What is Electronic voice phenomena (EVP)

What is Electronic voice phenomena (EVP)

Electronic voice phenomenon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Electronic voice phenomena (EVP) are electronically generated noises that resemble speech, but are
 supposedly not the result of intentional voice recordings or renderings. Common sources of EVP include static,

 stray radio transmissions, and background noise. Recordings of EVP are often created from background sound
by increasing the gain (i.e. sensitivity) of the recording equipment.[1]
Interest in EVP surrounds claims that it is of paranormal origin[2], although many occurrences have had natural
explanations including apophenia (finding significance in insignificant phenomena), auditory pareidolia (interpreting random sounds
as voices in one’s own language), equipment artifacts, and hoaxes.
Parapsychologist Konstantin Raudive, who popularized the idea,[3] described EVP as typically brief, usually the
length of a word or short phrase.[4]

[edit]History

As the Spiritualism religious movement became prominent in the 1840s–1920s with a distinguishing belief that the
 spirits of the dead can be contacted by mediums, new technologies of the era including photography were
 employed by spiritualists in an effort to demonstrate contact with aspirit world. So popular were such ideas
 that Thomas Edison was asked in an interview with Scientific American to comment on the possibility of
 using his inventions to communicate with spirits. He replied that if the spirits were only capable of subtle
 influences, a sensitive recording device would provide a better chance of spirit communication than the table
 tipping and ouija boards mediums employed at the time. However, there is no indication that Edison ever
designed or constructed a device for such a purpose.[5] As sound recording became widespread, mediums
explored using this technology to demonstrate communication with the dead as well. Spiritualism declined in
the latter part of the 20th century, but attempts to use portable recording devices and modern digital technologies
to communicate with spirits continued.[6]

[edit]Early interest

American photographer Attila von Szalay was among the first to try recording what he believed to be voices of
the dead as a way to augment his investigations in photographing ghosts. He began his attempts in 1941 using a
78 rpm record, but it wasn’t until 1956, after switching to a reel-to-reel tape recorder, that he believed he was
 successful.[7] Working with Raymond Bayless, von Szalay conducted a number of recording sessions with a
custom-made apparatus, consisting of a microphone in an insulated cabinet connected to an external recording
device and speaker. Szalay reported finding many sounds on the tape that could not be heard on the speaker
 at the time of recording, some of which were recorded when there was no one in the cabinet. He believed these
 sounds to be the voices of discarnate spirits. Among the first recordings believed to be spirit voices were such
messages as “This is G!”, “Hot dog, Art!”, and “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all”.[7] Von Szalay
and Raymond Bayless‘ work was published by the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1959.[8]
Bayless later went on to co-author the 1979 book, Phone Calls From the Dead.
In 1959, Swedish painter and film producer Friedrich Jürgenson was recording bird songs. Upon playing the tape
later, he heard what he interpreted to be his dead father’s voice and then the spirit of his deceased wife calling his name.[7] He went on to make several
more recordings, including one that he said contained a message from his late mother.[9]

[edit]Raudive voices

Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian psychologist who had taught at the University of Uppsala, Sweden and who had
 worked in conjunction with Jürgenson, made over 100,000 recordings which he described as being
communications with discarnate people. Some of these recordings were conducted in an RF-screened laboratory
and contained words Raudive said were identifiable.[4][6] In an attempt to confirm the content of his collection
 of recordings, Raudive invited listeners to hear and interpret them.[6][7][8][9][10] He believed that the clarity of the
 voices heard in his recordings implied that they could not be readily explained by normal means.[6] Raudive published his first book, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic 
Communication with the Dead in 1968 and it was translated into English in 1971.[11]

