I have just ordered a new digital voice recorder. Okay, the main reason was that Maplin have a sale and I can’t resist that place. I try to avoid the shop in Aberdeen, but the website is only a mouse-click away.
I have a sensible reason too. Up to now I have largely ignored EVPs (electronic voice phenomena, jargon for ‘voices of the dead’) because they are next to impossible to verify. There is sound, but no vision. You can’t see if there’s someone else there, someone putting on a throaty whisper. The voices never say anything sensible (apart from the ones that whisper ‘Punch the idiot’, but that’s just my subconscious speaking). They are far too easy to fake, whether on tape or digital media. As Tom pointed out a while back, re-used tapes are not always completely wiped over so the EVP might be nothing more than an echo from a previous recording. Too many problems, so I never put much faith in them.
All the same, I do use a digital recorder just in case. You never know. Digital ones don’t have the motor-hiss of tape, they produce files that can be transferred to computer in an instant, they are small and light and they run for a long time on little batteries. Not too much initial cost, low battery cost and no tape cost. Worth trying.
It occurred to me that there is a way to improve the credibility of EVP evidence and perhaps find something about how they work into the bargain. To do this I need a video camera and two digital recorders. I have too many video cameras and one digital recorder. I could have resurrected an old tape recorder for this but well, that new digital one was half-price…
There are already video recordings of investigators capturing and then playing back EVPs but these are on TV shows. Anything designed for entertainment value is suspect. I’m not saying they faked it, I’m saying it would have been very easy to do and no scientist can take a TV show as evidence. Well, not unless they enjoy the sensation of being laughed at.
What I intend to try is this. Set up two voice recorders so that both are completely in the view of the video camera. Start the camera, then the recorders. State the time and date in a clear voice. This fixes a point on all three, and if ever there’s an EVP worth following up, a good voice-analyst can confirm that the three recordings match on that statement.
Now there’s a camera watching the voice recorders so they can’t be tampered with. Before shutting down, state the time and date once more to fix the end of the recording. Then search the voice recordings for EVPs.
So far it’s not clear how EVPs get onto the tape or digital recording. Nobody present hears anything. Having two running together will help answer that.
First, you need a clear and definite voice on one of the recordings. Then you check the other recording to see if it also appears on that, and at the same time. The video recording will show whether the recorders were tampered with, and will reveal any deep-voiced fakes. For some reason these EVPs don’t seem to show up on video sound. There’s probably a technical excuse but I haven’t found it yet. Perhaps a video soundtrack is limited in range because of the width of the tape, most of which is used for pictures? If so, that problem might disappear with these new hard-disk videos. It remains to be seen.
Right. Let’s say there’s a voice at the same time on both recordings, but nothing on the video. We can call it an EVP and we can assume that it’s somehow inaudible to the human (and camera) ear but was picked up by the recorders. Since it’s on both, it must have gone in through the microphones, so it’s somehow ‘really there’ in the room. That calls for equipment capable of translating inaudible sound frequencies into audible. Bat-listening gear, in other words.
Suppose there’s a very clear voice on one recording but nothing on the other, and nothing on the tape. A glitch? Possibly, but it might also indicate the alternative idea concerning EVPs – that they bypass the microphone to land directly on the recording medium. That would suggest moving the investigation into radio frequencies, the most likely source that might be capable of such a thing. If it is RF, it’s likely that one manufacturer’s recorder will be more sensitive to this than another. I'll have two recorders from different manufacturers so I'll detect this if it happens.
It would indeed be embarrassing to find that the voices on tape came from radio frequencies in use by local taxi firms. That’s possible—I used to have a hifi that picked up those signals. So don’t do this on TV. Don’t dash out with the EVP and claim it as proof until every possible source of error has been checked.
I doubt that setup would produce absolute proof. It would take EVPs one step closer to being useful evidence. It would also give an idea whether to concentrate further effort on RF or sound frequencies—either route is expensive and buying expensive but useless equipment is not sensible.
As EVPs stand, the voices are not clear. They say nothing of note. They don’t have conversations with investigators. We can’t tune in to them because we don’t know where they are. Are they sound waves, radio waves, magnetic or electric waves? Heck, we can’t tune in because we don’t even know which device to tune!
If we did know, if we could record an actual conversation with a spirit, then that would be pretty powerful evidence. Especially if they could provide information on something nobody living could know, but which could later be verified. Where they hid something, where a specific lost item can be found, something along those lines. It would be on tape. It would also be on video – well, the investigator’s side of the conversation would be on video. The investigator’s voice could be checked to prove that all three recordings happened at the same time.
This does of course depend entirely on finding a ghost willing to cooperate. That, as always, is the hard part.