Do you remember that terrible film White Noise? The one where Michael Keaton is chased off a roof by evil spirits? Well, that film was about Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). Not only was it crappy but it pissed off most people interested in EVP because it was so misleading. Anyway, we had a chat with Mark Turner, a man with a wealth of knowledge of EVP. The key is the Panasonic RR-DR60 recorder, by the way…
Illustration by Mimi LeungVice: Are you a ghost hunter or do they come to you?
Mark Turner: The term I would use is “paranormal investigator”. I just investigate cases of paranormal activity.
Can you give me a brief history of EVP?
It goes right back to people like Thomas Edison, or Marconi, who both believed that if we were ever to communicate with the spirit world it would be through electricity. Edison allegedly left plans for a device that he believed could be designed and used to communicate with the spirit world. Designs were found, it was made, and of course it did not work.
Bummer. What happened next?
In 1859 a Swedish filmmaker called Friedrich Jürgenson was making a film, and he was out in a field recording. When he got back home he discovered voices saying the words “my little Fredo” on his tapes. That was his mother’s nickname for him when he was a child. Now the problem was that his mother was dead. From that moment on, Jürgenson started his own investigations into it and wrote a book on the subject. But as time went on, recording equipment became available to the masses. The phenomenon escalated alongside growing availability and affordability.
Is there a visual equivalent of EVP?
Well, it’s called ITC: instrumental trans-communication. And basically there is a practice of attempting to get faces on a TV screen, but it is not directly related to EVP.
So you don’t get pictures of the dead coming out of computer screens or anything?
OK, phew. What are the explanations offered for these voices?
I think the most obvious is that it is some kind of electromagnetic disturbance. To counteract that explanation of EVP we use a piece of equipment known as a Faraday cage that blocks the most common forms of interference.
There are other explanations, aren’t there?
Yes, there are. There is something called auditory paradolia. Paradolia is seeing shapes in clouds. You can lie on your back and see anything you like in clouds. Auditory paradolia is similar, only with noise. It is your brain trying to convince you there is something there. I do think that is a factor in some EVP, but in some cases the voices on the recordings are louder than those asking the questions.
Is there a common pattern to EVP voices?
I think the most common factor is that typically the voice is faster than normal, and often high-pitched.
Lots of the messages I have heard seem nonsensical—things like “brain turd”. Is the theory that these messages are targeted at those who are listening? Because I think I would be confused by “brain turd” out of the blue.
Well, sometimes we ask those we think could be present questions, but at other times you can leave tapes recording, ask no questions, and get conversations, arguments or single voices.
So what machines are best for recording the voices of the deceased?
It’s definitely the Panasonic RR-DR60. It’s far and away the best.
Someone should tell Panasonic. They could use that as a USP.
We tell them, but they don’t respond to anything about EVP. I wish we knew what made them so good, but without help from Panasonic’s engineers we can’t work it out. We try taking them apart, but no luck so far.