ELECTRONIC VOICE PHENOMENA (EVP)

I think of EVP as Electronic Spiritualism, in that it is communication with the departed not with the mind of a mortal medium, but through the use of an electronic devise. I believe that EVP is the wave of the future, and even more so the salvation of Spiritualism, since its decline in the late twenties. EVP is what Spiritualism has needed these years to make it attractive not just for those people who are grieving or to the few who have had a supernatural experience that could not be satisfactorily explained by their clergy; but by main the stream who would welcome the proof that there is no death and there are no dead.

EVP is a phenomena in which human-sounding voices have been captured most often on audiotape. The mysterious voices are not heard at the time of recording, but when the tape is played back are the voices heard. Sometimes amplification and noise filtering is required to hear the voices properly. EVP and related phenomena happen spontaneously, at best one can try to provoke them. Exact predictions are not possible and their reproducibility is rather poor. Field-research, that is observing the conditions, collecting the material and trying to find common characteristics, in most instances the term "operator" is more correct than "experimenter".

Some EVP is more easily heard and understood than others. The source may vary in gender (men and women), age (adults and children), tone and emotion. They usually speak in single words, phrases and short sentences. Sometimes they are just grunts, groans, growling and other vocal noises. EVP has been recorded being spoken in various languages.

Parapsychologists and spiritualists have an ongoing interest in EVP. Many spiritualists have experimented with a variety of techniques for spirit communication, which they believe provide evidence of the continuation of life. According to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches in America, "An important modern day development in mediumship is spirit communications via an electronic device”. An informal survey by the organization's Department Of Phenomenal Evidence cites that one third of their member churches conduct sessions in which participants seek to communicate with departed loved ones using EVP.

Paranormal explanations for EVP generally assume that production of EVP by a communicating intelligence is through the means other than the typical functioning of communication devises. Natural explanations for reported instances of EVP tend to dispute this assumption and provide explanations which do not require mechanisms that are not based on recognized scientific phenomena. While it is impossible to prove that all EVPs are due to natural phenomena, skeptics maintain that they are probably due to such things as interference from a nearby CB operator, cross modulation or ionospheric ducting. Given that the voices being transmitted are by cell phones, radios, TVs, baby monitors, walkie talkies, shortwave transmitters, etc.

The quality of EVP varies. Some are difficult to distinguish and are open to interpretation as to what they are saying. Some EVPs, however, are quite clear and easy to understand. EVP often has an electronic or mechanical character to it, but sometimes it is natural sounding. The quality of EVP is categorized by researchers into the following classes:

Classes of EVPs

Class A -

Easily understood by almost anyone with little or no dispute. These are also usually the loudest EVPs.

Class B -

Usually characterized by warping of the voice in certain syllables. Lower in volume or more distant sounding than Class A. This is the most common type of EVP.

Class C -

Characterized by excessive warping. They are the lowest in volume (often whispering) and are the hardest to understand.

A fascinating aspect of EVP is that the voices sometimes respond directly to the person making the recording. For example the researchers will ask a question, and the voice will answer or comment. Again, this response is not heard until later when the tape is played back.

Sources of EVPs

  1. The voices of people who have died. This is why many researchers go to cemeteries seeking EVPs.
  2. The voices are from another dimension. It is theorized that there may be many dimensions of existence, and somehow beings from some other dimension are able to speak and communicate through this method.
  3. They come from the researchers' own subconscious. It's been suggested that somehow the re searchers' thoughts are projected onto the tape.
  4. Some people believe that these voices are angelic or demonic in origin.
  5. Skeptics assert that there is nothing to EVP and that the voices are either a hoax, random noise interpreted as voices, real voices already on the tape or voices picked up from radio, cell phones and other such sources.

History of EVP Research

Colin Smyth is credited with coining the term, “Electronic Voice Phenomena” (EVP) as a more inclusive alternative to “Raudive Voices,” as the voices recorded by Raudive were referred to prior.

Before the turn of the last Century Austrian psychic researcher Baron Hellenbach predicted in his book Birth and Death the evolution of electromechanical means of communication. He foresaw that the content of the earliest contacts might suffer from the inherent difficulties of bridging a gulf between two dimensions and warned against undue optimism.

