The Electronic Voice Phenomena
College Research paper by Thomas Wingert
The Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) is generally defined as the manifestation of sensible remarks of seeming paranormal origin on sound recording media, such as reel-to-reel tapes, audio cassettes, video tapes and recently computers. The voices, also known as “tape voices,” are often reasonable messages replying to corresponding questions, and in many cases, the contents of the messages and the characteristics of the speaker suggest that the recordings are transmissions by the deceased. The origins of these mysterious voices, their purpose and how it is possible are a hypothesis, and have been unexplained since their discovery four decades ago. Since extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, scientists only give credence to a theory if it can be proven by replication during a controlled experiment. If replication is not possible, then the subject remains a hypothesis. However, the existence of recorded paranormal voices on cassette tapes is undeniable and cannot be disputed by any logical argument.
In the spring of 1959, in Moelnbo, Sweden, the opera singer and painter Friedrich Juergenson made what could be considered the most important discovery in the history of human kind. His book, Voice Transmissions With The Deceased, details his accidental discovery during the recording of birdsongs. During replay he realized that voices were addressing him by name. After thinking his tape recorder was defective, he soon realized that an invisible intelligence was trying to establish contact with him, and the originators later identified themselves as the deceased (Jeurgenson, 1964).
Jürgenson pursued this phenomenon over many years and collected thousands of these voices until he was sure of its authenticity. He presented his conclusions to the public in 1963, which unleashed a diverse reaction. Scientists and audio experts examined the voices and performed their own recordings with their sealed tapes. Some of them were also addressed by name and received brief messages in regard to some personal matters, which only they understood. The absence of fraud was acknowledged by all involved. The Swedish media followed with many reports about the voices because his discovery seemed to offer proof for the existence of an afterlife. This revelation attracted many respected scientists such as Dr. Konstantin Raudive from Latvia, for his experiments yielded similar results. He published his book Breakthrough in 1971. Jürgenson's publication also captured the attention of Professor Hans Bender from the Institute of Parapsychology in Freiburg, Germany, who traveled to Sweden confirming the authenticity of this phenomenon.
Many people were encouraged by Jürgenson's book to conduct their own experiments, and to pass their experience on to others, which resulted in several EVP associations, and a wealth of information available to the public. A German EVP association, the VTF, was founded in 1976, in Wiesbaden, Germany, implementing the idea of “gathering experimenters under one roof” (VTF World Wide Web). The association provides quarterly newsletters, conducts scheduled weekend seminars at several locations in Germany and a major annual conference in the city of Fulda. The knowledge of this phenomenon has reached the United States and other English speaking countries in the 1980’s, since then, many people are pursuing EVP enthusiastically. For example, the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomenon, AAEVP, founded by Sarah Estep in 1982, is one of many American associations offering a wealth of information, including an e-mail list for members who share experience or discuss topics associated with this phenomenon. She published her book, Voices of Eternity, in 1988.
Recordings are conducted mostly by the use of a cassette recorder with a build-in microphone or preferably a separate microphone that is placed away from the recorder so it doesn’t record the vibrations of the motor, which is annoying when listening during maximum-volume replay. Evidence suggests that providing an energy source, i.e. “background noise,” aids the spirits in their attempt to communicate. A radio has been used as a background noise since EVP’s discovery; preferably it should be tuned to foreign news broadcast, which helps the experimenter hear messages received in English. However, objectivity is required, since English is a global language and may actually be part of the broadcast. In addition, the possibility of receiving a radio frequency from a radio station, passing airplane, police squad car, or taxi must be considered.
Many experimenters agree that a brand new cassette tape should be used to eliminate possible contamination of a previous recording, which is placed in the recorder, and the counter is set to “000”. Users are instructed to press “record” and start by stating their name, date and time, allowing each recording session to be identified later, followed by a greeting to the spirits, which is considered common courtesy. It is common practice to speak uninhibitedly with five to ten second pauses between statements or questions to allow for answers or comments. The pause is beneficial to the listener because it is difficult to hear the faint voices when they overlap one’s own voice. The duration of a recording session should be five to ten minutes, because the listening requires much time. A recording is ended by respectfully thanking the guests for attending and/or commenting. Finally one should stop the recording, rewind and then listen.
It is generally emphasized that patience and perseverance are prerequisites for listening to the tape voices. This challenge can be most frustrating to an inexperienced person, who may be expecting results only a long distance telephone company can provide. Such demands are unreasonable, considering the subject; it seems a miracle to have any contact at all. Headphones that seal around the ear help to isolate distracting outside noises during listening, which requires practice and total concentration, since most voices are quiet and as if from a great distance. The focus necessary for listening can be compared to a football player who can tune out a stadium of 80,000 screaming spectators in order to hear the coach’s call out a play.
