One of the greatest quests in the twentieth century through today has been striving to capture the voices of the spirit world on media that can be played and understood by the living. This has become a branch of paranormal investigation called electronic voice phenomena or EVP. Supporters of EVP believe that spirits are able to interact with electronic media to produce brief words or phrases on an otherwise empty recording.

EVPs originated soon after inventor Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and recorded the human voice. Around that time the spiritualist movement was popular and widespread and soon after Edison was asked whether it was possible to use his machines to communicate with the spirit world. He told "Scientific American" in an interview that if spirits were only able to communicate with "subtle influences", then a sensitive recording device may be able to relate better to the spirits than the Ouija boards and table tipping practices of the day.

While there is no record of Edison ever seriously creating a machine, it did not stop mediums and spiritualists from investigating using the new machines to attempt communications with the dead. As spiritualism waned, the interest in using portable recorders and similar equipment to record communications with ghosts grew.

In 1959, Swedish painter Friederich Jurgenson used a recorder to capture the songs of birds only to discover when he played back the tape a message that he believed was from his deceased father. He went on to experiment more with this new phenomena and recorded several more messages especially one supposedly from his late mother.

Others worked on this phenomena as years passed and several were successful in recording what sounded like voices from the dead. Psychologist Konstantin Raudive made over 100,000 recordings of what was believed to be from disembodied spirits. Most messages were single words or short phrases.

The next major step in EVP came with the founding of the organization , the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena for the purpose of furthering the study and understanding of EVP. Its founder Sarah Estep claims to have hundreds of message from various entities including messages from the deceased Raudive.

EVP in the modern day is used by many paranormal investigators to hopefully gather evidence of the spirit world during their cases to corroborate other evidence. Studies have been conducted by scientific organizations with inconclusive results in the sense that no solid discernible voices that can be directly attributed to dead persons were captured on the tape.

Investigators use digital and analog tape recorders during investigations when on cases in the hope of capturing some phenomena. They have used radios to generate white noise on the theory that spiritual energy can manipulate frequencies and radio waves to communicate with the living. One such tool used is called a "Frank's Box" which is a multi-band radio that constantly cycles through frequencies in the hopes that as investigators attempt to communicate with the dead, the radio can relay messages.

Detractors of the phenomena claim that the "voices" heard by people have natural explanations. One leading explanation is the brain will take white noise if it listened to long enough and find patterns that resemble actual speech. The brain interprets the sounds as words creating a "message from the dead." Our brain strives to find patterns in chaos whether it be abstract visual phenomena or static on a radio. While a more complex form, this is also similar to looking up at the clouds and finding figures. Other explanations include the unintentional interference of radio waves captured inadvertently by recording devices especially digital ones or other methods of audio interference.

Those who believe in the possibility of EVP think that the spirit is able to directly manipulate the electronics in recording devices to capture sound and words from "beyond." Another school of thought is the actual investigator is able to exhibit a form a psycho kinesis or PK to subconsciously imprint phrases and words on the media. Still other more "far out" explanations include inter-dimensional beings or extraterrestrials creating the messages.

While I think the truth is in between the two extremes, I have participated in collecting EVP tapes. In some cases, the sound is open to extremely liberal interpretation of words, but in other cases, I have heard distinct phrases with little adjustment. Sometimes in the act of trying to clear up static an EVP can be created, but in other cases there is no mistake as to what the snippet states.

In recent months, we collected several EVP examples at Broney's Hotel in Mahoning that run the gamut from barely discernable to crystal clear. As a way of minimizing the chance that EVPs are created from interference or other natural methods, we will also track EMF fields which help to corroborate either electromagnetic fields in the area or the absence of them. Usually by pinpointing more than one phenomena happening concurrently, we can create a stronger case for the possibility of a paranormal encounter.

The validity of EVPs is still an ongoing debate but when we collect them, the hope is that a message in context with the investigation will be discerned and recorded. As we conduct public investigations at Broney's Hotel through October including Halloween, we hope to find more evidence that EVP is a possible method of communication.

Til next timeā€¦