Thomas Edison, Gueglielmo Marconi, and Nikola Tesla, inventors and geniuses who helped harness electricity and laid the foundations upon which electronic communication has been based, spent the last years of their lives trying to develop devices for communicating with the afterlife.

1920s - Though not generally known Thomas Edison tried to invent a machine that would communicate with the dead. Thinking this was possible, he wrote: "If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical or scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this earth. Therefore if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something”. Edison never succeeded with the invention, but it seems he did believe that it might be possible to capture disembodied voices with a machine.

Hereward Carrington, a respected American psychical researcher notes in his book Psychic Oddities an occasion at which he was present when a 'disembodied' voice asking "Can you hear me?” came out of a microphone in a sealed radio recording studio and was heard by everyone in the room when the rest of the building was empty.

The English writer Thorpe who had developed what he called 'Etheric Vision’ whilst a prisoner in Germany, promised his readers details of mechanical means of detecting what he called 'The Voice Phenomenon' in a further book.

1930s - The Swedish and Norwegian military picked up strange, unidentified voices on the frequencies that they use. These were thought to be stray German transmissions, and came to their peak in March 1934 then ceased abruptly. But after the war when the archives were searched, no evidence of German involvement was found. American writer John Keel details these incidents culled from press reports of the 1930's in his book Operation Trojan Horse written in the 1950’s.

In 1936 ham radio operator Gordon Cosgrave in London apparently picks up Morse code messages between the 'Titanic' and the 'Carpathia' which would have been sent twenty-four years earlier in 1912, when the 'Carpathia' was racing to the rescue of the stricken liner.

1940s - Marcello Bacci has since 1949, used an unsophisticated tube-transistor radio to produce the most remarkable and evidencial example of EVP phenomenon known. He has been active for over 50 years, verbally reuniting families with deceased loved ones, and has never once been implicated in fraud of any kind despite the fact that he has been stringently investigated by some of the world's top scientists including Ervin Laszlo.

American photographer Attila von Szalay experimented with a phonograph record cutter attempting to capture spirit voices. He believed that the voices of the dead was a way to augment his investigations in photographing ghosts. He began his attempts in 1941 using a 78 rpm record, but it wasn't until 1956, after switching to areel-to-reel tape recorder, that he believed he was successful. Working with Raymond Bayless, von Szalay conducted a number of recording sessions with a custom-made apparatus, consisting of a microphone in an insulated cabinet connected to an external recording device and speaker. Szalay reported finding many sounds on the tape that could not be heard on the speaker at the time of recording, some of which were recorded when there was no one in the cabinet. He believed these sounds to be the voices of discarnate spirits. Among the first recordings believed to be spirit voices were such messages as "This is G!", "Hot dog, Art!", and "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all". Von Szalay and Raymond Bayless' work was published by the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1959. Bayless later went on to co-author the 1979 book, Phone Calls From the Dead.

1950s - In 1952, two Catholic priests, Father Ernetti and Father Gemelli, inadvertently picked up EVP while recording Gregorian chants on a magnetophone. When the wire on the machine kept breaking, Father Gemelli looked to heaven and asked his dead father for help. To the shock of both men, his father's voice was heard on the recording saying, "Of course I shall help you, I'm always with you”. Further experiments confirmed the phenomenon.

In July of 1959, Friedrich Juergenson, a Swedish film producer was recording bird songs. On playback, he could discern his dead mother's voice, using a reel-to-reel tape recorder at his estate in Mölnbo, Sweden. She said in German, "Friedrich, you are being watched. Friedel, my little Friedel, can you hear me?" His subsequent recordings of hundreds of such voices would earn him the title "The Father of EVP”. He wrote two books on the subject: Voices from the Universe and Radio Contact with the Dead. The noted parapsychologist Professor Dr.Hans Bender who headed a team of researchers at the Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Freiburg, Germany makes a thorough study of the Jurgenson tapes using voice print tests. He concludes that these voices were susceptible to paranormal interpretation.

John Otto, patent engineer and ham radio operator together with a group of local radio amateurs in Chicago detected unusual signals of unknown origin on undisclosed frequencies. Lyrical voices using what we now know as polyglot (a mixture of languages) sang and spoke in rapid bursts, which the group recognised were unlike anything transmitted by regular sources.

