To: Paranormal Investigators Everywhere
Re: One-Syllable EVP
I move that we, as paranormal investigators and researchers, stop placing so much importance and confidence on one-syllable “responses” when recording for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena). Whether you're capturing your EVP through traditional recording methods or through opportunistic methods like white noise generators, radio sweep/spirit box, etc, one-syllable sounds or “responses” are commonly captured. These sounds can certainly satisfy an EVP craving, especially when they happen after we ask those oh so challenging questions requiring a “yes” or “no” answer. After all, you're eagerly awaiting a wise response. They really can be paranormal (and some of them clearly are), but compared to longer phrases or patterns with more than a single syllable, I feel they're way more likely to be either imagined or simply one-syllable sounds (either created by investigators, the clipped voice of a DJ from a random radio station, or sounds found in the natural environment) confused for common responses like “yes”, “no”, “hey”, “stop”, “leave”, or any of the single-digit numbers that we always seem to hear. This is often referred to as “pareidolia” or audio “matrixing”.
A creak in the house, a car door shutting from nearby, a bark from the neighbor's dog, or any slight movement you make while recording can be the cause of these sounds. I think sometimes we're listening for and hoping to hear things that are paranormal, therefore that quick scratch of your arm through your shirt ended up being a response of “yeah.” I think I annoy fellow investigators a lot because I tend to be more conservative (the word “conservative” is ugly, but so is that annoying phrase “openly skeptical”) in my listening and determining what I'm hearing in recordings. Most of the time I probably end up going with my first instincts. If from the beginning it sounded like a scratch, or the shuffling of a piece of paper, or a footstep on a dusty floor, then in my opinion any words or “responses” that you can force yourself to hear from that noise are accidental. Of course then there's the opinion and theory that spirits may just take advantage of those natural environment sounds or our own movements to create their communication. It's possible. In most of these cases I think they're important to note or document. But to classify some of these as “paranormal” or “EVP” is a bit reckless, in my opinion. This is why I have tons of files saved as “possible EVP” or just simply “artifacts”. They don't impress people as much, but until I can prove otherwise, that's what they are to me.
I've been tempted more and more recently to not only use two audio recorders (the normal routine for me) in experimental sessions here at home, but to also use a video camera. Your brain can't log (and recall later) every slight move you make in a recording session. You thought you were sitting silently, but did you scratch your nose? Did your stomach make a quick noise? And in my case (embarrassingly), occasionally my breathing will have a slight wheeze to it… or a tiny squeak. And many times a good audio recorder will pick up a noise that you weren't even aware was happening. Just like in a more typical paranormal investigation, a video might help you more confidently determine if what you are hearing can be ruled out.
When it comes to radio sweep/spirit box sessions, I still very much consider myself a newbie. But I keep an open mind. And sure, I've heard my name a few times in investigations. I've even heard spirits read words presented on objects in the room. Those are notable experiences and responses that are probably worth carefully classifying as “EVP”. But if you have a white noise generator or a spirit box of some kind, do me a favor by doing this little experiment for me. Find a friend or two and challenge them to think of a common one-syllable response without revealing it to anyone. If you listen for at least a minute I almost guarantee that each person (if they're honest) will report hearing their response. Now challenge them to all listen for the phrase “My name is Sylvia and I like pork chops”. Please contact me directly if you heard this one.
But if you have a white noise generator or a spirit box of some kind, do me a favor by doing this little experiment for me. Find a friend or two and challenge them to think of a common one-syllable response without revealing it to anyone. If you listen for at least a minute I almost guarantee that each person (if they're honest) will report hearing their response.
So basically, I feel we just need to be more careful about what we're so quickly and easily classifying as “EVP” or “paranormal”.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a spirit named “Joe”, who claims there are “five” spirits present, simply saw your Little Debbie next to the recorder and said “yum”.