarecrow Slayer, the presence of the Scarecrow causes mobile phones to fill with static and stop functioning.
- The ghost in Lemon Tree Passage interferes with electronics; causing Sam's car radio to start blaring, switch channels, turn off, etc.
- In a movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Marge tells Harry his parents died in a car crash, insulting them, he made lights flicker, a glass cup break Ã&A Elig;ÃÂ¡ la Poltergeist and he inflated her.
- 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 trilogy that consists of Last Call, Expiration Date, and Earthquake Weather, 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 Latin-American horror novel Ghost Radio, the protagonist Joaquin runs a radio station where people can call in and describe ghost stories on the air. His dead friend Gabriel gets to him mid-broadcast through one of these calls, and messes with him in general by hijacking phone lines, making televisions show him strange imagery, and eventually causes him to visually hallucinate what Joaquin's callers are describing, all out of spite for how Joaquin survived multiple near-fatal accidents that Gabriel did not. Gabriel comments at one point that radio is a major conduit for spirits to reach the human world.
- 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.
- 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 realize 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.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode The Eternity Trap, this is exploited to detect the presence of ghosts more scientifically, and prove the house really is haunted. Although - as Sarah Jane is quick to point out - they aren't technically ghosts. (Or at least, that's how it seems until the final moments of the episode...)
- Of a sort in Ghost Wars in that the ghosts in question are warded off by electricity of any sort
- The song and music video for "White Noise" by PVRIS are about a frustrated ghost that wants to communicate with the living but can't do anything other than cause interference.
It's hard to be what you need through a static screen
Been trying to speak for weeks and weeks
Open my mouth, all that comes out
Is white noise and incomprehensible sound
And all you ever do is turn me down
- 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 allows characters to do this using the Arcanos Inhabit, which allows possession and control of inanimate objects; it also allows them to detect if other wraiths are doing this to something electronic.
- Orpheus gives characters the Shade Haunter, which allows them to create and control electronic interference as part of their abilities.
- Exaggerated (or drawn to the logical conclusion) in Blades in the Dark: all ghosts are electromagnetic phenomena, by the virtue of ectoplasm (or rather "electroplasm") always carrying electric charge in this setting, which its residents have learned to exploit in order to launch an industrial revolution.
- Depending on the production, the ending of Blithe Spirit as ghosts Elvira and Ruth destroy the house.
- 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.
- Played in all 3 Dark Fall games. In the first one, sometimes ghosts talk to you through the reception phone, Polly and Nigel's surveillance system occasionally flickers into showing dark splotches, or how various rooms appeared in the past. And distorted audio files on their computer can be edited to reveal voices. The second, Lights Out has an old World War 2 radio that's been rumored to be haunted, and tuning it to a certain frequency and using ghost-hunting goggles reveals an evil voice talking to you. A haunted TV appears in Dark Fall: Lost Souls, displaying cryptic images that provide clues to the code for the ring mechanism.
- Happens in AMBER: Journeys Beyond, complete with gadgets to track what happens. Two examples center around a TV in the master bedroom. At one point, a camera in the room shows a ball of white light coming out of the TV and morphing into a key, dropping itself into a drawer. Then, if you actually use the TV, it shows a creepy POV shot of someone running through the house, screaming and eventually coming up the stairs and knocking you out.
- All ghosts in the The Blackwell Series, including Joey, can interfere with radio-based devices simply by getting close to them. This is crucial to solving several puzzles throughout the games. Also Rosa notes that she had to install cable just so she could watch TV with Joey around.
- The "ghosts" from Oxenfree speak through heavily distorted radio messages, and their control over time causes ominous visual glitches. Tuning the radio finds new broadcasts from them and forces them out of possessed characters. It's played with, as they're not technically ghosts (and they themselves mock the term) but the crew of nuclear submarine that was transported to another dimension after its destruction.
- While White Face from Imscared is never stated whether to be a ghost or not, it does have the appearance and behavior of one. And it does interfere with technology; your computer.
- The ghosts in the Fatal Frame series tend to cause radios, tape players, televisions, telephones or other kind of electronics to act up.
- Lewis from Mystery Skulls Animated has caused the group's van to shut down at least twice and unknowingly shocked Arthur through his metal prosthetic arm when Arthur tired some desperate percussive maintenance. Not that Lewis would mind electrocuting Arthur since his goal since coming back seems to be murdering him.
- The Magnus Archives:
- It is implied that this is why the "bizarre" statements (i.e. all the ones the audience hears) come out distorted when the archivist tries to record them on a computer, so he has to use an old tape recorder. Some of those making statements seem to have come across similar distortion.
- In the episode "Growing Dark" it is hinted that something supernatural is causing the lights to stop working in the narrator's girlfriend's flat. They replace the bulbs, check the fittings and call in an electrician but can find nothing apparently wrong. Then subverted when it turns out not to be supernatural, merely bizarre - someone (presumably his girlfriend's strange flatmate) keeps unscrewing all the bulbs just enough to break the connections.
- 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 Adventures of the League of S.T.E.A.M. is supposedly a device for picking up EVPs.
- 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.
- In one episode, Bender the robot inherits a castle that turns out to haunted by robot ghosts because their graves are inadequately grounded.
Ghost: Come with us Bender. You'll like being dead!
Bender: That's what they said about being alive!
- In a later episode, Bender dies and becomes a ghost in the digital cloud. Nobody can see or hear him (except the Robot Devil, and some cows) but he can possess electronic devices and annoy his friends.
- In one episode, Bender the robot inherits a castle that turns out to haunted by robot ghosts because their graves are inadequately grounded.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Graveyard Shift", Squidward tells SpongeBob the story of the Hash Slinging Slasher to scare him. He tells him that there are three signs heralding the arrival of the Slasher, and the first one is the lights turning on and off. Later, the lights at the Krusty Krab do start to turning on and off, which Squidward at first dismisses as cheap wiring, but then the other two signs occur, and a mysterious figure approaches the door. Fortunately, it's just the night fry cook Krabs had just hired, but that didn't explain the lights. Then they see the real culprit: Nosferatu.