1960s - Juergenson's work came to the attention of a Latvian psychologist Dr. KonstantinRaudive. At first skeptical, Raudive began his own experiments in 1967. He too recorded the voice of his de- Frederich Jurgenson Marcello Bacci Attila von Szalay ceased mother saying, "Kostulit, this is your mother”. Kostulit was the boyhood name she always called him. In the years subsequent he recorded thousands of EVP voices. Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian psychologist who had taught at the Uppsala University, Sweden and who had worked in conjunction with Jürgenson had made over 100,000 recordings which he described as being communications with discarnate people. Raudive published his first book, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead in 1968.

1970s - The term Instrumental Trans-Communication (ITC) was coined by Ernst Senkowski to refer generally to communication through any sort of electronic device such as tape recorders, fax machines, television sets or computers between spirits and the living. A famous incidence of ITC occurred when the image of EVP enthusiast Friedrich Jürgenson (whose funeral was held that day) was said to have appeared on a television in the home of a colleague, which had been purposefully tuned to a vacant channel.

In 1972 George Gilbert Bonner from England, a psychologist and artist, begins to experiment after reading Dr. Raudive's book. Using a reel-to-reel recorder and battery radio tuned to 'mush' or 'white noise' to act as a carrier for discarnate voices . He speaks into his microphone and asks, “Can anyone hear me and would anyone like to speak to me”? Though, not expecting any response he receives the answer in a hiss and rush of sound 'Yes'. Bonner went on to record more than 50,000 spirit voices over the next 22 years.

Raymond Cass was considered one of the worlds foremost researchers into EVP. He was a hearingaid practitioner in England who began research into the EVP using a small battery-operated radio tuned in to 'white noise'. He recorded thousands of clear discarnate voices over the years, speaking and singing, and theorizes that his proximity to a mass x-ray unit only thirty yards away produced an emanation which was 'beating' with the selected airband frequency and producing a transient condition enabling the voices to manifest. His office in Hull, where the best results have been achieved, appeared to be a 'window area' with a lively magnetic flux upon which the voices seemed to ride. His voice samples have been played at many lectures and presentations worldwide. Raymond's tapes have been the focus of study by various institutions such as the Bio-Energetics Institute in Osaka, Japan, The Parapsychology Unit of Olivert College, Michigan, The ESP Research Associates Foundation at Little Rock, Arkansas, The Parapsychology Unit at Freidburg University and his work was observed by the Ministry of Defense in the UK.

In 1979, parapsychologist D. Scott Rogo described an alleged paranormal phenomenon in whichpeople report that they receive simple, brief, and usually single-occurrence telephone calls from spirits of deceased relatives, friends, or strangers.

1980s - In 1982, Sarah Estep founded the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AAEVP) in Severna Park, Maryland, a nonprofit organization with the purpose of increasing awareness of EVP, and teaching standardized methods for capturing it. Estep began her exploration of EVP in 1976, and says she has made hundreds of recordings of messages from deceased friends, relatives, and extraterrestrials whom she speculated originated from other planets or dimensions.

Spiritual researchers George and Jeanette Meek joined forces with psychic William O'Neil and recorded hundreds of hours of EVP recordings using radio oscillators. They allegedly were able to capture conversations with the spirit of Dr. George Jeffries Mueller, a dead university professor and NASA scientist.

In 1980, William O'Neil constructed an electronic audio device called "The Spiricom". O'Neil claimed the device was built to specifications which he received psychically from George Mueller, a scientist who had died six years previously. At a Washington, D.C. press conference on April 6, 1982, O'Neil stated that he was able to hold two-way conversations with spirits through the Spiricom device, and provided the design specifications to researchers without charge. However, nobody is known to have replicated the results O'Neil claimed using their own Spiricom devices. O'Neil's partner, retired industrialist George Meek, attributed O'Neil's success and the inability of others to replicate it to O'Neil's mediumistic abilities forming part of the loop that made the system work.

