With Whom Are We Speaking: The Mysteries of the EVP

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Katie_KingThe supposed materialization of Katie King during a seance

I go through periods of time where I am truly frustrated and upset with the whole notion that we can, or are, contacting the spirits of dead people. First of all, there is no way on Earth to prove that assertion. We assume it, but that requires a huge leap of faith that I am not always comfortable with. For one thing, the voices we hear on audio don’t seem terribly intelligent, well spoken or even nice; if these are people, they have little of import to say. They repeat something that we said, they simply limit themselves to “no” (this seems to be their favorite word), or they will knock and tap about the room. On several occasions, I have heard them say “do it,” in response to a query or some other, short and direct response. The “little girl” that followed around Camarillo just loved to sing and rarely answered any questions. She even, I dare say, followed another investigator and me to Linda Vista, humming loudly enough to earn us a spot on two television shows once her voice got around on the Internet. I say “she,” ‘he,” or “they” without having the foggiest notion who “they” are. Rarely, if ever, do these ‘spirits’ identify themselves, and so more often than not, we end up playing parlor games. “Make a noise. Tap a wall. Make the lights flash”.

I quickly run out of things to say to the spirits, since they are not forthcoming. We assume, maybe correctly, maybe not, that these spirits are making a huge effort to communicate with us, and therefore they can’t do much beyond one-syllable words and a few random noises. I listen to hours of audio. Most of what I think is paranormal turns out not to be. Maybe it was me, sighing too loudly, or someone else who forgot to tag a shift in position or a bodily noise. Sometimes I’m utterly amazed at the “proof” I collected, such as the infamous photograph of an evil entity that turned out to be a reflection of my own hand in a window. I try to bounce back from such episodes, but sometimes the lingering and persistent notion that I am deluding myself makes further investigations seem pointless, beyond the social interaction that I enjoy and need.

Then, of course, my instinct kicks in. Taken as a whole, my experiences and those of my team are NOT easily explained in terms of mass delusion or wishful thinking. As a whole, there is something very real happening that I do not understand. Even though I am really frustrated with the voices on audio for saying completely uninteresting things, at least I am hearing something that is utterly mysterious. That’s worth something, right? Allow me an example: in one of our audio clips, one of our team members asks if I want to turn the lights on, and before I respond, there’s a fast, whispery voice that says, “Turn it on”.

WHY? Who the hell is hanging around that cottage making mundane comments about the lights? In another clip, I ask if anyone minds if I take a flash photograph. A male voice (whispered) responds: “Do it.” OK, thank you for encouraging me to take a flash photo—that’s nice and all, but why aren’t you saying something about life after death, what it’s like to meet your Maker, or if the colors are different in Summerland? What is the deal with the commentary? In most of my audio from that night (I can’t reveal dates, locations or names). I hear an ongoing, whispered conversation that runs through most of the evening. Of course, I can’t make out what is said; it’s like listening to a conversation that takes place on the other side of a wall in the middle of the night, when you can’t sleep.

I suppose the “Other Side of the Wall” is a fortuitous way to phrase the issue. They are, literally, on the “Other Side” of a wall (which is Death). So. Something is interacting with me. I don’t know what, or who, it is. This makes me nervous. I don’t really like the fact that someone I cannot see or even hear at the time, is commenting on my and other’s actions in the room. In fact, the more that I think about it, I’m not so sure that we are dealing with ‘passed over’ humans here. It seems to me that what we are hearing are fragments of consciousness, not whole identities. The whole identity of a once-living person is NOT in the room with us. It’s something left behind, a kind of intelligence that has split from the original human being. What would one call that?

I don’t know how to wrap my head around this. There are many who would, at this point in my analysis, jump straight to the Demon hypothesis. Even though there is nothing in the Bible that states ghosts or spirits cannot be contacted, many Christians and Catholics believe that anything responding to one’s inquiries is demonic in nature. There is no evidence to back that up. However, I will say that after listening to perhaps hundreds of EVPs now, there is a certain pattern that I find disquieting. To better organize my thoughts, I will list the Six Characteristics of Electronic Voice Phenomena. Why only EVPs? My rationale is that the vast majority of our data comes from audio. It is VERY rare to catch a true anomaly on film or video, and I would venture to say that in the 4 years that I’ve been investigating, we have maybe 2 strange video clips and three odd photos. We have plenty of meaningful and amazing personal experiences, but we can’t offer those to the public as proof of anything. Other electronic devices such as the iOvilus or EMF readers are useful, but only in conjunction with other, corroborative data. So, we have our sound bites.

