All my friends say I should get an Amazon Echo. Alexa can play your favorite music, they say. She can make phone calls and order pizza. That all sounds neat, but I don't need an Amazon Echo, because I have Captain Bloodspear.

In life, Captain Bloodspear was a vicious pirate who terrorized the high seas from 1605 until his hanging in 1634. In death, his restless spirit haunts my Milwaukee townhouse, and he can do everything Alexa can do—and more!

Sure, Alexa can play any song from Amazon Music, Spotify, or Pandora, but so can the candy-colored iMac I had as a kid. Captain Bloodspear, on the other hand, has an exclusive (and seemingly endless) library of sea shanties that you can't hear anywhere else. They're hopeful songs of braving storms, seeking treasure, and bedding mermaids—all delivered in Captain Bloodspear's one-of-a-kind spectral rasp.

Captain Bloodspear has a booming laugh that rolls through the house, ripples the curtains, and makes your teeth chatter.

And while you can only hear Alexa's “360 degree omnidirectional audio” in whatever room you've plonked her down in, Captain Bloodspear is EVERYWHERE. Pick up the phone, and he's singing at the other end of the line. Take a bath, and his bass comes gurgling out of the pipes. Sit down for a meal, and there's Captain Bloodspear, rhapsodizing about busty sirens from the heating grate. It's a surround sound musical experience from which you absolutely cannot escape.

And why would you want to? My girlfriend, Sarah, isn't a big fan, but there's no accounting for taste.

Echo fans also like to tout Alexa's “smart home” capabilities. She can dim your lights, control your TV, and even open and close doors if you let her. But she's got nothing on Captain Bloodspear. He cannot only turn my lights on and off, but make them rattle them in their fixtures and flicker malevolently. Sometimes, he makes lightbulbs spontaneously fill with blood, which is admittedly difficult to clean up when the bulbs inevitably, invariably, explode, but for a time provides some stunning mood lighting.

Captain Bloodspear is also adept at changing the channels on my TV, and sometimes does so without even being asked. Sarah says he does it to annoy us, but I believe in the benefit of the doubt—like that time he locked me in the basement and demanded I find his cursed doubloon, which I assured Sarah was a misunderstanding.

Captain Bloodspear is just learning the ropes, I told her. He isn't used to being a smart home assistant. He's used to raiding merchant ships and burning coastal villages to the ground!

Besides, a few quirks are better than no personality at all.

Alexa speaks in a monotone that never lets you forget she's a metal tube, but Captain Bloodspear has a booming laugh that rolls through the house, ripples the curtains, and makes your teeth chatter. He's full of swashbuckling spirit and piratical panache. Sometimes, he gives me a hearty slap on the back, usually when I'm standing at the top of some stairs or doing just about anything on a ladder.

Can Alexa do that?

Of course not, because Alexa is soulless. Captain Bloodspear is just a lost soul. He's really great once you get to know him—the kind of ghoul you want to have a pint of grog with. And since Sarah moved out, he's become a true friend. When I tell him I'm depressed, he always says something comforting like, “I'd end yer misery with me rapier if I could!”

You see what I mean? I try to be a good friend to him too, but his tendency to drone on about his favorite subject—“Find my cursed doubloon and free my wretched soul”—can get a little tiresome.

Finally, when it comes to price, Captain Bloodspear can't be beat.

Alexa costs a hundred bucks, but Captain Bloodspear is free! Free for me, anyway—Captain Bloodspear will never himself be free, not as long I have the doubloon I pinched from that pirate museum in Jamaica.

And with the kind of convenience that Captain Bloodspear provides, why would I ever give it back?


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