An Introduction to Digital Voice Recorders
In the paranormal field, a digital voice recorder is what investigators use to capture spirit voices, known as EVP, and other paranormal auditory phenomena.
Have you ever wondered what the voices of real spirits sound like? Those of us who are brave enough to ask questions and listen can hear the spirits’ responses by using a digital voice recorder to capture what the human ear can’t hear.
Humans can only detect sounds at frequencies between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, while most digital voice recorders sample audio at a 44,100 Hz or 48,000 Hz rate. This makes recorders an excellent ghost hunting tool that can pick up inaudible sounds, lending investigators an ear on the “other side.”
This guide will introduce you to the origins of EVP recorders, how to use them, how to recognize false positives, and how to get the best results.
What is a Digital Voice Recorder?
A digital voice recorder is a small hand-held device that records audio and converts it into digital files that can be transferred, analyzed, and edited on other devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It is also referred to as an electronic recorder, EVP recorder, or audio recorder.
As indicated by the name, this type of voice recorder is digital, but there are also analog versions that have been used throughout the history of paranormal research. The first disembodied voices to ever be captured were recorded on tape.
Analog tapes store audio on physical magnetic particles by using electromagnets. Some believe those tape recordings can be even more efficient at recording spirit voices because both the recording and reading processes involve a variety of mechanisms that the spirits can manipulate.
Recommended Digital Voice Recorder
A Brief History of EVP Recorders
EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena and it occurs when any type of audio recording device captures disembodied voices. This type of spirit communication has been around since the dawn of telecommunication technology.
Some claim that the first EVP to ever be captured dates as far back as 1910, when a Brazillian Catholic priest, Father Roberto Landell de Mour, started experimenting with electronic spirit communication. Legend has it that he built a device that produced EVPs using radio technology.
In the early 1940s, Reverend Drayton Thomas was investigating Gladys Osborne Leonard’s abilities as a medium when he unintentionally captured disembodied voices on tape and identified one of them as his father’s.
Throughout history, many scientists experimented with this phenomenon. Thomas Edison himself attempted to create a device capable of communicating with the dead. Even though he wasn’t successful, he passed on his theory that human personalities survive after death and that it’s possible to capture their disembodied voices.
His curiosity for this subject was picked up by spirit photographer Attila von Szalay and psychologist Raymond Bayless, who successfully built a device that captured spirit voices after first failing with a 78-RPM Pack-Bell record-cutter and player.
Around the same time, Italian pioneers were conducting their own experiments. Marcello Bacci of Grosseto claimed to be able to pick up the voices of the dead on a vacuum tube radio. Two Catholic priests, Father Ernetti and Father Gemelli, stumbled upon EVP while recording Gregorian chants on a reel-to-reel tape recorder called a Magnétophone. This led them to conduct more experiments. Eventually, they became convinced that they were talking to the dead when they heard the voice of Father Gemelli’s father saying that he would always be with him.
Imagine listening to a recording of birds and hearing the voice of your deceased mother telling you that you’re being watched… That’s exactly what happened to Swedish film producer Friedrich Juergens, who became obsessed with the concept of EVP and made hundreds of recordings, earning him the title of “Father of EVP.”
Another researcher who was contacted by his deceased mother was Latvian psychologist Dr. Konstantin Raudive. He had heard of Juergenson’s work and was initially skeptical, but he decided to begin his own experiments in the late 1960s and recorded the voice of his deceased mother saying, “Kostulit, this is your mother.”
In the 1970s and ’80s, spiritual researchers George and Jeanette Meek joined forces with psychic William O’Neil and recorded hundreds of hours of EVP recordings using radio oscillators. They claimed to have captured conversations with the spirit of Dr. George Jeffries Mueller, a university professor and NASA scientist who passed away in 1967.
Experimentation with digital voice recorders for the purpose of spirit communication continues to evolve over time and is becoming more commonplace. Nowadays, nearly everyone has a recording app on their phone that they could potentially use to try and capture disembodied voices.
What are Voice Recorders Used for in Paranormal Investigations?
The act of initiating spirit communication through a recording is called an “EVP Session.” During an EVP session, a paranormal investigator asks questions out loud, pausing in between questions so that the spirits may reply. During the session, the investigator will most likely not hear any audible replies. It isn’t until the “review” phase that the answers are revealed.
