A click of a button and the hiss of white noise fills the air. You remember the night you made the recording, alone in a room of a reputedly haunted location. With your recorder held high, you asked the questions, feeling a little foolish in the process. After all, you are first and foremost a skeptic, right? As the recording plays, you distinctly hear your own voice, distorted in the tiny speaker, asking whatever might be listening what it wants. Then you feel the hairs on the nape of your neck prickle like spider legs as you hear a whispered reply, “pay us attention.”
Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVPs, have long been a staple of paranormal investigators and ghost hunters as a way of providing evidence of activity. While photos of orbs can be dismissed as dust or moisture, and anyone can concoct a convincing story as to something that supposedly happened, it’s hard to argue with audio evidence, especially when it is corroborated with witnesses. In many cases, EVPs are garbled or unintelligible. But sometimes, the voices of the dead come across as clear as a conversation with disturbing revelations.
The early to mid 1800’s saw the birth of pseudoscience in the form of a strong public interest in communicating with the “other side.” Out of this new fad grew psychics and mediums galore, most of whom were fraudulent. At seances and gatherings, these hucksters would crack their toes and use parlor tricks to create disembodied voices to the delight and horror of audience members. There were others, however, who were interested in more than just making a buck. For whatever reason, they truly wanted nothing less than to speak to the dead. Separating the two came a lifelong passion for Harry Houdini toward the end of the movement. It was, however, during this time that the notion of gathering scientific empirical evidence to document a haunting came into being.
The first mention of recording disembodied voices came in 1941 from an American photographer named Atilla von Szalay. His early attempts at using a 78 rpm record disc were unsuccessful, but more than ten years later, after switching to a reel-to-reel recorder, he began to pioneer EVPs. Other early purveyors of EVPs include a Swedish painter who, while recording bird songs, captured what he believed to be the voices of his dead father and wife. From that point on, enthusiasts in the paranormal have looked to recordings of the dead as the second most convincing piece of evidence of a haunting, the first being video.
Equipment and Procedure
EVPs differ from disembodied voices in that they are never heard when they’re being recorded, only during playback (hence the “E” in EVP). Therefore, in order to capture them, the hunter must have the right tools. However, the tools of the trade are as varied as the methods for retrieving the recordings. Long gone are the days of lugging about a real-to-real recorder, as modern technology has made such devices smaller and smaller. The most commonly used tools today are hand-held cassette recorders, micro-cassette recorders, and more recently digital voice recorders. Other tools commonly used include pocket radios, televisions, and a specialized gizmo called a “white noise generator.”
There are several methods for obtaining EVPs. One technique, used by most paranormal investigators, is to go to an area of reported activity, activate the recording device, and ask questions to whatever might be listening. Questions such as “Is there anyone here right now” and “Can you tell us your name?” are standard fare. Another acceptable method is to leave a running recorder in an empty room for a given amount of time. When reviewing the playback, unexplained noises are often heard. Some claim to be able to hear voices in the static on a television or radio, or use a “white noise” generator to assist in the gathering of voices from beyond.
Once a recording time has passed, the investigator has the arduous task of listening to every second of the recording trying to find what he believes to be voices or unidentified sounds. In many cases, the recordings will yield nothing. Sometimes, however, there appears sounds that weren’t in the room, voices of people who weren’t there, and answers to questions seemingly whispered into the microphone.
While some believe that EVPs are nothing more than a phenomenon called Auditory pareidolia or Rorschach Audio, and others believe the phenomenon can be explained away as stray signals from CB radios, there still seems to be evidence that refutes even the most hardened skeptic. From the voices of children to direct answers to questions, there are some recordings that defy any form of explanation. Below are some of the best examples of EVP’s I’ve found, with information as to who got them and where. Have a listen and decide for yourself what you hear.
- Die! – Captured by Indiana Ghost Trackers, this recording seems to have someone telling the female investigator what he thinks of her.
- Coming up the stairs – This EVP is found on so many sites that attribution is impossible, but it is reputed to have come from a house where a child was murdered by an abusive parent. There were no children present during the investigation.
- Mommy! – Also captured by Indiana Ghost Trackers, this recording was captured during an investigation when there were no children present.
- We Don’t Talk – Captured by Kentucky Paranormal Investigations during a hunt in Highland Cemetery.
- Get F**ked! – Also captured by Kentucky Paranormal Investigations at the famed Mansfield Prison.
- Pay us attention… – Captured by Dread Central’s own Cold Spots Paranormal Research during the investigation of an abandoned former hospital.
- Are you still there mommy? – Captured in an empty room during the same investigation by CSPR
Are EVP’s real? Are they irrefutable evidence of a haunting, or are they the product of “audio matrixing?” While skeptics will always say that there must be some sort of rational explanation outside the realm of the paranormal, others believe that what they hear are nothing less than the voices of the dead.
See you next time!