Saturday, May 23, 2009

Classifications for EVPs

EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) is the supposed capturing of spirit voices on a recorder that aren’t heard by the human ear at the time of the recording. I readily admit that EVP is not an easy thing to gather in the field or evaluate.

There are several obstacles to getting good recordings. The most obvious is sound intrusion. Most sites I’ve been to for study have been too noisy to gather EVP because of road/aircraft sounds and the cries of children playing in the street, and other things that could be interfering.

It would be nearly impossible to set up an environment for complete clean capture by the simple fact that our airwaves are filled with signals from radios to CB’s, from cell phones to satellite phones. A recording device is a receiver and so therefore we can’t really be certain we’ve captured a ghost’s voice. It would take a scientifically designed special room with shielding to get an accurate record. That’s an experiment I’d like to see someone install in a building with a history of a lot of EVPs.

In the event an EVP does truly appear to be a response to the spoken words of the living, it is still impossible to tell if that apparently intelligent voice is a spirit’s voice. There are many other explanations that can include psychic projection, interdimensional, as well as outright fraud. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t use EVP as absolute proof of a haunting, if a haunting is defined by the public as “visitations from the souls of the departed.” However, in the context of other findings at a site, EVP can help to influence the decision that a site is experiencing paranormal phenomenon.

Below are the classifications found on this website.

Class A:
A clear and distinct voice or sound that is universally accepted and undisputed, by anyone listening to it, and does not require audio cleaning or editing. The specifics of what is being said in the EVP is understandable by everyone listening, without being told or prompted beforehand what words or sounds to listen for; in other words a clean and articulate EVP. This is also one of the hardest EVPs to capture; most EVPs out there are typically grade class B or C.

Class B:
This class of EVP is more common and can be heard by most people; especially after being told what to listen for. However these recordings may require some editing or cleaning to pull out what is being said. The more experienced the investigators the less trouble they have locating the EVP within the recording. People will often have differing opinions on what is being said, what the noise is, or may not even be able to understand it. But the sound should be fairly clear and words should be fairly understandable to be a placed in the "B" category.

Class C:
This is the most commonly captured EVP. These are commonly clips that have been cleaned, edited, cleaned again, and is still are a mess. Most of the time the sounds or voices present themselves in a faint and whispery tone or that can barely be heard; sometimes even totally indecipherable and unintelligible. However, if the investigator, or team, is 100% sure that the EVP came from an empty room, or is not the voice of a fellow investigator, it can still be labeled as an EVP; just not a very good one.

In order for an EVP to receive a Class R rating it must have a meaning to it when played in reverse. Some EVPs will have a meaning when played normally and a different meaning in reverse. When this happens it will have two classifications. For example a Class A, EVP with a excellent and clear meaning in reverse as well, would be titled a Class A-RA, EVP. This meaning it was very clear to understand both forward and in reverse. It can not have a Class A-RC because this would mean that it could not be understood in reverse which would not be a Class-R EVP. You may have a Class B-RB or a Class A-RB etc.

If you watch “Ghost Hunters” show, you’ve probably heard a lot of Class C’s that usually sound like noises rather than voices, quite a few Class B’s that sound like words but are hard to make out, and only a couple Class A’s that are very clearly spoken words easily identified. I won’t even comment on Class-R, as I didn’t buy into messages played backwards on LP’s in the 70s anymore than I am on the notion of playing a recording backwards to hear a ghost.

You now the Class A because everyone at once knows precisely what was said. There isn’t any question about it, no one is hearing it differently. Class A is also the very hardest and rarest to capture.

Class B is the most common of the exceptional captures and it is clear to the listeners it is a voice speaking, but the exact wording can vary a great deal. There was an episode of “Ghost Hunters” in a family’s home when the parents were listening to the EVP and the mother thought it said “we’re chasin” and the father thought it said, “who’s Jason?” The team agreed that they heard “Who’s Jason,” but they had to prompt her to discern those words, then she heard "Who's Jason?"

