ELECTRONIC VOICE PHENOMENA: Exploring the “Science” behind EVP

Posted on September 9, 2013

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By: Demetrius (Co-Founder of the OCPRS)

            Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) is thought to be the recorded voices of the spirits of the dead. Many paranormal researchers, parapsychologists, and so forth, believe EVP provides evidence confirming the existence of life beyond the grave. There are a variety of EVP methodologies and technologies used to communicate with spirits, but all are owed to circumstances having little to do with science.

            Like other technologies used in paranormal research, the OCPRS has examined EVP in order to determine whether it is truly a safe and legitimate means of collecting paranormal data. Throughout each investigation carried out by the OCPRS, what has been recognized is a very fine line between using EVP for data collection and communicating with spirits. In fact, the line separating the two is so vague there may indeed be no distinction, even with the best of intentions. In order to address this problem and come to a definite conclusion, the OCPRS needed to explore the origins and development of EVP along with the technology accompanying it. In doing so, the hope of this article is to educate people about the disturbing facts surrounding EVP.

            The most popular misconception about EVP is that it is science, and that spirituality can be defined scientifically. This misconception is largely promoted for the simple reason that recording technology has been successfully used to capture unexplainable disembodied voices. What must be continually stressed is that the recording instruments are not paranormal in themselves.  Strangely, this is often ignored by many supporters of EVP who often quote Thomas A. Edison (b.1847 – d.1931) in order to promote the belief that technology can penetrate the boundaries of human spirituality. Near the end of his life, Edison was both interested and influenced by Modern Spiritualism, although he himself was said to be a Deist. It was his firm belief in science and technology that motivated Edison to suggest how technology would one day become advanced enough to achieve spirit communication:

“For my part, I am inclined to believe that our personality hereafter will be able to affect matter. If this reasoning be correct, then, if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected, or moved, or manipulated – whichever term you want to use – by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.” (Thomas A. Edison, Spiritualism, 1920)

Edison’s reputation as a scientist and inventor is exploited by many paranormal researchers – and ITC Spiritualists – who believe they are providing a sense of legitimacy to their beliefs and practices. Despite the fact that Edison never created such a technology, one of his inventions did serve to provide one of the earliest examples of “voice phenomenon” (a precursor to Electronic Voice Phenomenon).

            The phonograph was invented by Edison in 1877 and could record and then play the sounds recorded. It should be noted that the phonograph was not electronic, but operated on mechanical principles. In 1901, Waldermar Bogoras (b.1865 – d.1936) used a phonograph to record a Chukchee Shaman perform a ceremony for communing with spirits. When Bogoras reviewed his recording he was astonished to hear unexplainable voices accompanying the shaman’s singing. These other voices were not heard during the recording session, and could not be explained. The voices spoke in both Russian and English. It was believed that the voices accompanying the shaman’s singing were the voices of the dead.

            As already mentioned, the phonograph is not an electronic recording device, and therefore the voices captured during the recording do not qualify as Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Instead, the phonograph recording can be regarded as “voice phenomenon.” As a technology the phonograph never acquired a reputation for recording the voices of spirits. As for Bogoras, he never pursued spirit communication following this bizarre instance of voice phenomenon. In terms of what this earliest voice phenomenon recording means for the development of EVP, the circumstances may reveal how technology has little to do with the overall voice phenomenon – or EVP – experience. The circumstances surrounding Bogoras’ recording were directly tied to the shaman’s spirit singing. In other words, the ritual performed by the shaman served to contact the spirits of the dead. It wasn’t the technology, which was simply incidental to the circumstances.

            Recording technology continued to improve, and voice phenomenon would continue to be recorded. A self-proclaimed psychic named Attila Von Szalay claimed to hear the voices of spirits and wanted to record these voices as proof of his abilities. During the 1940’s he attempted to record these spirit voices using a 78rpm recorder/player, but with no success. By the early 1950’s Szalay worked with a parapsychologist named Raymond Bayless. Using a cabinet, microphone, tape recorder, and loud speaker, Szalay and Bayless succeeded in recording what they believed to be spirit voices. The technological choices used to construct their recording device had more to do with isolating noise rather than to facilitate some unknown “spirit frequency.” Much like Bogoras’ recording of the shaman, it was Szalay’s psychic abilities serving as the means to obtain the spirit voices. The recording technology simply served to document what Szalay believed to be his “gifts.” In 1956 both Szalay and Bayless published their results. It becomes necessary to recognize here why the recording instruments were utilized.

            Audio recording equipment had not yet experienced the reputation and popularity for recording the voices of spirits. It wasn’t until 1959 when an artist named Friedrich Jurgenson (b.1903 – d. 1987) used a tape-recorder to record bird sounds, that technology and spirit communication would share a strange relationship. According to Jurgenson, he discovered strange sounds followed by a male voice, which seemed to be addressing him. Soon after, Jurgenson went on to record more of these strange voices. Here, the technology – a tape-recorder – was used to obtain voice phenomenon. Yet, it wasn’t the technology that stood at the centre of Jurgenson’s attentions.

            Jurgenson believed it was his psychic abilities that enabled him to encounter and thereafter explore voice phenomenon through recordings. Before ever having recorded voice phenomenon, Jurgenson believed that his artistic abilities through painting and music enabled him to develop his extrasensory perception, otherwise known as ESP. Jurgenson claimed to have experienced hearing voices in his mind, along with other psychic phenomena, long before his EVP experiences. Believing the voices to have originated from outer space, Jurgenson initially assumed the voice phenomenon recordings to come from the same source. Eventually he concluded that the voices he was recording were not from extraterrestrials but from the spirits of the dead. Despite his psychic claims and strange conclusions, Jurgenson did not exclude technology as a means to communicate with spirits. Instead, he believed that his psychic abilities enabled him to use technology to discern the voices. As strange as his views were, technology became an important means to interact with the spirit world. In fact, he was instructed by one of the voices to make use of his recording equipment as a mediumistic tool.

            Some of the more interesting details of Jurgenson’s explanations were presented throughout his books – Voices From Space, and Voice Transmissions With The Dead. Using audio recording equipment as an integral part of his mediumistic abilities, Jurgenson became convinced of having made contact with a spirit guide named Lena. This spirit – Lena – instructed Jurgenson to use a radio, and also gave specific dates and times whereby he could make contact. Obedient to his spirit guide, Jurgenson did as he was instructed. It was through this method that EVP shifted from recording equipment to the radio. Technology and spirituality were strongly intertwined throughout Jurgenson’s experiences. Those same experiences, detailed throughout his books, would soon influence others.

            Inspired by the works of Friedrich Jurgeson, a Latvian psychologist named Konstantin Raudive (b.1909 – d.1974) became the best known advocate for EVP experimentation. Having conducted numerous EVP experiments independently and with other EVP researchers, Raudive published a book on the subject of voice phenomenon in 1968. It wasn’t until 1971 when his book was published in English, entitled Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead. Raudive’s book reached a broader audience. For the sake of brevity, the OCPRS will only present the questionable aspects of Raudive’s book.

            Having been greatly inspired and influenced by Jurgenson, Raudive adopted the view that a spirit guide – or “mediator” – eventually presents itself to the EVP experimenter. According to his own EVP experiments, Raudive’s spirit guide was called “Spidola.” Here, what Raudive discloses in his book is little more than New Age beliefs, set into motion by Jurgenson. He describes how a spirit guide provides instructions for the EVP experimenter, who in turn must arrange to communicate with the spirit(s) on specific days and times. In one example, a spiritualist medium is instructed to paint only on Friday in order to communicate what it is the spirit wishes to say. This is not the only acknowledgement involving mediums. Elsewhere in his book, Raudive includes a colleague’s recommendation to involve mediums during the course of EVP experimentation. Elements of Modern Spiritualism are evident in Raudive’s EVP research. However, spiritualism is not the only influence recognized to Raudive’s EVP experimentation.

