After dabbling into the mysteries of Electronic Voice Phenomena, can one use the AN214 IC-based audio amplifier to “listen” to “ghost voices”?
By: Vanessa Uy
As an “objectivist” when it comes to the science and art of audio electronics, I am often reminded why I am still fascinated by this hobby. Especially when it comes to the still “unexplained” portions of this hobby that tends to crop up when Halloween season comes along. I’m talking about Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP that’s more commonly referred to as “ghost voices” by the layperson. Which fortunately gained my interest as of late after examining a rainwater-damaged AN214 IC Audio Amplifier that had turned not only into an ad hoc white-noise generator, but also managed to pickup “unexplained” voices that on rare moments of clarity imply that the voices originate from the “other side”. But before going further, here’s a primer on the very fascinating paranormal phenomena scientifically known as Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP.
Ever since a large number of ordinary folks gained unlimited access to a tape recorder (probably a few years after World War II) and began doing a wide range of do-it-yourself musical performance and field / nature sound recordings. They began to capture “phantom sounds” or “phantom voices” that couldn’t be easily explained away by the scientific principles governing the working processes of these tape recorders. These phantom voices were often referred to as ghost voices since an overwhelming number of them – especially during the 1960s and 1970s - were captured or recorded in an apparent séance sessions when the spirit of a specific dearly departed were contacted to answer questions regarding life after death.
The first person most popularly credited for capturing EVP on tape was a documentary producer named Friedrich Jurgenson when during a summer day in 1959 as he was recording bird-songs in the Swedish countryside managed to record something unexpected. When Jurgenson played back his tapes later, he was surprised to find a mysterious voice speaking in Norwegian who was also surprisingly narrating along the recorded bird-song sounds rather expertly. After investigating the radio programs airing during the same time of the bird-song field recordings to rule out possible RF rectification, Jurgenson came up empty in his search which only deepened the mystery behind Electronic Voice Phenomena.
By 1965, Jurgenson’s research into EVP gained the attention of a psychologist named Dr. Konstantin Raudive. Later, Dr. Raudive teamed up with a physicist named Alex Schneider, which the two of them became very instrumental in devising ways and set-ups to capture EVPs to augment the tape recorder. Like using white-noise generators, germanium diode-based crystal sets, unused frequencies on the FM dial, and the use of sensitive microphones in apparently silent venues with known paranormal activity – especially very late at night. Dr. Konstantin Raudive’s research into EVPs eventually resulted in the publication of a very influential book on ghost voices / paranormal voice research titled “ Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead” in 1971.
Even though Friedrich Jurgenson’s recorded “phantom voice” on the bird-song tape was believed to be the first EVP recording due to its overwhelming popularity. Thanks to the popularity of Dr. Raudive’s Breakthrough - in the newly established EVP research community, there were two American paranormal researchers who were recording and documenting EVPs several years before Jurgenson’s 1959 bird-song recording. Psychical investigators Raymond Bayless and Attila von Szalay had published a paper in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research documenting the results of their three-year experiment in investigating EVPs. Bayless and von Szalay’s EVP research started in the investigation of a local psychic in their area named Sophia Williams who was allegedly able to make a disembodied voice appear on tape. To their first ever recording of a confirmed EVP on December 5, 1956. Raymond Bayless and Attila von Szalay may be the first to investigate EVPs, but Dr. Konstantin Raudive was the most prolific cataloger of EVPs - which numbered over 70,000 voices before his death in 1974. Given extensive scientific research and investigation, can it be proven that Electronic Voice Phenomena are really voices of the souls of the dearly departed that speaks to us from the “other side”?
As with the confusion behind UFOs - which officially means Unidentified Flying Objects – as opposed to an overwhelmingly popular prevailing belief that they are highly advanced spacecraft piloted by an extra-terrestrial biological being capable of traversing vast interstellar distances by travelling faster-than light. UFOs are just unidentified flying objects – unless of course you’re part and parcel into those wild conspiracy theories I suppose. Sadly, as it is with our eyes, our ears can also be fooled – especially when it comes to Electronic Voice Phenomena.
It has been well established that our eye-brain system consciously searches out meaningful patterns in apparently chaotic and random places. Like the “Man on the Moon” where the craters and the large “seas” on the Lunar surface roughly resembles a human face. Patterns often crop up in tea leaves another popular medium used to foretell the future. Most EVPs that are heard clearly without extensive signal processing can be easily explained away as RF rectification – i.e. radio signals received in improperly shielded and constructed audio equipment. While ones requiring very advanced digital signal processing – especially on equipment often used by the American FBI or other big-ticket law-enforcement agencies – like EVPs from white-nose can often sound like the auditory equivalent of seeing patterns in a snow bank or tea leaves. It is just too reliant on subjectivity to pass muster as a truly intelligible human speech. Although some psychoactive drugs and herbs when recreationally taken tend to make the sound of white-noise sound as if the Voice of God in Her Infinite Wisdom talking directly to you.
While my AN214 IC audio amplifier as white-noise generator did receive very interesting EVP “spikes” during the past few weeks. Most of them can easily be explained away as nearby AM transmissions modulating the seemingly constant hiss of the white-noise to produce a rhythmic modulation that’s often mistaken as a ghost voices. But I did managed to pick up a few that can’t be explained away as AM transmissions after I placed the rainwater damaged AN214 in a faraday cage. I even received something that sounded like our long dead Border collie. I just hope that these “ghosts” don’t sue me for copyright infringement because I’ve been hearing one who is a very brilliant singer-songwriter.