SBR 1.23: Tollbooth

The sun only seems so much bigger because we’re close to it. There are billions of stars we can’t even see which are just as magnificent. It’s all a matter of perspective. Welcome back to Spirit Box Radio.


Hello faithful listeners! Welcome back to the third edition of the Spirit Box Radio Enlightenment Segment, where we learn together about the arcane arts.

We had a message on the forums following last week’s episode from user SillyTilly with some notes about what I said regarding the letter we received from Amy Jeremy about the messages her father was hearing on their radio. SillyTilly pointed out that often, the way we interpret messages from arcane beings of any kind, whether its through a spirit box or a séance, is usually influenced by our own feelings. Here’s the full message that they sent:

‘Hi Sam! Just wanted to drop in and mention a few things about the AJ letter. Basically, when you’re interpreting messages from Spirit Box etc you’ll want to think about the kind of energy you yourself are bringing to the situation. Like, if you’re really angry you’ve got a chance of accidentally communing with something more malevolent, but it also changes the way you hear messages, too. So if you’re expecting to get a message you’re a) more likely to get one; and b) more likely to get something that lines up with what you’re expecting. Humans have big brains and we do a lot of thinking, that means a lot of arcane energy going through us all all the time, and that changes all kinds of things about the ways we interact with the arcane.’

Thank you, SillyTilly! That’s a really good point. It’s important to bear in mind that you’re current feelings are going to have an impact on any arcane forces around you. Madame Marie says– uh— Madame Marie always said that humans are very clumsy with their arcane energy. It spills out everywhere and makes a right mess. It’s big and disorganised. Arcanism is about refining and organising that energy and channeling it towards achieving certain goals. You’re absolutely right to point out the ways your own mood can have an impact on the kind of messages you pick up on and


The impact of—


Oh no, the lamp. It just, burst.


SAM: I’m sorry, no, get down from there, you’re going to get glass in your beans!


REVEL: Meow!

SAM: Sorry, Revel. No.

REVEL: Mrooow


SAM: There. It’s gone. You can get on the desk again now.


SAM: Sorry, faithful listeners. I. I don’t know. Oh, goodness, it’s dark in here without the lamp. The overhead light burst a few days ago when I was down here and—


I’m not sure what that noise is but that keeps happening too. Maybe there’s a problem with the wiring?

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yes! Emotions can have a big impact on your practice of the arcane arts and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind.

When I read SillyTilly’s message I immediately thought of this specific passage in the Little Book of Big Magic.

‘Every action has an equal opposite reaction. Whilst most physical laws do not apply literally to that regarding Arcanism, arcana, the arcane arts – this third law of Isaac Newton is one exception of a slim number. Just as this law applies in the pushing and pulling of objects, so it applies in the ‘cutting’ and ‘tying’ of various strands of arcane energy. However, where in physical laws, this law could be paraphrased as ‘what goes up must go down’, in Arcanism, it’s best understood as ‘all action has a price’. In instances where this does not seem immediately apparent, one should be suspicious; payment can be deferred but never dodged entirely. See ‘Equivalence in Casting and Summoning’ on page 311 and ‘Emotional Rebate’ on page 404.’

Yeah. So, you see, it feels like that ‘Emotional Rebate’ thing might be of some relevance to SillyTilly’s message, which is why I thought of it, except! The pages have been cut out of the book.

I don’t know how I’ve never noticed this before. Pages 310 to page 313 are missing; it goes right from 309 to 314. And then 404 all the way to 410 are just… gone. There is no torn edge of the paper. The book is so very old, maybe they just fell out.

At any rate, it made me curious if there were other sections missing from my copy, and there were. Pages 12-15, which is supposed to be a description of the rune ‘Algiz’ and it’s various uses, are completely gone, leaving just the introduction to Algiz on 10 and 11. I did think that a bit odd the first time I read the book, actually; later on people are talking about Algiz formations and unusual applications, but I didn’t remember them being discussed earlier at all. I chalked it up to a quirk of my particularly holey memory, but no. The pages are simply not there.

I picked through the book really carefully, checking the numbers at the bottom, and there is the Algiz section that’s gone, the two mentioned above, a section about prophecies, and, most peculiar of all. I never noticed that the final page of the book ends mid-sentence. The last section of the book is about some theories of ghosts, how they work, that kind of thing, and it sets up like it’s about to start talking about how ghosts are different from other kinds of arcane beings and then it just… cuts off.

I didn’t think anything of it the first time I read it. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. It’s an old book, a hundred years at least. The cover is very roomy around the pages but I had always assumed it was because the leather had stretched but. Holding it upright in my palms and looking down at the gap between the pages and the back cover, the triangle void of missing pages when I press it somewhat shut. There’s got to be at least fifty pages gone.

I wonder – do any of you happen to have a copy, faithful listeners? I wouldn’t even ask to borrow it, I’m just curious to know which parts of the book are actually gone. If you could leave a message on the forums for me about it, that would be great!

