The term EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon is a term that those with an interest in psychical research will be all to familiar with. It seems no ghost hunters kit is complete with out some kind of audio recording device included in it. The premise is rather simple, the investigator will set their equipment to record and then ask a question to any spirit or other unseen entity that may be in ear shot. The enquirer then waits for maybe 30 seconds before asking another question to give the respondent spook time to reply. After a number of questions the tape or digital file is then played back and if all went well there will be the disembodied voices of those who have passed over on the recording. Well that is what is supposed to happen, as with most areas of spirit communication EVP raises more questions than it answers, but before we delve into those questions let’s take a look at the history of the technique.
Although there were a couple before him Friedrich Jurgenson is considered by many to be the god father of EVP. Jurgenson was born in the Ukrainian city of Odessa in 1905, as he grew up he began to excel in the arts and became a acclaimed concert pianist, realist painter and he was also tipped to have been a great opera singer but sadly due to an illness that his voice never recovered from it wasn’t to be. But it was Jurgensons love of singing that prompted him, in 1957,to purchase a reel to reel tape player so that he could record himself singing. It was then he started noticing something peculiar. During playback of his recordings he observed the sound was fading in and out which seemed to induce what some may describe as a hypnotic state (maybe due to white noise).
“I sat by the table, clearly awake and relaxed. I sensed that soon something was going to happen. Following an inner pleasurable calmness, long sentences in English appeared in my consciousness. I did not perceive these sentences acoustically but they formed themselves as long phonetic sentences and after a closer study I couldn’t conceive the words as correct English but in a disfigured almost alphabetical way – completely deformed. I did not hear a voice, a sound nor a whisper. It was all soundless.”
Its seems that although he he didn’t hear what was being said it was as if he just had the impression that something was trying to get through to him although he had no idea what the message was, if indeed it was a message at all. Of course this could be nothing but a trick of mind mind induced by the sounds coming from the tape recorder but for Jurgenson it seemed very real indeed.
It wasn’t until around two years later in 1959 that his major revelation happened and I expect fans of EVP history will know this next bit well. It was a discovery that would change his life and paranormal investigations for ever. Jurgenson was out one fine sunny day enjoying the sights and sounds of the countryside, he had with him his reel to reel recorder and had decided to record some bird sounds but, when he went to play back the tape things got very weird, I’ll let him tell you in his own words.
” I heard a noise, vibrating like a storm, where you could only remotely hear the chirping of the birds. My first thought was that maybe some of the tubes had been damaged. In spite of this I switched on the machine again and let the tape roll. Again I heard this peculiar noise and the distant chirping. Then I heard a trumpet solo, a kind of a signal for attention. Stunned, I continued to listen when suddenly a man’s voice began to speak in Norwegian. Even though the voice was quite low I could clearly hear and understand the words. The man spoke about ‘nightly bird voices’ and I perceived a row of piping, splashing and rattling sounds. Suddenly the choir of birds and the vibrating noise stopped. In the next moment the chirping of a chaffinch was heard and you could hear the tits singing at a distance – the machine worked perfectly!”
Jurgenson went on to record many anomalous voices and he began to suspect that what he was hearing were the sounds of people who had died and were trying to make contact with the living, this theory was galvanised when out of the blue he picked up the recognisable voice of his own dead mother.
“I was outside with a tape recorder, recording bird songs. When I listen through the tape, a voice was heard to say “Friedel, can you hear me. It’s mammy ….” It was my dead mothers voice. ‘Friedel’ was her special nickname for me.”
EVP went on to become Jurgensons lifes work and he made many future recordings but most importantly inspiring future students of this new technological way of supposedly communicating with the dead. One person in particular who his worked had a big impact on was Konstantīns a one time student of Jung and a life long parapsychology researcher. After reading Jurgensons book Voices From Space Raudive arranged to meet the author and they embarked on experimenting with audio recordings from the other-side. At first their efforts were in vain and produced little in the way of tangible results. But one evening as Raudive listened over and over again to the tapes he thought he began to hear voices in multiple languages including German French and Latvian. And one particular recording stood out to him it said ” Va dormir, Margarete” go to sleep Margarete. Which hit him hard as he was in mourning for a dear friend by the same name who had recently died.
This of course is just a very brief overview of the works of Jurgenson and Raudive and for those of you that might be interested HERE is a link to some of Raudives recordings.
It will no doubt come as no surprise that EVP doesn’t stand up to any sort of logical or scientific scrutiny if you were to go over to Youtube and search EVPs you will find many hundreds of amateur records from paranormal investigators around the world and it has to be said that most make no sense or are so distorted or quiet they could really be saying anything. But the human mind being what it is likes to make sense out of the information it is being given and therefor an anomalous sound will become a word or a sentence that will be meaningful to those that try and make sense of it. And of course for the listener of these recordings, what do they tell you? If you were not present at the recording then can you really be 100% sure that it isn’t an out right fake a stray radio signal on a poorly shielded device? I can remember as a child I had an electric train set and to control the speed of the train it had a box with a dial on that I would turn up and down , it also had a little speaker from which train sound effects would issue and on occasion I would hear very quiet voices coming from it, which initially I must admit did creep me out. But on future investigations it was nothing but radio transmissions. It is perfectly possible that any recording device may pick up on radio signals but in this age of digital transmissions slowly over taking analogue this effect if true will slowly die out. It is of interest to note that Raudive did try to conduct his work inside of a Faraday cage, which will not allow radio signals in or out and he failed to record anything at all.
So with the fact that the human mind will try and make sense of even just white noise and static and that poorly shielded audio recorders and other devices can pick up on radio signals, where does that leave the very clear recordings that seem to react and converse with the human agent with the recorder. Well it would have to be a big coincidence if a radio broadcast just happen to answer perfectly the questions posed in a clear and concise way which has been said to happen. Then dear reader it comes down to just a matter of opinion if you weren’t present at the recording then you just have the word of the recorder to go on, is it fraud or is it something else? For me EVP isn’t hard evidence of life after death but its bloody interesting nonetheless.