evp as a popular part of the ghost hunt
Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) has become one of the most popular elements of a modern day ghost hunt often presented as solid evidence of the paranormal and even intelligent spirit communication. However, the reality is that EVP is a good distance from being anything close to solid evidence and has become nothing more than a crowd pleaser amongst many weekender ghost hunters seeking an experience of their own.
If this comes across as a little cynical then my apologies, but of the years I have personally placed confidence in EVP recordings as potential evidence and equally been witness to some of the most shockingly obvious misinterpretations of random sounds I could ever imagine. Sometimes reality can really be stranger than fiction.
I guess the first thing to look into is the possible reasons that EVP may have become so popular amongst ghost hunters. It certainly seems to be the go to approach during many ghost hunts, sometimes without a real justification other than just giving it a go at the location, to see what may be caught.
The obvious reason for utilising an EVP approach during a ghost hunt would be due to there being reports of possible audible phenomenon occurring at areas of the location. In which case it would make perfect sense to attempt to record something in order to try and capture the ghostly sounds that may have been reported. However, this is not always the case and leaning to utilising EVP approaches is more of an action to fill the quiet void of a vigil in room absent of light.
why lean towards evp techniques
So, why do many ghost hunters tend to lean towards EVP techniques then during their ghost hunts? Perhaps the answer can be found in some of their favourite paranormal reality TV shows? As far back as I can remember these TV programmes would include EVP during the show and that’s something that has certainly increased over the years. Originally they would conduct the ghost hunt and during one or two vigils they may utilise EVP techniques, but straight forward ones where they would simply ask a few questions leaving time to receive answers. Then that audio file would be reviewed along with other recordings, with potential ‘evidence’ being presented in the reveal at the end of the show.
These initial techniques were okay, they still lacked many controls and were subject to many issues from external noises, but at least they were simple. Captures were less frequent then today and not every sound was ‘get out’ or aggressive, let alone demonic. Interestingly some of the early TV shows would appear to be more strict with calling out potential sounds that would likely have an explanation, rather than something supernatural.
Over time these techniques were picked up by weekender ghost hunters too and adopted into their ghost hunts more regularly. It probably helped that the technology became more and more accessible and affordable too. I personally remember recording EVP sessions during a Friday or Saturday ghost hunt and then listening back the next day to see what we might had captured. This often presented an obvious issue though; whilst you can remember the event when you recorded the EVP, smaller details about what was happening at the time could often escape your memory. After all our memory is far from perfect right?
This would often lead to some people believing that they had captured some kind of spooky communication from the after life, which would later turn out to simply be someones jacket brushing up against a wall or far off car engine. Interestingly I have encounter a few times where people have been convinced that what they have is ‘evidence’ and no matter what you tell them, you cannot change their minds. This is where belief and the desire to capture something begins to overall reality; then EVPs are seen to almost represent a phone call with the dead. Which oddly there are reports about, phone calls from the dead that is, perhaps something for another post.
different evp methods
These days technology has meant that EVP techniques have evolved greatly in relation to the ghost hunt, but I wonder if they are truly representing the concept as it was originally perceived. Certainly many giants of psychical research have spent some time looking at EVPs and often found it to be lacking in support for survival. However, the modern day weekender ghost hunter continues to utilise it in its many forms during their ghost hunts. One technique that appears to be relatively popular today is the Spirit Box method, where by the ghost hunter uses a simple radio that searcher through AM and FM bands briefly playing a second of audio from various frequencies. What is played is often interpreted as being communication from spirit. The problem for me on this one is that I am not entirely sure if it counts as EVP, as the audio is generated by a radio and doesn’t emerge from silence. Equally I have seen how this can be awfully misinterpreted, simply because the ghost hunter is looking for an answer to their question. Obviously on occasion the audio from the radio can be really well timed and appear as if it has to be directly related to the question that asked. I have seen this happen many times during ghost hunts, but often one hit alone can define the rest as being intelligent communication from a spirit. Which in reality it was not and was just simple math.
This spirit box approach opened the door to the concept of forming more interactive EVP sessions during ghost hunts. Something that the TV shows jumped on quickly as it keeps them much more engaging as it appears as if they are directly communicating with a ghost at a location. This equally plays into the drama of a ghost hunt and helps build the story that surrounds it. Various variations have evolved from the spirit box, which probably came from Franks Box originally, each bringing its own little tweak to the approach. Some of the devices exterior designs probably belong in some kind of horror film, which equally helps us to see the potential mindset of the ghost hunter that designed it. These devices take on the form of props in a film (or TV show) rather than devices used to capture the voices spirits during paranormal research.
Another technique which is gaining popularity more and more is that of live listening or quick review of the audio. In this the ghost hunter will conduct an EVP session with their digital voice recorder asking various questions to the resident spirit often based on an assumption of whom they may be talking with due to the locations history. In one version of this their device allows them to listen to the recording delayed by only a second or two. However, the more popular appears to be to finish a brief set of questions and then review the audio there and then. Whilst I understand the logic behind this in that if something is captured then it could help to lead the next step of the investigation, it could equally be argued that the desire to capture something is greater in the moment and as such misinterpretation is possibly more likely. I have certainly been witness to a few questionable instances where certain ghost hunters have been convinced they have captured a good quality EVP. My own opinion of those EVP’s being one that is probably not shared by the group.
Which leads us nicely to the final point on modern EVP’s; the social dynamic that can drive validation of many EVP’s. Basically in order to remain a part of the group and often to follow a main member of a group, other members of ghost hunter groups will be more likely to agree with those presenting the more questionable EVP’s. This means often that more members will agree with a poor EVP being identified as potential communication and good evidence, when in reality it is simply not. Again I have seen this both on TV shows and amongst various ghost hunting groups, but often I find it fascinating as you can begin to understand the social dynamic of the group. Going against the main members of the group voicing an opinion that counters their ‘evidence’ does not always go in your favour. Something which is poor in my opinion as all our views should be valid, especially in regards to a subject where gaining a greater perspective is imperative.
I am not looking to stop the use of EVP as a technique during a ghost hunt, as I do believe it has a time and place when it should be used. However, I do think better more measurable techniques need to be adopted, at least by those claiming to be serious paranormal investigators. As such those more questionable dramatic approaches should be ditched. Equally without good data in this area most EVP remains highly subjective and a distance from being evidence of any kind, in my opinion.
However, I think we can find a place for some good EVP experiments that meet the mark that we can repeat to seek similar results, enabling us to gather more data in this area. After all there has been some good research into some audible phenomenon which means the area is still open for further exploration.
I guess there is a point to EVP, perhaps not in the form we currently see on TV or the way in which many ghost hunters utilise it, but certainly there is some work still to do in this area. Personally I would like us all to be more honest about what we hear when listening back to EVP’s and maybe realise that we need a little more for it to be true evidence.