Articles - EVP/Curious Audio
What Are EVP?
EVP - Electronic Voice Phenomena - are voices or other sounds that were not physically heard, but appear in audio recordings. Most of you are probably familiar with this expecially with all the TV shows and movies. However, just because you hear a strange noise or voice in a recorder or video, doesn't mean it is an EVP. What happens is, for some reason, while running an audio recorder or video camera, their voices/noises can be captured via the device's microphone. It is assumed that this is due to "them" speaking on a range of frequency outside of the range we are able to hear. When we find what we believe to be an EVP, we hope to use that information to tell us a bit about "who" is there or what happened. It's helpful if we can return to a location to use the possible information gathered to attempt further "conversation".
"Catching" an EVP is as simple as I described above. You simply have some device recording audio. When you review that audio/video, sometimes you hear voices or noises that were not audible while present. Paranormal Investigators, if trained properly, mark any and all noises they hear while present, so not to confuse the tech listening to the audio in review. It is important to note, though, that just because the reviewer hears a voice/noise that wasn't marked doesn't mean it is an EVP. Perhaps another investigator whispered and forgot, thought it irrelavent or didn't realize it. Perhaps the recording investigator became intranced in what they were doing and didn't mark the audio. Also, this world is full of invisible sound waves. There are short-wave radios, CB radios, cell phones, etc. What's important to understand, is these sound waves are waves - like the ripples in water. they have peaks and gullies. If an audio device catches even just a couple of words from one of the "peaks or gullies", it could be interference - just caught the right part of the wave/s. It has been said that the type of device used can affect how much interference it is susceptible to. The digital equipment may have issues with picking up these other high/low end frequency waves due to their digital format of recording. Also, to upload such equipment to a computer, there is only so much room via the USB used for the transfer of information. Bit rates are lost, which means that the upper and lower ends of frequenciy can be lost upon uploading the files. Analog devices (devices that require film or tape) simply record what's there and upload this "stamped" information as a whole. The problem with using analog devices is they are "messy". The audio is garbled with ground noise and they require the constant purchase of film/tape/cassettes/ etc. It is possible to "protect" digital format devices, but is arguably unfeasibly expensive to do it right. The idea is, the device needs to be grounded so not to catch these foreign "waves" and only real copper is to be used. Using these types of materials for a portable devise would prove to be not only genious, but also very expensive. I've heard people making these grounding devices, known as Faraday Cages, with relatively inexpensive materials. Either way, whether an unmarked known voice or interference, you have to be prepared to throw some audio away if it's at all possible it came from some known source.
Well, then, if this "interference" happens so readily, you may ask, then how are you able to tell the difference between EVP and interference? That's a good question. There is audio editing software that we use to analyze the audio. It does show us certain graphics that can help determine whether the "voice" we're questioning is, in fact, an EVP. However, there are times when these unexplained voices do show on the editing software graphics as a normal, human voice. This is most notably the case when the unexplained voice was physically heard while on location. However, I believe, that there are also times when "they" speak that it wasn't heard on the spot, but should've been. For example, I listen to a lot of this type of audio. I believe that my sense of hearing has been strengthened due to all my audio review. There have been many times when I am sure I heard someone whisper on location and I react strongly because we certainly don't want people whispering when, upon audio review, we listen for those soft voices. Most times, when no one has whispered, I do hear a soft voice (sometimes more audible) when reviewing the audio (see Audio Sensitivity article below). Now, if I "drill" people about the whispering (on location) and everyone swears they didn't say anything. I, then, capture a soft voice at that very time , doesn't that mean it was audible and would show as normal vocals on the audio editing software? There are times, too that I wear an amplified microphone and have heard voices when no one else did - a great example of this is on our Ipswich investigation audio #A40.2.
There are other devices for listening to "them" as well. There are devices mostly known as "Ghost Boxes" that scan radio channels at an extremely high rate of speed. It is proposed that when used during an EVP session (session where you ask "them" questions) if you get things like direct responses or full sentences, it would be too coincidental for it to just a glitch - that these are, in fact responses from "them". There are also devices known as the Ovilus or PX device. These have an electronically stored word bank and supposedly "spirits" are able to figure out how to use these devices to produce words that are audible through a speaker. The PX actually has a screen that shows the user words that were used. Many argue the sensibility of using these types of devices. With "Ghost/Spirit Boxes", audio pareidolia/matrixing can very easily happen. This is when your brain will make sense of nonsense and will "hear" familiar things and is only natural, especially if the property's history is known, to seemingly tie-into the known historical facts or names. As for the Ovilus or PX devices, how do we know that some sort of digital or radio wave isn't interfering with the device causing it to sound--out or pick a word?
