Monday, September 12, 2011

The Beginner's Guide to EVP

This article is found on ECWPI

By Kurt

East Central Wisconsin Paranormal Investigations


THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO EVP Hi! I'm Kurt, a member of Wisconsin's ECWPI paranormal investigation group. In this article, I will be discussing EVP, what it is, possible theories behind it, and how to go about trying to capture some EVPs of your own.

EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon, which is more or less a fancy way of saying "capturing unexplained voices or sounds on an audio recorder". This is usually attempted at a location that is supposedly haunted, but many people have had success capturing EVPs in their homes, in their cars, or just about anywhere. And since it is relatively cheap to obtain the necessary equipment, trying to capture EVP is perhaps one of the easiest methods of gathering evidence of a possible haunting, and it can done both by experienced ghost hunters and new ghost hunters alike.

The general concept behind EVP, communicating with the dead, goes back a long way. Thomas Edison himself stated in the 1920s that he believed a device could be built which would enable us to communicate with the dead. But it was in the 1970's that the concept of what we know now as EVP first took shape. A woman named Sarah Estep begin picking up what she believed to be voices on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and she went on to found the group "The American Association Of Electronic Voice Phenomenon". I can remember being utterly fascinated with EVP (and a bit creeped out by it) the first time I came across it, which was on the show "Unsolved Mysteries" back in the late 1980's or early 1990's. With the recent popularity of shows like "Ghost Hunters" or "Most Haunted", and EVP-related movies such as "White Noise", EVP has almost become a household term.

One of the lingering questions about EVP is this...why is the recorder able to pick up these noises when our ears can't? Many of the clearest EVPs were not heard in person, and were only found after reviewing the audio at a later time. Several theories exist for why this happens. Some people believe that spirits have an ability to somehow project their voices or thoughts directly onto the tape or the digital recorder, while others believe that these sounds occur at a frequency higher or lower than our ears can recognize. No definite answer exists to this question. One of the more prevalent theories about spirits is that they are a form of electromagnetism, and this could tie in with the fact that these spirits are able to communicate more easily with sensitive machines than they are with the human auditory system.

So, how does someone go about capturing an EVP? Luckily, it's quite possibly one of the cheapest methods available of experiencing and documenting paranormal activity. While people can (and do) spend tons and tons of money on good, highly sensitive equipment for getting EVP, a beginner can spend $20 - $30 and still get surprisingly good results.

The main piece of equipment needed is, of course, a recorder of some kind. There is much debate in the ghost hunting community about whether magnetic (also known as "analog") tape recorders or digital recorders are better. Some people claim to a much higher success rate using one or the other. Both recorders have their advantages and disadvantages.

People who swear by magnetic cassette recorders claim that the actual process of using magnetic tape is better, since paranormal activity is often accompanied by electromagnetic forces and may produce better and more frequent EVPs. One downside to using cassette recorders is that cassette tapes must be constantly bought to use, since using the same tape over and over will cause sound to bleed through and create false evidence. Plus, most tapes have a 60 or 90 minute time limit, so the investigator must constantly change cassettes as time runs out. Couple this with the belief that only one side of a tape should be used, since sounds on the other side of the tape can bleed through, and you will find yourself spending a LOT of money on blank tapes. Having an actual cassette tape to study and hold as evidence, however, is a benefit for those who use cassette recorders. Cassette tapes are also noisier than digital recorder, and they quite often pick up the sound of the internal mechanisms of the recorder itself. Both of these problems can be fixed using a good attachable microphone and placing it away from the recorder, however.

With the advances made in digital technology, good digital recorders have become available at relatively low cost, but are still a bit more expensive than cassette recorders. Digital recorders have quite a few benefits, though. The most important benefit is probably the length of time that can be recorded. Even the cheapest digital recorders can record for 5-8 hours on their internal memory, and when you look at the fact that 8 hours on a cassette recorder could require anywhere from 8 to 16 cassette tapes, the expense of the digital recorder pays off in the end since the user doesn't have to buy blank tapes. The sound is also much clearer on digital recorders, and many digital recorders have a USB connection. This helps tremendously, because long sessions of audio can be downloaded within seconds onto a computer for study, rather than the real-time recording onto a computer that is required for a cassette. Some people believe, however, that downloading hours of audio into a computer using a USB cord lessens the quality of the audio.

In the end, I think it comes down to a matter of preference. I have used both types of recorders, and my personal opinion is that digital recorders are better. Due to the amount of available time, the clarity of the audio, and the small size of the recorder, it seems to be the better choice. But again, it's a matter of preference. you've got your recorder and you are in a supposedly haunted location. Now what do you do?

There are two main methods used for gathering EVPs. In the first method, the recorder is activated and is placed in a quiet location while the investigators go somewhere else, leaving the machine to record in the quiet room in the hopes that a voice or a noise will appear and the recorder will pick it up. One benefit of this type of recording is that if you DO get a voice, there won't be any confusion as to if it's one of the investigators voices or not, since there weren't any people in the room. Some people who use this method like to use the voice-activated feature of their recorders to only record when the machine picks up a noise. Most investigators advise against this, however, as the EVP could be so fleeting that, by the time the recorder kicks in, it could catch only the last few seconds of the EVP or miss it entirely.

The second main method of gathering EVPs is to have the recorder with you while you ask questions out loud in the hopes of getting a response on the recorder. This can be done alone or with a group. While this method may be more difficult because there is a chance that a captured voice could be someone in the group, there seems to be more success with this method than the first. Sometimes, the person doesn't even need to be asking questions to have an unknown voice appear and say something.

Again, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and the investigator can go with whichever he or she prefers. Personally, I use both. I have a recorder running on me at all times for when we are asking questions or are talking to each other, and I leave another recorder in a quiet room where it won't be disturbed. I have captured possible EVP using both methods. you have a potential EVP on your tape. Now what?

The easiest way to get the EVP onto a computer so it can be shared or studied is by using a patch cord (available at any Radio Shack or electronic store) and a sound editing program (such as Audacity, which is free to download). Or, if your recorder has a USB port, you can use it to load the sound file directly to the computer. In a future article, I will write more about the technical specifics of how to do this.

Once you have the sound file on your computer, you can use your sound editing software to clean the file, analyze the file, and clip the file so you can save it and send it to people. The best EVPs are the ones that you don't have to clean, because excessive cleaning can distort the original clip and can result in sounds that weren't there to start with.

There are three major classifications of EVP. They are:

Class A: This is an EVP that can be heard clearly by anyone listening to it and does not require cleaning or editing. What is being said in the EVP can be understood by everyone without being told beforehand what words or sounds to listen for. In other words, a perfect EVP.

Class B: This is an EVP that is audible, but may require some editing or cleaning. People will often have differing opinions on what is being said or what the noise is, or may not even be able to understand it. But the sound should be fairly clear and words should be fairly understandable to be a Class B. This is the most commonly found class of EVP.

Class C: This is a clip that is cleaned, edited, cleaned again, and is still a mess. There might be mumbling or an undecipherable whisper, but nothing intelligible can be picked out. But if the investigator is 100% sure that the voice came from an empty room or isn't the voice of an investigator, it still is an EVP. Just not a very good one.

Sometimes there are other classifications. Some groups use a "Class R" or a "Class D", which means that the EVP is gibberish forwards, but is intelligible when played backwards. But, for the most part, Class A, B, and C are the three major classifications.

So, now that you understand the basics, grab a recorder and try to capture some EVPs for yourself! It's one of the cheapest, easiest, and most rewarding methods of paranormal investigation, and who might even be the person who finds definitive proof of life after death! Good luck!

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