SBR 1.22: Solipsism

Mousy sometimes means ‘quiet’ or ‘shy’, but the American Grasshopper mouse howls to mark its territory and is almost entirely carnivorous. It can gnaw through the spines of rattlesnakes. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.


Hello faithful listeners! Welcome back, for the first time, to the newly minted Spirit Box Radio Enlightenment Segment, where we learn and grow as a community of like-minded arcanists.


I don’t think that intro is really working, is it? Oh well. Can’t win them all, I suppose!

I love American Grasshopper Mice. They might just be my favourite animal. Mice are a lot cleverer than a lot of people suppose, and like everything in the great wide world, they have an important role to play in the ecosystem. Arcane energy flows through them just as much as through you or I. For a man who likes mice, I sure do have a lot of cats, though!

Last week we had Rhytidia Delphus the bog witch on the show to teach us about, uh. Mud, mostly! It was very enlightening indeed. There are no special guests this week, I’m afraid, faithful listeners, so I put it to the forums to find out what you’d most like to learn about together. It was really exciting, reading through all of your responses, and there were loads of great suggestions. Before we dive into them though, I want to reassure you, again, that I’m absolutely fine, and whatever happened. I. I think it was just. It’s a perfectly normal thing. To forget the details. Of something. Like that. So, please. I think we all need to try and carry on. The loss of Madame Marie will be felt. Extremely… keenly. Of course it will. But I.


Let’s just not, shall we, faithful listeners?

We’ve had a letter in the P.O Box this week from an Amy Jeremy, and it’s a pretty interesting one. I thought that I could share it with you now!

Dear Sam,

I’ve been practicing Arcanism on and off for a few years now, after being introduced to the concept whilst I was at University. I’ve been listening to Spirit Box Radio ever since then, so I’m no stranger to unusual occurrences and I’ve heard my fair share of those written in by other faithful listeners to the show. I’ve had a little bit of success with casting circles but mostly focus on channeling arcane energy as a sort of mindfulness thing, and keep an altar in my bedroom, even though my housemates think its a little bit weird. I’m sorry about all of this preamble, I just don’t want you to think I’m understating the matter or somehow misunderstanding the gravity of what I’m going to describe to you, somehow. This is partly why I decided to write a letter as opposed to simply putting it on the forums— sorry, more preamble, isn’t it?

There isn’t any getting around it. The reality of experiencing a truly arcane incident is a lot…

Well. It’s a lot more difficult than I would have guessed given how much exposure to this stuff I’ve already had. Now I’ve sufficiently bigged it up, I. Well. You know.

I live in this tiny town in Wales. I won’t bother telling you where, exactly, because you won’t have heard of it. It’s on the coastline, and like a lot of tiny Welsh coastal towns, it’s pinned to the sea line by a row of jagged hills which might look like mountains to the untrained eye. There are a lot of trees, a lot of winding paths, plenty of nooks and hollows where one can wander and get pleasantly lost, if you choose to.

Despite being physically pretty isolated, then, my hometown is incredibly, uncannily well connected, if only in this strange, one way sense. My dad always has a wireless or two in the house and I grew up skipping through stations, and I kept a little notebook wedged under the one in the kitchen where I’d make note when I restlessly skipped from channel to channel, I thought I could assemble a sentence. My dad thought it was really funny; when he had his friends around, he’d tell me to get my book of quirky words out and read some of the best ones.

It’s always just been me and dad. Mum died not long after I was born, and I never got any details, and my dad almost never spoke of her. Once a year, though, we’d stand outside by the rosebush in the garden in silence – and usually rain as she died in October – and dad would say something like ‘she liked tangerines’ or ‘she’d have been so proud’, and that would be it, and we’d say nothing more on the matter.

I didn’t mind. I never knew any different. My dad is a coarse kind of guy with most people but with me he’s always been a marshmallow. I loved him very much, our long walks on the beach, hikes up the hills with his work friends – our fair share, or more, of cutesy father-daughter things we did together, but the only one that really stuck into my adulthood was the book of quirky words.

