The ABC’s of EVP
Since the invention of the phonograph in 1877, mankind has had a fascination with recording sounds to be played back at a later time. Music is the most popular material, but over time we have come up with creative uses for audio recordings. It should be noted that Thomas Edison’s phonograph invention was not the first to record sounds. That achievement was the brainchild of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. His phonautograph, patented in 1857, could record sounds, but not play them back. Instead, the sound waves were etched into soot-coated paper, giving a visual display of the audio recording. Thomas Edison was able to take the same general concept and turn it into the ancestor of what paranormal investigators use today as their most popular and trusted tool for investigating - the audio recorder.
Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) is the mechanical recording of voices or sounds that were not audible at the time of the recording. One of the first known attempts to record EVP was in the 1940’s by Attila von Szalay as a method to validate his ghost photography. The EVP movement gained steam in the 1970’s when it was discovered that the potential for communicating with the departed could potentially be achieved using an analog tape recorder. While most “paranormal” EVP recordings are faint and vague, some are quite compelling and all are subject to skepticism and criticism. What, in this field of research, isn’t?
Some skeptics believe that EVP recordings are nothing more than apophenia or pareidolia - auditory matrixing. They feel that the brain is making rational conclusions and invisible connections to information that does not exist. In some cases, they’re right. In other cases, well, let’s just say that the evidence is a little too compelling to dismiss.
Keep in mind, genuine EVP is not heard or observed at the time of the recording. It is only when the recording session is played back and something is heard that wasn’t observed at the time of the recording, do you have EVP. A voice or sound that is observed at the time of the recording is not considered to be EVP. It is known as a disembodied voice or an anomalous sound.
There are two traditional types of audio recording devices: digital and analog. Analog recorders use magnetic tapes to store the recorded sounds. Because of the magnetic tape, the recordings naturally contain white noise or static within them. Some investigators believe this background sound is an advantageous effect that potentially increases their chances of obtaining EVP, although it is known for decreasing the quality. Due to technological advances, the tapes are becoming increasingly rare and can only record thirty minutes to one hour at a time before the tape has to be turned over or replaced. A digital device will record audio into computerized “files” within the recorder. They are capable of recording multiple hours of footage and the recordings are cleaner with reduced background interference. Some investigators opt to use white noise generators to put some static back into their recordings and potentially increase their odds of obtaining EVP, however, this technique is subject to heavy scrutiny and accusations of pareidolia.
Some investigators prefer to turn on a recording device and leave it continuously running. They may leave the room during recording or they may stay to investigate or otherwise go about their business. This method can be both beneficial and disadvantageous. Should the investigator decide to stay in the room during the course of the recording session, he/she can verify all sounds and voices present during the time of the recording. This practice is known as “tagging”. Tagging is making a verbal reference to any voice or sound made during the course of an audio recording session in order to eliminate potential false-positives. The downside to long-term recording sessions is the reviewing process. The human mind does not have a significantly long attention span where one can hyper-focus. It is believed that reviewing audio sessions longer than five minutes can allow for the mind to wander and the investigator to lose focus. In doing so, this can lead to missed opportunities within your audio file. The advantage to the continuous recording session is that you are less likely to miss opportunities for potentially capturing evidence.
Other investigators prefer to record in short “burst” sessions. These usually involve Q&A sessions, where the investigator(s) ask a series of questions in hopes of receiving a response from the departed when they play back the recording. Q&A sessions aren’t a requirement of this method though, as spirits are notorious for not performing on command. The advantage to this method is apparent during the analysis of the audio recording. By reviewing a shorter recording, you are able to better focus on what you are listening to and can more conclusively identify the sounds you are listening to. Of course, by not continuously recording, you are potentially missing opportunities to capture evidence.
Traditionally, investigators obtain their recordings and analyze them after the conclusions of the investigation. This usually involves uploading the recordings to computer software so that they can actually see the sound waves and look for anomalies in addition to listening for them. However, a method that is increasing in popularity is the “blast EVP” session. In a blast EVP session, the investigators obtain their recordings in short, two-to-three minute segments, then play back the recordings immediately following the session. This is a good technique for those seeking instant gratification and can potentially let you know if you are investigating in an “active” location. The downside though is that most audio recorders are designed for recording and don’t provide for quality playback. The best method would be to save your audio files and listen to them again with the assistance of either headphones, audio software, or both. This can serve as a double-check of your audio recordings and will potentially allow you to acknowledge something you may have missed during your blast EVP session.
Regardless of which recording method you utilize, which audio review technique is your favorite, or whether you choose to work with digital or analog devices, remember that with great patience comes great reward. If you put forth the effort to provide quality evidence to your potential clients and the paranormal community, the hassles you go through to obtain it will be worth it in the end.
Founder, Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators
© 2017 Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators.