Pretty much since the dawn of electronic communication devices, people have reported hearing the voices of spirits through these devices. Since the early 20th century, many have set up recorders in quiet rooms and played back the recordings, hearing what they say sounds like human voices.
Some have even reported receiving communications from the dead via telephone calls, images on televisions and computer screens, and more.
Though many experiments have been carried out with varying degrees of success, the mainstream modern scientific literature on the phenomenon is scarce. Experiments are dismissed by some as flawed in their processes or as failing to yield the degree of certainty required by mainstream science to accept a phenomenon as real. Dr. Imants Barušs at the University of Western Ontario in Canada made a rare move in seriously studying this so-called “electronic voice phenomenon” (EVP), publishing his study in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2001.
Though his report is titled, “Failure to Replicate Electronic Voice Phenomenon,” it admits partial success in replication. While Dr. Barušs could not provide the clear, hard proof of EVP he set out to, he was able to detect what sounded like voices, and even some words that his assistant felt may have come from a deceased acquaintance of hers. Barušs replicated EVP in a weak sense, he said, but not a strong one. He raised some interesting points, however, as to the difficulties of studying this subject and established some protocol that could be used for further investigation.
Ghost Hunting in the Lab
As he prepared to begin his investigation, Barušs met with Mark Macy in Boulder, Calif. Macy had taken photos he said contained spirit images and had also tried to prove the existence of other realms through EVP recordings. Macy gave Barušs some advice on how to proceed, as recounted by Barušs: “He emphasized two things: the more successful experiments have been the result of spiritual purpose so that spiritual integrity is necessary on the part of ITC researchers, and the ability to obtain anomalous voices and images is dependent upon the establishment of a contact field through regular and persistent effort.”
Could an attempt to scientifically verify EVP also have a sufficiently spiritual purpose or integrity behind it? As to establishing a “contact field,” Barušs noted that “the parameters for the development of such a field, other than, presumably, the prerequisite of spirituality and the need for persistence, are unknown.”
Nonetheless, he selected two assistants back at the university in London, Canada, whom he esteemed for their integrity. They set up equipment in a quiet corner of campus, in a room closed off from voices of incarnate beings, to ensure any voices heard would be sufficiently mysterious. They kept the experiment secret to ensure no pranksters could interfere. Taking turns, each would sit in the room and record themselves talking to any spirits that may be listening.
EVP experiments by others have often required a radio tuned between stations or a TV on a blank channel. Barušs and his assistants thus tuned the radio between stations to record. Later, they would play back the tape to listen for any voices aside from their own.
What They Heard
Barušs described what they heard for most of the recording, which totaled 60 hours: “In addition to static and apparent radio stations breaking through from time to time there was also a buzzing noise, probably caused by interference from the overhead fluorescent lights. There were occasional dramatic fluctuations of the background noise that were similar to fluctuations that I heard during Macy’s demonstration on his equipment that he attributed to an effort on the part of those in spirit to control the radio output.”
The most remarkable result came on Oct. 17, 1997, when it sounded like someone said, “Tell Peter.” Both Barušs and one of his two assistants independently identified the words as “Tell Peter,” describing the voice as female and as speaking at a regular speed. The assistant, Gail, thought the voice sounded like a deceased woman she had known whose husband’s name was Peter.
Another event was a “squawking noise” 13 seconds after one of the researchers asked if any spirits were present. The noise, “with a little imagination could be interpreted as ‘Hello,’” Barušs wrote.
Some EVP has been dismissed as enthusiasts imagining random noise to sound like words. Some have said it is parts of radio broadcasts tuning in and out. Enthusiasts have said, however, that one must simply become accustomed to listening carefully for these kinds of communications before being able to hear them more clearly. The language of the communications has also been said to change depending on the listener, irregardless of the local language broadcast on the radio programs.
What Would Have Convinced Barušs
Barušs gave a couple of examples of what would have constituted hard evidence that EVP exists.
The late Dr. Konstantin Raudive studied EVP and said the voices would speak to him in his native language, Latvian.
“As I am also a native speaker of Latvian, had clear and meaningful phrases in Latvian showed up on the tapes, if indeed phrases in Latvian spoken by Raudive had showed up on the tapes, given that Raudive has purportedly addressed others in English since his death in 1974 … that would have been an argument in favor of a paranormal origin for the voices,” Barušs wrote.
He would have also been convinced, “if one of the operators had been clearly addressed by name and given information that was unlikely to have been known by anyone else, as has been reported by some EVP researchers.”
Barušs noted that his experiment may not have been sufficiently spiritual if that is indeed a requirement for EVP to manifest. George Meek, an industrialist who invested in an EVP recording machine known as the Spiricom in the 1980s, had said that at least one psychically endowed person must be involved.
EVP could be one of three things, said Barušs. Either it is nothing unusual, a phenomenon created by known psychological factors; or it is the anomalous influence of researchers on electronic equipment (researchers at Princeton University’s Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab have suggested that people may be able to affect electronic devices with their minds); or it really is disincarnate beings influencing the minds or the equipment of the investigators.