“Is anyone here?”

A paranormal investigator walks into an abandoned bar and asks, “Is anyone here?” And a disembodied voice says no.

That’s it. Thats the punchline, folks. That’s all there is, and it actually happened to me, once upon a time, exactly that way. Well, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable question to ask at the time. When I heard the answer, I got quite a laugh, but then I slowly began to feel incredibly stupid. I don’t ask that question any more. I rank it right up there with the times that an EVP voice has outright told me my questions were “dumb.” (I appear to be the only person to ever admit to such a response.)

Regardless, that’s actually very good advice from beyond the veil; I consider myself blessed. Our comments often suggest that we’re just not operating with functioning brains, but we shouldn’t feel too bad – we all do it. “Show yourself. Give me a sign. Do you know you’re dead? I won’t hurt you. Are you lost? Go to the light. Didn’t you used to be so-and-so?” And on and on… The totality of our thickheadedness seems to be endless. We appear quite willing to be nothing more than the purveyors of hackneyed nonsense, and like a mouse in a trap, we’re a stereotype. At first, it’s all cheese heaven, but eventually…

I won’t presume to tell you how to talk on an investigation, but appearing to be more of a mental equal might give the spirit better motivation to converse with you. At the very least, we ought to act as though we have some sense; maybe spend more time expressing an interest in “them” than we do in repeating our same worn-out, silly routine. We can capture just as much proof that someone is there by asking smarter questions, and the better choices we make improves our chances of learning something significant. We have to see it from their point of view and stop wasting everyone’s time.

“But Randy,” you may say, “at least in the joke, the paranormal investigator got an answer.” Yes, but thats not the real punch line. The real punch line is that he heard nothing at all. And that’s not funny either.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

Comfortable Paradigm

Sometimes I misread things. I’ve heard more EVP than most, but I still manage to draw the wrong conclusions way too frequently for comfort. Occasionally, the most outstanding learning opportunity is staring right at me, but I just don’t see it. That’s how it is with my recordings around small children. I have been so busy trying to figure the identity of the EVP voice, or trying to discover great significance with every comment, that I totally missed a fascinating trend.
 
Since I’ve finally wised-up, it looms rather monumental to me, and even though I’m a little ashamed to admit my dereliction of duty, I have to share with you. When I have recorded around children, while spending most of my time observing, there are a lot of EVP recorded. They are engaged with the child, speak to him directly, or discuss his activities. They even seem to be looking out for his welfare – a comforting thought, actually. 
 
However, when I spend time playing or interacting with the child instead of merely watching, there are noticeably less EVP. Additionally, the nature of the voices change from protective, playful, and intensely interested to uninvolved and typical. To put it another way, the voices seem to reflect a guardian attitude when I am not devoting my complete attention to the child. As I become more actively involved, the spirit comments have reverted to familiar and more ordinary response patterns. It’s almost as if they no longer feel responsible within the situation; they don’t feel obligated to pick up my slack.
 
Of course, as of now, this is conjecture on my part, but it has been consistent over a substantial number of sessions, so I realize specific tests now need to be done. I also understand that this conclusion is based on some pretty flimsy circumstances, and there’s not nearly enough data to support it, but it kinda makes sense – it fits with what we know about human nature. Still, it seems surprising to me, and at the same time, I wonder why it took so long to notice the trend. 
 
There are two lessons for me to learn here, the first of which is obvious, but the second stands as a bonus. Simply put, I need to focus a little more on the bigger picture. We spend so much time proceeding with our preconceived notions and comfortable paradigms that we sometimes miss large chunks of the puzzle. It’s amazing what we can learn from children.
 
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

 

Bad Boys

A recent discussion on the Voices group on Facebook centered around “provoking.” It was short and sweet, but the subject has come up several times before, and seems to frequently surface in most paranormal circles. Without question, the vast majority of folks find unnecessary provocation to be rude and undesirable. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of people I know who are in favor of it (except as a last resort in very specific situations).

