In this thing we do, this thing called the Paranormal, there are certain things we each come to expect with a little less than a welcoming eye, and in the end we chock those things up to misplaced enthusiasm. Some of us take these things with a little more charity than others and some of us subscribe to one or all of these things as either a pet peeve or a staple of investigative interpretation.
I am of course talking about the amateur ghost hunter’s prized evidentiary trophy, for in our minds, we each hold one of these three possible issues close to our chest, and either loath its very meaning, or praise its capture and use in any forum.
Orb photos, EVP recordings and Eye witness testimony.
Orb photos tend to be the most overused, misunderstood and entirely misinterpreted form of paranormal evidence used today. So much so that many credible investigators automatically discount the phenomenon as anything but a feature of cheap photographic technology; but this is not what this piece is about.
Eye witness testimony is by far the most unreliable, though fantastic, form of evidence available to an investigator, whether of the paranormal or of more mainstream interests. Investigators who understand the fallacies and faults of anecdote and memory, often use testimony as an intermediate tool in focusing the direction of an investigation, though many less experienced gum-shoes fall prey to the fancies of a witnesses own excitement and self-delusion, and always to the detriment of their evidence; but again, this is not what this piece is about.
This bit of space is reserved for a particularly touchy subject among paranormal enthusiasts, a pet project for some, a ridiculous waste of time for others, and still yet, a fantastic source of credible evidence for a growing number of researchers. But I’ve become uncomfortable with this phenomenon, I shy away from the evidence and I look accusingly at those who tout its efficacy. I do this for a specific reason, though maybe not for the reason you’re thinking.
EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, is the practise of using a recording medium -anything from an analog tape recorder to a state of the art digital voice recorder- to capture the so-called voices of the dead. Its history is rooted in the Spiritualist Religious Movement of about the turn of the century, and since that time has been regarded with varying levels of respect, awe and in some cases, sheer terror. In recent times, and with the help of popular television and sub-culture celebrities, the anagram EVP has become synonymous with what is considered the standard for basic evidence of an other-worldly presence.
I, however, grow nervous of a popular assumption that is becoming increasingly common in paranormal research circles of late. That assumption, which on the surface seems innocent and even justified at times, holds the potential to ruin whatever value EVP work might have held, in much the same was as it has for the Orb photo.
While I would hope that most investigators remain vigilantly aware of the influence of Pareidolia on their own perceptions, I am certain that a great many amateur enthusiasts are not only unaware of that influence, but would be prone to discount any fallibility on their own part, in favour of such EVP evidence. Though the issue of wanton misidentification is both rampant and severe, that is not the issue which fosters such nervousness in my own observations; at least it isn’t the only issue.
No, the issue for which I am becoming increasingly wary is one of misinterpretation, as opposed to misidentification. Some may be wondering if there’s really any difference between the two, and I’ll agree that any variance boils down to semantics, but in this case, those semantics are significant.
EVP, having become a relatively cheap and easy way for enthusiast to participate in the research of their favourite reality TV personalities, is now the most accessible form of “spiritual communication” in the world. Recordings are captured, manipulated, shared, uploaded, enjoyed and discussed, but how much of it is really examined in any critical way? There are countless websites and blogs dedicated to the phenomenon, untold gigabytes of storage data are used to house the endless supply of sound bytes, which may or may not present evidence of some paranormal activity. The real problem arises when such enthusiasts and investigators make that final leap of faith, to declare that the so-called voices they hear from beyond are those of the dearly departed.
I don’t intend to debate whether or not those voices are real or imagined, what I want to call attention to is the idea that most EVP researchers either assume that EVP’s (now the common term for an EVP recording) are a direct communication with ghosts (by definition), or fail to state the opposite to their patronage. There is a fact that must be realised, a fact that is only relevant by default…we do not know what causes the faint, muffled and statically interspersed voices on these recordings.
In reality, there are near-endless possible explanations for electronic voice phenomenon, some rooted in natural science, others based on metaphysical philosophy and still some touting intergalactic interference. The point to keep in the back of your mind is that EVP is just as much a mystery as the ghostly phenomenon we’re all out here trying to quantify.
And therein lies the real problem with EVP research; the results achieved through any EVP session are at best a quirky display of vocal interaction with some unseen element in our environment. At worst they are an imaginary figment of our powerful subconscious brain in its attempt to make sense of our strange and ever changing universe.