They’re all around us, invisible, watching, waiting. Sometimes they speak, but we don’t hear them. But now, there’s a way to hear ghost voices, and you probably have everything you need to get started.
EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomena, got going in the 1950s. An American photographer named Attila von Szalay liked to try to take photos of ghosts, and the natural next step was to see if he could record their voices. In 1956, using a reel-to-reel tape recorder, he successfully made the first EVP recordings.
Today it’s much simpler. Own an iPhone, Android phone, even an iPod Touch? You have everything you need. A modern smartphone can record for long periods of time, and its microphone is fine for basic EVP work.
If you have an iPhone and want to use a more sensitive external mic for catching quieter haunts, we recommend the Zoom iQ5 Mid-Side Stereo Microphone, which plugs into the Lightning port. iPhone users should use the “Voice Memos” app, which can record for eight hours or even longer, depending on how much storage your phone has. Android users will need to download an audio recording app from the Google Play store.
What Do the Voices Say?
Some EVP recordings are—as you must have suspected—frightening and disturbing. Others, though, are random and almost silly. We are hearing only tiny snippets of the world beyond the curtain, and hearing EVP recordings makes us wonder about what it’s like.
Audio: “Let me go!”
Sometimes the voices seem to be speaking directly to the people doing the recording, as in this example from a prison.
Audio: “Wake up!”
If you liked these examples, here is an entire radio show from the legendary Art Bell featuring the Ghost Investigators Society, a non-profit organization that has been recording EVPs for years.
Audio: Art Bell with Ghost Investigators Society, Oct. 2003
Let’s Go Ghost-Hunting
Pick a place: The best places to capture EVPs are historical places, or locations where hauntings, ghosts, or strange phenomena have been reported—not necessarily graveyards. Sure, a cemetery might seem like the ideal location, but you will probably have greater success in someplace historic: an old saloon, a mausoleum, a hospital, a prison, an old ship. Listen to what you’ve recorded, and chances are that you’ll have some strange noises. That’s easy enough to believe. But when you hear voices saying intelligible things: now you’ve got chills running up your spine. Be sure to pick someplace quiet, abandoned, free of background noise and people.
Pick a time: You do not have to wait until night! It might seem to fit the mood more, but there is no earthly reason to wait until after dark to begin your ghost hunt. More important is that you find a time that your location is more or less free of people and noise.
Have patience: It takes hours to find a ghost. Successfully recording an EVP is probably going to take some persistence—in psychic investigations like this, the journey is the reward! Enjoy the hunt, and the place you’ve chosen, and the people you’re with (unless you’re brave enough to have gone alone). At the end, if you don’t find anything interesting on your recording, remind yourself: “If not this time, then next time.” It can take four, eight, even 20 hours to capture a voice, and it all depends on luck, the time, and your location.
Be sure to put your phone into Airplane Mode! You need to turn off its radio, or the radio waves will interfere with your efforts.
Taking Your Ghost Hunt to a Higher Level
The Apple iOS App Store has a number of ghost-hunting apps, some free, some paid. We haven’t evaluated these (yet) but some of them are probably worth your time. The top-rated apps include EMF (electromagnetic frequency) detectors (no idea how well that works on a phone) and spatial displacement detection (so if something unexpectedly moves, you’ll be alerted).
Want to get even more serious? Consider getting some more equipment:
- Spirit Boxes are the newest in EVP detection—instead of just recording audio, a spirit box sweeps the AM and FM radio bands very rapidly, which seasoned ghost hunters say is more effective in drawing out voices from the Other Side. We recommend the Spirit Box SB11, which is a feature-packed successor to the original Spirit Box SB7 (which is still available to the more budget-minded).
- An EMF sensor will help you identify paranormal activity as it happens. We like the Ghost Meter EMF Sensor from Alternative Tech International.
- Want to take videos of ghosts? You’ll need a full-spectrum HD camera that can also do infrared—like the 1080p HD Infrared Night Vision and Full Spectrum Camcorder, which we like because it can switch between Full Spectrum Mode and Infrared Mode with the touch of a button. If you’re serious about looking for the paranormal, consider getting this or another good-quality HD camera that has these available modes.
What to Tell Your Skeptical Friends
Skeptics say: EVPs are just background noise. It’s RF (radio frequency) interference. Ghosts don’t exist. It’s Rorschach audio (you’re imagining noise is something intelligible the same way your mind makes a picture from an inkblot). It doesn’t prove the afterlife exists!
We say: these are reasonable claims, except that most background noise and RF interferences don’t last as long as most EVP incidents. Just to rule them out, though, paranormal researcher Alexander MacRae built a double-blocking experimentation chamber — it’s soundproof, and it’s surrounded by a Faraday cage, which blocks all electromagnetic signals; no radio can get in. The result of his experiments? New EVP recordings. Oops.
Are we making random noises into “intelligible” words? Perhaps, although some of the recordings (like those we’ve included here) are awfully clear. It’s hard to explain them away as just mere noise.
Paranormal investigator, UFO writer, and founder, Area51.org.
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