One of the most exciting areas of research for paranormal investigators is the field of transdimensional communication. Although this can take several forms, electronic voice phenomena (EVP) is probably the most common. Historically, Edison is credited with the first attempts at communicating with spirits. He thought that if the equipment could be made sensitive enough, then it should be possible to pick up the voices of the dead. The first person credited with successfully recording spirits was Friedrich Jorgensen, who in 1959 picked up some disembodied voices while recording bird songs in the forest. Recently, this phenomena has been popularized by the movie "White Noise," which not only introduced it to much of the public but also cast an unfavorable light on exploring it.
Fortunately, things have advanced considerably since Friedrich made that first recording with an old reel-to-reel recorder. It is now possible for investigators to obtain very high-quality recordings of spirits with very little investment. In this article, we will explore how to get started and how to consistently get good recordings, as well as some of the more interesting EVPs the authors have captured.
What is an EVP?
EVP stands for electronic voice phenomena. It refers to any recordings that appear to come from spirits. They may be spooky voices or, in some cases, be singing, humming or music. They normally are short snippets and may be bizarre in what they appear to say. However, at other times they can be very easily understood and apply to what is happening or even provide answers to questions posed to them. Sometimes you get conversations between spirits that are not directed toward you at all, such as the hide-and-seek game we mention below.
Although no one really knows just how spirits are able to affect an audible recorder and leave behind messages in different voices, accents and sometimes languages, there is evidence that there are two different ways a recorder can pick them up. The easiest to understand is an audible voice that the microphone picks up and is often heard by the person as well. These are fairly rare, and we have only captured one example of this (the "I'm waiting" EVP). Any microphone that can pick up normal speech can pick up such an EVP.
The second type of EVP is the actual electronic phenomena and is very common. They appear to be the modulation of a scalar field (we for years beleived that they were modulated on an electric field, but have recently deternined that they are in fact carried on a scalar field), and different types of microphones have different sensitivities to EVPs and scalar fields. There are three primary types of microphones in use today: the dynamic (also known as moving coil or ribbon); condenser; and electret. Only the electret appears to have a high sensitivity to scalar waves and thus EVPs. The electret is a form of a condenser microphone but differs in that it uses a film for the pickup that has an electric field frozen within the plastic film diaphragm. A normal condenser microphone has an external supply that supplies the bias voltage, which an electret does not need. Thus, the electret microphone is generally less expensive than a condenser microphone, yet will work much better for EVP work.
EVPs are classified according to their clarity:
Class A - For an EVP to receive a Class A rating, it must be a very clear voice, and nearly everyone who listens to the recording agrees on what is being said by the voice.
Class B - An EVP that can be understood, and most people agree on what is being said.
Class C - The worst quality EVPs. There isn't a lot of agreement between people about what is said, if anything can be understood at all.
Pick a Place
Obviously to record any spirit voices requires you to be where there are spirits. Some places are obvious, such as cemeteries. However, there are many other places where you can successfully find them, as well. Old homes, old hotels and theaters, old ships, churches and lighthouses all are good possibilities. If you try to get EVPs and are unsuccessful for several trips, then try somewhere else. Note that it does not matter when you record. They are as easy to get during the day as at night. High electrical fields seem to enhance them, so recording immediately after a thunderstorm may improve the volume.
Realize that spirits are people and, if you treat them with respect and are friendly, you are much more likely to get them to interact with you. Do not insult or threaten them. Many already are confused and scared, so they will simply leave, hide or become quiet. In some cases, intentionally attempting to provoke them can result in retribution. Recently, one of the investigators of the East Tennessee Paranormal Research Society had his arm scratched when he called an entity names to try to get it to respond. Try to ask questions you think they might want to answer: who they are; if they want to say anything; and so forth. Also, be aware that it seems that spirits can see auras. An aura of anger, hatefulness and so forth can all but make any attempts at capturing an EVP futile, so you have to be careful about whom you bring with you.
Control the Environment
Try to pick a place that has low ambient noise. If you have others with you, make sure that whispering is not allowed. This is because many EVPs will be a whisper. It is almost impossible to tell the difference in whispers between different people and spirits. If someone forgets and does whisper, then announce on the recording that it was a whisper by so-and-so. Although it would seem reasonable to keep as quiet as possible during recording sessions, experience has shown that talking is a good inducement for spirits to join in. Spirits often will inject a response into a conversation, contradict what is being said or answer questions. The trick is to allow pauses between each person talking, to allow a spirit to get a word in without being talked over. The use of a control recorder that is insensitive to EVPs to help weed out non-spirits is highly recommended, though. Sometimes EVPs will even provide insight to scientific questions, such as one we got recently while discussing what an orb caught on video was.