Claus Schreiber began to receive spirit images on his TV set in 1985, including the faces of scientist Albert Einstein, Austrian actress Romy Schneider and various departed family members especially his two deceased wives and daughter Karin. His technique, set up by his colleague Martin Wenzel, involved aiming a videocamera at the television and feeding the output of the camera back into the TV in order to achieve a feedback loop. The result was a churning mist on the screen out of which the spirit faces would slowly form over a period of many frames. Schreiber’s spectacular results were the subject of a TV documentary and book by popular radio-television commentator Rainer Holbe in nearby Luxembourg in 1985.

1990s - In 1995, the parapsychologist David Fontana proposed in an article that poltergeists could haunt tape recorders. He speculated that this may have happened to the parapsychologist Maurice Grosse who investigated the Enfield Poltergeist case. However, Tom Flynn a media expert for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry examined Fontana's article and suggested an entirely naturalistic explanation for the phenomena. According to the skeptical investigator Joe Nickell "Occasionally, especially with older tape and under humid conditions, as the tape travels it can adhere to one of the guide posts. When this happens on a deck where both supply and take-up spindles are powered, the tape continues to feed, creating a fold”. It was such a loop of tape, Flynn theorizes, that threaded its way amid the works of Grosse’s recorder.

In 1997, Imants Barušs, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, conducted a series of experiments using the methods of EVP investigator Konstantin Raudive, and the work of instrumental transcommunication researcher Mark Macy, as a guide. A radio was tuned to an empty frequency, and over 81 sessions a total of 60 hours of recordings were collected. During the recordings a person either sat in silence or attempted to make verbal contact with potential sources of EVP. Barušs stated that he did record several events that sounded like voices, but they Sarah Estep were open to interpretation to be described definitively as EVP.

In 2000s - In 2005, the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research published a report by paranormal investigator Alexander MacRae. MacRae conducted recording sessions using a device of his own design that generated EVP. In an attempt to demonstrate that different individuals would interpret EVP in the recordings the same way, MacRae asked seven people to compare some selections to a list of five phrases he provided, and to choose the best match. MacRae said the results of the listening panels indicated that the selections were of paranormal origin.

Another electronic device specifically constructed in an attempt to capture EVP is "Frank's Box" or the "Ghost Box", created in 2002 by EVP enthusiast Frank Sumption, for supposed real-time communication with the dead. Sumption claims he received his design instructions from the spirit voices. The device is described as a combination white noise generator and AM radio receiver modified to sweep back and forth through the AM band, selecting split-second snippets of sound. Critics of the device say its effect is subjective and incapable of being replicated, and since it relies on radio noise, any meaningful response a user gets is purely coincidental or simply the result of pareidolia.

Method of Communication

Portable digital voice recorders are currently the technology of choice for EVP investigators. Since some of these devices are very susceptible to Radio Frequency (RF) contamination, EVP enthusiasts sometimes try to record EVP in RF and in sound-screened rooms. Taking their inspiration from Friedrich Juergenson's work, these phenomena were subsequently investigated by the German parapsychologist Hans Bender and by the Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive. Following the publication of Raudive's book Breakthrough on his research these phenomena are now often referred to as "Raudive Voices". Several methods have been used to record Raudive voices. Traditionally a tape recorder (reel-to-reel or cassette) is used although it is now possible to use digital recording. The following procedures are commonly used:

  1. Recording using a microphone in a quiet room or with the microphone sealed in a soundproofed box.
  2. Recording with no microphone connected.
  3. Recording "white noise" (hiss) from a radio that is tuned between stations.
  4. Recording using a crystal set (diode receiver) plugged into the microphone socket.

Recordings typically last only for a few minutes. This is because intense concentration is required in order to hear the voices on the tape, use of headphones is recommended. The tapes usually have to be replayed several times in order to decipher the speech. Some EVP enthusiasts describe hearing the words in EVP as an ability, much like learning a new language. Skeptics suggest that the claimed instances may be misinterpretations of natural phenomena, inadvertent influence of the electronic equipment by researchers or deliberate influencing of the researchers and the equipment by third parties. EVP and ITC are seldom researched within the scientific community, so most research in the field is carried out by amateur researchers.

