In Memory of Sarah Estep, an ITC Pioneer

See also the Becky Estep’s eulogy and Sonia Contacts Sarah with EVP

American paranormal researcher Sarah Wilson Estep made her transition to the other side due to kidney failure on January 3, 2008. She was the premier pioneer researcher in Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) in the United States and was considered one of the world’s leading experts in the field.

Sarah Estep sitting in her experiment room

Sarah became a believer that death was the end of life at the tender age of seven. After the death of her grandmother, her grandfather married a woman who was the director of a funeral home. A couple times a year, Sarah’s family visited her grandparents in the funeral home where they lived. She was deeply distressed by the grieving families that came to view their loved ones, and when no one was around, she frequently sneaked into the viewing areas to look at the bodies. This traumatic experience was to shape Sarah’s life and create a thirst for knowledge that death was not the end of life. She dove into every nonfiction book that she could get her hands on, especially those dealing with paranormal topics. She found hope in the Seth books by Jane Roberts, as their words conveyed the premise that we were more than our physical bodies and that our lives continue after the death of the physical body.

During a visit to the library in 1976, Sarah came across The Handbook of Psi Discoveries by Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder. The book included two chapters on EVP and talked about the work of pioneer researchers Konstantin Raudive and Friedrich Jürgenson. It also mentioned the Americans Harold Sherman and Walter and Mary Jo Uphoff, who would later become Sarah’s good friends.

The Handbook of Psi Discoveries changed Sarah’s life and also the lives of the thousands of people she would later touch with her work. She felt that EVP could be the most tangible evidence of survival yet and decided to conduct experiments to see if this was true. She used her husband Charlie’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder and committed to trying to record for at least a week. At every session, she asked the same question, “Is anybody there?” but after five days, she had not recorded an answer. Out of boredom, on the sixth day she tried a different question, “What is your world like?” she asked. On playback of the tape, she heard a clear voice answer her question with the word, “Beauty.” Contact had been made.

Sarah founded the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena in 1982 and began publishing a quarterly newsletter. Membership in the Association grew from twenty to several hundred people in twenty-seven states and twelve countries. There was no Internet and Sarah was the glue that allowed researchers to gain knowledge about the work that others were doing. She held three national conferences and helped countless people learn about the voices and how to record them. For eighteen years, Sarah led the AA-EVP and then in the year 2000, she decided to retire and asked us (Tom and Lisa Butler) to take the Association over.

Mary Babcock (left), Sarah with Becky sitting, Erland Babcock (right) at the 2004 AA-EVP conference

In 1981, Harold Sherman asked Sarah to write about EVP for his book The Dead Are Alive and her work became Chapter 4. When Harold had to discontinue his ESP Research Associates Foundation due to health concerns, he showed his faith in Sarah by giving Foundation members a membership in the AA-EVP.

Sarah has written two books on her own. Voices of Eternity was published in 1988 and is now out of print but is a free PDF download at the AA-EVP website at (Books tab). Her most recent book, Roads To Eternity, is available through Galde Press via the same web page.

In 1996, the Dr. A. Hedri Foundation for Exopsychology (the study of the behavior of alien beings) and Epipsychology (study of post-death mental states) awarded Sarah the first prize for epipsychology in recognition of her accomplishments. She shared the prize that year with another famous researcher, George Meek of Spiricom fame.

To provide a tool with which people could specify the quality of their EVP samples, Sarah popularized a classification system originated by Konstantin Raudive using “Class A” as the highest quality example, “Class B” as a good quality example and “Class C” as the poorest and most typical recorded samples. Although more has been learned about how we hear EVP and why it can be difficult for the untrained ear to hear them, this grading system is in use to this day.

All of us working with EVP owe Sarah so much for her bravery in being amongst the first in our field. She recorded thousands of voices, published seventy-two newsletters and authored one of the foremost books on the voice phenomenon. In 2006, the Association that she founded presented her with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Atlanta, Georgia AA-EVP conference.

George Wynne (left) Martha Copeland, Sarah Estep, Tom and Lisa Butler

People have been writing to the Association with their condolences and memories of this great woman. Here are just a few of the comments:

“Her enthusiasm and passion for voice phenomena inspired me to continue seeking ways to communicate with those departed. She was clearly one of my main motivators as she has been for many.” J.S.

“I did not know Sarah personally, but I feel like I did through her work and through the legacy that she left behind. She definitely made the EVP field what it is today and I am so grateful for her loving efforts.” W.R.

“She never failed to acknowledge a letter or bit of info I would send her. At a time when EVP was still relatively unheard of, it was comfort to receive Sarah’s handwritten notes and have her publish my and others’ communications with the other side in her newsletter.” L.M

“My abiding memory of Sarah was the broad smile on her face when she opened her door to me on my first visit to her home in Maryland. It was 1983 and I had just read about her experiments in capturing the voices of dead people on recording tape…. For four hours, I sat entranced. Sarah not only gave me a purpose in life but changed it forever. I don’t ever remember seeing Sarah unless she was happy and smiling.” T.L.

“It is not the USA that owes to Sarah, but the world. Presently what we do, our research is not correctly evaluated, but in the future, it will be. When Survival has been scientifically proven and humanity jumps a new step forward in development, ITC pioneers will be remembered as heroes. And there will be our “Sweet Sarah,” as I used to call her. I am sure that she will go on working for the AA-EVP from wherever she is … not only for the benefit of this important association but for something bigger: Mankind.” S.R.

“I love this lady for the way she let us have our family back even for just a short time here on Earth until we meet them again on the other side.” L.N.

“Sarah’s book was my first foray into the world of communication with spirit, an event which would change my life. In a big way, Sarah is largely responsible for my current awareness of spirit.” K.M.

“I credit Sarah Estep with opening the door to this new world for me. I’ve thought of her every day since hearing of her illness and especially tonight since learning of her passing. I believe she will continue her work from the other side and guide those of us here who share her commitment to the study of EVP.” R.H.

After Sarah Estep’s funeral: Tom Butler (left), Becky, Cindy and Robert Estep, Lisa Butler. Robert is holding Sarah’s dog, Lovy.about Sarah. Your comments have been forwarded to the family.]

[We thank all who have written to us about Sarah. Your comments have been forwarded to the family.]

Sarah’s daughter, Becky Estep, made a contribution to the AA-EVP in Sarah’s name, and asked that others donate to the AA-EVP instead of sending flowers. These donations have enabled us to establish the Sarah Estep Research Fund, which will be used to promote and support research toward an empirical understanding of these phenomena. Researchers need not be AA-EVP members, but they will be required to follow agreed-upon protocols and produce a final report for peer review. Details of this initiative are available via You can honor Sarah and continue her legacy by donating to the research fund.

Our field is still very young, and there are people in many parts of the world who have braved the contempt of mainstream science to seek the truth about ITC. We honor their contributions, and especially Sarah for her bravery in giving people who had unexpected encounters with ITC a forum to be heard and where they could compare experiences free of the ridicule waiting for them in more public forums.

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