            In another entry provided by one of Raudive’s colleagues, a hypothesis attempts to identify the voice phenomenon as stemming from elementals; entities belonging to one of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. The elementals are described as having the capability to read the thoughts of the EVP experimenter. Reading those thoughts, the elementals can then project them as voice phenomenon, and in this way an EVP is produced. Elementals are a barrowing from Paracelsus’ occult writings, from the late 15th and early 16th century. Raudive does not necessarily adhere to such views himself, and instead favors the spirits of the dead. The various ideas presented in his book reflect entirely non-Christian beliefs. Strangely, Raudive claimed to be a practicing Roman Catholic, but there is no relationship between the beliefs and practices of the Church to any of his EVP experiments. A perfect example of this is also found among the recorded questions and answers conducted through his EVP experiments. One question asks the spirits, if a person lives many times – reincarnation – and the response obtained was, “You speak correctly.” Presenting this type of question and response, the belief in reincarnation is introduced. There are no questions or responses concerning heaven or hell according to the teachings of the Church. As far as Raudive was concerned, the source of the voice phenomenon did not include other possibilities besides those outlined in his book.

            In the second chapter of his book, Raudive provides some of the EVP responses obtained from his experimentation. Here, the OCPRS cannot help but recognize the true source of the voice phenomenon – demons.  Overlooked or excluded by Raudive and his colleagues, demonic activity is strangely never seriously considered to voice phenomenon. Despite this omission, the examples provided by Raudive can easily be demonstrated to demons. Among the responses obtained through EVP experimentation, the voices often identify themselves pluralistically: “We live,” “We never leave,” “We are,” and so on. It is here in this portion of his book that the source of the voice phenomenon becomes most disturbing. From the Gospel of Mark 5:9, Jesus asks the demons possessing a man to identify themselves, and the response given was: “My name is Legion […] for we are many.” Demonic activity is often recognized in this way. This is not always the case, but is often recognized in cases of demonic possession. The pluralistic responses provided by the spirit(s) are strikingly similar to this demonic trait. Nowhere does Raudive attempt to validate Christian perspectives on the afterlife. He was much more concerned in promoting spirit communication, and this was sufficient to convince him and others in the existence of an afterlife.

            Raudive presented EVP as a science despite the fact that many of the points of interest expressed throughout his book were influenced by Modern Spiritualism and New Age beliefs. The objectivity spread throughout his book is limited to entirely non-Christian beliefs and practices. Although seemingly objective, Raudive never mentions the possibility of demons. The “scientific” speculations included in his book are intertwined with non-Christian forms of spirituality. Yet, ITC Spiritualists believe Raudive had successfully validated EVP as a legitimate science.

            Most certainly Raudive’s credentials as a psychologist offer readers a sense of legitimacy. His book also provides methods for conducting EVP experiments, which are not so blatantly New Age. Overall, what Raudive actually accomplished was to dress-up EVP experimentation to give it a scientific appeal. If, however, Raudive’s EVP experiments are compared to various practices known to Modern Spiritualism, it becomes obvious that audio recording equipment has simply replaced other instruments used by mediums/psychics. For example, the Ouija board or Automatic writing, were used to communicate with spirits by asking questions. The response from the spirits occurs through the instrument or method being used; in the examples mentioned, a planchette or a writing pen. In the case of EVP experimentation, questions are asked and the response is acquired through the audio recording. Comparing the different practices, the intent and methodology remains relatively the same; ask a question and the spirit(s) responds through the instrument of choice. Therefore, how does voice phenomenon qualify as scientific? Technology has merely replaced the more primitive instruments used for spirit communication. Strangely, this aspect of EVP’s historical development is overlooked. In turn, the occult and New Age practices and beliefs are transformed into so-called scientific theories and hypotheses.