[edit]Spiricom & Frank’s Box

In 1980, William O’Neil constructed an electronic audio device called “The Spiricom.” O’Neil claimed the device
 was built to specifications which he received psychically from George Mueller, a scientist who had died six years
 previously.[2][6] At a Washington, DC press conference on April 6, 1982, O’Neil stated that he was able to hold
two-way conversations with spirits through the Spiricom device, and provided the design specifications to
 researchers for free. However, nobody is known to have replicated the results O’Neil claimed using their own
Spiricom devices.[12][13] O’Neil’s partner, retired industrialist George Meek, attributed O’Neil’s success, and the
inability of others to replicate it, to O’Neil’s mediumistic abilities forming part of the loop that made the system
 work.[2][14]
Another electronic device specifically constructed in an attempt to capture EVP is “Frank’s Box” or the
“Ghost Box”. Created in 2002 by EVP enthusiast Frank Sumption for supposed real-time communication with
the dead, Sumption claims he received his design instructions from the spirit world. The device is described as a
 combination white noise generator and AM radio receiver modified to sweep back and forth through the AM band
selecting split-second snippets of sound. Critics of the device say its effect is subjective and incapable of being
replicated, and since it relies on radio noise, any meaningful response a user gets is purely coincidental, or simply
 the result of pareidolia.[15]

[edit]Modern interest

In 1982, Sarah Estep founded the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP)
in Severna Park, Maryland, a nonprofit organization with the purpose of increasing awareness of EVP,
and of teaching standardized methods for capturing it. Estep began her exploration of EVP in 1976, and
 says she has made hundreds of recordings of messages from deceased friends, relatives, and other individuals,
 including Konstantin Raudive, Beethoven, a lamplighter from 18th century Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
and extraterrestrials whom she speculated originated from other planets or dimensions.
The term Instrumental Trans-Communication (ITC) was coined by Ernst Senkowski in the 1970s to refer
more generally to communication through any sort of electronic device such as tape recorders, fax machines,
 television sets or computers between spirits or other discarnate entities and the living.[2][16] One particularly
 famous claimed incidence of ITC occurred when the image of EVP enthusiast Friedrich Jürgenson
(whose funeral was held that day) was said to have appeared on a television in the home of a colleague,
 which had been purposefully tuned to a vacant channel.[2] ITC enthusiasts also look at TV and video camera
feedback loop of the Droste effect.[17][18]
In 1979, parapsychologist D. Scott Rogo described an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which people report
 that they receive simple, brief, and usually single-occurrence telephone calls from spirits of deceased relatives,
 friends, or strangers.[19]
In 1997, Imants Barušs, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, conducted a
series of experiments using the methods of EVP investigator Konstantin Raudive, and the work of “instrumental
 transcommunication researcher” Mark Macy, as a guide. A radio was tuned to an empty frequency, and over
 81 sessions a total of 60 hours and 11 minutes of recordings were collected. During recordings, a person either
sat in silence or attempted to make verbal contact with potential sources of EVP.[2] Barušs stated that he did
record several events that sounded like voices, but they were too few and too random to represent viable data
and too open to interpretation to be described definitively as EVP. He concluded: “While we did replicate EVP
 in the weak sense of finding voices on audio tapes, none of the phenomena found in our study was clearly
anomalous, let alone attributable to discarnate beings. Hence we have failed to replicate EVP in the strong
sense.” The findings were published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2001, and include a literature
 review.[2]
In 2005, the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research published a report by paranormal investigator
 Alexander MacRae. MacRae conducted recording sessions using a device of his own design that
generated EVP.[20] In an attempt to demonstrate that different individuals would interpret EVP in the
recordings the same way, MacRae asked seven people to compare some selections to a list of five phrases
he provided, and to choose the best match. MacRae said the results of the listening panels indicated that the
 selections were of paranormal origin.[7][21][22]
Portable digital voice recorders are currently the technology of choice for EVP investigators. Since these
 devices are very susceptible to Radio Frequency (RF) contamination, EVP enthusiasts sometimes try to
record EVP in RF- and sound-screened rooms.[23][24] Nevertheless, in order to record EVP there has to be
 noise in the audio circuits of the device used to produce the EVP.[25] For this reason, those who attempt to
 record EVP often use two recorders that have differing quality audio circuitry and rely on noise heard from the
poorer quality instrument to generate EVP.[26]
Some EVP enthusiasts describe hearing the words in EVP as an ability, much like learning a new
 language.[27] Skeptics say that the claimed instances are all either hoaxes or misinterpretations of
natural phenomena. EVP and ITC are seldom researched within the scientific communityand, as ideas,
are generally derided by scientists when asked.[2]