Transform EVP

Traditionally, EVP formation has involved the transformation of available audio-frequency energy into voice. This transformation is thought to occur in the electronic equipment, specifically in an analog stage before the signal is digitized for storage. The resulting signal is seen as a simulation of the human voice, which may closely mimic the physical voice of the person thought to be speaking. This includes nuances of voice indicating accent, age, sex and attitude. Analysis of the resulting voice often shows a novel arrangement of formants (clusters of frequency grouped by octaves of the voice box frequency produced during passage through the mouth) and fragmented voice box frequencies. Prior to wide availability of personal computers the static between radio stations was often used as background sound for transform EVP since radios were a readily available source of sound.

This figure illustrates a sound track with the utterance, “Betty’s in there”. A workable level for background sound used in voice formation is shown. The increase in amplitude of the voice is believed to be due to the accumulation of energy prior to formation of the utterance. This is known as “transform EVP”.

Visual ITC

Visual ITC is the term used to identify anomalous faces, scenes and other recognizable features found in visible noise. Based on known physical principles the features should not exist, yet they are objectively experienced by the average witness. ITC appears to be governed by the same principles governing the formation of transform EVP. The optimum medium for their formation appears to be optical, chaotic noise of medium-intensity. Very bright or very dark noise tends to obscure the feature.

Just as with EVP the faces of visual ITC are sometimes recognizable as loved ones, sometimes even on request making visual ITC a form of induced trans-etheric communication. Each form of ITC inherits a degree of credibility from other forms even as more is learned by studying all forms. And so, visual ITC is considered another form of proof of human survival after physical death.

Visual ITC is not the same as spirit photography in which an apparition is seen in a photograph, even though no figure had been known to be present when the picture was taken. Precipitation art is also a different form of phenomena, even though some of the chaotic characteristics of visual ITC are sometime found in the art work.

The physical process known as stochastic resonance is a means by which a small signal is amplified when combined with a chaotic signal in a nonlinear electrical circuit. As with transform EVP this process is hypothesized as the mechanism by which a weak psi (unexplained) influence is able to impress the communicating personality’s intended order on the chaotic signal, thereby producing audible or visual ITC features.

Explanations and Origins

Paranormal claims for the origin of EVP include living humans imprinting thoughts directly on an electronic medium through psychokinesis, and communication by discarnate entities such as spirits, nature energies or extraterrestrials. Paranormal explanations for EVP generally assume production of EVP by a communicating intelligence through means other than the typical functioning of communication technologies. Natural explanations for reported instances of EVP tend to dispute this assumption and provide explanations which do not require mechanisms that are not based on recognized scientific phenomena.

One study, by psychologist Imants Barušs was unable to replicate suggested paranormal origins for EVP recorded under controlled conditions. Brian Regal in Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia This figure illustrates a sound track with the utterance, “Betty’s in there”. A workable level for background sound used in voice formation is shown. The increase in amplitude of the voice is believed to be due to the accumulation of energy prior to formation of the utterance. This is known as “transform EVP”. (2009) has written "A case can be made for the idea that many EVPs are artifacts of the recording process itself with which the operators are unfamiliar. The majority of EVPs have alternative, nonspiritual sources, anomalous ones have no clear proof they are of spiritual origin”.

Psychology and Perception

Auditory pareidolia is a situation created when the human brain incorrectly interprets random patterns as being familiar. In the case of EVP it could result in an observer interpreting random noise on an audio recording as being the sound of a human voice. The propensity for an apparent voice heard in white noise recordings in a language understood by those researching it, rather than in an unfamiliar language. This has been cited as evidence, and a broad class of phenomena referred to by author Joe Banks as “Rorschach Audio” has been described as a global explanation for all manifestations of EVP.

Skeptics such as David Federlein, Chris French, Terence Hines and Michael Shermer say that EVP are usually recorded by raising the 'noise floor' – the electrical noise created by all electrical devices – in order to create white noise. When this noise is filtered, it can be made to produce noises which sound like speech. Federlein says that this is no different from using a wah pedal on a guitar, which is a focused sweep filter that moves around the spectrum and creates open vowel sounds. This, according to Federlein sounds exactly like some EVP. This in combination with such things as cross modulation of radio stations or faulty ground loops can cause the impression of paranormal voices. The human brain evolved to recognize patterns, and if a person listens to enough noise the brain will detect words, even when there is no intelligent source for them. Expectation also plays an important role in making people believe they are hearing voices within random noise.