            What can be identified throughout the history of EVP is a development or transition from Modern Spiritualism to ITC Spiritualism. As a consequence of EVP research, non-Christian beliefs and practices found a way to continue under other guises. Technology has merely reshaped spirit communication, but the essence of spirit communication remains the same. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the next example: proponent of the New Age, George W. Meek and self proclaimed psychic, William (Bill) O’Neil.

            In 1979, George W. Meek and his friend William O’Neil introduced what they claimed was a breakthrough in spirit communication, and of course EVP – the Spiricom. It is here that a new technology was promoted to have been engineered in order to penetrate the boundaries of the spirit world. It was claimed that the Spiricom enabled spirits to hold a two-way conversation with the living. Meek and O’Neil provided all the information necessary for others to construct their own Spiricom and to verify the technology for themselves. Unlike previous EVP experiments no one was able to reproduce the results Meek and O’Neil claimed to have achieved. In response to criticism and accusations of having perpetrated a hoax, Meek suggested that the Spiricom specifically worked for O’Neil due to his psychic abilities! Having identified O’Neil as affecting the Spiricom through his psychic abilities, Meek contradicted his original claims, which promoted the Spiricom as a means to communicate with the dead. It was not the technology that was capable of penetrating the boundaries of human spirituality. It was psychic phenomenon. Why such contradictions? Was the Spiricom a publicity stunt to promote something else? The answer may very well be, yes.

            Long before the introduction of the Spiricom, Meek was actively exploring New Age experiences: Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE)/Astral Projection. He even founded a research society he called the Metascience Foundation. Here, New Age beliefs would be promoted through what was nothing more than pseudo-science. O’Neil was a reluctant participant in Meek’s dreams of spreading New Age beliefs. The Metascience Foundation, along with O’Neil’s knowledge of electronics merely dressed-up the New Age beliefs and practices under the guise of scientific research.

            Just as before, EVP research continued in the name of “science.” These “scientific” developments have been largely introduced through the popularity of ghost hunting shows: the Frank’s Box, the Ovilus, etc. Yet, even before these contraptions were introduced, a much broader field of study was taking EVP experimentation and applying it to other electronic technologies: the ITC (Instrumental Transcommunications) movement. Important to this exploration of EVP history is how EVP contributed to a religious revival of Modern Spiritualism. Indeed, EVP has served as the “science” influencing other inclusions of technology in regards to communicating with the dead and reshaping Modern Spiritualism.

            The ITC community – an outgrowth of EVP research – makes use of a variety of technologies in an attempt to speak with the spirits. The reality of ITC research is that it is nothing more than a set of practices focusing on communicating with spirits. What ITC actually promotes is not science, but non-Christian beliefs. According to the variety of ITC researchers, there is no heaven or hell as is understood by Christianity. They also believe there is no God as is recognized by the Church. Instead, the afterlife consists of different planes of existences, constructed through the imagination and expectations of the dead who have crossed over. Some ITC researchers even promote other dimensions, extra/intra-terrestrials, and even other planets as the final destination of the human soul. ITC researchers promote these contradictory descriptions of the afterlife and claim that the spirits have revealed these spirit worlds to them. These descriptions of the afterlife promoted through ITC researchers are nothing more than occult and New Age beliefs. The various descriptions about the afterlife are not consistent, and the discrepancies are justified by ITC researchers who have essentially created their own explanations and beliefs derived from the fragmented ideas given to them by the “spirits.” The various and conflicting descriptions fit comfortably with the beliefs found in Modern Spiritualism, the New Age movement, Eastern religions and philosophical systems, etc. It is for this reason the OCPRS identifies ITC research as ITC Spiritualism. This is directly owed to the underlying spiritual beliefs and practices, which have been identified throughout the history of EVP. Thus far, EVP has been involved in the promotion and development of non-Christian beliefs and practices through technology, substituting the old instruments of the séance room with new technology.

The OCPRS’s Experience With EVP:

            The OCPRS has conducted EVP experiments throughout each of its investigation, both public and private. It should be noted that according to Konstantin Raudive, and even various ITC Spiritualists, EVP does not require a haunted location to produce results. After all, EVP is a mediumistic practice according to all the evidence disclosed in the preceding examples. Regardless of the evidence, the OCPRS’s own experiments revealed that EVP has nothing to do with science or technology.

