QUESTION: What are EVPs? (co-written with Al Rauber).

ANSWER: There's a lot of interest now in trying to get Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVPs. What is an EVP? It is the imprinting of sounds (usually voices) not heard at the time the original recording is done on a blank tape (or digital voice recorder), which appear on playback. EVP enthusiasts claim these sounds are of spirits. There are probably thousands of researchers throughout the world taping these voices. And there are all kinds of voices. Voices that are recognized as belonging to departed loved ones. Voices that answer direct and specific questions. Voices that instruct. Voices that warn. Voices that amuse. Voices that beg. And, of course, voices that simply blabber, growl, cry, or scream with no apparent purpose.

But are these voices truly voices of the dead? Critics of EVP usually put forth two basic arguments:
  1. Voices or sounds on tape are merely random radio signals.
  2. Voices or sounds on tape are actually being imprinted by someone present through mind-matter interactions (MMI, sometimes called psychokinesis).
The first argument is certainly true to some extent. Everyone can relate to electrical devices attracting radio transmissions. How many times have air traffic signals or local rescue squad calls disrupted our television viewing? Musicians oftentimes pick up transmissions through amplifiers, and people have even claimed silver tooth fillings to be potential receivers. However, this possibility tends to break down when we consider the meaningfulness of some EVPs. After all, how many times do random radio transmissions address us by name or nickname? How many times do we put forth questions and have them specifically answered by a stray radio signal? How many times have messages that were very personal and meaningful only to us come across as a random signal? Not too often.

Argument number two is more interesting. Are these messages being imprinted by some form of MMI? Could the researcher's mind be imprinting the sounds on tape through a mind-over-matter process? It's certainly possible, and poltergeist phenomena tells us that the conscious mind need not be involved at all. To take this concept a step further, let's consider the following. Many psychologists contend that human personality is merely a "dominant" personality among many. Could these taped messages find their source in a secondary personality belonging to the researcher? Could submissive or secondary personalities be answering the questions put forth by our dominant personality through our own ability to affect matter? If we allow for the fact that mind-matter interaction IS the process by which these voices are imprinted, than this possibility cannot be ignored. This concept might also explain what appear to be segments of conscious conversation between two people, which are sometimes found on the tape. This conversation is normally between two distinct personalities, and often between a male and a female.

But what about the voices that sometimes come across in languages not known, or spoken by, anyone present? Is that super-ESP? Such answers would seem to be more complex than to accept survival. Furthermore, even if MMI by the researcher IS the method that imprints the voices, how do we explain the many other sounds recorded by researchers? Sounds of doors slamming, sounds of footsteps, sounds of furniture moving, sounds of glasses coming together as if in a toast, and other non-vocal sounds? If MMI is the vehicle, wouldn't EVP researchers be getting many more messages from easily identifiable living sources? In my opinion, we seem to be asking an awful lot of MMI.

In some cases, EVP is being used to gather historical data. Researchers have set up recording devices in historical structures or areas, and have received messages relating to the historical significance of the structure. Sarah Estep is the Founder and Director of the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena ( Sarah once recalled a taping session which took place in a building which was once part of a Civil War prison complex. Thousands of Confederate POW's were held here and died here. Her taping produced EVP messages relating to the prison and to the war including a male voce stating: "I have seen the war."

Sarah believed that these beings are leaving a magnetic voice imprint on the tape by manipulating available sounds in the atmosphere. As far as the researcher being the source of the message, she argued: "I have voices on the reverse side of the tape, and I have voices coming through OVER my own voice as I am speaking. I don't think that I'm the source." However, it should be noted that most believe the person recording does have an affect, acting in part as a psychic medium. Furthermore, it's possible that human MMI may be fully responsible for some EVPs (i.e. no spirits are involved).

What helps you get EVPs? Doing it. Having enthusiasm. Plus some investigators will run water while recording. This may improve the class A voices (as easy to understand or hear as the speech would be of a normal person) with this technique. Other's have used white noise generators, electronic feedback loops, or even Tesla coils to produce stray energy.

Once you're done recording, it's time to listen to it. This is really the hard part, because you may have to train your ear to hear them. It helps to have a denoiser program or sophisticated editing software, such as Adobe Audition or Adobe Soundbooth.

EVPs are rated as falling into one of the following categories:
  • Class A: As clear as a normal human voice or clearer. Does not require headphones and people generally agree on its content.
  • Class B: Requires a headphone to hear the voice, and not everyone may agree about what it says.
  • Class C: Requires a headphone to hear the voice, often needs amplification and filtering, and will seldom even be heard by others.

If you want to know more about EVPs and hear some good samples of what you may be able to get, you can click on the links below to go to the following sites:

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