Apophenia is related to but distinct from pareidolia. Apophenia is defined as the spontaneous finding of connections or meaning in things which are random, unconnected or meaningless and has been put forward as a possible explanation. According to the psychologist James Alcock what people hear in EVP recordings can best be explained by apophenia, cross-modulation or expectation and wishful thinking. Alcock concluded EVPs are the products of hope and expectation, and these claims wither away under the light of scientific scrutiny.

Physics

Interference in certain EVP recordings especially those recorded on devices which contain RLC circuitry represent radio signals of voices or other sounds from broadcast sources. Interference from CB Radio transmissions and wireless baby monitors, or anomalies generated through cross modulation from other electronic devices are documented phenomena. It is even possible for circuits to resonate without any internal power source by means of radio reception.

Capture errors are anomalies created by the method used to capture audio signals, such as noise generated through the over-amplification of a signal at the point of recording. Artifacts created during attempts to boost the clarity of an existing recording might explain some EVP. Methods include resampling, frequency isolation and noise reduction or enhancement, which can cause recordings to take on qualities significantly different from those that were present in the original recording. The very first EVP recordings may have originated from the use of tape recording equipment with poorly aligned erasure and recording heads, resulting in the incomplete erasure of previous audio recordings on the tape. This could allow a small percentage of previous content to be superimposed or mixed into a new recording.

For all radio transmissions above 30 MHz (which are not reflected by the ionosphere) there is a possibility of meteor reflection of the radio signal. Meteors leave a trail of ionised particles and electrons as they pass through the upper atmosphere (a process called ablation), which reflect transmission radio waves which would usually flow into space. These reflected waves are from transmitters which are below the horizon of the received meteor reflection. In Europe this means the brief scattered wave may carry a foreign voice which can interfere with radio receivers. Meteor reflected radio waves last between 0.05 seconds and 1 second depending on the size of the meteor.

Organizations Interested in EVP

There are a number of organizations dedicated to studying EVP and Instrumental Trans Communication (ITC). Individuals within these organizations may participate in investigations, author books, journal articles, deliver presentations and hold conferences where they share experiences. In addition organizations exist which dispute the validity of the phenomena on scientific grounds.

The Association TransCommunication (ATransC), formerly the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP) and the International Ghost Hunters Society conduct ongoing investigations of EVP and ITC including collecting examples of purported EVP available over the internet. The Rorschach Audio Project, initiated by sound artist Joe Banks presents EVP as a product of radio interference combined with auditory pareidolia. The Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Biopsychocybernetics Research, a non-profit organization studies anomalous phenomena related to neurophysiological conditions.

Film

Films involving EVP include Poltergeist, The Sixth Sense, White Noise and The Changeling. EVP has also been featured on television series like Ghost Whisperer, The Omega Factor, A Haunting, Ghost Hunters, MonsterQuest, Ghost Adventures, The Secret Saturdays, Fact or Faked, Paranormal Files, Supernatural, Derren Brown Investigates, and Ghost Lab.

TV and Radio

Coast To Coast AM hosts George Noory and Art Bell have explored the topic of EVP with featured guests such as Brendan Cook and Barbara McBeath of the Ghost Investigators Society, and paranormal investigator and 'demonologist' Lou Gentile. The Spirit of John Lennon, a pay-per-view seance broadcast in 2006 in which TV crew members, a psychic, and an expert in paranormal activity claim the spirit of former Beatle John Lennon made contact with them through Electronic Voice Phenomenon.

Conclusion

I believe that it is just a matter of time before EVP technology is perfected to the point where it become commonplace to contact deceased loved ones. As was with radio, television, computers and other electronic devises at first they may be cumbersome and expensive, but eventually every home will have the means. Some day in the future people will not give it a second thought to make a long distance call to a loved one in the spirit world on their mobil phone. This new proof of the survival of human consciousness could play a major role in the removal of fear of eminent death, and accelerate the course of human evolution toward a more conscious and peaceful world of the future.