I don't believe in ghosts, at least I haven't been totally convinced of them, even though I go to monthly meetings of the UFO & Paranormal Activity Research Society (formerly the Mutual UFO Network).
But, through the years of writing this column, I've lost two of my best buddies, Dachshunds named Rudi and Pepe, and have written about them:
But them, there was that very odd time, at the top of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel during a press conference for the movie "White Noise" about recording voices from the beyond.
I was going there fairly skeptical, and knowing about all the legends of the hauntings at the Roosevelt, just down the hill from our house.
When I heard the familiar dog whimper, I made some news myself, among the EVP world.
The story is no longer on the website I wrote it for, but here is a copy:
'White Noise' Shines Spotlight on Psychic Craze
By Mike Szymanski
January 5, 2005
The setting is arguably the most haunted location in Hollywood. At the
Roosevelt Hotel, where the first Academy Awards were held, there's an
unexplained cold spot in the grand ballroom. Marilyn Monroe's ghost
has been seen by hotel workers for decades in the mirror where she
primped and dabbed her lips just before making an entrance to a
premiere across the street at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Montgomery Clift's trumpet playing can still be heard on the 14th
floor where he lived during the height of his career.
I, personally, was witness to a psychic who was making a TV show about
Hollywood hauntings and felt the cold spot -- which seemed simply like
an errant air conditioning duct -- but I couldn't explain how the
hairs on my arm raised like static electricity only in that spot. That
was the best they got out of the hotel at the time, but it was strange
enough for me.
So, when Universal publicists held mini press conferences for "White
Noise," it was appropriate to have it at the honeymoon suite of Clark
Gable and Carole Lombard at the Roosevelt Hotel along with Tom and
Lisa Butler, who were consultants for the film.
The Butlers seem like an average couple, but they've got computers and
recording devices with them almost at all times since they've
discovered Electronic Voice Phenomenon. At the unusual interview
session, they asked the handful of skeptical journalists to sit in a
circle and one by one repeat the name of someone who has died, and
afterward they will play the tape back and listen for any voices.
I relate a story to the Butlers about when recording my grandmother's
funeral on a mountaintop in Switzerland, we played it back and heard a
woman's voice saying "It doesn't matter" in German. Family members are
convinced it's my grandmother, so I asked for my grandmother "Martha"
when it was my turn.
"We hear stories like that all time, and people don't realize it
doesn't take any sophisticated equipment to do this," says Lisa.
"Believe me, I didn't believe it at first either."
Working as a manager in Kansas City, Lisa read a book by Sara Estep,
"Voices of Eternity" and then tried to do her own recordings. She got
a distinguishable voice after three days and was both thrilled and
"You have do be quiet about paranormal things living in Kansas City,
but it changed my life," Lisa says.
Her husband adds, "I am the electronic engineer, I help get the
recordings and make them more clear, but I don't think I'm psychic or
With more than seven billion audio devices in the world, the idea of
EVP is that sometimes voices from beyond the grave can be recorded and
recognized -- if people listen for them. When Niall Johnson researched
the phenomenon for his screenplay, he found out that Thomas Edison and
Albert Einstein believed that electronic devices may eventually record
messages from the dead.
In the movie, Michael Keaton plays an architect, Jonathan Rivers,
who's wife Anna, played by Chandra West, disappears. Then, Rivers
meets up with Ray and Sarah (played by actors Ian McNeice and Deborah
Kara Unger) who have heard EVPs of Anna and seek out Jonathan to tell
him that his wife is dead.
The actors working in the movie are hesitant to buy into the
phenomenon, but they've heard many of the scratchy voice recordings
that the Butlers and others have made. "It's a universal response to
want to talk to the other side," says Keaton. "It's a role I wanted to
play. I'm intrigued by this architect who has such a trained logical
mind who cannot come to terms with this reality."
Unger adds that working on the film has made her more aware of the
supernatural, "We are very naive about energy and mass and time and
space and consciousness. I never say good-bye to people, I always
imagine I will see them again."
Director Geoffrey Sax and producer Paul Brooks have discovered a world
of ghost-hunting groups in virtually every major city, with
conferences that attract as many as 4,000. The Butlers have started
the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (
www.aaevp.com) which now have 300 members, but there are groups in 15
other countries, with Germany having 700 members, France with 1,700
and Brazil with 3,000 members who actively record spirit voices. With
the recent tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, people have used EVP to
try to contact friends and relatives and find out what happened to
them and if they're dead.
"I don't want to sound ridiculous about this but I'm just trying to
entertain the possibility that we may be on the verge of something
culturally extraordinary," says producer Brooks.
Many of the spirit recordings are available to be heard on the
Internet; ranging from a few words to whole sentences, such as the
woman who gets recordings when her Krups coffee maker percolates. (See
The Butlers say that the explanation from Keaton's character in "White
Noise" accurately describes the phenomenon, but the movie turns into a
dangerous thriller, and that's not accurate. "There's nothing
dangerous about doing these recordings," Tom smiles.
Now, the Butlers have written books and they tour the world talking
about EVP. They also moved to Reno.
"We have devices that make the hearing better, but we don't
necessarily know who is speaking," says Lisa.
Her mother died five years ago without knowing they were dabbling in
EVP, and after one of their conferences, the Butlers listened to the
recording and heard "I miss you, Lisa" very distinctly.
"I recognized immediately that it was her mother's voice," says Tom.
"There was no way to explain it."
As they've become better at recording voices, the Butlers discovered
that it helps to go to known haunted places, like the Hollywood
Roosevelt Hotel. After an hour of recording the session with skeptical
journalists, a few phrases such as "It's fascinating" or "Hello"
seemed to come out on the tape. However, nothing much except scratchy
sounds came when I repeated my grandmother's name "Martha."
Yet, when someone else named the word "Pepe," there was a distinct
grumbled barking that couldn't have been recorded 14 floors up in the
hotel. I didn't tell anyone at the time, but I gulped because the dog
sounded very distinctly like my irascible dachsund, Pepe, who died a
"Sometimes you don't get the person you've called for, sometimes it's
someone completely different," explains Lisa. "Who knows?"
Rudi was a remarkable dog, too, and arguably I was closer to him than to Pepe.
When he died, I had hoped that perhaps there would be some contact with my dear old friend. My psychic friend said that maybe he would reach out to me somehow, but I've yet to experience anything even remotely to the experience with Pepe above.
But then, there's always tonight.