This tool is important for ghost hunting because it allows investigators to learn valuable information about the presumed haunting. Sometimes homeowners may call in a paranormal team because they are desperate to resolve a haunting that is creating chaos in their life. Being able to ask the spirits what they need in order to move on or stop causing trouble could make a significant difference in how the situation is resolved.
In the popular Ghost Hunters TV show, lead investigators Jason and Grant frequently use EVP sessions to learn about the spirits and find out information that could potentially help the victimized family either live in harmony with the spirits or get rid of them.
The audio evidence gathered with this tool can be used to validate people’s claims of paranormal activity. Even though the paranormal field is becoming more popular, most people still hesitate to bring up their experiences for fear of being ridiculed. Obtaining audio evidence can not only validate the haunting but can also shed light on who or what is behind it.
In order to interpret the data captured by a digital voice recorder, an investigator must use audio editing software to analyze, clean, and enhance the original audio file. There are three types of EVPs that an investigator might find when reviewing the evidence:
- Class A: Clear and easily understood. Everyone listening agrees on what it’s saying.
- Class B: Lower in volume or more distant sounding. Certain syllables may not be clear and different people might hear different things.
- Class C: Lowest in volume and very hard to understand. It might be a whisper or jumbled sounds.
When it comes to EVPs, it is very important to be aware of false positives and how to avoid them or properly label them. False positives are a product of noise contamination, which can be caused by:
- Ambient sounds such as household items, creaky floors, rodents, dripping water, or anything inside of the house that may produce a sound at random.
- Outdoor noise caused by passing cars, trains, weather, animals, and people.
- Fellow investigators who might be talking in another room or moving things around.
- Movement of or around the recording device.
One common false positive is the classic “jacket rubbing up against the recorder.” When the fabric of a jacket rubs against the surface of a recorder, it produces a sound that often sounds just like a whisper. Because the sound is so ambiguous, it’s easy to mistakenly identify words within it. This is an illusion called auditory pareidolia. Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate these false positives.
EVP Session Best Practices
When conducting EVP sessions there are rules you can follow to minimize noise contamination and optimize authenticity.
1. Strategic Placement of the Recording Device
Instead of walking around with the recorder in your hand, place the recorder on a surface that is out of reach. Choose a surface that no one will bump into, lean on, or move for the duration of the investigation.
2. Tag Everything
“tagging” is the act of verbally labeling a sound so that the person reviewing the audio evidence will know what it was. For example, during an EVP session, an outdoor cat might scream in the distance. Whoever is leading the investigation would say “cat screaming in the distance” out loud. This way when the person reviewing the audio hears the ambiguous sound, they will know that it was just a cat because they will hear the voice of their fellow investigator stating what it was.
3. Implement a No-Whisper Rule
It’s extremely important that the entire ghost hunting team refrains from whispering during an EVP session. Whispers are harder to identify as they don’t carry the same voice signature that a normal tone of voice would. Sometimes investigators might accidentally whisper something which later could be misidentified as a spirit response. If someone whispers by accident, tag it.
4. Properly Label Recordings
When starting and finishing a recording, state the date, time, and location, and name the participants. This will help you not only keep your data organized but also identify disembodied voices that shouldn’t be there. For example, if at the beginning of a recording, the investigator lists only male participants, hearing a female voice is a good indication that it might be an authentic EVP. Be sure to announce the names of any investigators that are joining the group late or leaving early.
Alternative Uses for Digital Voice Recorders
The traditional way of doing an EVP session is to do a long recording where the participants ask questions and review the evidence after the investigation is over. Alternatively, one can do a “Burst EVP Session,” where an investigator does a quick recording of 5 minutes or less and then simply replays the audio on the spot without transferring the file or using audio editing software. This is useful when you don’t want to wait to hear the answers, as they could help determine how to proceed with the investigation.
Recorders can also be used for “Absent EVP Session,” where the investigators start the recording and then leave the premises for an extended period of time. Once the device is retrieved, they can listen to the recording to see if anything was captured while they were gone. This can be really helpful in situations where the paranormal activity only happens in the absence of people or when the team doesn’t have enough investigators to cover the entire location.
Digital Voice Recorders are an Essential Tool for Paranormal Investigators
Every paranormal investigator needs a digital voice recorder in their tool kit. Whether you’re investigating for fun or you’re helping a family resolve a problematic haunting, you need to know what the spirits have to say.
With this information, you should now have a solid understanding of how voice recorders work and the best practices for conducting EVP sessions. All that’s left for you to do is grab your own gear and begin your own paranormal adventure!