Emails from the dead

Supernatural folklore is a dynamic force. It adapts to new technology but incorporates traditional beliefs that date back thousands of years. Soon after the invention of photography in the 1850s, the first photographs of spirits appeared. Following the invention of the phonograph in 1877, voices of the dead were recorded (these are now classified as ‘Electronic Voice Phenomena’ or EVP).  The first air defence radars detected strange phenomena called ‘angels’….and so it goes on.

So it was inevitable that social media, now a major part of all our lives, would provide a new medium for contact with the other world.  Smartphones are rapidly replacing older technology as our means of communication with each other, so we should not be surprised to find stories in circulation about emails from the dead.

A BBC News Magazine story tells how soon after the death of a young man in Pennsylvania last summer, three of his friends began receiving emails from his account. Rather than providing proof of life after death, this narrative may tell us more about the needs of the living. It is certainly folklore in the making.

As reporter Matt Danzico observes:

“The messages referenced private conversations and personal details, but after an initial search, the friends have decided that it’s not important to identify the sender…while his loved ones understand that these emails aren’t really messages from the beyond, the brief notes still provide an unexpected connection with their late friend, and have helped with the grieving process.”

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