I hated this place when I was growing up and I was desperate to leave before I went to uni but when I finally did, I missed it with such horrific profundity that it’s actually kind of embarrassing to try and explain it. I pined for the woods and the dirt tracks and the sea and the hills, I even pined for the sheep, those fuzzy fools that seem to fill up every inch of available farmland.

Having said all of that it’s not classically beautiful, my hometown. It’s ram-shackle, fairly underprivileged. There is only one bus and it comes three times a day, at roughly two hour intervals. We’ve got a couple of shops and they run out of branded stuff a few days after restocks. Its saving grace is that it’s on the route towards a city so the broadband is really good, and of course, there is always frighteningly brilliant radio reception.

When I came back visit, which I did more and more the longer I’d been away until I eventually moved home pretty much as soon as my course ended, I’d pick the book up and have a flick through, see what funny little compositions he’d added to our years-long little hobby.

When I moved back home I lived with dad at first but then rented out the flat above the tiny shop which I share with a bunch of friends. In the day I work in the shop we live above and in the evenings I make up little charms a few locals buy from me, and which I sell on my online shop. I go round to dad’s most mornings; he’s getting on a bit now and I worry about him alone in the house too often. I’ll probably move back with him soon. This is not important. I am avoiding the real subject, here. When I go to see dad, it used to be that he’d get out the book of quirky words and we’d go through them together, like old times. But. Well.

Recently I noticed dad had stopped taking out the book of quirky words. I’d bring it up and he’d get all flustered and wouldn’t meet my gaze. It was right there on the windowsill in the kitchen under the wireless, where it always is, but he didn’t seem keen for whatever reason, so I didn’t think much of it. A couple of weeks ago, though, he was out of the house when I came around. I let myself in, put on the kettle, and as I stood in the window I thought, I’ll have a look and see what’s been going on.

The book was completely full.

This is not some tiny notebook, either. It’s a big chunky thing with at least four hundred blank pages. Dad and I both have pretty cramped handwriting so even though we’ve been writing in there for years, we were still ages off actually filling the thing. The first few pages where my handwriting was large and in big, round, childish shapes, were covered over by my dad’s anxious, tiny scrawl. I could just about make out the words underneath the new ones but they were almost completely hidden.

I didn’t notice it at first because it wasn’t all in english. The radio reception is so good, actually, that it picks up signals that by rights it shouldn’t be able to at all. Sometimes when I’m skipping through channels, I’ll stumble across an Indian station, broadcast entirely in Hindi. Once I’m pretty sure the channel I tapped into was in Mandarin, and a few times, it has definitely been Russian, or at least one of those languages that sounds a lot like Russian, to an untrained ear like mine.

Dad and I worked around this when we put our quirky words together by adding in the phonetic sounds, or approximating a word vaguely similar to what we’d heard in english in the book. Neither of us could speak any other languages besides Welsh and English, and with some great irony, the only thing the radio did seem to have trouble with was picking up the local welsh-language channels. Typical, english machine, dad would say.

In his tiny cramped handwriting which now filled every page in the book,Dad had written ‘on idet’, ‘il arrive’, ‘Dia datang’, ‘Kare wa kimasu’, ‘is modis’, ‘han kommer’, ‘toĭ idva’, ‘ua sau o ia’, ‘gelýär’, ‘ter irj baina’.

The phrases were short, some times just one word, and each one was separated out by quotation marks. This was not the point of quirky words. And, troublingly, in the midst of these unfamiliar, all too short phrases in langagues i didn’t understand, were the repeated motifs in two that i did. ‘mae’n dod’. ‘He is coming’.

‘on idet’, ‘il arrive’, ‘Dia datang’, ‘Kare wa kimasu’, ‘is modis’, ‘han kommer’, ‘toĭ idva’, ‘ua sau o ia’, ‘gelýär’, ‘ter irj baina’.

I was so busy flicking through the hundreds and hundreds of crammed in pages I hadn’t heard my dad come in so I jumped when he said ‘they all say the same thing’. And I just sort of stared at him. I didn’t know what to say. ‘The phrases all say the same thing, Amy. They all say ‘he is coming’’. I asked how he could possibly know that, and he just shrugged. ‘I just do.’