I’ve seen aggressive behavior exhibited on investigations before, and I’ve never liked it. In fact, I hate taking a turn “inside” a location after one of these mule heads has fouled the air before me. However, again, the majority of investigators I’ve witnessed have been polite, respectful, and totally appropriate. So, all is well with the world, eh?

I wonder. If very few publicly appreciate the practice; if investigators rarely do it; if paranormal pundits preach against it, then why do we see so much of it on television? There’s frequently some guy in a bitchin’ ghosty-shirt recounting how “something demonic” attacked him after he taunted the poor creature. Obviously, I am aware that most tv investigators do not provoke, but certainly a significant percentage of them do, and for some reason, they revel in the negative attention that results. “This is what it’s all about!” Really? No it’s not.

Just bad boy syndrome? Tough guys? Egomaniacs? Jerks? What’s the persona they’re going for when so many people in-the-know disdain the practice? It all just seems kinda lame, and it’s a shame, because I think most of us believe they’d get more and better results with a simple attitude check. Well, personally, it makes me tired, and I’m pretty sure the time has come for these fellas to lower their dose of testosterone and grow up. Bad boys indeed. More like bad investigators.

Heaven

Very recently my doorbell has been ringing without benefit of someone human to press the button. This used to happen several times a day, and after quite a bit of investigation, I decided it might be initiated by spirits as a means to announce their presence.

Over the months, the button itself has become unusable – it cannot be depressed, so there is no physical way to make the bell ring, but after several months of dormancy, it has been active again. And I have been running to get my recorder. There have been very few EVP resulting from these impromptu sessions, but what has been lacking in numbers has been chock full of substance. In each of the last three sessions, a weak female (or child) voice has said the word “heaven.”

At first, this was merely an interesting response – especially considering that out of thousands of EVP, I have only recorded the word “heaven” twice. Now, after three occurrences in a row, I am wondering what’s up. It could be a coincidence, I suppose – the laws of probability might allow for three. It could possibly be something else I am mishearing, but it’s not contamination. It is always the same voice, saying the same whispery word, at different times and on different days.

I obviously don’t have a real answer, but I think it would be a fairly safe bet that someone is telling me she made it – to heaven, I mean. Perhaps she wants me to know it’s really there; or she needs to make certain I realize that all is well and she’s in a much better place. I’m dying to attach a name to these “heaven”ly comments, of course, but I have been able to resist so far. However, I’ve already started asking questions about the meaning behind these responses. I promise to let you know the second there is confirmation of any kind. Might be valuable information.

Home Run or Strike Out?

There are a few pitfalls that come along with writing books and blogging about a specific subject (such as EVP). Two in particular come to mind rather frequently. First, people assume I think I know everything about EVP. I don’t, and I know I don’t. Second, that every time out, I hit a home run. You know, if I’m arrogant enough to write about it, I ought to be successful at it no matter what, right?

Well, it would be easy to blame my unproductive sessions on environment, equipment failure, or other people. The best excuse of all would be to blame the spirits! I mean, it sounds lame, but there’s really no way to argue the point. Of course, the truth is, I don’t hit a home run every time, and almost always it’s my own fault when I don’t. Stupid questions, poor planning, bad attitude – you name it. If a mistake can be made, I’ve made it and more than once. I’d like to think I learn from my mistakes and continue to grow as an investigator and researcher. I’d like to think that one day I’ll reach a point where bad performance stops and every outing will be a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening. But that’s a good thing.

I constantly need to regroup; to redefine what it is I’m trying to accomplish, and figure the best way to get it done. I’ve learned as much from mistakes as I have from anything or anyone else, and I don’t intend to forget those lessons, because in the long run, it doesn’t matter how many home runs I hit. What matters are the strike outs; the missed opportunities, mishandled circumstances, and misread situations. What matters more than anything is understanding what I should have done differently, and adjusting.

