The voice from the void: Wireless, modernity and the distant dead

Jeffrey Sconce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This piece examines the proliferation of paranormal discourses around wireless and radio in the early decades of the century. Engaging popular fiction and parapsychological literature of the era, the article gives particular emphasis to the period's reigning image of 'the etheric ocean', discussing the symbolic importance of this metaphor in stories casting radio as a medium of the dead and of telepathy. Linking these often sinister stories to the vast social transformations of modernity, the article argues that the generally enthusiastic reception of the new medium was tempered by these occult stories of death, despair, and separation. Even as popular culture celebrated radio as a means of creating new electronic communities, there remained a subtext of atomization and alienation in the new technology. The article argues, in closing, that this paradox has continued to inform speculative, paranormal accounts of telecommunications across the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-232
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998


  • Ether
  • Modernity
  • Paranormal
  • Radio
  • Telepathy
  • Wireless

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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