Guest post by the Banshee
So how can you be sure what you are hearing is actually paranormal?
First, and I cannot emphasize this enough, TAG YOUR AUDIO in all your EVP sessions. If your stomach growls, say that. If you hear someone next to you move, say so. Of course if you yawn, or sigh, or whisper to yourself, be aware enough of all these things in yourself and your fellow researchers and say something on the tape. It is hard to do this when you are nervous, but it can also help you focus and not become flustered by your own nerves.
Be sure your EVP sessions are isolated from outside noise as much as possible – this may be difficult with other researchers or stray noise from an active urban environment, so be extra careful to tag car sounds, voices, weather changes, whatever.
Many will say that when answers are in direct response to questions this MUST be paranormal. But too often stray pieces of signal can be interpreted as responses – even good ones. If you want to be sure, there are several more unusual things you can do to make your EVP sessions more reliable.
First, know your recorder. Is it voice activated? If so, know that you will hear interference when your voice ends and silence begins. Start your sessions by asking for complete silence. You can ask “I want to communicate with you, but I need to make sure I am hearing you. To help me, can you remain completely silent with me for one minute?” Check your recorder after and listen carefully. Anything that might sound like stray voices or sounds should be put down to interference. If you aren’t sure, do this again. If you hear the same kinds of sounds, you must dismiss them as evidence. Do this on and off during sessions to be sure you are actually communicating back and forth with something besides your recorder’s auto levels.
For even more reliable results, don’t shout your questions into the air when you begin a session. Remember, ghosts don’t have physical ears. You don’t have to speak loudly enough to make impressions on eardrums with sound waves through the air the way you do with living beings. You can speak normally, quietly even, and get better results. I also rarely ask yes or no questions – single syllables are too easily interpreted from stray noise. If I ask a name and get what sounds like “Bob” or “Sue”, I’ll ask for a full first and last name – “Robert Jones” is harder to misapprehend.
My sessions often involve what folks might consider strange questions. To be sure I am establishing a link with another consciousness, I’ll ask the spirit to sing me a line from its favorite song. If the strain of some civil war ditty rings out from my recorder, I can be pretty sure this is not a stray radio signal – especially if they sing off key!
Ask what its favorite food was when it was alive, and who made it. These also help distinguish intelligent haunts from residual, which is useful for many investigators (and if you are in a hotspot of negativity, it is rare that a poltergeist or, worse, a negative entity that has not walked this earth, will have a favorite comfort food). I sometimes ask them to quote something dear to them like a passage from the Bible or other religious text – this has the further benefit of separating the negative from the positive pretty quickly.
Further, I will often ask spirits–especially if I think I am dealing with a child–to quack like a duck, or trumpet like an elephant, or honk like an old car horn (if no cars are around) – child spirits think it is a fun game, but I know my chances of hearing ducks or elephants or model-T’s from stray radio signals is pretty small. You can ask the spirits to imitate you as well – speak or sing a short phrase and ask that they wait while you count to 10 and imitate you. The counting ensures that you eliminate echoes, as will singing or speaking softly in the space.
Speaking of echoes, best to check them out very consciously upon entering a space – I listen carefully for reverberations of my movements, my clothing, my voice, and those around me. If I am outdoors, I listen for animal and bird sounds as well, and know that even in wide open spaces the topography can create strange echoes (as any sound engineer working an outdoor venue will tell you). Trees can fragment sound and echo back pieces that sound strange, so don’t start doing EVPs right away–get a feel for the sound of a new place first.
When you are in the field, be aware of the latest research into language and spirit voices. In places where spirits most likely do not speak English, direct responses are not always in native languages. This might mean English is being broadcast in more and more places, and making its way on to your equipment. But this not necessarily the case – use this to your advantage. If language is no barrier in the afterlife, use as many as you know in your sessions. If you are in the U.S., it is less likely you’ll have transmissions in Tagolog, unless there is a large Philipino population nearby. I sometimes use what I know of Turkish in the states, as this is pretty uncommon to hear in these parts and can almost surely eliminate most broadcast media in these parts.
If you are ghost hunting in an area of the States where there were large immigrant populations, try German, or Gaelic, or Italian, or Portuguese. Large populations from decades past may even be more “chatty” if they hear familiar phrases from the “old country.” Audio evidence can always be played for a native speaker if responses seem to be in another language.