I consider myself good at what I do, but that’s only because I recognize how completely ineffectual I can be. What makes me better after each error, is being honest enough with myself to accept that I must adapt and change. I don’t mind being wrong – it happens to all of us, and frequently leads to inspiration. It’s mediocrity I fear, and the excuses that always come with it.

Control the Vibe

Do you enter an investigation and immediately take over or control the vibe? If you’re one of those people who metaphorically bursts through the saloon doors and screams “Howdy, Mother F-ers,” then you probably won’t attract a lot of available spirit voices. Those you do get might be thrilled to react predictably negative to all that bravado. You could record the occasional “jackass,” but they also just might laugh behind your back and say nothing.

If you should happen to meet a guy known as the Baltimore Strangler, how quickly should you mention the moniker? Certainly not in the first 5 minutes – he has a name, and spirits are not single issue creatures. Of course he killed fourteen ladies in their sleep. Yes, he used an ax and the sheriff had to blow a hole in his gut, but in spite of these facts, he was also a person. Hard to believe, but he had other, more understandable interests, and if you wanna hear from the guy, you should probably drop the bad ass attitude and ask him how his day was. There’s plenty of time to get into his murderous depravity.

I’m over-simplifying things, but it’s still a good point. Just because the spirit you would like to talk to might have hung herself from the ceiling rafters doesn’t mean your first question ought to be “why did you hang yourself from the rafters?” It might serve you better to ask her if this was her home, or if she minds you coming to visit, or if she is responsible for the smell of perfume in the air. Let her know you’re happy to provide a forum; that she can say anything she wishes and it will be respected. There’s no upside in judging her – even if she feels she has something to be judged for. No one appointed you to adjudicate the dead.

Sometimes, showing a little of our own vulnerability can go a very long way toward believably claiming that we’re not there to judge them. Talk to them – we have to quickly show a genuine interest, so don’t be superficial. They’re not spiritual outcasts – ya gotta make some effort. Find a way to relate and show some empathy; try to put yourself in their shoes for a change. Before we take charge of the vibe in the room, remember we really have no idea who we’re talking to anyway. Behave!

Revisit the Situation

Paranormal investigators often wish they were able to revisit locations to continue researching. I feel the same way about EVP sessions – I want to revisit the situation.

During controlled sessions, I attempt to limit my first audio file to around ten minutes, with the intention of a quick playback and return should I hear something interesting. There is also the added bonus of not over-staying my welcome if nothing is evident, since it’s been my experience that should a spirit wish to communicate, he or she will do so early in the process. This method allows me a timely and pertinent follow-up on whatever I might hear, and usually I tell the spirit outright to expect it. “If there’s a specific subject you want to tell me about now, I’ll listen and come right back so we can talk about it. Stick around!” Okay, it sounds corny and very un-ghost hunter-like; my lack of cool is legendary, but frequently, it works!

Often, when a spirit has revealed its presence, the conversation will noticeably pick up after that statement. I can only assume that the spirit wants to continue as well, and why not? I’ve essentially just announced an interest in what he or she has to say or how they feel; in them as individuals. How many spirits can boast genuine human consideration from the living? Suddenly, it’s not all about me and my agenda. Suddenly, it’s all about them. Of course I get something in return, but that’s how life works anyway. They already know that, so making an honest effort to take an interest, might be an irresistible proposition to some.

I know the trend is for real-time communication through a variety of equipment-intensive methods, but these frequently fracture our ability to pay close attention and focus solely on the spirit. We’re forced to interact with what “might” be a spirit who also probably speaks in partial phrases, emphasizing the lack of time to consider what is actually behind those phrases. Standard EVP sessions provide the perfect avenue for a spirit to consider his or her thoughts, and lessens what can become stressful, arbitrary and reactive communication only. Still, letting the spirit know that your main interest is in hearing what’s on their mind can, and often does, result in the most meaningful EVP you’ll record.