Any of these forms of capturing these "spirit" voices have to be very well controlled. It is important whether using an audio device, some sort of meter device or flashlight (are made to blink or turned on/off for yes/no questions) that you repeat questions in various forms. Doing so, may rule out interference of some other device or person or even just coincidences. It may not either, but it is so very important to control the devices. It is also important, if able to, the team try to reproduce sounds even if they have to return just to try that. If a strange sound can be , even remotely, reproduced, then that sound can not be proposed as evidence. There's just no "ifs, and or buts" about this. TV shows produce a show - A SHOW. When they automatically assume certain anomalies in their audio devices, meters, etc. is always accepted evidence, they are foolish. I also don't like when they present audio in a very matter-of-fact way. I will discuss more of this in the next article, but it's just not responsible for them to say the audio says exact words and is relevant to their location.
So, unexplained voices can be captured and there are various ways to "hear" them. Once we rule-out any audio that can possibly be naturally-casued, it is important to understand the dangers of listening to them. which is discussed in the next article.
Photo: Debbie Wilson
Listening To EVP
Now, that we know that not all sounds that show up on audio are evp. Listening to recorded audio, trying to find those curious high and low-end frequencies to reveal these "voices" can be quite daunting and tricky.
Typically, a group is at a location investigating for hours. They may have several recording devices (I would include listening to video tapes for these same anomalies). It can be easy to miss some.
The real problems are things we call "matrixing" and "pareidolia". Matrixing and Pareidolia are the same thing by definition. In fact, there are many official definitions for matrix and none refer to this phenomenon, but in this field, we have a universal definition. Both are a phenomenon of the brain. When sensory information (visual, audio, tactile, etc.) comes to the brain that doesn't have any order/sense to it, the brain can't process "nonsense" very well. The brain's first function will be to make sense of the nonsense and process the information as something familiar. In our field, we refer to matrixing as more of how our brains make something out of nothing. For example, while listening to audio, especially for a long period of time, you may feel like there was a very soft sound(s) that, in fact, was never there. Pareidolia, is more of a physical mix-up. In the case of listening to audio, you may hear sounds of a door closing or the floorboards creaking and interpret the sounds to be voices. In the example above, it is actually more of an example of visual pareidolia, but for all practical purposes, it's still a processing issue of the brain and people in our field know that most blend the terminology.
Another problem when listening to audio, is that we do not know the context of the words we do pick up. It would be easy to assume that if we ask a question and there is a distinct, unknown voice or a voice of someone not present that gets revealed in audio analysis, that it is an answer or relatable to the question (or conversation) that was vocalized. There are rare times when it is undeniable we are receiving a reply/answer. Even more rare is to get that reply/answer in a whole sentence. Most times, if you do get a distinct voice, it is a partial sentence or just one word. It is important to understand that what we are hearing may be something totally unrelatable. "They" could be interacting with another member's question/conversation. I even believe that "they" talk to each other and you may have just picked up a small portion of that "conversation". Of course, pareidolia can really affect our intrepretation of their actual words.
So now that I've pointed out some very real problems involved with listening to audio, there are things I do when listening to audio and feel it is important for other researchers to do as well. Take frequent breaks when listening to audio. This will keep your mind fresh and minimize matrixing or pareidolia issues. Always be prepared to listen objectively - edit yourself. Go back to the audio later especially if you listen to a few clips without referencing what you originally thought you heard. What I often find, is I now still hear a voice but think its saying something very different. If I now hear the same general pattern or amount of syllables, I don't discount it. I now write those thoughts as well. However, if now what I hear is totally different from what I originally thought, I don't take the clip that seriously. There are times I have caught myself being victimized by matrixing or pareidolia because now I can not hear anything or realize it was a naturally-caused sound. That clip gets eliminated. Whether you edit yourself or not, it is always important to present the clips to others. Three hits is a win and three strikes is an out. This means if others are not hearing at least something similar, you have to discount that audio clip. Just like any science experiment, we present our "findings" and if others can't collaborate it, the experiment failed. If the "others" you present the audio to were present during the investigation, they may also be able to provide a natural explanation for certain "voices" or noises in question.
There are times, when I truly feel I have something but is not being fully collaborated by others or by analysis in editing software. I don't count them as viable, but I also don't get rid of them either. I rank my audio in my log - with underlines, red text, highlighting, etc. Obviously, the log entries that don't get any special attention, are the ones I consider non-usable, but keep them for future reference. A great example of this is when I have a voice clip of someone I know was there and it sounds like them, but its so odd that no one can make sense of it, I keep it for reference. If we get more of this type of thing happening and no one can make sense of it, then maybe a pattern is developing of something we can't quite explain.
