Electronic voice phenomena The recording of voices for which there is no natural or scientiﬁc explanation. The voices are not audible during recording, but are heard on playback. The receiving of voice on audiotape for which there is no known physical source. Electronic voice phenomena (EVP) researchers believe they capture the voices of the dead, spirit beings, and extraterrestrials, but skeptics contend the voices come from interference from radio, television, cell phone, and other transmissions or are imagined from background static and white noise. EVP voices often are faint and difﬁcult to understand. EVP, along with Instrumental Transcommunication, comprise a new ﬁeld called “etheric studies,” which concerns mind-to-mind etheric connections among humans, the dead, and higher beings.
EVP is the first high-technology attempt to communicate with the dead and other discarnate beings. Perhaps the earliest documented EVP dates to 1901—although in that case, the disembodied voices were heard during the recording as well as on playback. An American ethnologist, Waldemar Borogas, went to Spain to record a spirit conjuration ritual performed by a Tchouktchi shaman. The ritual was conducted in a darkened room with only Borogas and the shaman present. As the shaman drummed to enter trance, Borogas heard disembodied voices speaking in Russian and English emanate from various points in the room. They were captured by his recording. Thomas Alva Edison believed that an electronic device could be built for spirit communication. He was fascinated by Spirit Photography and believed that if spirits could be captured on ﬁ lm, they could be reached electronically. Edison announced in the October 1920 issue of Scientiﬁc American that he was working on such a device, but it was not completed prior to his death in 1931. He left behind no machine and no plans for one. Joseph Dunninger, a professional stage magician and friend of Edison, said that he saw the device.
In 1936, Attila von Szalay began experimenting with a record cutter and player in an attempt to capture voice on phonograph records. He said that he began to hear a “tiny voice” in the air near him in 1938. He believed the voice belonged to his dead son, Edson. The experiments yielded what sounded like male and female voices, whistles, and rapping. In 1947, von Szalay tried using a wire recorder in an effort to improve his results, but had difﬁculty with the wire.
In the 1940s, Reverend Drayton Thomas investigated the medium Gladys Osborne Leonard and recorded an audible voice during one SEANCE. He later believed the voice to be that of his dead father.
In the 1950s, George Hunt Williamson attempted to tape paranormal voices, particularly those of extraterrestrials. In 1956, von Szalay began experiments with researchers (including Raymond Bayless and D. Scott Rogo) to capture voices on electromagnetic tape.
EVP remained in obscurity until the unexpected discovery of Friedrich Jurgenson, a Swedish opera singer, painter, and ﬁlm producer. In 1959, Jurgenson tape-recorded birdsongs in the countryside near his villa. On playback, he heard a male voice discuss “nocturnal birdsongs” in Norwegian. At first, he thought it was interference from a radio broadcast, but nonetheless made other recordings to see if the same thing happened. Though he heard no voices during taping, many voices were heard on playback. The voices gave personal information about him, plus instructions on how to record more voices.
Jurgenson wrote about his experiments in Voices from the Universe, published in 1964 with a record. In 1965, he met Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian psychologist and philosopher, who was so intrigued by the EVP that he devoted himself to researching it, and recorded over the years more than 100,000 voices. Raudive published his research in German in The Inaudible Made Audible, translated into English in 1971 under the title Breakthrough.
By the 1980s, thousands of EVP researchers around the world were recording messages from the dead and from more evolved spiritual beings who had once lived as humans on Earth. Many are engineers and electronics experts who have devised sophisticated experimental equipment for capturing the voices. In Germany, the VTF (Association for Voice Taping Research) was founded in the 1970s, followed by a second organization a few years later, the FGT (Research Association for Voice Taping). In 1982, Sarah Estep founded the American Association— Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA—EVP) in the United States. In 2000, she turned leadership over to Tom and Lisa Butler, a communications engineer and psychologist, respectively, of Reno, Nevada. The Butlers had been experimenting in and researching EVP for about 15 years prior to that.
The same year that the AA—EVP was founded, George Meek, a retired engineer, announced that he and a medium, William O’Neill, an electronics expert, had built a device called Spiricom that could communicate with the dead. Meek, long interested in survival after death, had been given the idea for building a device by a discarnate scientist who communicated during a Séance. The dead scientist told Meek he would cooperate in giving instructions.
Meek then met O’Neill in 1977. O’Neill’s spirit communicator identiﬁed himself as “Doc Nick,” a former ham radio operator, and delivered the technical information used by Meek and O’Neill to build Spiricom. According to Doc Nick, Spiricom would make available thousands of sensitive frequencies to the Other Side. Meek founded the MetaScience Foundation of North Carolina and invested more than half a million dollars of his own money in the research.