[edit]Explanations and origins

Paranormal explanations for EVP generally assume production of EVP by a communicating intelligence
through means other than the typical functioning of communication technologies. Natural explanations for
 reported instances of EVP tend to dispute this assumption explicitly and provide explanations which do
 not require novel mechanisms that are not based on recognized scientific phenomena.
At least one study, by psychologist Imants Barušs, finds that EVP cannot be replicated under controlled
 conditions.[28]

[edit]Natural explanations

There are a number of simple scientific explanations that can account for why some listeners to the static
 on audio devices may believe they hear voices, including radio interference and the tendency of the human
 brain to recognize patterns in random stimuli.[29] Some recordings may be hoaxes created by frauds or pranksters.[29]

[edit]Psychology and Perception

Auditory pareidolia is a situation created when the brain incorrectly interprets random patterns as being familiar
 patterns.[30] In the case of EVP it could result in an observer interpreting random noise on an audio recording
as being the familiar sound of a human voice.[29][31][32] The propensity for an apparent voice heard in white
noise recordings to be in a language understood well by those researching it, rather than in an unfamiliar
language, has been cited as evidence of this,[29] and a broad class of phenomena referred to by author
Joe Banks as Rorschach Audio has been described as a global explanation for all manifestations
Skeptics such as David FederleinChris FrenchTerrence Hines and Michael Shermer say that EVP
 are usually recorded by raising the “noise floor” – the electrical noise created by all electrical devices
 – in order to create white noise. When this noise is filtered, it can be made to produce noises which
sound like speech. Federlein says that this is no different from using a wah pedal on a guitar, which
 is a focused sweep filter which moves around the spectrum and creates open vowel sounds. This,
according to Federlein, sounds exactly like some EVP. This, in combination with such things
 as cross modulation of radio stations or faulty ground loops can cause the impression of paranormal
 voices.[5] The human brain evolved to recognize patterns, and if a person listens to enough noise the
 brain will detect words, even when there is no intelligent source for them.[37][38] Expectation also plays
 an important part in making people believe they are hearing voices in random noise.[39]
Apophenia is related to, but distinct from pareidolia.[40] Apophenia is defined as “the spontaneous finding
of connections or meaning in things which are random, unconnected or meaningless”, and has been put forward
as a possible explanation.[41]

[edit]Physics

Interference, for example, is seen in certain EVP recordings, especially those recorded on devices which
 contain RLC circuitry. These cases represent radio signals of voices or other sounds from broadcast
sources.[42] Interference from CB Radio transmissions and wireless baby monitors, or anomalies generated
 though cross modulation from other electronic devices, are all documented phenomena.[29] It is even possible
 for circuits to resonate without any internal power source by means of radio reception.[42]
Capture errors are anomalies created by the method used to capture audio signals, such as noise generated
 through the over-amplification of a signal at the point of recording.[29][43]
Artifacts created during attempts to boost the clarity of an existing recording might explain some EVP.
 Methods include re-sampling, frequency isolation, and noise reduction or enhancement, which can cause
 recordings to take on qualities significantly different from those that were present in the original recording.[29][44]
The very first EVP recordings may have originated from the use of tape recording equipment with poorly
aligned erasure and recording heads, resulting in the incomplete erasure of previous audio recordings on the
tape. This could allow a small percentage of previous content to be superimposed or mixed into a new ‘silent’

[edit]Sporadic meteors and meteor showers

For all radio transmissions above 30 MHz (which are not reflected by the ionosphere) there is a possibility
of meteor reflection of the radio signal.[46] Meteors leave a trail of ionised particles and electrons as they
 pass through the upper atmosphere (a process called ablation) which reflect transmission radio waves which
 would usually flow into space.[47] These reflected waves are from transmitters which are below the horizon
of the received meteor reflection. In Europe this means the brief scattered wave may carry a foreign voice which
 can interfere with radio receivers. Meteor reflected radio waves last between 0.05 seconds and 1 second,
depending on the size of the meteor.[48]

