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Electronic Voice Phenomena
Sunday, 07 August 2005

Are the Phenomena a Result of Paranormal Activity or Wishful Thinking?
© Mostly Haunted 2005

Ian R Thompson BA (Hons)

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) is the capturing of voices on audio tape that were not present at the time of recording. They are believed to be the voices of spirits of the dead and the results of thousands of experiments into EVP conducted since the 1950s have been, at times, quite convincing.

EVP is experienced by making a recording on a blank audio cassette. The microphone of the tape recorder is positioned in such a way that it records “white noise”, usually created by tuning a radio to a frequency where there is no radio station. Whilst the tape records the static hiss, it is alleged that spirits use the white noise to form words which can be heard upon playback of the tape.

EVP first came to the attention of the wider audience in 1959 when the Swedish filmmaker, Friedrich Juergenson was recording bird song in a forest. When Juergenson replayed his tape he claimed to have heard a male voice discussing birdsong at night. He further claimed to have heard the voice of his dead mother on such recordings.

This discovery led to Juergenson producing many hundreds of recordings over a period of about four years, attempting to capture what he claimed were the voices of spirits on tape. At the culmination of the period of recordings Juergenson published his findings in a book entitled “Voices from the Universe” in 1964. This was quickly followed by a further book entitled “Radio Contact with the Dead”.

Juergenson’s second book was examined by a Latvian psychologist, Dr Konstantin Raudive who was, in the first instance, quite sceptical of Juergenson. However, Raudive conducted his own EVP experiments and, in time, claimed to have recorded voices also. Since then, many people have recorded voices on audiotape and, as technology has progressed, digital media and the collation of EVP samples has become common place in the activities of those investigating the paranormal. Indeed, since the 1960s EVP was recognized, by many, as a legitimate form of paranormal research.

In spite of this acceptance as a legitimate form of research, EVP has generated some controversy. Whereas some who investigate EVP believe that the sounds captured are of paranormal origin it is important that one does not jump to conclusions without first examining all possibilities. In EVP experiments the voices manifest themselves as either complete gibberish or clear statements. Some of these voices, it has been claimed, have also answered direct questions put to them by the investigator. However, the human imagination is such that it will try to impose meaning on to the sounds on the EVP recording tapes. If no sense can be made of the sounds, then an idea will be subconsciously created or introduced to support what the investigator wants to hear.

The human mind has a tendency to “fill in the blanks” or provide meaning where meaning may not necessarily exist. An example of this is seen when one looks at clouds and imagines seeing a form within those clouds. It could be suggested that if a person was to listen to an EVP recording enough times then they could, possibly, hear anything that they wanted to hear. This problem is compounded at the point when the investigator announces to anyone who may be reviewing the recordings, just what they should be listening for. The power of suggestion can very easily take over and the listener will hear what they think they should be hearing. Unfortunately, this can damage the validity of the recording.

To obtain EVP recordings that are stronger in terms of validity certain control techniques should be adopted. The first of which should be the total removal of external stimuli that could encroach on the recording. The best way to attempt this is to replace the microphone, used with the tape recorder, with a germanium diode connected to the audio input of the recorder. Raudive used a germanium diode in his EVP experiments to good effect. It is alleged that no external noises are picked up by the tape recorder yet EVP sounds are still recorded.

On completion of the recording it is then good practice to listen to the tape shortly afterwards and complete a transcript of what is heard. The tape should not be used again for any recordings. Other people should be invited to listen to EVP recordings but prior to this they should not be informed whether there is any EVP sound on the tape or not. The listener should inform the investigator of two things. These are; was there any evidence of EVP sound on the tape, and what was the EVP sound heard by the listener? The investigator should then ask a large number of listeners to examine the recording, noting their answers to the two questions above. The results would normally be collated and the most prolific answer given by the listeners would be the most probable.

Note that it is the most probable result and not proof. Whatever the majority of listeners say that they have heard does not mean that they have given the definitive answer. EVP may be the result of paranormal activity, and the results of some experiments will probably strengthen this claim, but there is still a great deal that EVP investigators have to learn about this phenomenon. However, through constant experimentation, correlations may be discovered between EVP and white noise frequency on a radio, or the time of day the experiment is conducted, or other factors. These correlations may, one day, help investigators understand paranormal activity to a greater degree.
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