Spiricom allegedly enabled sustained, two-way conversations between the living and the dead, a vast improvement over the cryptic phrases characteristic of most EVP voices. Meek made available the plans for Spiricom devices to anyone at no cost. Unfortunately, no one who constructed the device reported success. EVP researchers theorized that Spiricom’s success rested largely on the unique MediumsHIP abilities of O’Neill. Meek went on to pursue increasingly sophisticated systems intended to reach astral levels where “higher minds” resided.
EVP has become a familiar term to the general public thanks to the media popularity of ghost-hunting shows, ﬁlms such as White Noise, and the persistence of researchers like Estep and the Butlers. Paranormal investigators try to capture EVP at haunted locations, usually by placing digital recorders at a site and letting them run. The media show only the tip of the EVP iceberg, however. Most researchers agree that ﬁlms such as White Noise, with its ﬁctional Demonic emphasis, have done the ﬁeld more of a disservice than a service in educating the public. EVP research is conducted around the world and has become increasingly sophisticated. Computer software aids in the analysis of recordings. EVP has been used informally in criminal cases, such as murders.
Characteristics of EVP
Most EVP are short—two to four words spoken in bursts of up to two seconds. Longer messages have been recorded, but the average experimenter gets short messages. Short messages are clearer than long ones. Communications usually are delivered in the language of the experimenter, regardless of the language originally spoken by the communicators. If an experimenter is multilingual, responses may be multilingual as well.
EVP often is preceded by a pop or clicking sound. Voices usually sound ﬂ at and mechanical or have an unusual cadence; male or female gender may be distinguished. Sometimes voices sing. Most EVP voices sound male. Experimenters may recognize the voices of certain deceased persons. Some voices are detectable only with headphones and sometimes only on the reverse side of a tape. Animal sounds and music have been recorded as well.
There are three classiﬁcations of voices established by Estep and recognized throughout the ﬁeld
• Class A voices are clearly heard and understood by most people.
• Class B voices are clear, but there may be different interpretations of the words.
• Class C voices are so faint they usually require headphones and ampliﬁ cation and are much harder to decipher. Most EVP results fall into Class C. Researchers advise experimenters not to offer or make public Class C voices as evidence of survival.
EVP are appropriate to the circumstances of the site and recording. They make direct responses to questions posed and sometimes answer questions before they are asked. EVP researchers believe that the communicators can see experimenters and anticipate their thoughts and actions.
Not all EVP voices are truthful. Apparently, the dead are sometimes like the living—they are rude and dishonest. Researchers have been given false information and also been abused by rude comments. Ernst Knirshnig, a researcher in Austria, was plagued with false information until he ﬁnally asked the communicators why. He was told, “Go to church and pray.” He did, and the lying stopped. Fred Klode, a German researcher, said he receives the words “Attention!” and “Now!” before getting particularly important and reliable information.
Early EVP researchers had to rely on reel-to-reel tape or cassette records, but most now prefer digital recorders, which get better results than many cassette recorders with external microphones. Digital ﬁles can be downloaded into a computer and analyzed with software. Some researchers have their favourite brands and models of recorders, but using one that works well for one person is no guarantee of the same results. If tapes are used, they should be new.
The experimenter’s own consciousness seems to inﬂuences results. An open-minded, positive attitude is desirable. Doubt seems to dampen results.
Researchers advocate that prior to undertaking EVP work, experimenters spend time in daily prayer and meditation to build a relationship with a “spirit Team”—consisting of the dead and perhaps higher beings—who will help manifest results.
Some paranormal investigators leave recorders running for long periods of time, but researchers say that is not necessary. Most EVP is captured quickly in ﬁ ve or ten minutes, according to the AA—EVP. Recorders can run continuously or be placed on voice activation.
Computer software should be used judiciously in analyses, as too much manipulation will distort results.
There are two types of EVP experimentation: ﬁeld and controlled. Field EVP involves taking recorders to locations to try to record voices of spirits present there. Paranormal investigators researching haunted locations do ﬁeld EVP. At least two recorders should be used. If the same sounds appear on two or more devices, EVP should be ruled out.
Researchers pose questions related to the site and to the time period. They pause for a few seconds between questions to allow responses to be made.
Controlled EVP is favoured by serious EVP researchers. This is done at the same location—such as home—on a regular basis, preferably at the same time, posing questions and waiting for responses. Routine helps to build a working relationship with a Spirit Team who offer regular assistance, which improves results over a period of time. Even persons doing ﬁeld EVP should build a Spirit Team relationship with controlled EVP work at home, for the Spirit Team goes wherever the experimenter goes.
An advanced technique is called 4Cell, based on EVP research protocols developed by Dr. Gary E. Schwartz, director of the VERITAS Research Program at the University of Arizona. 4Cell requires a team of four persons, who can live anywhere. One person is the Requester, who asks a question, which is forwarded by a Sender to higher world contacts. A Receiver gets the answer, which is recorded and evaluated by a Scribe.
