|Electronic Voice Phenomenon|
|Written by Heather McKenzie|
Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP, is the audio found on electronic recordings that sounds like speech, but does not appear to originate from anyone present during the recording. This phenomenon is considered by many in the “paranormal field” to be voices of the dead. But are they? EVP can be obtained anywhere – at locales considered to be haunted, as well as to those not known to be haunted. Unfortunately, many ghost hunting groups and paranormal researchers assume that they already know the cause and although it is unempirical to do so, have gone beyond simple audio recording to using other gadgets thought to enhance these recordings. These include “real-time” EVP instruments that play back the data immediately, or the Spirit Box (also known as the Ghost Box or Frank’s Box) which is thought to assist the ghost in communicating by allowing it to manipulate the sound from a radio. At this point in time where there is not a lot of factual information in paranormal studies, one should not attribute EVP to a haunting or dead person, because there is nothing that actually even links these. Until more evidence presents itself, these secondary methods of communication should be considered null and void.
The Spirit Box is thought by some Ghost Hunters to be used by ghosts to communicate by using the scanner to take sound bytes to form words, or to manipulate the white noise generated by the non-tuned stations to speak to the sitter or Ghost Hunter. Neither of these concepts are well-defined as no one has yet convincingly or credibly illustrated how a ghost can use white noise, or demonstrated that a ghost can operate a radio. It is quite easy to debunk as the Spirit Box uses a radio signal to sweep up and down the dial, selecting tiny blips of sound which create raw audio that the listener attempts to interpret. This method relies upon “audio pareidolia” which is essentially the mind attempting to recognise these noise snippets and turn them into meaningful words and phrases. This method cannot be considered a legitimate communication tool as its basis relies on coincidence and subjective interpretation. Subjective interpretation is what occurs when personal biases, spiritual beliefs and past life experiences are applied to a current experience, producing an incomplete idea. In this instance, the sitter’s (or ghost hunter’s) own life experiences, and/or religious/spiritual beliefs, together with biased expectation, influence their interpretation of what they hear coming out of the Spirit Box.
Basic EVP on the other hand, is a bit more alluring. This phenomena does exist, but the problem is that we do not yet know the source. Possible origins include radio tower or cellular interference, telekinesis and of course, genuine ghost voices. In the possible scenario of telekinesis, perhaps WE are projecting our thoughts, which are then picked up by the recording device. In many EVP samples, the recorded voices that are picked up by the recording device are similar to responses that an Ouija board (which is thought by many to be ideomotor response) might produce, such as "Get out" (a common response) or a reference to death, or the voice will say something that is meaningful to the situation in which the recording takes place. In other words, it is very possible that these are projected thoughts of the sitters or ghost hunters, similar to results of the ideomotor effect. It is possible that this may actually be a spirit attempting to communicate, however, we must first examine the techniques used to obtain EVP.
One method used while investigating or visiting an allegedly haunted locale, is to ask questions out loud while recording and wait a few seconds after each question for a response. This approach can lead to some interesting results. However, again, one of the problems is that there is an attempt to give the response meaning when perhaps there isn’t any link to the haunting or the “conversation” at all. Again we run the risk of applying subjective interpretation to these results. It has been noted that some ghost hunters will ask the question “How did you die?” which assumes 1) that they are talking to a deceased person and 2) that this presumed dead person knows that they are dead. The answers received are typically one word instead of a fulsome descriptive response, and almost always seem to conveniently correlate to the question asked. Add in the fact that sometimes these recordings are difficult to discern, one might conclude, for example, that they heard “head” instead of “red”, “bed”, “lead”, etc., because perhaps “head” fits in better with their investigation. So it may be that the sitter/ghost hunter is applying their own existing biases onto the interpretation of the recording, or that they are taking words and giving meaning to them. Either way, this is an impractical and flawed method.
Another tactic is to plant a recording device into a room and leave it there unattended. The problem with this approach is that sounds do bleed from other rooms where you might be conversing with a team mate or making other unintentional noise. Regular building and extraneous noises may turn up on the recording as unidentifiable. For optimum results, it is prudent to leave the area completely while recording devices run in the empty building. Some interesting visual results with video recording have been obtained in this manner but thus far, but not much in the way of EVP. It is this that leads me into the direction that a human sitter may be needed to achieve them.
The third technique that has been regularly used with significant effect, is a vigil situation. A few people will sit in a room and converse normally while the recording device is operating (either video or simply audio or both) with the intent of capturing EVP. The challenge this presents is that the sitters’ voices and movement can be mistaken on playback of the recording when there is an unrecognisable sound.
On a personal note, one of the more notable experiences we’ve had was when we attempted a vigil with all female sitters and upon playing back the recording, a male voice was heard. Remarkably, it was a voice that said "get out" and we all admitted to feeling a bit uneasy during that time. So uneasy in fact, that we had left the building to get some fresh air. But the experience and the result on the audio recorder led to more questions. We had decided that it was likely not a radio signal due to the inflection of the voice; it was definitely a complete sentence and there was no radio feedback anywhere else on the recording. However, the questions were there: Were we uneasy due to the presence of an entity in there with us that didn’t wish us to be there? Or did we generate anxiety and then project our nervous thoughts (which were likely feeding upon each other’s) which were then recorded?
If we accept the belief that the voices are projected from deceased persons, then we are relying on a bias which then gives us incomplete data. If we start at the beginning with what we know, we come to the basic understanding that anomalous voices do appear on recordings. What comes after that is that we now have to determine from where these voices originate.
We have only begun to scratch the surface of the Electronic Voice Phenomenon. More testing and researching needs to be done for us collect more data that will hopefully allow us to begin to unravel this anomalous mystery. Tests need to be conducted in a variety of locales and control groups, including isolation chambers free from extraneous interference; a sampling of audio technology from the past (reel to reel) to the present (digital) needs to be researched and understood, and used in repeated experimentation; and current evidence needs to continue to be collected and scrutinized using the latest programs. The only true conclusion we have reached thus far is that Electronic Voice Phenomena is one that needs to be explored further, but with openness to the possibilities of the source being other than that of the voice of a deceased person
BCGHRS Hells Gate investigation 2011