Use The Right Equipment
The correct equipment is very important. Some believe that the use of a noise source will improve the frequency or quality of an EVP. This may improve the volume of some EVPs, but because the noise also will be louder, the signal-to-noise ratio will be reduced, and the possibility of audible pareidolia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia) becomes a very real possibility. Pareidolia is one of the primary arguments debunkers use to attempt to discredit the phenomena. The best, clearest and loudest EVPs have virtually indiscenable noise. Therefore, it is recommended to use a recorder with low noise, and pick a place that has little ambient noise. If there is little or no noise, then there is little possibility of mistaking random sounds in the noise as voices.
There are two types of recorders: tape and digital. Tape is noisier because of noise inherent in this method of recording and the noise of the tape transport mechanism and motor. In addition, tape presents the possibility of print-through (resulting in pre- and post-echoes) and archival noise. If you use a brand new tape each time, you can eliminate the archival noise and print-through from previous recordings, but the problem of print-through, tape noise, and transport noise still exists. Thus, it is very difficult to ever say that anything unexpected on a tape recorder is truly an EVP. Tape recorders also make it very easy to insert a fake EVP into the middle of the recording, by someone wanting to play a joke on you.
Fortunately, digital recorders have none of these problems. They are relatively inexpensive, can have excellent signal-to-noise ratios, can eliminate the possibility of tape print-through and eliminate tampering of your recording. Some recorders may have a metal housing which will shield the mike from stray electric fields, but that will have no effect on the ability to record EVPS. A spirit mike that has been designed by this author and is now being used by the ETPRS is enclosed in a Faraday shield, and works better than any other method we have tried. If you want to get into this research inexpensively I recommend the Sony ICD-B16 recorder because it has proven to be an excellent EVP recorder, but there are other brands that also work well. If you want to get the absolute best EVPs possible, with normal talking reduced to background noise and EVPs amplified by 10 db or so over a typical digital recorder, I recommend building a Tennessee spirit mike, the full plans for which will be published in an upcomming article.
It is also highly recommended to have a second recorder that is not sensitive to EVPs. Typically, most camcorders have microphones that do not pick up EVPs. It is a good idea to shoot with both at the same time. The EVP-deaf recorder then can be an excellent control that not only will allow you to easily determine if that fantastic EVP is truly an EVP -- and not someone talking in the background -- but it will allow you to validate for others that the EVPs are not simply some extraneous talking or background noise, as well.
Processing and Post-Analysis
Once you have the recording, you will need to transfer it to a computer. The small speaker in these recorders does not reproduce lower frequencies well, and sometimes an EVP will be a deep voice or will be unintelligible without good frequency response of the speaker. Listen to the recording with the volume set as high as you can without distortion. EVPs are often much lower than normal talking and can be easily missed if you are not using a Tennessee spirit mike. When using a Tennessee spirit mike, listen for passages that are LOUDER than normal talking, and/or much clearer. Occasionally they can come blasting through so loud you may almost jump out of your chair. If possible, use a good set of headphones. However, if you don't have any, just use the speakers.
If you have any EVPs that are loud and clear, you can cut them out and make them into their own separate files. If the EVP is answering a question or responding to something that was said, be sure to transfer the normal talking as well as the EVP to the file. Also, if the EVP is of a much lower volume, you can boost its volume. However, if you do that, be sure to note it in your description. If the EVP is too near the noise level, run some noise-reduction software on it, such as Clear Voice Denoiser (www.speechpro.com).
Always keep a copy of the original recording to go back to, if need be. It is recommended that EVPs be saved as a .wav file because an .mp3 file often will reduce the intelligibility of an EVP significantly. The program of choice for editing EVPs is Adobe Audition.
Note that many computers, even high-end ones, will contain on-board audio that is far below par. For instance, we checked a top-of-the-line Compaq Presario and found that the built-in audio was almost completely unusable. In addition to other faults, it had terrible dynamic range, lacked volume, had high distortion, easily clipped and had a terrible signal-to-noise ratio. If your computer has a poor-quality audio input interface, you will want to use a high-quality USB audio adapter (e.g., Byterunner Model UA580 audio adapter) to get good transfers.
