News Article From the Kansas City Star
                                    Topic EVP Voices


Living/FYI Posted on Fri, Jan. 07, 2005 Kansas City Star. "When you play it back it's different from a human voice. It's a lower-range voice,” says Kansas City psychic Sueanne Pool about electronic voice phenomena. She is the author of Kansas City Hauntings and Ghosts. EVP voices are hard to hear, says Becky Ray of Grain Valley. THEY HEAR DEAD PEOPLE Paranormal investigators record voicelike sounds, but critics give them static By LISA GUTIERREZ The Kansas City Star “They're in the background, so you wouldn't notice them unless you're listening for them. But I have gotten a couple of them where it's like there's another person in the room.” — Becky Ray of Paranormal Activity Investigators This weekend moviegoers will see Michael Keaton wig out when he hears his dead wife's voice through static on his TV. The movie, “White Noise,” is sheer Hollywood, Kansas City ghost hunters say. They record voices from the other side, they claim, using ordinary tape recorders and camcorders, not TVs. And it usually happens like this: they're called in to investigate paranormal activity in someone's home, a place of business, a cemetery. As they work, they record everything, recorders and camcorders running. Later, when they play back those recordings, they say they can hear voices on them that they didn't hear as they were recording, what those in paranormal circles refer to as electronic voice phenomena, or EVP. On their recordings, the voices seem to be singing. They curse. They weep. They holler. One voice, recorded in a Blue Springs cemetery, sounds like a young girl saying “I miss Mom.” Another, from a historic home in Atchison, Kan., wants to know: “Where's my daddy?” Another, recorded in a northern Missouri home, pleads, “Help me, Brian.” “Once in a while we'll get a weird voice saying ‘Get out' or ‘Leave my house,' but it's very rare that you get something scary,” says Bryan Kaplan, a member of Kansas City's Paranormal Activity Investigators group and the ghost hunter who recorded the “Help me, Brian” message. “White Noise,” which opens today, could spike interest in a hotly debated form of paranormal research, already the topic of dozens of Web sites and books. Swedish opera singer Friedrich Jurgenson, one of the best-known researchers in the EVP field, recorded his first experience in 1959, when he claims to have heard the voice of his dead mother on a recording he made of birds singing in the forest. In the 1980s, EVP believer Sarah Estep founded the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena, which today has its own Web site and newsletter. Estep was a consultant on “White Noise.” Skeptics of most things paranormal debunk EVP as the product of overactive imaginations, the power of suggestion, electrical interference or even transmissions bleeding over from other frequencies. Anticipating buzz over “White Noise,” the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP, reminded the public this week that EVP recordings can't be scientifically proved and are little more than so much static. “Serious parapsychologists today show virtually no interest in EVP, and modern reports in the parapsychological literature find no evidence of anything paranormal in these recordings,” the group's spokesman, James Alcock, a Toronto psychology professor, said in the group's written statement. EVP believers have heard it all before. But they keep on recording and posting their recordings for all to hear, and debate, on Web sites. “The first step is the scientific community as a whole has to recognize that something is going on with audio,” says Kaplan, a self-professed audiophile. “It doesn't necessarily mean that it's a ghost. It's still paranormal, in the sense that it's not in the normal range of understanding. And then from there we can understand the whole conscious response. That's the part I'm more intrigued by.” Some EVP stories sound like urban legends. One of the stories posted at www.aaevp.com tells of a woman whose daughter died young. One day the woman accidentally left her daughter's dog in the house when she went shopping; she also left a voice-activated recorder on. While she was gone the dog tore up plants and made quite a mess. And there, on the recorder, is the dead daughter's voice, scolding the dog. Ghosts and Haunts in Missouri, a paranormal investigation and research group in St. Louis, also posts EVP recordings on its Web site. “There's one cemetery, a big one in St. Louis, where we've recorded the voices of children shouting, ‘We're here!'