  1. EVP clips capture similar sounding voices. There is not a tremendous variety of nuanced voices out there in the ether. We tend to get similar sounding male, female and child voices. The lack of individual variation may have something to do with the medium in which sound travels. This may explain the distortion in our audio; we don’t know how “spirit voices” are imprinted on digital recorders. Do they utilize familiar sound waves? Is there some undiscovered mechanism that carries these voices? Can we call them “sounds” at all, from the standpoint of classical physics?
  2. EVP clips can sound inhuman or robotic. A substantial minority of EVPs have a metallic or robotic undertone. Some of them sound machine produced, even in the absence of machines that might be confused for intelligent voices. I am at a loss to understand or explain that phenomenon.
  3. EVP clips are repetitious. As I’ve noted above, it’s rare for a truly original EVP to come through. Most of them are repeating short phrases or single words. It’s as if there were a very limited vocabulary with which they are working, or it’s just too complicated to form longer or more original sentences. One could argue that if you only have the energy to say one or two words, you’ll choose the words that seem most relevant to the question or the situation. However, that does not explain the almost aggressive “do it” EVPs or those that seem to be  confrontational. An example of a confrontational EVP comes from an investigation where someone asks, “Do you know my name?” and the clear response is, “Is that all you want?” This was an exception to the one or two word rule, and we were thrilled; this happens so rarely. Most of the time, I am amazed at how homogeneous the responses are, how predictable; what kind of person is this? Again, perhaps not a person at all; simply a fragment of a once coherent and complete consciousness.
  4. EVP clips rarely tell us something we want to know, identify who is speaking, or clarify a mystery. That is quite frustrating for the investigator. Again, if these voices are fragments of consciousness or replays of old energy in a building, then this would make sense. A fully formed identity is not speaking to us. It makes me long for the days when mediums would materialize actual human beings through ectoplasm. I just wish I could believe that any of what materialization mediums produce is actually real. Sir William Crookes certainly believed Katie King was real, but paid dearly for such credulity. The very human need for clear and understandable answers is the reason we would like to believe that Katie King is genuinely from the Other Side; that is far more convincing and reassuring than a terrible voice that calls you a “coward” as you’re listening to your audio alone, in the middle of the night.
  5. EVP occur most often when you and your team are in the middle of a conversation. Again, a frustration for those of us looking for ‘pure’ conditions under which to work. But alas, the spirits or soul fragments prefer to talk to us when we are bantering back and forth about nothing in particular. Do they wish to join the conversation? Why do they clam up when we ask them direct questions?
  6. Don’t expect many people to listen to your EVP clips. Investigators are not the most collaborative of people. They are mostly quite independent and unfortunately, can be competitive. So your audio clip will probably languish in cyber space; for you, it might be good evidence for the afterlife. For another investigator, it’s just another bit of data that is probably the result of the re-fried beans and chips you downed a few hours before the investigation.

I should add one more thought before I wrap up. As an investigator into the paranormal, don’t automatically expect respect from anyone in academia, especially those working in the sciences. The conditions under which we record our EVP sessions do not meet the criteria for the scientific method. There is too much possible contamination of our audio for our data to be taken seriously. Paranormal events do not happen, typically, in laboratory settings. If these are human minds we are picking up on, they will behave in ways that do not work with strict, scientific protocol. This does not mean that our data is worthless, only that we should not call ourselves scientists or claim to employ the scientific method. The vast majority of us are not trained in that method. EVP are collected through human interactions; there is nothing wrong with that, but it is more of an art than a science.

Maybe we are not supposed to know too much on this side of reality. Sometimes I think that we are only granted bits and pieces of the truth, because the point of life in the here and now is to learn, not to know.

Thank you for reading.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

  1. First, Thank You! This strengthens my support for PH to know that the group is serious and not giving into the pop TV evidence. Your essay also got me looking deeper into the theory developed around EVP and the history. Most on the web looks silly from the scientific point of view, but Long Island Paranormal Investigators gets started, and then atransc goes down the rabbit hole (http://atransc.org/theory/white_paper-evp.htm). Maybe the atransc research gets there, but so much to read, and have seen it suggested, but nobody answered – can EVP be recorded without the microphone? Seems it would be quite possible in some of the theories. Again, Thank You.

    • parawife says:

      The Paranormal Housewives, aside from our catchy name, are a very serious group of investigators. We ponder these issues continually. As for recording EVP without microphones, how exactly do you mean? EVP may not be about “sounds” as we understand them, and may well be working on frequencies outside of what we perceive. Evidence for this is the fact that so many EVP clips contain voices or sounds that we did not hear at the time. If, however, they can impress themselves on digital audio, then clearly there are somehow produced and captured, although how that happens is the subject for much debate. I appreciate your comment, I really do–it’s so important that everyone in this field communicate and stay current on the theories. I will follow the link you provided, as well.

  2. Patrick says:

    As always, I love your posts! The more I read from you, the more I realize we are very similar in our theories and opinions. Too bad we aren’t closer. I plan on sharing this post. And ironically, I blogged a very similar post just a few hours ago before reading this. 🙂

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