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 E-V-P… Easy As 1-2-3

 Written by Kevin Woodrow


DATE: 03-06-07

Everyone knows that when it comes to hunting ghosts, the most exciting piece of evidence you can capture is either a picture or a video. It is the visual recognition of a haunting that seems to peak most people’s interest. That makes all the sense in the world. After all, “seeing is believing”. However, one of the most intriguing and controversial types of evidence a paranormal researcher may come across cannot be seen at all, because it is audio. This critical piece of evidence is called an EVP. In this installment of “This Week In OPS”, I will help you get better acquainted with the term and the role that it has played in paranormal research.

An EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) is an unexpected voice or sound recorded on an audio device that appears to be from an unknown origin. The sound is usually very, very faint and normally is short. Some recordings have been just a word, while others were phrases.

There are several methods by which an investigator can attempt to record an EVP. However, there are two ways that are the most popular. The first is to simply take an audio recorder (digital or analog) and place it in a room that is believed to be involved with paranormal activity. Then, simply leave the room empty, so that there is no outside interference with the recording. Afterwards, examine the recording closely for any anomalies.

The second, is to sit in the room that is reportedly haunted, with an audio recorder, and ask questions of the possible inhabiting spirit. In many cases, investigators have received specific answers to questions they have asked.

Another element that is believed to aid in the ability to record EVP’s is by adding “white noise” to the audio environment during the session. Since it is believed by many that ghosts / spirits make themselves seen or felt by manipulating energy around them, it also makes sense that they can be heard better if they have something “audible” to mold into sounds. By using a white noise generator, which produces pure static with no interference, to add streaming empty sound to the environment, this theoretically gives the spirit a “voice” with which to speak.

As you can already see, the EVP is a highly subjective form of evidence. That is precisely why this phenomena has been under such scrutiny since it’s discovery. And, rightfully so. I mean, can the dead really speak, or is there some other explanation for these recordings? Here is a brief history of the EVP.

The term “Electronic Voice Phenomena” was given to these recordings by publishing company Colin Smythe Ltd in the 1970’s. However, before it ever had a name or a definition, the EVP was still being recorded and debated. It is believed that these mysterious sounds were first recorded in various forms, in the early 20th century.

One of the first recordings of the phenomena was by a self-proclaimed “medium” named Attila von Szalay. He claimed that he indeed recorded “voices of the dead” during the 1930’s. Later, he joined up with a man named Raymond Bayless, and together they created a recording unit consisting of a microphone inside a tin foil covered trumpet. This was placed in a “soundproof” closet, with a recording unit and speakers outside so that the sounds inside the closet could be monitored. When reviewing the recordings, they noticed voices on the tape that were not heard through the speakers during the recording. I guess you could consider these two gentlemen as EVP pioneers.

The phenomena was finally brought into public light, however, by Konstantin Raudive in 1970 when he wrote the book “Breakthrough”. Raudive once conducted a controlled experiment in a “soundproof” laboratory that was supposed to keep radio waves and other interference from invading. After 18 minutes of recording, observers are said to have found 200 other voices on the tape. However, his recordings drew much criticism because the voices didn’t seem to show any consistent patterns that would be associated with intelligent communication.

One of the most recent scientific studies on EVP’s, though, was done in 2003 by Scottish researcher Alexander MacRae. He attempted to record EVP’s in a specially designed lab protected from all outside interference, including electromagnetic radiation. He recorded numerous voices that he concluded were of distinct speech patterns, and that these sounds came from an unexplainable source. He was quoted in a report later saying that the sounds, “…must have been in some way paranormal”.

Though so many studies have been focused on confirming the existence of EVP’s, the phenomena continues to remain highly subjective. This is due greatly because of so many other factors that could rationally explain these anomalies.

The most obvious factor is interference. Some devices contain RLC circuitry and could be interfered with by various types of radio signals. Obviously, this type of interference would definitely harm the credibility of a possible EVP.

The second factor is known as a “capture error“. This is a sound actually caused by the device that is being used to record the sound. This is mainly found with analog recorders. This is why many experts recommend using an external microphone, so as to deter any possible capture error.

The third factor is a condition called “auditory pareidolia”. This basically is a trick of the mind. It can happen when the brain sometimes seems to find familiar patterns in random noise. This is visually comparable to seeing shapes form in clouds in the sky.

The fourth, and probably the factor that harms EVP research the most, is the creation of hoaxes. There are probably as many pranksters out there making fake EVP’s as there are true paranormal researchers who are trying to record the real thing. And, when there are so many frauds out there, it’s hard to know who to trust. However, in the end, the cream will always rise to the top.

Now, you know the meaning and the story (a shorten version at least) of the EVP. And, after all this time and all of the studies, we still don’t definitively know the origin of these sounds. That ’s no excuse to stop searching, though. If other explorers, scientists, and inventors had given up when things got tough… think of what the world would be like? That’s where you come in, though. You have to hear the EVP’s yourself, and then draw your own conclusions. It’s observation and criticism that helps us determine the “true” from the “false“. No less, now that I’ve told you all about EVP’s, when you hear the term used, you should know exactly what it means. At least, I hope you do.

So, in conclusion, you can see that it can be pretty tough to capture and EVP. And, it can be even tougher to determine if you have the real thing, or if the sound was caused by something much more mundane. Never-the-less, the hard working team here at OPS is determined to find the truth in all of our investigations - whether the truth is exciting and mysterious or boring and completely rational. After all, in the end, that’s all anyone wants - the truth.

Until next time,