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EVP - what is Electronic Voice Phenomena?


Thomas Edison 

It is no longer uncommon to hear the term electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP, used when discussing the possibility of an afterlife. In fact the term has been popularized by many of the paranormal reality shows that have captured an increasingly growing audience. For millennia claims of ghostly apparitions or mysterious knocks on the walls have been reported by those convinced that some existence beyond death haunts them, but only recently, within the past few decades, have claims of recorded voices from “the other side” started to emerge.

It is rumored that Thomas Edison attempted, and may even have succeeded, in developing a device designed to listen to the dead. While there is no evidence that Edison actually built this trans-dimensional telephone, many claim today to be able to capture spectral voices through electronic recording devices.

Adobe Audition is a software program often used by EVP analysts 

While some might argue that the study of EVPs began during the spiritualist movement, sometime in the late 1800s, EVP research hadn’t gained wide-spread acceptance until the early 1980s. William O’Neil designed an electronic device called “The Spiricom” in 1980. O’Neil claimed to have physically received the specifications to build this device from a scientist, George Mueller, who had been deceased for six years. In 1982, Sarah Estep founded the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP) to increase awareness of EVP and to develop standards for capturing and analyzing such phenomena. Today, popular ghost hunters, such as The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and the Ghost Adventures team, attempt to capture EVP as a standard procedure during a paranormal investigation.


What are EVPs? In short, EVPs are voices that are revealed during the playback of a recording that were not present during the actual time of the recording. EVPs usually appear as a single word or short phrase, but in rare cases may stretch into an entire sentence. There is some debate among paranormal researchers as to whether EVPs are engraved onto the recording through some kind of electromagnetism or whether EVPs are actual sound waves that are received on a frequency outside our hearing range. However there is little debate among researchers as to their existence. While most paranormal researchers claim that EVPs are voices of those who have passed away, some alternative theories range from telepathic projection to inter-dimensional communication.

While paranormal researchers claim that EVPs are attributed to some paranormal source, skeptics argue that EVPs are nothing more than stray radio waves, pareidolia, or misperceived natural voices. In attempt to ensure the integrity of its EVP studies and to help mitigate such criticism, AA-EVP published a list of criteria that a researcher should adhere to when determining whether a sound or voice is indeed an EVP. Among the criteria, cadence, pitch, frequency, and volume top the list as essential elements to consider. 

Anyone can search the internet and find a plethora of alleged EVPs submitted by paranormal investigation teams across the country. However, it is not possible to determine, from listening to an audio file posted on the internet, whether proper protocols were followed to ensure that what is being heard is truly an EVP and not attributable to a natural source. Some of the protocols that are necessary to maintain evidentiary integrity include; speaking clearly, avoid whispering, utilizing reliable recording equipment, and making note of any sounds that may be misinterpreted as paranormal during playback.

One of the largest obstacles, according to some experts, in determining whether a voice is an EVP or not, is the quality of audio recording equipment used during the recording. Many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators operate on a tight budget and are somewhat limited in their capability to acquire professional-grade equipment. Budget-priced recording devices often compromise quality by offering an inadequate sample rate and frequency response. Digital recorders take a sample of actual audio and reproduce that sound during the digital conversion process. The more samples a recorder is able to capture, the more accurate its reproduction of the actual sound will be. Thus, the higher the sample rate, the truer the sound. Low sample rates can create aliasing. Aliasing is a term used to describe the process of substituting frequencies in lack of perfect information. In other words, lower sample rates can create false sounds or distort the actual sound. This poses an increasingly difficult issue for paranormal investigators to address. Trying to sort through the distortion and interpret what should be the actual sound can be a tiresome and fruitless endeavor. However, with increasing technology comes better equipment for a smaller investment. Manufacturers such as Olympus and Zoom are producing quality recorders with adequate sample rates from $100 to $150.

As the research on EVPs continues, it is hoped that someday, scientists and researchers will be able to conclusively define this phenomenon and discover some new truths about our existence, either in this life or the next. Until that day, investigators and ghost hunters will continue to struggle with these elusive phenomena in an attempt to better understand that which they continue to chase.


For more info: Visit The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena