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Voice Phenomena

There are two types of voice phenomena as recognized by paranormal investigators as well as by ghost hunters.

Whether you are a recreational ghost hunter or a newer or seasoned paranormal investigator one of the first things that you were exposed to educationally, whether it be from others in the field, or from television shows or online media, was Electronic Voice Phenomena, which are also known as EVP. The acronym EVP is often misspoken in the plural by some people who refer to them as EVPs. The word “phenomenon” pluralized is “phenomena”. The acronym EVP is both singular and plural, so calling them EVPs translates to Electronic Voice Phenomenas. Phenomenas isn’t a word recognized by the english language. Phenomenons isn’t recognized in the dictionary either. So with phenomenon being pluralized as phenomena the acronym EVP can be used both when catching one EVP or multiple EVP. Another example of a situation where something is often incorrectly pluralized would how often people refer to a binocular as binoculars. Binocular indicates for the usage of both eyes and doesn’t need to be pluralized unless there is more than one device. One device is a binocular and more than one device would then be properly spoken of as binoculars. However, many people still refer to one device as binoculars, not realizing that they are misspeaking. It is like saying I own a houses when you only own one house.

Let’s not forget that an Electronic Voice Phenomenon refers to something that you can’t hear with your ears. EVP is something that can only be heard with the assistance of an electronic recording device, hence why it is called an Electronic Voice Phenomenon. If you record something that you heard with your ears you are not recording an EVP. If you can hear it with your ears it is called a Direct Voice Phenomenon, or a DVP. You can record a DVP or record an EVP, but you can not hear an EVP with your ears unless it is recorded by a sound recording device and played back allowing you to hear it. If you watch paranormal television shows or videos on YouTube you will often hear the term EVP misused to describe a DVP.

Paranormal investigators and ghost hunters both often use a class system to describe an EVP or a DVP. It would be easy if there was only a single class system that people used to classify EVP or DVP recordings. While one may be used much more frequently than others, there are four EVP/DVP class systems that are recognized by various paranormal investigators and ghost hunters.

The first system class that I will discuss was developed by Konstantīns Raudive, who lived from 1909-1974. He was an intellectual and a writer from Latvia, which is a country in the Baltic region of northern Europe which shares its borders with Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and Estonia. In a book that he authored entitled ‘Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead’, which he wrote in 1968, described a class system we now know as The Raudive Scale. Raudive stated that “It is easy to make tape copies of ‘A’ voices, and they can be repeated as often as desired. Thus, I have analyzed roughly 25,000 voices according to speech content, language and rhythm. By this method of repetition, the acoustic reality of the voices can be established beyond doubt, and hallucinations of the ear are excluded.” Regarding class B, Raudive states “The ability to differentiate increases with practice, but this is a slow and wearisome process. For this reason it is difficult to use non-regular participants for experimental purposes with class ‘B’ voices.” The Raudive Scale is defined as the following:

Class A – Voices can be heard and identified by anyone with normal hearing and knowledge of the language spoken. No special training of the ear is needed to detect them.

Class B – Voices speak more rapidly and more softly, but are still quite plainly audible to a trained and attentive ear.

Class C – Voices give us a great deal of information and much paranormal data. Unfortunately, these can be heard only in fragments, even by a trained ear, but with improved technical aids, it may eventually become possible to hear and demonstrate these voices, which lie beyond our range of hearing, without trouble.

This class system was not widely accepted in the paranormal investigation field, however I have seen it used by some older paranormal investigators.

The second system class that we will discuss today was developed by Sarah Estep. She is known for finding the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP) in 1982. The group is headquartered in Saverna Park, Maryland. The system, known as the Estep System, was first published in her 1988 book entitled “Voices of Eternity”. Her class system was widely adopted by those in the paranormal investigation field. Most EVP would fall into “Class C” of the Estep System.

Class A – Voices are loud and clear, they can be duplicated onto other tapes. Can be heard without headphones.

Class B – Voices aren’t as loud and clear, and can often be heard without headphones.

Class C – Voices are faint or whispery. Headphones must be worn to hear them, and rarely can all the words be interpreted.

The third system class was developed by the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP) which I will reiterate, was found by Sarah Estep, the creator of the Estep System which we just previously discussed. Due to the fact that most EVP fell into Class C in the Estep System, the system needed to evolve and the AA-EVP system was developed. This system was designed around the clarity and quality of the audio of the EVP. One of the goals of this scale was to remove objectivity from the classification system, which was prevalent in both the Raudive Scale and the Estep System. This system is still widely used today.

Class A – EVP is a message that can be heard without headphones and that people can generally agree on its content.

Class B – EVP requires headphones to distinguish message content and not everyone will agree on the message.

Class C – EVP requires headphones, often needs amplification and filtering and will seldom even be heard by others.

The last system that I will discuss today was developed by a mentor of mine early on in my paranormal investigation career, Doug Kelley and his colleague Jari Mikkola. They co-founded Paranexus which was an organization that focused on a standard learning curriculum for paranormal investigations. It was also a place online for investigators to interact with each other before social media became main stream. Kelley and Mikkola developed this EVP classification system in 2007 and it takes account the context of the message, how easy it is to comprehend, and how meaningful it is. Like the AA-EVP System the KM System is also widely used and is defined as follows:

Class 1 (Interactive) 

Voice is a direct response to a human statement/question/action/activity, or anomalous voices respond to each other.

– Most or all of the words are clear and intelligible, with or without headphones

– Anomalous voice communicates comprehensible and existentially meaningful expressions of thoughts/feelings/emotions/opinions/actions/intentions

Class 2 (Non-Interactive)

Voice is a general statement and not a direct response to a statement/question/action/activity by humans.

– Most or all of the words are generally clear and understandable, with or without headphones

– Anomalous voice communicates comprehensible and existentially meaningful expressions of thoughts/feelings/emotions/opinions/actions/intentions.

Class 3 (Non-Speech)

Anomalous voice is a sound other than the spoken word.

– Growls, screams, humming, etc.

– Musical instruments, TV, radio, concerts, footsteps, rapping, banging, etc.

Class 4 Null EVP (Valueless)

The EVP contains nothing of value in understanding the sources realm or psychology

– Words are unintelligible, with or without headphones

– The anomalous voice does not communicate comprehensible and existentially meaningful expressions of thoughts/feelings/emotions/opinions/actions/intentions, although the word(s) may be intelligible.

While there are four distinctly different classification systems, the AA-EVP System and the KM system are the two most widely used today.

As a paranormal investigator it is very important to maintain a high level of integrity and scientific methodology when conducting a voice phenomena session. Your voice recorder is very susceptible to many types of interference and you can do something to minimize this interference.

We live in a ever growing soup of electromagnetic radiation, both natural and man made. Electromagnetic radiation is produced by the sun, any electronic device, the Earth itself, any mechanical device, or anything living. Voice recorders are especially susceptible to interference from radio waves. Radio waves can also be either natural or man made. Anything from a cell phone, to a wifi router, to the countless communications devices used recreationally, commercial, or by first responders can interfere with a voice phenomenon session. The radio waves don’t even have to be local to interfere with your voice recorder. There is a phenomenon known as ionospheric radio wave propagation where radio signals below 30mhz bounce off of the Earth’s ionosphere when it has an increased electrical charge due to solar radiation, which can and does happen daily around the world. This means that radio signals can end up hundreds or thousands of miles away. Someone transmitting on a Citizens Band Radio (CB Radio) on another continent could cause interference with your voice recorder. There is another phenomenon known as meteor scatter where radio signals can reflect off of the countless meteors that are near our planet. There is also a phenomenon known as Earth-Moon-Earth bounce where radio signals being produced on the Earth bounce off of the moon and come back to Earth. Amateur radio communication hobbyists often engage in Earth-Moon-Earth communication recreationally.

So, how do you keep the radio soup out of your voice recorder? While you don’t see it widely used on the television shows as it would strongly minimize audio recordings, and ultimately reduce show ratings, you can use a device known as a Faraday bag (or cage) around your voice recorder to minimize interference as the Faraday device will block out most interference. You can find a Faraday bag or cage for under $25. They are often marketed to be used in wallets to block someone with a reader from stealing your credit card information, or as a cell phone case to protect your cell phone. In a bag or punch form you can wrap up your voice recorder to minimize interference from erroneous electromagnetic radiation. They are inexpensive and very beneficial to have. So why don’t you see them used more often? Firstly TV shows focus on what will give them ratings, and minimizing false evidence won’t help them reach that goal. A television show where investigations are completed using the utmost scientific possibility wouldn’t be something that most people would tune in to watch. Most people tune in to see the spooky, and the minimization of interference would strongly diminish the evidence seen on television shows. Some paranormal investigators may not realize that these devices exist, as familiarity with scientific principles varies greatly across the paranormal investigation field. Some investigators mimic what they see on their favorite paranormal television show without any scientific understanding, while many others, like those involved with my team Mount Washington Valley Scientific Paranormal Investigation, Research, & Interpretation Team study deeply into a plethora of science subjects that can be pertinent to a paranormal investigation. Recreational ghost hunters are in it solely for the adrenaline rush of the activity, and not for a scientific investigation, so they aren’t going to use anything to minimize any activity on their devices as it would reduce the “thrill of the hunt”, even if they are aware that their devices can be receiving interference.

You can also make sure that all nonessential power in the house is cut and to use only battery operated devices during your voice phenomena session. Any visual recording can be done using a battery operated near infrared camera, or a cell phone in airplane mode. Also make sure any watches that you are wearing are in airplane mode. After cutting power use a trifield and a standalone EMF meter to check for any interference or pockets of electromagnetic radiation in the room. Ensure that your recording device isn’t placed in a strong magnetic field. Also, put the device in the center of the room. Under no circumstances should you complete a voice phenomena session with the device in your hand, like you see on television shows. I have seen where an investigator misinterpreted sounds as paranormal when it was the device shifting in their hand, their finger running over the microphone, air moving from them raising their arm, etc. The list could go on and on.

When there is any noise in the room that you hear that could end up on the recording it is imperative that you tag it. If someone is simply changing positions while sitting down to be more comfortable it is important to tag the recording with “this is Joe, and I am repositioning myself” so any noise isn’t thought to be possible evidence during review. Tag any sounds of any kind such as a bird outside, a car driving by, a creek in a floor, the wind, a refrigerator, air conditioner, or heater turning on. Someone coughing, sneezing, sighing, moving their leg or arm, etc. Every noise must be tagged, as it is impossible to remember later on where noises were coming from, and with the preamps on more expensive voice recorders a natural benign noise could be misinterpreted as paranormal as it could sound completely different on an amplified electronic voice recording.

The Observer Expectancy Effect, which in this instance basically means that you are expecting to hear paranormal entity voices, so you are going to interpret any possible evidence as such, also needs to be kept in check. You can’t allow your need for the spooky to cloud your objectivity.

It is also important to keep in mind several forms of audio pareidolia which can come into play. As I stated in my last blog post one possible audio pareidolia situation includes ear barotrauma, which also known as airplane ear, which is where unbalanced pressure in the ear or clogging of the eustachian tube can cause you to hear things that aren’t really there. Another example is tinnitus which is humming, clicking, ringing, or buzzing in the ear. This can and has been misperceived as paranormal activity. There is also something called musical ear syndrome which is when someone hears music that isn’t there. This happens quite often to many people, and can be misperceived as an entity playing music on an instrument, or an old radio playing music. I have reviewed evidence where one person swore they heard a paranormal entity where upon my review of the evidence I didn’t hear what they claimed to have heard, and I had to chalk it up to them experiencing audio pareidolia. In addition pareidolia can also cause you to hear voices on recordings, when it is not a voice at all. Matrixing is also a part of pareidolia, which means your brain is trying to make sense of chaos, or finding familiar patterns out of randomness. I have seen on paranormal television shows where someone clearly ran their finger over a voice recorder microphone (when it should have been in the middle of the room stationary), and later on claimed it sounded like someone saying a word or two. They didn’t tag the noise saying they had ran their finger over the microphone. Whether I feel that it was done purposely or not I won’t get into here. Then upon review the sound was misinterpreted as paranormal activity. Due to a few procedural flaws such as holding the voice recorder and then secondarily not tagging the noise of the finger being brushed over the microphone, they then believed they had a paranormal entity speaking to them.

It is important for everyone in your group to make sure that they are using the same EVP class system, that all precautions are taken to avoid contaminating your voice recordings, to tag every noise, to keep the voice recorder stationary in the center of the room on an inanimate object and not in someone’s hand, and to keep your voice recorder in a Faraday bag when recording. Yes, spooky is fun, but when completing a paranormal investigation for a client the want of the spooky needs to take a back seat to science. Scientific possibilities need to be exhausted before leaning towards a paranormal cause, as we are trusted to find the truth for our clients, and not use them for an adrenaline rush. Being able to explain situations with science can be just as fun as explaining it with the spooky. I have seen my fair share of spooky over the years, but I wasn’t willing to put it in front of science, and I feel that neither should you if you are investigating for a client. Save the need for the spooky for recreational ghost hunting or a paranormal investigation where a client isn’t involved. Your integrity and reputation as a paranormal investigator is paramount and you should do everything that you can to build them so you are recognized as someone who searches for the truth and that your interpretation of evidence can be trusted due to the fact that you focus on the science and investigative procedures to minimize false positives. I have heard others say that my level of dedication to the science and procedure takes away from the fun of investigating. I couldn’t disagree more. I find following strict investigative procedure and having a strong knowledge of various scientific possibilities that could arise in a paranormal investigation to be very enjoyable. When I am convinced that some evidence is paranormal I don’t have that little voice in the back of my mind listing a bunch of non paranormal possibilities that the activity could have been as I had already exhausted those possibilities before leaning towards the paranormal. You can still favor the spooky in some situations, but I would suggest keeping that for situations where a client isn’t involved. Keep pursuing your knowledge of science including subjects that I have listed on another blog post entitled “Subjects For Investigators To Research” and maintain your integrity. Find the truth for your client, even if it means your need for the spooky takes a back seat to science at times. Science first, spooky second.

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