Explanations of EVP
Whether or not EVP are paranormal has long been controversial. Raudive, who died on September 2, 1974, expressed no particular theory about EVP. Early EVP researchers thought that ECTOPLASM might be involved in the ability of other-dimensional voices to record on physical equipment, an explanation now considered to be obsolete.
Between 1970–72, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London commissioned D. J. Ellis to investigate EVP voices. He concluded that the interpretation of the sounds was highly subjective and was susceptible to imagination, and that the voices most likely were a natural phenomenon. Such conclusions are supported by the Rorschach sound test, which Demonstrates that a person can listen to a medley of sounds and hear whatever one wishes. Other skeptics propose that the voices are due to Psychokinesis in which sounds are imprinted on the tape due to the intense desire of the experimenter to capture paranormal voices. Interestingly, some researchers receive answers to questions before the questions are asked, suggesting real and interactive communicators.
Other theories revolved around manipulation of electromagnetic waves. But recordings of EVP have been made under Faraday room conditions, environments totally shielded from electromagnetic interference. This rules out the possibility of picking up stray radio and cell phone signals, a favourite claim of skeptics.
EVP has been impressed on recording devices without the need of microphones. For example, Alexander MacRae, a Scottish engineer, has done groundbreaking work recording EVP on a device he invented: a biofeedback machine connected to a radio.
Increasingly sophisticated technology has strengthened the case for paranormal explanations. EVP have been analyzed with forensics software by IL Laboratorio in Italy, founded in 2001. According to Paolo Presi, who directs the laboratory, forensics voice analyses Demonstrate that the sounds made by EVP voices are sometimes impossible to reproduce by the human vocal chords.
Modern researchers think that communicators modulate “noise” in the physical environment for creating words. Brazilian researcher Sonia Rinaldi has used her own technique of a telephone connected to a computer to record real-time EVP phone calls between the living and the dead. This system enables her to have more control over how communications are recorded. A noise matrix is created by people enunciating the sounds of language read from a list. The communicators modulate words from those sounds. Even a cough or a door opening can be modulated. Whatever sounds are used, they must be loud and clear in order to obtain loud and clear results.
Rinaldi’s system has been tested in Spain, Uruguay, and Argentina, as well as in Brazil. Since 1998, Rinaldi has recorded more than 350 phone calls, in which 160 involved parents who recognized the voices of their dead children. Her goal, she said, is to bring the dead into 3D image and voice.
EVP in Ghost Investigations
Capturing EVP is one of the favoured techniques in paranormal investigations of haunted sites. According to MARK NESBITT, 60 percent of all ghost experiences are auditory. EVP consist of the dead who may be associated with a haunted site and sounds from the past, such as ﬁghting in a battleﬁeld or sounds from daily life in earlier times. Battleﬁeld EVP feature arms fire, shouts and screams, bugles and drums, marching, horses, and other noises. EVP may be accompanied by other phenomena, such as Smells and visual Apparitions.
Nesbitt often sets his recorders on voice activation and has witnessed the recording light come on and the tape roll, despite the lack of sound in the environment. Upon playback, EVP voices have been heard.
Some investigators still favour the use of external microphones, which they say reduces the hazard of interpreting internal recorder noises as EVP. Some favour leaving recorders on for long periods of time, rather than for a few minutes. See Phone Calls from the Dead.
- American Association—Electronic Voice Phenomena Web site. Available online. URL: https://www.aaevp.com. Downloaded June 20, 2006.
- Bander, Peter. Carry On Talking: How Dead Are the Voices? Gerrards Cross, England: Colin Smythe Ltd., 1972.
———. Voices from the Tapes: Recording from the Other World. New York: Drake Publishers, 1973.
- Belanger, Jeff. Communicating with the Dead: Reach Beyond the Grave. Franklin Lakes, N.J.: New Page Books, 2005.
- Butler, Tom F. and Lisa W. There Is No Death and There Are No Dead: Evidence of Survival and Spirit Communication Through Voices and Images from Those on the Other Side. Reno, Nev.: AA—EVP, 2003.
- Estep, Sarah. Voices of Eternity. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal, 1988.
- Fuller, John G. The Ghost of 29 Megacycles. New York: Signet/New American Library, 1981.
- Klode, Fred. “Can EVP Experimenters Assist the Police in Solving Capital Crimes and Missing Person Cases?” AA— EVP News Journal 25, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 6–7.
- Nesbitt, Mark. The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide: Gettysburg & Beyond. Gettysburg, Pa.: Second Chance Publications, 2005.
- Raudive, Konstantin. Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead. New York: Taplinger, 1971.
- Taylor, Troy. The Ghost Hunters Guidebook: The Essential Guide to Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings. Alton, Ill.: Whitechapel Press, 2004.