April 16, 2005
VLT is an enigmatic and older place with much history to it. It is quite remarkable for its beauty, size, and location, but for the SPIRITS it was significant for the EVPs it produced.
An EVP (or Electronic Voice Phenomena) is a ghostly voice captured through the use of equipment. Its known origins hail to the 1970s when a birdwatcher set up a reel-to-reel recorder outside to capture birdsongs. Though the recorder was left in a secluded location without known human presence, when he played the tapes back he heard mysterious voices whispering on the tape.
Since that time, EVPs have gained in popularity even evolving to the status of a movie-worthy topic in White Noise. (Do note, however, that the EVPs used in the movie were allegedly real, but the plot, itself, was fictitious).
This phenomena, however, is not without its critics. Some believe that in order to create an EVP there must be white noise generated in the background, while others believe that this is not necessary. In order to hear (or at least clean up) most EVPs a special program must be used to infiltrate the low-frequency sound spectrum. Often, in order to "hear" a recording, the listener is subject to suggestion (i.e., the recorder often has to tell the person what to listen to, or, if televised, script is printed on the screen). Could it be that EVPs are a form of "audio inkblot," with the mind trying to make sense of sound instead of image?
Despite the controversies, many ghost investigation groups continue to work with recordings in hopes of capturing one of these elusive specters in action. The tools used for recording now vary from tape recorders with outside microphones (internal mechanisms can make noise that can be recorded by internal microphones and mistaken for phenomena), to digital recorders, video cameras, and even digital cameras with video capability.
The SPIRITS of St. Petersburg continue to experiment with EVPs, though the group is cautious of what is labeled genuine and what could be explainable by circumstances. The team has learned through experience that not all attempts are successful. One of the first tries at EVP making by the fledgling co-founders in 2000 resulted to a humorous end. The homeowner agreed to set up a tape recorder in her home and to leave it recording while she was gone. She returned the recorder to the team for evaluations. Throughout the recording were a series of evenly spaced ticking sounds that grow louder and softer as the tape played. Uncertain of what it could be, one SPIRITS member took the recording to a musician to listen to. She immediately pinpointed the noise: the recorder was set in the proximity of a non-digital clock. The ticks were the second hand turning; it grew louder and softer because the air conditioning kicked on and off throughout the day.
However, VLT proved to be a little bit different. With more seasoned members attending, and a variety of equipment present, the group gained not one but two successful EVP recordings.
The area was reputed to be haunted in several places. While trying to capture an EVP, we had a conversation with a ghostly presence named "Bob," who was quite certain he was deceased. When asked how he knew, he told sensitives that he could go places he was unable to when he was alive. One sensitive, in reference to the mixed genders of the team going both into the men's and women's bathrooms during the investigation, joked that Bob could go into the "mysterious" area of the lady's bathroom. Playing the recording back, the instant before the sensitive started to joke about going into the lady's room, there was a garbled word muttered in a male voice; after listening to it carefully the SPIRITS determined that the word was "bathroom." Perhaps, then, the joke wasn't quite so random after all!
The second EVP came from an area haunted by a little girl. Already there was a report that a person had captured a recording there before the SPIRITS arrived. While self-recording a song, she saw a child run past the doorway. She turned to look and saw nothing there. When she played the tape back later, a series of childish giggles are heard during the moment she paused to look around.
Using a video recording to survey the surroundings, the SPIRITS encountered not one little girl but two. One was the ghost that had resided there before. The other was, apparently, a drop-in visitor. "Emily," the resident ghost, was happy, perky, and energetic. She interacted with equipment, at one point "sitting" on the EMF meter to make the siren go off. But the other little girl was sad and her death was one of great misfortune. She was cold, fearful and alone. By the end of the night, Emily played happily in the room alone; the other little girl heard her grandmother calling from the "light" and decided, with the blessing of those present, to cross over.
It is the sad little girl who made a powerful impression in the post-investigation review. When the videotape was played back, the segment before the actual session began held four potential sounds. Though the recorder is on, it is aimed at the floor and only the investigator's shoes can be seen. The first noise is a sigh; if it is a word it is indistinguishable. Then, there are a series of words spaced apart. The first is "Mom", then "Dad", and then she calls for "Mom" again. It sounds as if the little girl stands right next to the microphone. Later, the video camera records the entire group, now assembled and seated and working with both children. Though everyone is recorded speaking, not one voice sounds like the mysterious recording.
When it comes to EVPs, there is an endless world of research to do. What are they really, and how can investigators get better quality recordings? Perhaps the only answers will come with time and more advanced technology. But, the next time you try and record a family gathering with your video recorder watch the play back carefully. You never know who all might be there, captured not by sight or video lens, but by voice alone.