You might recall the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “Long Distance Call.” If you don’t recall, five-year-old Billy received a toy telephone from his grandmother, who then promptly died. After her death, Billy continued to receive “pretend” phone calls from her, in which she encouraged him to join her in the hereafter. Finally, the father stepped in, picked up the toy phone, and told Grandma, in no uncertain terms, to knock it off.
We offer a possible explanation from just
fourteen years earlier, in the June 1947 issue of Popular Mechanics. That article showed how to convert a toy telephone, which looked just like Billy’s, into a crystal set.
According to the article, Daddy really made a hit with his youngster by doing the conversion, and the youngster was, indeed, able to hear voices through the toy telephone, in the form of a pre-tuned local radio station.
The conversion entailed use of a 1N34 diode, and tuning was accomplished by a premeability-tuned coil. Dad presumably preset the tuning to the strong local station, although I suppose it’s possible that he accidentally tuned it to the hereafter. The earphone that the author was able to find was a war surplus low impedance unit, necessitating the addition of an audio output transformer.