He sat down at the table. The only time i’d seen him with that look in his eye was when he took me in the garden to look at mum’s roses. He told me it started a few months ago. He sat down at the radio and he was flicking through the channels when he heard something that wasn’t exactly familiar but sent a shiver of recognition down his spine. I have heard people talking about sensations like this. I only really dabble in Arcanism. I wouldn’t describe myself as a witch or a psychic or particularly pre-disposed to sensing the arcane but you bet i have a trained enough ear to pick up when someone is describing a brush with arcane forces. Dad would never describe it like that. He thought, at first, that he might be losing his mind, succumbing to dementia like so many of his friends were beginning to. But it happened again and again.

He felt compelled to take a note every time. Not speaking these languages, not even knowing which languages they were, he couldn’t understand how he could possibly know what it meant. Then, dad drew this long, shaking breath, and stood up. He opened a kitchen drawer, one previously filled up with batteries, spare nails, bits and bobs, and pulled it free of the counter. He placed the whole on the table in front of me.

It was brimful of envelops, all shapes, sizes and colours. They had… too many stamps on, from all over the world. They smelled of dust and metal. I peered into one on the top of the pile. A lock of hair. I peered into another; a few small, matching buttons. Still another held a small cluster of what I first thought were fish bones, but on closer examination were tiny, narrow strips of fingernail. Another had a scattered few eyelashes, like spiders legs, clinging to the paper. More buttons, scraps of cloth, fingernails, strands of hair. And then, at the back of the drawer, the only envelope that was upright rather than pressed flat – evidence, perhaps, that it had been shoved there – was an envelope which held two rings.

‘They’re your mums’,’ said dad, quietly. I started to ask, but wasn’t she buried in them and he cut me off to say that yes she was. There was a long silence.

I don’t know why I asked it. I don’t really know why I hadn’t asked it before. Or why it was so easy for the words to spring to my lips in that one long silence. I said ‘why don’t we ever go to the grave?’

Dad shook his head. ‘We do,’ he said. ‘The roses.’

I just nodded, and sat there, holding this envelope with my mother’s wedding and engagement rings, wondering why my mother was buried in our back garden. Dad didn’t say anything else. He made me a cup of tea and we sat in silence.

I have a feeling there is a chance, somehow, that this is connected to this man you keep talking about on the radio. As for the answers to my many questions, I don’t think any I could feasibly get would make things any better. But I thought you should know. In case the message is for you, somehow. ‘He is coming.’ For some reason, the moment I saw the words in the book I thought of you, Sam. So perhaps he’s… coming for you.


Amy Jeremy.


There are some things that decently connect Amy’s story to the Man in the Flat Cap but of course those links are pretty tenuous, you know? A rose bush in the garden is far more ordinary an occurrence than a disappearing rose like the ones I have heard in other people’s stories. As for the messages your father was hearing, Amy, it seems like you’ve been accidentally using your radio like a Spirit Box your whole life. Isn’t that interesting!

As you’ve not included any further details about your mother, it’s hard to draw any conclusions as to whether or not she would have a connection with the man in the flat cap. You didn’t even mention how she died, though of course being buried in a back garden rather than anywhere proper doesn’t suggest anything good. I hope this isn’t weighing too heavily on you, Amy, though I’m sure that it must.

Of all the things to be asked to give advice on, interpreting messages from a Spirit Box is something I actually have a lot of experience attempting to do! Of course, having been doing this on my own with pretty much no input from anyone else, the actual efficacy of those interpretations is —


SAM: Oh! A call! How exciting! Hi Beth! You are live on Spirit Box Radio. What can I do for you?

BETH: You knew it was me?

SAM: Of course! What were you calling about today?

BETH: Oh. Right. Well. It’s just I’ve had this sort of feeling. This deep, creeping sense of unease. I think something bad is going to happen.

SAM: D’you think this is some kind of premonition?