Many EVPs are accompanied by a connect and/or disconnect sound. This can sound like a click, pop, thump or other transient sound. We believe that this is caused by the scalar field or some other field carrying the EVP being switched on and off. The connect and disconnect sounds can help confirm that a sound is truly an EVP.
It is very important that you keep records. Record when and where the recording was made and under what circumstances. For each snippet, record which raw recording file it came from, what processing was done and the time index into the original recording.
Once you have recorded some EVPs you may want to post them on a forum such as the MSN.com discussion group Ghosts, Hauntings, Spirits and the Paranormal (http://groups.msn.com/GhostsHauntingsSpiritsandtheParanormal/general.msn) and the forums at Ghost Village (http://www.ghostvillage.com/ghostcommunity) and Ghost 2 Ghost (http://ghost2ghost.org).
What Can Be Expected?
Once you have started recording in the right place with the right equipment, you will find that EVPs are like a box of chocolates. (Our apologies to Mr. Gump) They are often strange, wild, unexpected, and sometimes downright funny. One of us (Sean Dudley) began recording EVPs shortly after seeing the trailer for "White Noise." He wondered, like many of you probably are, whether EVPs are real. After doing some research on the Internet, he went to a local cemetery and tried his luck. To his surprise, he had some good results right away. The very first EVP he got was after attempting to ask a number of questions. As he said goodbye while starting to leave, he got a response of "goodbye." The next one he got when he returned to the cemetery was a female voice that said, "Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi" in ever-increasing volume. This was followed by a gruff male voice that said, "You look awful."
As often is the case with EVPs, it can be hard to determine whether one has tapped into a conversation between spirits or whether the comments are directed toward the researcher. Occasionally one can get an EVP that is a direct answer to a question. At another cemetery, Dudley asked whether the man whose name was on a tombstone was still around. The answer came immediately: "I'm right here."
At the historic, 97-year-old Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn., a researcher for the ETPRS asked whether anyone would like to communicate with him and got back a distinct, "Hell, no." After Dudley walked into a small room in the basement of the Bijou and asked, "Is anyone here with us?" came a very clear answer in male voice: "They call me Gritch."
At a haunted residence in Rogersville, Tenn., Dudley got a response of "21" when he asked how many entities were there, and at TMG Academy in Sweetwater, Tenn., ETPRS investigator Tesa Nauman got a "Why not?" when she said she was going to take a picture to see whether any entities would show up.
Sometimes you can pick up a group of EVPs that appear to be communication between two or more spirits. Some of our favorites, captured at the residence in Rogersville, are ones that say:
"Bill, where ya goin'? ... How ya doin', Wheaty?"
"I'm getting cranky ... Look behind you ... You doin' alright?"
Another favorite is the "Hide 'n' Seek" sequence captured at Rogersville.
An EVP we got at the Bijou we like seems to be three young girls talking amongst themselves: "Call Paige ... Adrian, too? Ya'll stay ... Pretty please."
"Call Paige" and "Pretty please" seem to be the same voice, and "Adrian, too" and "Ya'll stay" seem to be different voices.
In the "Hide n Seek" EVP we got the following action sequence:
(loud child-like voice) "Hiding good."
(soft gruff voice) "You're good."
(medium gruff voice) "Get back."
(soft voice) "You got to get by me."
(medium voice) "One."
(soft voice) "Behind you."
(medium voice) "Sh*t."
(soft voice) "F*cking cheats."
(soft child-like voice) "Mommy."
In addition to what appear to be real-time EVPs, actual voices of spirits acting and reacting to local activities, there is what often is termed a residual haunting. This can often be picked up as an EVP and will be a replay of something that happened long ago. The initial entities involved probably are long gone (at least physically).
One of the best ones we captured was at the Bijou Theatre. On the fourth floor, where there used to be a bordello with showers, a male voice says, "This time let's take a quick shower."
This is followed nine seconds later by a female voice that says, "The shower's cold."
On a lower floor of this theater Robert Allen, an ETPRS investigator, got what appears to be commenting how he puts everything he can into his performances when he says, "I give it all to the stage."
Sometimes they seem hung up on something the researcher or another party did. During a recent meeting of the spiritual group Circle Of Light, a channeler and his helper on the other were sending lost souls "to the light." One spirit commented four or five times that the light was out, after the lights were turned off. It then commented that the lights were back on, when we turned them back on after the prayer.