On that same episode; however, there was the obvious sound of a child humming in that way they do when they’re busy playing with their toys. That was agreed upon by all and would be classified as a Class A, just as the sounds of booted footfalls might also be clearly understood by the listeners.

Class C is so very common that I usually erase these from my files. When you can’t even tell if it was supposed to be language, it’s a very poor EVP. It amazes me to listen to other’s EVPs when they think they clearly hear words in what sounds like ambient noises.

As a medical transcriptionist professional, I have always adhered to the saying used by doctors in determining differential diagnoses, "when you see footprints, think horses, not zebras." I have listened to thousands of reports swearing the doctor is saying one thing only to have someone else listen to it and hear something completely different. I understand how the mind picks up consonants and vowels and syllables and can focus on one alliteration, ignoring all else.

Although I’m intrigued by EVP findings when they get captured, which is fairly rare, it would take a Class A for me to be truly excited. Even then, I would want to know what context these words were uttered to see if they resemble intelligent interaction or coincidence. It’s not a clean source of evidence gathering, but with enough of these lined up together in search of intelligent interaction, they could show their true efficacy over time.


  1. Really excellent and concise article on EVPs, thank you!

  2. I didn't realize that there were different class for EVP so I was glad to see you break it down. I do remember the GH show where the voice said "Who is the one in the hat?" so clearly that they caught it on the video device. That was cool. Since Mike and I are rookie investigators we did tried an EVP session at the Copper Queen Hotel. We left a recorder and video camera on in room 401 while we all walked around Bisbee for over two hours. Many of the sounds and voices we were able to debunk but there was a couple we were puzzled about. We heard whisling close to the recorder and a male voice speaking near the mic. We couldn't make out what he said but he sounded mad. Not bad for our first attempt at it. We hope for many more EVP sessions in the future. Are there any recorders you prefer?

  3. I use an Olympus. They're cheap at Best Buy and work just as well as any other. Some folks like to use external mic's and I'm okay with that. It becomes an issue then of whether to get a directional mic, multidirectional mic, or whether or not to use a windscreen. Most people do recordings indoors, so windscreens aren't really necessary. In an abandoned site, that might be best, however. A directional mic might be useful if you know for certain where sounds have been emitted. For instance, the stairs in the house I grew up in had booted footsteps. That would be on where it could be directed up the stairway. In most cases a multidirectional mic is best. Some folks like to wear headphones so they can listen to what's being recorded and hear the EVPs as they're occurring. That's very helpful to see if a reaction is being had by the line of questioning. The best EVP session I've been in on was extremely controlled. There were recorders set up all over the huge open area and then a microphone on the table before the interviewer. He wore headphones to listen to what was being recorded. Everyone was instructed to be accounted for, all had to sit at the table. If anyone so much as sneezed, shifted in their seat, or coughed, the interviewer made note of it on the microphone, "disregard, person shifting." As controlled EVPs sessions go, that's pretty good. It's tougher in hotels because admitted duct work and old walls make for neighbor's conversations coming through so if you set up and leave the room, you might be missing people walking down the hall having an argument. An ideal EVP session is to account for everyone in the place, remove as many people as you can, spend some time there ahead of time just to find out if sound travels through the vents and such, and then find an ideal location where action has been reported and report all sounds that the interviewers make, even if they stand up or walk. That's what's so frustrating about TAPS is that they do things kind of halfhazard. I don't want them walking through rooms asking questions. I'd rather have them plop down quietly and account for every time the sound guy, production assistant, or camera dude make a sound. I hope to meet up with ya'all some time and work the equipment with you. It's great to know there's more folks around AZ capturing stuff and getting evidence. The more the better.

  4. You have to wonder how much of what's shown on Ghost Hunters, though, accounts for the total of most investigations they do. What is done for the camera on those investigations chosen for the show, for instance?

    I'm impressed by the description of the controlled session ... excellent. I hope all the care put into it was rewarded.

