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EVP - Electronic Voice Phenomena: Voices from the Past...or are they?

There has been much debate regarding the origin of EVP since the first reported recording in 1939 made by Attila von Szalay on a phonograph record cutter.  Prior to Atilla von Szalay’s experiments with the record cutter, Thomas Edison tried to invent a devise to communicate with the dead in the 1920’s and continued his experiments until his death.  He firmly believed that if any part of our consciousness survived after death and we could develop a devise sensitive enough, we should be able to record something.  Have our modern day recordes become such a device?


Electronic Voice Phenomena is a generic term used when referencing sound anomalies that were not audibly present at the time the recording took place.  The term should be more accurately described as Electronic Sound Phenomena as voices are not the only sounds that have been evidenced on tape; footsteps, animals, and other random noises have also been observed upon audio playback of voice and video recordings.   However, many of these sounds are discovered to originate from natural sources (i.e. the microphone touches against an article of clothing), my personal preference is to use a video camera while on investigation, this helps aid the person reviewing the collected material to verify exactly where everyone and everything was in relation to the recording.


When reviewing the collected audio it takes a keen ear and clear mind to decipher what is actually EVP and what could be mistaken as EVP.  Many people want to hear something paranormal so desperately that they will hear sounds out of nothing, forming words from the wind blowing across the mic or hearing a voice in the garbled sounds caused by low batteries.  There is also something known as Apophenia, the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness" (description provided by Wilkipedia).  For instance, if I were to say to you, “This is a ghost’s voice on tape and it’s saying ‘Hi’.” By listening to this same sound over and over again you may eventually begin to hear the word “Hi” even though it is just a glitch in the recording.  This has been a definite problem in justifying the existence of and authenticating EVP. 


The big question…..where does EVP originate?  That matter is still under debate, experts from the scientific community and video/audio fields have reviewed and researched the possible sources of EVP.  One of the theories that have been raised by skeptics is the belief that EVP is nothing more than radio signals picked up through the audio recording.  Dr. Konstantin Raudive, a psychologist and professor at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, disputed this theory with the simple common sense response that this is doubtful due to the fact that radio broadcasts and music are not what is being captured.  It has also been noted that at times the EVP captured is in direct response to a question or comment posed by the investigator.   These two specifics seem to disprove this theory. 


There are three classifications for EVP, “Class A, B, and C” (you can find a description of each by performing an online search).  “Class A” which is clear and easily understood without repeated listening, is the only form of this anomaly that I personally consider relevant in paranormal research.  Garbled speech and random noises such as clicks and scratches will not hold up under scrutinizing ears.


How to collect “Class A” EVP:


  1. Control the environment as much as possible, noting any noises made by individuals at the location to prevent mistaken EVP’s.
  2. Talking is fine, but keep the chatter to a minimum.  It is difficult to decipher anomalous noises when reviewing the data if there is a lot of chatter. 
  3. DO NOT WHISPER, this can easily be mistaken as an unknown voice.
  4. Feel free to ask questions in your attempt to capture EVP; you never know when you’re going to get an answer.
  5. An external microphone is recommended to prevent noises from the motor of the tape recorder being picked up while recording.
  6. Do not attach the external mic to anything that will rub against it, this can ruin the audio of your entire tape.


These are the basics to collecting quality EVP, but do keep in mind that even under the best circumstances some “voices” are not easily heard.  There are theories as to why some EVP is louder or stronger sounding than others, but that’s for another time and the next article.

Copyright 2008, The Society for Paranormal Investigation and Evaluation

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