            The OCPRS has only ever acquired one EVP. On October 28 2010, Marcio and Demetrius investigated the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. There, EVP experimentation was conducted. A serious error the OCPRS made was to use a methodology of EVP resembling the occult and New Age practices identified throughout the history of EVP experimentation; ask a question and review the recording for a response. Admittedly this was done due to failing to scrutinize EVP methodologies prior to the investigation. This was a form of spirit communication and was something the OCPRS never repeated again. However, it was also the only investigation whereby an EVP was acquired. The message was more of a threat or warning, and stated: “I will be watching you.” The response did not occur as a result of asking a question. Instead, it randomly occurred while the digital audio recorder was left recording. The OCPRS’s purpose was to investigate demonic activity, and not to contact the spirits of the dead. Despite the best of intentions, communicating with demons is also prohibited by the Church. In fact, the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church identifies such practices as something to be avoided:

Catechism 2117 – “Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it.”

The warning is a prohibition against any practices associated to or resembling necromancy. The Bible provides much more explicit prohibitions. For example, from the book of Leviticus 19:31, it states: “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”

            Holding to the traditions of the Church Fathers – who have identified such spirits as demons masquerading as the spirits of the dead – the Church has valid reasons to warn people against such practices. Turning to necromancy, in any form, is an act of placing faith and trust in spirits rather than God. St. John Chrysostom sums up what the Church believes in the majority of cases concerning spirit communication, where he warns: “It is not actually the soul of the deceased which cries out, but a demon which imitates that person in order to defraud those who are listening.” When comparing St. John Chrysostom’s words to EVP experimentation it is easy to recognize how likely demonic deceit is involved. The variety of non-Christian beliefs inspired by EVP experimentation serves as the strongest evidence. Many people have even turned away from Jesus Christ, and now follow the teachings of “spirits.”

            To continue, the OCPRS has not used EVP experimentation in the same way it did during the Mount Pleasant Cemetery investigation. The recorder is simply left on, and no questions are asked. Sometimes religious provocation is used: sprinkling of holy water, reading of prayers, etc. Using this method the OCPRS has never obtained an EVP in any of its proceeding investigations. What this suggests is that EVP is more likely to occur when the intent to communicate with spirits is present. Simply recording without the intent to communicate has not produced any EVP evidence. This only further suggests that EVP is a mediumistic practice, much like the Ouija board.

            What about EVP’s which do not involve the intent of spirit communication? EVP’s of this nature are not uncommon, but they do not fall in-line with the practices and beliefs of ITC Spiritualists who use EVP to communicate with spirits. An example is the alleged EVP recording discovered by Fr. Agostino Gemelli (b.1878 – d. 1959) and Fr. Pelligrino Ernetti (b. 1925 – d. 1994). According to a variety of sources stemming from paranormal interest groups, in 1952 Gemelli and Ernetti were recording a Gregorian choir. Shortly after reviewing the recording Gemelli discovered the voice of his dead father speaking to him. It should be mentioned that the legitimacy of the EVP discovered by Ernetti and Gemelli is highly doubtful. It does, however, suggest that EVP is not always a result of intentional spirit communication.

            When EVP is used as a means to communicate with spirits, exposure to dangerous spirits is always likely. There are no safety measures provided by science to protect the living from demonic deceit or molestations. Time and time again, ITC Spiritualists conduct what is essentially a séance, under the guise of scientific study. The overlooked truth concerning EVP is that its entire development has been instigated by occult and New Age beliefs and practices.