  5. Gayze;
    Thanks for reading my post. Yeah, I think GH does have some advantages and disadvantages; they can certainly have the equipment and team of their choosing, and perhaps all the sound/camera/lights can actually create enough EMF to make things happen, but at the same time those very things might inhibit activity. I don't think they do as much of an editing job as Paranormal State which has a way of making everything line up as neatly as an episode of "Murder She Wrote." All I can go by with TAPS is that they have been around a long time, were doing it without any glory, and are debunkers with ethics, so for that I give them super kudos. How the editing folks want to play with it when the film is taken, is pretty much up to them, but if they wanted to wow us, they'd have made this last half season possess one moment of excitement--I didn't even tape it was so awful and that's how real hunts go. Dry spells. They probably need a better booker for their sites who's more intuitive about where to go and when to go. That's one time having a psychic inside might promise more hits. That controlled session impressed me a lot. We heard a few sobs and chairs rattling upside down on their tables and I heard very clearly heavy footsteps on the wood floors, but very little came out on audio even with all that equipment. We did capture a sound of a towel dispenser in the bathroom and that seemed to be turning in response to our questions. I examined it and couldn't find any way that thing could move on its own.

  6. As a psychic who's sat in on many a seance as a medium, I can totally agree with your thoughts on how "too much commotion" can thwart a spirit's ability, or willingness, to manifest. Our little group (which I've been away from way too long due to personal issues, and am missing these days) have had some really good results ... of course without the equipment to record them, LOL ... just by making sure things are dark, quiet, peaceful, up-beat, and protected.

    And then there was the time my hubby, who insists he's not "connected" (sure) and a "skeptic" (right) was vacuuming the seance room "the morning after", and kept hearing a dog barking. He'd stop the vacuum, the barking would stop, start it up again, and he'd hear it.

    Finally, he left the vacuum running and moved in the direction of the sound ... it was coming from the "trumpet" in the center of the table! (Spiritualist groups use a metallic silver trumpet as an "amplifying" tool.)

    LOL, he shut off the vacuum, locked up the church, and left.

    Vacuum cleaner = white noise generator? Go figure.

  7. Gayze;
    A session like that with the aid of recorders would be quite interesting. It's impossible to differentiate between people using psychic skills and activity so until scientists find a way to understand the pathway by which spiritual matter and psychic matter travel and if they are the same pathway, it can be difficult to tell if folks in seances are raising the dead or making connections with past and present. I'd like to think with the ideal conditions, spirit activity can manifest. The trumpet intrigues me because as a psychic who specializes in psychometry, I'd be interest to know if the trumpet is metallic. The shape alone should act well as a conduit for energy in that it's circular (like my lighthouse theory) and therefore might retain some trapped energy. A session like that with proper audio recording could actually provide some interesting interactions. I hope you get the chance to record in the future, I'd be curious what you get.

  8. Yes, the trumpet's metallic. There are different types. The one our group uses is a collapsible cone in three segments and made out of thin metal. I think it may be tin.

    I'd love to have a recorder present one of these nights. :-)

  9. Gayze;
    Let me know how the next use of the cone goes. The tin construction would make it weak from a psychic viewpoint. I think unless you have one made of a stronger metal, your other option might be to try some experiments with amplifying its ability. I'd try a small magnet in the center of the trumpet on the table or perhaps a small piece of quartz that won't disturb the funnel, but might help draw energy at the very core of the circular shape. It's only an experiment, but I'd be curious to see if it works as a kind of power boost for it. I'm always into trying new Feng Shui type things to see what makes a difference. It's only through finding commonalities that we'll figure out this energy.

  10. I'm not certain it's tin ... it is a standard trumpet in a style/make that have been used by the Spiritualist Church for a very long, time, though. I know we can get the quartz/crystal, and probably magnet, too, and will suggest it. I'm not sure when I'll be returning, physical health has siderailed me, but I hope it'll be soon!

  11. Gayze;
    It's great having folks like you the field who are willing to try new things. I don't perform traditional seances, so I appreciate when people are willing to try some things and see if they work. I suggested to a person one time to collect a bunch of old alarm clocks and plug them in near a computer and TV that are running and try and do a seance that way. With that much EMF, I'd assume there'd be more action and that's one way to find out if it's true. Please get better. Will send healthy energy your way. :-)