?” says member Terry Gambill. “None of us heard it while we were there. We were all there, looking over the cemetery and wandering the grounds, but none of us heard these voices.” Gambill says he has captured nine EVP recordings using a Sony digital camcorder and hand-held digital voice recorder. Once, during an investigation of a cemetery where most of the deceased are German, “You can clearly hear a powerful man's voice, and it's not in English,” Gambill says. He says he knows the voice didn't belong to anyone in his group who was there when the recording was made. No one can be certain where the voices come from, Gambill says. “We can't prove it. We don't know. The best theory is that it's the voices of people who have died, but that of course is untested.” According to the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena, EVP experimenters are using all types of devices that record sound, from audio tape recorders and video cameras to computers and even telephone answering machines. Kaplan uses an external microphone on a digital voice recorder, which he says eliminates a lot of hissing sound. When he posts the recordings on his group's Web site, he plays three versions. The first clip is unedited. On the second he has removed hisses and background noises. The third clip is the amplified, hiss-free version. The EVP voices can't be mistaken, he says, for the voices of anyone else who is heard on the recordings. Those of anyone else present at the time “will sound distant,” he says. “But these voices are full voices, low. And they're either sing-song or very monotone.” Kansas City psychic Sueanne Pool, who says she has also recorded EVP in her work, calls voices “spooky.” “When you play it back it's different from a human voice. It's a lower-range voice,” says Pool, the author of Kansas City Hauntings and Ghosts and the upcoming The Ghosts of Jackson County. The voices often are not easy to hear, says Becky Ray of Grain Valley, a colleague of Kaplan's in Paranormal Activity Investigators. (She's right. Give a listen to any of the scores of EVP recordings on the Internet, and you have to listen to many of them over and over to hear what they are alleged to be saying. On some, frankly, it's darn near impossible to make out the “message.”) “A lot of them, they're pretty quiet,” says Ray, who thinks the voices belong to the dead. “They're in the background, so you wouldn't notice them unless you're listening for them. But I have gotten a couple of them where it's like there's another person in the room. “We have had them say names. On a couple of investigations we've had Bryan's name mentioned. At this most recent investigation they mentioned one of the owners of the building, a common name, which might have been a coincidence. Some of them sound like conversations that were going on, like residual conversations.” After its visit to a Leawood home last spring, Ray's group discovered that it had recorded what sounded like a loud argument between a man and woman. There were no TVs playing in the house at the time or any other interference, Ray says, that might have caused it. “It sounds violent,” she says. “It was definitely not going on while we were there. Our theory is that it was something that had happened in the past.” Like Kaplan, Gambill and others who say they have captured EVP, Pool says she has never manipulated the recordings. “We're not playing it backward like ‘Oh, Satan's here,'?” says Pool, who claims to have made from 200 to 300 EVP recordings. “If you try to manipulate it in any way, you lose your integrity. “A lot of people are saying now they're creating a sound board that creates white noise so they can hear the ghosts. I tell them that's stupid.” EVP experimenters say that anyone can try doing what they do because elaborate devices aren't needed. The most popular devices at the moment are digital IC recorders that can be used with a computer to analyze the recordings. A recording device, earmuff-type headphones and a low-noise, high-sensitivity tape, and you're set to experiment. Unless, that is, “White Noise” scares you off. Because the movie opens today, none of the local ghost hunters or psychics had seen it. But few held out hope that it's an accurate portrayal of their own experiences in the field. The movie's previews seem to suggest that the EVP communications are lengthy, when in reality, most of the recordings tend to be short, a few words at the most. “It's entertainment,” Pool says. “It brings to light the fact that there is much more to life after death than anyone has ever assumed, that with our modern technology we are able to hear bits and pieces. But to hear long-term conversations? I don't think so. Think about it. Everyone would be having these conversations at home. ‘Mom, what was that recipe again?'?” To reach Lisa Gutierrez, features reporter, call (816) 234-4987 or send e-mail to lgutierrez@kcstar.com
.On the Web • www.missourighosts.net — St. Louis-based Ghosts and Haunts in Missouri
• www.ghost-investigators.com — Kansas City-based Paranormal Activity Investigators
• www.kcghost.com — Kansas City Ghost Hunters
• www.aaevp.com — The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena. Offers detailed instructions on how to experiment with EVP.
• To find out more about EVP and to hear more samples, go to www.kansascity.com and click on Living/FYI.
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