On the Subject of EVPs
Electronic Voice Phenomenon. EVP’s. The supposed captured, disembodied voices of the passed-on. The audible recording of the deceased. The dead. Much like how with the advent of the camera ushered in the advent of ghost photography, shortly after Edison’s phonograph, came the claims of capturing ghostly voices. So before we go any further, let’s establish what exactly the EVP hypothesis is. To make this as simple as possible, an EVP is an intentional or unintentional sound recorded on analog or electronic devices that are interpreted as those belonging to the dead or from the past. I include “from the past” because in some EVPs, other ambient noises that are deemed relevant to the particular situation or question asked, can be heard sometimes in congruence with or in absence of a “voice”. Sounds like water where there isn’t a source near or the sounds of battle and cannon fire when there is none. So let’s go over a very brief history of recorded, supposed discarnate noise.
It’s either saying, “In the beginning of the history of EVPs…” or “Windmill.” It’s hard to say…
EVPs are part of a broader claimed phenomena known as Instrumental Trans-Communication, or ITC. This includes communication with the dead through radio, computers, video camera, telephone, television and as mentioned above, photography. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in the late 1800’s and it is often sited that he was working on a device that would make it easier to communicate with deceased persons. Some skeptics will say that his claim of working on a device to communicate with the passed-on is misinterpreted and exaggerated, and in fact all he said was that such device “could” be made and that he was never actually actively working on one. This is most likely attributed to an interview Mr. Edison gave with Scientific American (which is available for a price on PDF here) in which he said:
it is possible to construct an apparatus which will be so delicate that if there are personalities in another existence or sphere who wish to get in touch with us in this existence or sphere, this apparatus will at least give them a better opportunity to express themselves than the tilting tables and raps and ouija boards and mediums and the other crude methods now purported to be the only means of communication.
But what most people who say that Edison was working on such a device are referring to an interview he gave to American Magazine titled “Edison Working On Way to Communicate With the Next World” in which he said:
If the apparatus I am now constructing should provide a channel for the inflow of knowledge from the unknown world – a form of existence different from that of this life – we may be brought an important step nearer the fountainhead of all knowledge, nearer the intelligence which directs all.
He then added:
But, mind you, I am not promising results. All I promise is that I will make it easier than it has ever been heretofore for personalities who have ‘passed on’ to communicate with us, if they are so circumstanced that they can or want to communicate with us.
So Edison aside, another prominent person of interest in the research of EVPs is one Konstantīns Raudive. So prominent was Raudive’s work that EVPs are sometimes referred to as Raudive voices. Raudive was a parapsychologist who, after reading Friedrich Jürgenson’s book Voices from Space, became greatly interested in the phenomena. Jürgenson himself, is often regarded as “the father of EVP” and is credited for discovering the phenomena. Raudive’s disembodied voice has said to make contact from beyond the grave as well via phone call.
There have been devices created that are supposed to help in spirit communication via EVP. The Frank’s Box or Ghost box is a device that supposedly allow spirits to splice radio signals to produce answers to questions given. Another nifty piece of technology doesn’t necessarily allow for communication to passed on humans but it actually determines if what is recorded IS a human voice. Praat is one such software. This link will take you to the site where you can download the free software and read the manuals of its function. Most of which is beyond my understanding. But those of you so inclinded…
So what are we to make of these claims of communication from the next plane of existence? There are many explanations for how these sounds can make it to audio tape or electronic devices. Cross modulation is one of these reasons. It is basically interference with radio or TV signals that can leave audio imprints on magnetic tape. It can also leave imprints on electronic recordings. While most believers of this phenomena will argue that the recordings in question are done in a solitary space and that the answers given are relevant to questions asked, it could be argued that given the hypothetical state of a spirit, that one could simply place a blank tape on a table without a recording device and ask questions and relevant responses should be given. But despite this perceived relevance of the question or circumstance, cross modulation happens. In an episode of Ecto-Radio, hosted by the founding members of the Southwest Ghost Hunters Association, the two host recall an instance where they were investigating the infamous Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone, AZ. Now the SGHA is a smart bunch and have an intricate knowledge of Tombstone’s history and were well aware that there probably wasn’t anybody buried at a gravestone that claimed that the person buried there had been hung, so you can imagine their surprise when they played back their recording to find a “response” saying. “If you’re going to hang a man, you better look at him.” After the initial excitement wore off, they realized that what had been recorded sounded very familiar. In fact, it was a line spoken by Clint Eastwood in the movie “Hang ‘Em High” which was being aired at the time in question. Like I said, SGHA is a smart bunch and they quickly realized this as nothing more but irony.
Another explanation given for these sounds is audible pareidolia, which is basically the brain looking for patterns. Other explanations include audio artifacts, meteor showers which the tails of meteors can reflect and distort radio waves, and hoaxes. One thing that I found interesting about EVPs are that most are indecipherable until someone tells you what they think its saying. Then the message becomes very clear. I will keep this post short since it was meant as another Halloween blog that is coming out a day late. But who says spookiness is designated for October alone? I will leave you that in my opinion, and this is just the opinion of a Fortean blogger, there is not enough scientific data to suggest that what is being recorded on devices is anything more than pareidolia. And this opinion is coming from someone who would indulge in such evidence of life after death. But the proof just isn’t in the pudding. I will also leave you, my audience with some EVPs that I either found chilling or convincing, just not convincing enough. Like the saying goes, keep an open mind but not so open your brain falls out. That’s it for me. Stay classy Grimerica.
Bonus! As a bit of tongue-in-cheek, here is a list of the 8 Best EVPs Anyone Has Ever SEEN!
As a little experiment, I won’t include what these EVPs are supposedly saying. Leave what you think they say in the comments. Try not to read the comments to see what others have written until you’ve listened to them yourself. Headphones are highly recommended. Enjoy!
EVP #4 Called “The Most Horrific EVP ever recorded” 10:52 long.
EVP #5 My vote for “The Most Horrific EVP ever recorded” from Art Bell’s Coast to Coast. Skip to 3:53 for the EVP. Then you can listen to the story after you’ve made your guess.