Some voices or messages are spoken rapidly or slow, whispered, sung, and very noticeably grammatically incorrect. The general hypothesis is that it is their way of proving the authenticity of the transmission, which could average approximately two seconds in duration. Since manifestations vary in quality, many have acknowledged a basic A, B, C classification. The definition of a class “A” voice is universally accepted and undisputed, because it must be understood by anyone with normal hearing and without being told or prompted what it says. They are rare, but a thrill when received. Class “B” voices are more common and usually audible to experienced persons who have learned the skill of listening or others after being told what to listen for. A class “C” voice is simply unintelligible, but may have paranormal characteristics, such as the rapid muffled double thump preceding a transmission, as if breaking through some barrier, or a mechanical sound that may be compared to an on/off switching. However, any sincere experimenter would apply objectivity and disregard it, since guessing is unaccepted. It is common for experimenters to mark their tapes and keep journals for reference.
Confirming an EVP manifestation is possible by using two identical tape recorders, one for recording and the other for playing the background source, such as a tape from a foreign audio book. For example, if a paranormal recording seems audible on the recorded tape, then one should listen to the background tape at the same spot on the tape counter, and see if there is a difference. It is this method that so far provides the best proof that a manifestation has occurred, and confirms the existence of EVP.
Yet the phenomenon is not officially recognized by most of the scientific community, because it seems that the laws of physics don’t quite apply to EVP, which may be impossible for a scientist to accept. Scientists are certainly able to control chemical reactions or experiments in physics, biology, and so on, but can they control human beings who have made the transition into the afterlife? It appears that the deceased are truly in control of any contact and only they decide if they want to talk or not.
Fortunately this does not discourage some scientists in researching this phenomenon, for only scientific proof can be publicly accepted. Professor Imants Barušs from the Department of Psychology, Kings College, University of Western Ontario, published an article with the Journal of Scientific exploration, in which he details an experiment that resulted in the failure to replicate the electronic voice phenomenon. According to his article, he only found limited information on its history in parapsychology periodicals, various trade publications and newsletters in addition to an obvious absence of documentation about EVP in any mainstream English scientific journals (p355). Though his account of the experiment reflected a sincere attempt to replicate this EVP phenomenon; the experiment was flawed since it was based on very limited information that resulted in the implementation of basic mistakes in his procedures.
For example, he did not conduct the experiment. Instead, two hired persons performed it that had no prior knowledge about the EVP phenomenon, consequently lacking basic awareness and listening skills so emphasized by many experimenters. Considering the experience of many involved with EVP, the duration of his recording sessions were excessive, leaving less valuable time for listening and unfortunately a waste of hard earned funding. One of his staff actually described hearing her name “Gail” called, and a female voice saying “Tell Peter”. She said that it sounded like a woman she knew that had recently died and whose husbands name is Peter; yet it was disregarded since Professor Barušs felt that it wasn’t strong enough (p363). Surprisingly, he mentions that no attempt was made to search the Internet [my emphasis] or to research foreign publications. His report consequently placed EVP in an unfavorable position. Perhaps if Professor Barušs read Jürgenson's book, it would have provided him with much more insight to the matter and better fundamental information that could have influenced the outcome of his scientific experiment in favor of the phenomenon.
It is generally understood that even good research and preparation are not a guarantee for a successful recording. It may take several attempts, sometimes months, before a transmission has been recorded. This is puzzling, because evidence suggests that the deceased have amazing capabilities, including the ability to see us, answer a question before it is asked, manifest a recording in reverse or at different speeds, and they are multilingual. So why are many attempts unsuccessful? Why don’t they simply tell us how to improve the connection, such as constructing some ingenious electronic apparatus? No one knows. Perhaps their knowledge is limited and they don’t know, or they do, but prefer silence for a justifiable reason. One hypothesis may be answered by asking a question, “What would the global impact be if there were scientific proof of an existing afterlife?”
It seems reasonable to assume that the effects would be extremely diverse and not necessary positive. However, it is the class “A” voices that offer the best argument of the phenomenon’s authenticity, leaving no other logical choice but to recognize EVP as an unexplainable fact, and not a belief. The awareness seems to be steadily increasing on a global scale, for searching the World Wide Web with the keyword “electronic voice phenomenon” on AOL in June of 2002 resulted in 72900 hits. Apparently there is only one way to convince oneself of its existence, which is to do a recording by oneself, alone and with all possible interferences removed. If we as human beings understand this phenomenon or not, or accept its existence or not, it doesn’t matter, because all things considered, it seems EVP is here to stay.
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