A poor researcher with ETPRS who usually only gets EVPs telling him to shut up, get back, or keep out, got "Keep off that, lunkhead" on the fourth floor of the Bijou.
Bizarre is the best word to describe some EVPs. In a cemetery this conversation was picked up between spirits:
"Where's the dog?"
"Very good ..."
And a classic one obtained at Rogersville by Tracy Franklin, the ETPRS president, not only had a little girl saying, "Micka nicka high, nicka hiney hiney lo," but had another spirit saying "No! Sh*t!," and the child repeating "Micka nicka high, nicka hiney hiney lo," again in a whisper. Then, if you listen carefully, under the girl's loud voice saying the rhyme is a deep, gruff voice that says, "Who will help them?" and "They are here to stay." This was in direct reference to a conversation we were having where we said we were there to help the other spirits.
If you send the spirits to the light, be sure to record any EVPs as well. At the haunted Rogersville residence, while showing the results of our investigation to the homeowners, we said a prayer to bring down the light and told the spirits they could go to it if they wanted and nothing could stop them. The sequence we got during this is nothing short of phenomenal: a total of 18 Class A and B EVPs.
It is apparent that different spirits experience the light in different ways. Some apparently see friends and family coming in from the light, as indicated by the EVP that said, "Look at all the people." Others are disappointed that they were not met by whom they expected, such as the EVP that says, "That ain't LaBrena." Others apparently see Jesus or another religious figure: "My Saviour."
Others speak of the light itself:
"This lights so warm, Bergell."
"That light's on."
"Watch this thing"
"Ya'll found the light."
Even when going to the light, the humor of some spirits is apparent by the EVP that says, "Come and get me, and set up the right song."
There are those who choose not to go and end up saying their goodbyes or wishing they had gone: "You'll see him again" and "Being alone."
Alternatively, you may actually get a spirit's exclamation, such as the one that says, "Ohh, ohh, ohh!" like she is being sucked into something. After this particular event, the family had to leave that night because of things being thrown around the kitchen by something. Apparently, something did not like us rescuing the subjugated spirits there.
Occasionally you may actually hear an EVP at the same time you record it. In actuality, this is not really an EVP because the mic is responding to actual sound rather than an electric field, but the effect is similar. Of all the EVPs that we have recorded, Sean Dudley has only gotten one like this, where he read the name of a woman on a tombstone and asked whether she wanted to say anything. He got a verbal response of "I'm waiting" whispered right next to his ear. (Luckily, the audio recorder was held next to his ear, so it picked it up well).
Recently one of the authors (Marshall Dudley) captured an orb on video coming through a door when it was opened at an old military institute. He already was in the room with the lights out when some other investigators opened the door from the hallway. The orb can be seen coming in from the lighted hall, where it was initially a black orb. As soon as it came into the room, it became a white ball surrounded by what appears to be ectoplasm. After dodging another researcher and Marshall Dudley, it flies off to the left.
EVPs of this sequence proved very interesting. The video recorder, which is not sensitive to EVPs, picked up nothing out of the ordinary. However, a digital EVP recorder picked up what to one of us sounds like "Get back" when dodging the investigators and then, "tough (or "rough") sh*t," after getting by them successfully without a collision. Even more interesting is that when the video was played back for other investigators to see a few minutes later, someone asked, "What's that?" Marshall Dudley replied, "An orb." What probably was the source of the orb in the same voice as the previous EVP said, "That's my light!" This answered a big question about why the orb was black until it went into the room, then became white. If the spirit voice can be believed, it somehow turned on a light so it could see, just as a person carrying a flashlight would do. The "light" however was infrared and not visible, because Marshall Dudley and the other investigators could not see it directly but only through the infrared camera's display when it was captured.
So, if you doubt that EVPs are real, get a recommended recorder and prove it to yourself. It is easier now than ever with the inexpensive digital recorders on the market.
For more information and to hear the EVPs that are mentioned in this article, please visit http://www.friendly-ghosts.com.
Sean Dudley owns and operates a company that imports and distributes computer peripheral hardware.
Marshall Dudley worked as a nuclear instrumentation engineer for 23 years and presently is the owner and operator of an Internet shopping cart service.
They are both investigators for East Tennessee Paranormal Research Society (ETPRS), whose website can be viewed at http://www.etprs.com