            The desire to obtain a sense of certainty about the afterlife, leaving little room for doubt, is only natural. EVP provides the emotional and carnal minded satisfaction many people seek out. It does not, however, provide a fulfilling spirituality within an individual’s heart. EVP gratifies the senses, and not the soul. It provides something that other forms of ghost phenomena cannot achieve; disembodied voices interacting with the living. The voices provide people with what can be regarded as a link to the spiritual world. This is a very powerful emotional experience, leaving people with a sense of purpose and understanding. For most people the mediumistic nature of EVP is difficult to understand or recognize. The experience simply provides the satisfaction their spiritually empty lives crave. Such people cannot at first believe that such an experience could possibly be negative or harmful. Even harder to believe is that such experiences may be owed to demons.

            Based on the type of spirituality that EVP helps to promote, it becomes easy to recognize why demons are responsible. Technology is not the bridge between the living and the world of “spirits.” The fallen condition of humanity does not allow for instant communion with God, the angels, or the saints (otherwise known as Theosis). Those seeking out spirituality apart from the Church most often seek out the most immediate means to commune with spirits, regardless of the unholy qualities involved. EVP experimentation does not represent something “evil” or “good.” Instead, it is the false sense of scientific exploration, which prevents the experimenter from at least considering the implications of their intent or actions. The evils found in EVP experimentation are the consequences of partaking in mediumistic practices exposing people to numerous spiritual dangers.

            Demons are not mentioned here as some convenient Christian answer. The Fathers of the Church have overwhelmingly agreed that demons are responsible for a variety of harmful forms of spirituality introduced through necromancy. The spirits of the dead are not capable of returning to the world of the living. Concerning why the spirits of the dead are not the source of the voices experienced through EVP, there is something St. John Chrysostom explains for the benefit of all:

 

“God has these doors tightly sealed and He does not allow anyone who departed to return in order to say what goes on there. This is done so that the devil does not gain any reason for introducing any of his fraud.”

 

Of course, this does not prevent the devil and his demons from imitating the souls of the departed. However, if the souls of the departed truly returned to visit the living, people would be much more prone to demonic deceit. In other words, what St. John Chrysostom is saying is that if the souls of the departed could speak with the living, the demons would be much more capable of introducing spiritual deceit through such interactions between the living and the spirits of the dead.

            Based on the type of spirituality that EVP helps promote it becomes easy to recognize why demons are responsible. EVP has helped convince the masses that the mysteries of the afterlife have little or nothing to do with Christianity. In turn, false descriptions of spirit realms populated by spiritual entities of “light” and the souls of the dead are promoted. The saints and angels recognized by the Church are never mentioned, and neither are they recorded through EVP experimentation. Of course, there are EVP experimenters who claim that angels do speak to them. Sometimes “angels” do speak, but the messages they impart are clearly meant to lead people away from the true God. These “angels” are the fallen angels; the demons. Also, the Christian Heaven and Hell are never described through EVP, but reincarnation has been a common message received through EVP experimentation.

            EVP is one of the more dangerous practices promoted by Paranormal societies/researchers and ITC Spiritualists alike. There really is no science being pursued for the purpose of communicating with the dead. The use of technology does not qualify a practice as scientific, especially if used in non-scientific ways. Popular culture presents new technologies as products of science. Among paranormal researchers, technology provides instruments to conduct investigations for the purpose of data collection, but some go beyond this purpose and use technology to interact with spirits. Is EVP a valid technology for paranormal research? Ultimately the answer depends on how technology is utilized. Having identified the occult and New Age beliefs and practices associated to the various developments of EVP, the OCPRS believes that technology serves an entirely non-scientific purpose among paranormal enthusiasts. At the very least, EVP can occur without the intent of spirit communication, but these examples are rare. More importantly, incidental EVP experiences are very different from the intent of spirit communication utilized by ITC Spiritualists and paranormal enthusiasts alike. The facts reveal how EVP is utilized as a means to interact with spirits. It is not the technology, but the methodology that becomes highly questionable. Therefore, the intent of using recording equipment to acquire an EVP has more to do with spirit communication, and not science. Having examined the underlying beliefs and practices surrounding the development of EVP, the OCPRS cannot support EVP experimentation. EVP is explicitly a mediumistic practice and should be avoided like all other mediumistic tools.

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