I also believe that though there are times when listening to audio and there are naturally caused noises (floor creaks, bangs of doors, etc.) that could lead to obvious matrixing/pareidolia, there are also times when voices are present with these noises as if they were using the energy created to make the sound/s in order to speak. Author Michael Markowicz (EVP, Electronic Voice Phenomena, Massachusetts Ghostly Voices) believes this sort of phenomena does happen. If the analyst really feels they have vocals (possible EVP) along with these noises, it is imperative they try to re-think it or come back to it with a "3rd party" view AND present it/them to others for their input. There have also been times that with a possible EVP, I have also heard a "pop" noise or something similar . It's as if it was the sound of "their" energy to "speak". Again, it is very important to analyze from a non-objective point of view and present it to others. There are groups on social networking sites (ie - Facebook) that are made up of paranormal investigators, techs, etc. that offer their advice, knowledge and support to help your questions regarding possible evidence.
Basically, if you use controls during the investigation (marking known sounds, repeat questions in various ways, etc.) and edit yourself in analysis, you will find that what you present will be pretty credible. Never concider what you hear nor what you present to be "written in stone". We all must be prepared to hear others' thoughts/opinions or criticism if we are to be credible. Please also remember when listening to these "voices", we do not know the context of what may have actually been said. This is why we labeled our "EVP" page as "Curious Audio Clips" as this is a more appropriate way to classify them.
Audio Sensitivity - My Thoughts
I don't know if this is a theory already presented by someone, but I have a few thoughts on people's ability or nonability to hear these high/low-end frequency "voices". These thoughts are due to discussions I used to have with Carrie Furmanick (the founder of the group Joe and I used to be members of).
The discussion was: if people are reviewing audio for hours upon hours, listening for those mostly subtle "voices" that seem to happen at the very high and low ends of audio frequencies, is it not possible for those people to have become more sensitive to hearing them? - As if their hearing has been trained to hear them? A blind or deaf person's other senses become heightened due to the needed concentration of these other senses.
I have noticed on a number of occasions, whether I'm using my amplified microphone with headphones or not, that I have marked my audio recording that I heard soft whispers that I swore I heard and no one could claim any talking, whispering or the like. I often get rather "excited" in my questioning of "Who whispered?", directing it to others present. If people were whispering and it wasn't getting marked, I could be stuck on that part of audio for quite awhile trying to figure out if was one of us or not. So, when I "drill" people around me asking about the whispering and they can not provide a positive response, then upon audio review/analysis I pick up a voice there, perhaps I was just lucky? Perhaps, someone did whisper. However, I am finding this happens a lot. I don't think there's a conspiracy in the paranormal field to trick me. I also don't think that frequent times people swear they didn't whisper , then getting a soft voice (not always so soft) on audio is just a coincidence. I can't say for sure, but it does happen often. There are times, I mark hearing things I may have heard while at the investigation that others didn't hear and get those soft (or not so soft) voices on audio. - A great example of this is from the investigation report/audio I have on this site. I was wearing my amped microphone/headphones. When I first put them on, it is important for me to get used to the existing sounds and how they are coming through the microphone and to mark the audio for them by stating I heard a certain sound or person talking or asking a fellow investigator/s if they heard something as well. If you listen to IP-A-40 - you hear me mark my audio for sounds. I was constantly asking my team partner if she could verify the sounds I was hearing like, other's on the 3rd floor, people outside, her stomach, etc. There were several times I swore I heard things she couldn't collaborate. At first, I was thinking that it was because of the microphone that I was hearing these very distant noises (even though I felt like they could have been the very whispers we listen for on audio). At a certain point, I really felt I was hearing a voice/voices and had asked "I think I'm hearing you. Can you please speak louder so that I may undertand you." Afterwards, I mark that I was pretty certain I got a possible response - that I heard something. Much to my amusement, the audio revealed a male voice audibly yelling "Get the F*** out!" (collaborated by several others when they, too, heard the audio clip).
On the opposite end of this thought/theory, is that if people can be color-blind or tone deaf, is it not possible that people can be frequency-deaf? Can't certain people possibly have greater difficulty hearing these frequencies even if they're hearing them via speakers and/or headphones?
If any or both of these thoughts/theories were found to be true, it could make for some of the differing results on audio analysis. It could also be the cause of much frustration during an investigation. Can you imagine this scenario: One person keeps asking "What's that?", "Did you hear that?" "Who said that?" Now, the other person/people keeps saying they don't hear a thing. The first person walks out either questioning his/her sanity or frustrated because they feel strongly that they heard these things. The second person is now convinced the first person is out of their mind, too "spooked", etc.
I do feel strongly that these thoughts can actually be reality, but needs to be tested by a number of people interested in the truth and it would need people thought to be on either end of the two thoughts to unbiasedly participate. It would need to be controlled. Then again, we can't even prove these "voices"/phenomena are even what we think they are - and this is an overall problem when studying the pararnomal.