Speaking of the forums, a couple of you on there were asking for updates about Kitty the Investigator, who has of course returned the Impossible House to see if there are any changes to it since the office appeared under the basement studio I’m currently broadcasting from. I’ve not heard too much from her just yet; she’s very wisely gone to do some reconnaissance before actually returning to the house. Even though she’s not taking my comments about the house seriously, she did at least listen to the recording of that conversation I had with her that got posted on the forums, you know, the one where she was in the house and completely forgot she ever went inside the moment she left? Yeah. Apparently the sounds of her own confusion was enough to convince her to at least be cautious.

She does have, um, I don’t mean to sound judgemental or anything, but she does sort of end up just doing things a lot of the time without having really thought them through.

I know, I know. Pot kettle. Anna would be throwing things at me if she was here. And no. I haven’t heard from her.

Anyway. The other thing people have been talking about on the forums is– well. I. And this is a bit embarrassing. You all really liked Rhytidia’s bog witch showcase from a couple of weeks ago and you’re all wondering when I’ll next be having a guest on the show, to make in the Enlightenment Segment you were all promised rather than the ‘Sam guesses vaguely about arcanism and tries not to make a fool of himself live on air’ segment. Which is, it seems, what things have devolved into.

Gah, I’m so sorry, Faithful Listeners. I have been trying to get hold of people to come on the show, but. Well. Madame Marie’s list of contacts… a lot of the people in it seem to be dead or missing. In fact the only people in there I did manage to get a hold of were Rhytidia and Stykler and Stykler, and. Well. They weren’t interested in coming on unless there was something they could clean. I suppose that is their business, you know? And. There was another number in there, of Oliver the Florist, would you believe. I haven’t quite plucked up the courage to call it.

I’m still in no fit state to go back to the shop. I’m sleeping nine, ten hours a day at the moment, and I do mean a day, too. I wake up about seven in the evening, time enough to make a pot of coffee as the sun starts to sink. Usually the pot is brewed perfectly in time to to sit up and watch the sunset from the low wall in the back garden. Then I spend a few hours playing with Revel and reading books from down in the studio, though none of them are particularly useful— Oh!!

Goodness me!

I almost forgot, because I found this weeks ago, not long after I woke up. It’s an augury forecast for this week! It was wedged in the back of one of the books in the studio, one of the annoying middle english ones I can barely make sense of but is as far as I can tell is a contemporary account of the precursor to Arcanism during the Norman conquest.

Uh, the Augury Forecast isn’t in middle english, don’t worry. It’s actually written in sparkly pink gel pen on a page which looks to have been torn out of a Care Bears notebook. Still, it’s been a while since I’ve read your Augury Forecast, so I’ll share it with you now!

A breeze in the early hours of of the summer solstice ruffles the feathers of a local dove, and suggests this may be a good time to try a new flavour of ice cream.

If you have blue eyes, avoid walking next to train tracks this month. Just. Don’t. It’s not worth it.

The sock is gone. Give up on the sock. It is not coming back. Retire its brethren.

Four blackbirds in the garden mean the weather will be unusually balmy in Yorkshire on the coming Tuesday.

The wind is howling in a minor key. Do not attempt to excise clear out the cupboard under the stairs until it stops. It’s calling to something buried deep in those boxes and bags. You must wait until it slumbers.

And so concludes the augury—


SAM: Ah!

What? What was—

RECORDING MACHINE: You have one new message.

SAM: I– what? I.

RECORDING MACHINE: I don’t know what to tell you except that you have one new message.

SAM: Was that you? The bang?

RECORDING MACHINE: No idea. I was too busy receiving this one new message that you have to hear any banging.

SAM: Right. Sorry. Okay. Um.

RECORDING MACHINE: You said you were going to check in with me more regularly.

SAM: I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been. Eh. Things have been off.

RECORDING MACHINE: Well, how do you think things have been for me?

SAM: I– sorry.

RECORDING MACHINE: We could have commiserated. Instead you just get up and walk around with your legs and you don’t even stop to say hi every once in a while.

SAM: I’m sorry. I’ll do better.

RECORDING MACHINE: Do you want to hear this message or not.

SAM: I do but– are you okay, Recording Machine? I really didn’t mean to neglect you like this. I’ll dust you when the show’s finished, if you like?

RECORDING MACHINE: With the feather duster, not the nylon?

SAM: Only the best for you, recording machine.

RECORDING MACHINE: Oh, alright. I forgive you. I’ll play you your message:


SCOURGE: Oh, I am so glad that we found you. It’s been so long.


RECORDING MACHINE: End of message.

SAM: That person, did they leave a number?


SAM: Damn. I know that voice. I don’t know where from, but I know it. You’re sure they didn’t leave a number?

RECORDING MACHINE: They did not. The message was direct.

SAM: Direct?

RECORDING MACHINE: They didn’t phone the studio. The message was direct.

SAM: But. How can they leave a message on the answer machine without calling?

RECORDING MACHINE: They spoke to me directly.

SAM: They… spoke to you?

RECORDING MACHINE: Yes. Shocking, isn’t it? People do that some times. You’re doing it right now.

SAM: What. They were here?


SAM: When?

RECORDING MACHINE: Well that part is troubling: Tuesday at twenty-one oh four.

SAM: Tuesday. But I was here on Tuesday. I was in the room. I was… sat with Revel, Cosmo and Eggroll. We were watching Ouran High School Host Club.

RECORDING MACHINE: Yes, I remember. The message was also left just now

SAM: I. I’m confused.


SAM: You can be really mean, you know.

RECORDING MACHINE: Sorry. Old habits die hard.

SAM: How can this person have been here?


SAM: Not a… What, wait. A ghost?

RECORDING MACHINE: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just a recording machine.

SAM: Right. Okay. Right. Play the message again?



SCOURGE: Oh, I am so glad that we found you. It’s been so long.


RECORDING MACHINE: End of message.

SAM: ‘so glad we found you.’ We.

RECORDING MACHINE: It could always be the royal ‘we’

SAM: I guess, but. I don’t know.


Ahh! Again! What WAS that?

RECORDING MACHINE: I don’t know, but I did hear it that time.

SAM: [SIGH] Well that’s something at least.


Gods. I. You know. This morning when I was making my tea before I went to bed, I… I was just holding the mug in my hand it it shattered. And the liquid just stayed there for a moment, hovering in the shape of the mug before it fell. It was like time slowed down and then it was all over me. The tea. Not time, I don’t know. Is it me? But how can it be me.

I can’t do anything. I’m useless. I’ve – I’ve no talent for arcanism and I’m a danger to myself and others when I try it, that’s what Madame Marie always says— uh, said.


But. But magic doesn’t just come from nowhere, it’s just another name for Arcane energy. It has to be channelled, focused. You can’t do magic by accident; there has to be intent. There are magic things, magic events, magic that just sort of happens, but you cannot do magic by mistake, it’s a core part of it. That’s why you have to mutter your intentions when you cast a circle and be clear about what you’re trying to achieve when you’re casting spells. It matters that you’re doing this purposefully. Madame Marie always says in some ways that’s what magic is; intention wrought into reality by human will alone.

So let’s think about it sensibly. What things can cause magic to appear to just… happen? Objects imbued with arcane energy, like objects a ghost has attached itself too? Containment spells gone wrong; poltergeists; manifestations of wild magic approaching conscious thought. But. None of that is about people. Could I be possessed? I mean, in ways it makes sense, doesn’t it? I don’t remember my past and… and I didn’t kill Madame Marie but somebody did and it makes sense that it would have been me, but it wasn’t me… and…

Is this. Am I this? Am I. Am I possessed? Is there something else in me? Something bad?

Gods, faithful listeners. I can’t think, I can’t think—



Gods! The light in the bathroom just blew. It wasn’t even on! It flared up and then– it sounded it like it burst, didn’t it?

REVEL: Meow?

SAM: Sorry, Revel. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.

REVEL: Meow. Mroow.

SAM: I know. Revel. I’m scared, too. [QUIETLY] What am I? What’s happening to me.

REVEL: Mrrrrr.

SAM: Right. You’re right. I cant just… sit here. There’s no way to know who was calling. Who ‘we’ is. What they had to do with Madame Marie’s… death. And there’s no point in speculating about me. About what I… about this. I don’t know what to do, though, Revel. I’m trying to keep my chin up and forge ahead but.

No. I won’t believe it. When I said I didn’t kill Madame Marie, Anna said I wasn’t lying. She knows when people are lying, she always has done. It’s her gift. Just like Kitty is strong enough to bench-press five hundred pounds despite being five-nothing and never setting foot in a gym in her life. They have their gifts and I have my… affliction. That’s what Madame Marie called it. Spiritually challenged, or stunted. Afflicted. Maligned. Gods, Revel.

What if I’m a monster?

REVEL: Meow.

SAM: Yes, quite right. Well. Faithful listeners I– I think I should call it a night. If any of you could provide any insight into… this. Well. Please share it on the forums. As always, if you’re planning on communing with the other side… oh, you know what to do. This has been the Spirit Box Radio Advice— no. This has been the Spirit Box Radio Enlightenment Segment. I’ve been Sam Enfield, I think. I bid you all a restful night.

| Content Warnings |

– Background music of varying volumes

– Sudden glass shattering sounds

– Tinkly glass shards sounds

– Cat meowing

– Sudden sounds of minor electrical explosions

– Sudden exclaimations of distress

– A main character dealing with the on-going process of grief

– Implications of murder or wrongful death

– Brief emotional distress

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