[edit]Paranormal explanations

Paranormal explanations for the origin of EVP include living humans imprinting thoughts directly on an
 electronic medium through psychokinesis[49] and communication by discarnate entities such as spirits,
[50][51] nature energies, beings from other dimensions, or extraterrestrials.[52]

[edit]Organizations that show interest in EVP

There are a number of organizations dedicated to studying EVP and instrumental transcommunication,
 or which
 otherwise express interest in the subject. Individuals within these organizations may participate in investigations,
 author books or journal articles, deliver presentations, and hold conferences where they share experiences.
[53] In addition organizations exist which dispute the validity of the phenomena on scientific grounds.[44]
The Association TransCommunication (ATransC), formerly the American Association of Electronic Voice
 Phenomena (AA-EVP),[54] and the International Ghost Hunters Society conduct ongoing investigations
of EVP and ITC including collecting examples of purported EVP available over the internet.[55]
 The Rorschach Audio Project, initiated by sound artist Joe Banks,[33][34][56][57] which presents EVP
 as a product of radio interference combined with auditory pareidolia and the Interdisciplinary Laboratory
for Biopsychocybernetics Research, a non-profit organization dedicated studying anomalous psi phenomena
 related to neurophysiological conditions.[58] According to the AA-EVP, it is “the only organized group of
researchers we know of specializing in the study of ITC.”.[59]
Spiritualists, as well as others who believe in Survivalism, have an ongoing interest in EVP.[60] Many
 Spiritualists believe that communication with the dead is a scientifically proven fact, and experiment
with a variety of techniques for spirit communication which they believe provide evidence of the continuation
 of life.[61] According to the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, “An important modern day development
 in mediumship is spirit communications via an electronic device. This is most commonly known as Electronic
Voice Phenomena (EVP)”.[62] An informal survey by the
 organization’s Department Of Phenomenal Evidence cites that 1/3 of churches conduct sessions in which
participants seek to communicate with spirit entities using EVP.[63]
The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a million dollars for proof that any phenomena, including
EVP,[44] are caused paranormally.[64]

[edit]Cultural impact

The concept of EVP has had an impact on popular culture. It is popular as an entertaining pursuit,
 as in ghost hunting, and as a means of dealing with grief. It has influenced literature, radio, film, and television.
Investigation of EVP is the subject of hundreds of regional and national groups and Internet message
 boards.[65][66] Paranormal investigator John Zaffis claims, “There’s been a boom in ghost hunting ever
since the Internet took off.” Investigators, equipped with electronic gear—like EMF meters, video cameras,
 and audio recorders—scour reportedly haunted venues, trying to uncover visual and audio evidence of ghosts.
Many use portable recording devices in an attempt to capture EVP.[65]
Coast To Coast AM hosts George Noory and Art Bell have explored the topic of EVP with featured guests
such as Brendan Cook and Barbara McBeath of the Ghost Investigators Society, and paranormal investigator
and ‘demonologist’ Lou Gentile.[69][70] The Spirit of John Lennon, a pay-per-view seance broadcast in 2006,
in which TV crew members, a psychic, and an “expert in paranormal activity” claim the spirit of former Beatle
John Lennon made contact with them through what was described as “an Electronic Voice Phenomenon
 (EVP).”[71]
Legion, a 1983 novel by William Peter Blatty, contains a subplot where Dr. Vincent Amfortas, a terminally
 ill neurologist, leaves a “to-be-opened-upon-my-death” letter for Lt. Kinderman detailing his accounts of contac
t with the dead, including the doctor’s recently deceased wife, Ann, through EVP recordings. Amfortas’ character
and the EVP subplot do not appear in the film version of the novel, Exorcist III. In Nyctivoe a 2001 vampire-inspired
 play by Dimitris Lyacos the male character as well as his deceased companion are speaking from a recording
 device amidst a static/white noise background. In Pattern Recognition, a 2003 novel by William Gibson, the main
character’s mother tries to convince her that her father is communicating with her from recordings after his
 death/disappearance in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

 

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