BETH: I don’t know. Maybe. It started the other day, I think. Last week, when I was listening to the show, and you said there hadn’t been an episode live for weeks, and it occurred to me… I swear it was only the day previous I was listening to you, Sam.

SAM: Maybe you were listening to a recording? You can find them online.

BETH: No, it was live. It’s the weirdest thing. It’s like. Whenever the show isn’t airing I just don’t… I don’t know. It’s really weird.

SAM: I’m sorry, Beth, I’m afraid I’m having a hard time understanding what you’re saying.

BETH: It’s fine. I am too. It’s the strangest thing. Because. I swear I was doing something before I started listening to the show this evening but I couldn’t tell you what it was. Not for anything. It really is the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced in— in my… life…

Do you hear that?

SAM: No, what are you talking about?

BETH: Sort of, scratching? Scraping, almost. Like stones passing over one another.

SAM: [CHUCKLE] I don’t hear anything.

(fizzing, static)

BETH: (voice distorted, barely audible) Sam, you’re breaking up.

SAM: Beth? Hello Beth?

Beth, are you still there?

(static stops)

Beth? Hello?

BETH: Sorry, I don’t know what happened.

SAM: Are you alright?

BETH: Yeah, I’m fine, I think. I don’t know what that was.

SAM: As long as you’re okay, Beth. That’s the most important thing.

BETH: Thanks Sam.

SAM: You were trying to explain something?

BETH: Yeah, I. I actually feel better now. Well. The feeling is gone. The dread, or whatever. I’m fine.

SAM: Okay, if you’re sure.

BETH: I am.

SAM: Well, you know where we are if you need us!

BETH: Right. Bye Sam!

SAM: Bye!

How strange…

How… strange

Well! No point in dwelling on it, I suppose.

Now, what was I saying? Ah, right! Interpreting Spirit Box messages!

It can be quite difficult but of course you’ve got quite a lot to work with in that… you can, to an extent, designate actual words.

[BACK TO NORMAL] Longer sentences are a bit more useful but ‘He is coming’ will certainly do as a baseline, especially as you’ve had so many repetitions of the same thing.

Messages from spirits of any kind – ghosts, wraiths, even simple echoes – can be elusive and a little vague, so ‘he is coming’ is at least some what specific in its phrasing, although the meaning could be a little ambiguous, admittedly.

It’s not like when I get messages telling me where I’ve left my keys or whether or not to take an umbrella with me. You know, when Madame Marie was still– when she was with us I— I’d– I’d get messages when she was asleep so I could sneak out of my room and sit on the low wall in the garden, to gaze up at the moon.


The trick to understanding arcane messages is to stop acting like it’s going to line up with logic or sensibility. Ghosts, ghouls, malevolences; they’re all shaped by arcane forces and the whole thing with the arcane is that it cannot be reasoned or rationalised. It resists it, actively. So, you just sort of have to.. go with it. Be guided by your heart instead of your head.

If who we are is made up of strands of arcane forces – and I don’t mean the meat and bones of our bodies here I mean the thing that is us, beyond that, parts of us the arcane can cling to and preserve like a mosquito suspended in tree-sap – we are connected to the arcane. We’re a part of it.

So there is a way for us to get it, to vibe with it, provided we are lead by our hearts and not our heads. Again, not our literal hearts, of course. Our metaphorical ones. The symbolic ones. You know.

Anyway. I hope that’s helpful to you, Amy!

Thanks for tuning in tonight, faithful listeners! Remember if you’re using our spirit box service, post on the forums to avoid any confusing mix ups; arcane messages are hard enough to interpret as it is! This has been the Spirit Box Radio Enlightenment Segment. I’ve been your host, Sam Enfield. I bid you a restful night.

| Content Warnings |

– Background music of varying volumes

– Carnivorous mice (mentioned, briefly described favourably)

– Mention of dementia (in passing, not a significant factor in the story)

– Implications of murder

– Static sound effects

– Description of fingernail clippings

– Brief emotional distress

– Continued depictions of a main character struggling with grief (implicit)

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