Spur of the Moment

I tend to have a couple of very specific EVP projects running all the time. Currently? EVP and EMF, EVP and vibration, bilocation, EVP and sleep – these four come to mind, but there are others not so easily characterized, that focus on the emotional state of the interviewer, the frequency of response compared to weather conditions, etc. I’m not lazy, and frankly, I love this work!

But my favorite things (other than to record during an investigation), are those spur of the moment sessions. When there’s no reason to have an EVP session; no indicators of current activity; no specific axes to grind, but on goes the recorder just the same. If you’re not familiar with this practice, let me highly recommend it. Don’t make any plans – just do it. Who cares if you’re in that godawful part of the basement or the bright and sunny, brand new solarium (lucky you). If I was a spirit, I think I might find that basement creepy too! Why do so-called ghosts have to like weird, dirty, eerie places? Maybe if you record by the daffodils at noon, you’ll find you’re not alone in your appreciation of the local flora.

How about recording while you’re alone in the waiting room? You never know. Or in grandma’s parlor while you’re waiting for her to get ready. Or after a shower, in the library reading room, in the car at 4:00 am, or anywhere else you can think of. The point is, you might learn something. You might gain an appreciation for all you actually have in common with the deceased. After all, don’t most of us believe they’re the spiritual expression of ourselves? And there’s the added bonus that familiarity lessens your fear factor, if you still have one.

I’ve always believed that if you look, you will find; if you record, “they will come.” I want to hear from the spirits who share my life a lot more than the ones who sneak into the darkest corner of my garage. Besides, productive investigations don’t happen all that often, so we should stay primed and ready. Practice is always a good thing, and you never know who you might meet along the way. Don’t think about it so much, and have some fun!

An Expression of Fact

Since I’m one of those people who believes spirits are around us always, I also put a great deal of credence in the idea that they often telegraph their presence. Sometimes a series of noises, certain specific changes in the immediate environment, or frequent movement visible from the corner of my eye will pique my interest enough to start recording for EVP. I’ve found that these indications usually result in productive sessions. I’m convinced that being a good observer is my most reliable tool, so I frequently try to hone those skills – i think practice improves the odds.

I also practice at listening. My wife’s sleep apnea machine serves as an unexpected blessing in that regard, since it sounds so similar to the noise I frequently hear when listening to digital recording files. I lay awake for awhile and try to listen through that noise in an attempt to sharpen the skill of separating and identifying natural sounds. I try to listen as deeply as possible and with as much focus as I can for twenty minutes every night, which I often follow with another ten minutes of concentrated CEV (closed eye visualization) exercises. Likewise, I appreciate moments of silence during an investigation because it provides an opportunity to familiarize myself with whatever the audible norm might be for the location. I try to hear more than the specific sound. I try to hear from where it may have originated.

I’ve been told that this seems silly to some people – overkill, with very little potential for increased results. Obviously, I disagree. As a researcher and investigator, I consider it compulsory to develop and improve my observational proficiency whenever I can, and in whatever way possible. I believe this practice has contributed significantly to whatever ability I might have gained over the years. It’s easy to hear a noise or a voice that’s in your face and obvious, but the paranormal is rarely obvious and demands we change the paradigm of our efforts constantly. Our observational skills must be up to that challenge, but an added value comes in the confidence you feel in what you see and hear. Observation isn’t simply concentration and focus. Reliable observation is “obiter dictum” – an expression of fact.

Yes and No

When I first started recording for EVP, I found a fair percentage of “yes” and “no” answers, and many of them seemed to originate from the same group of spirits. Frankly, I was not impressed and saw no reason to keep saving them, so I didn’t. This was before I realized that all spirit responses are equally significant and need to be viewed as an important communication with the other side. After all, it takes hundreds of bone fragments before an archeologist can assemble the skeleton of a dinosaur. Spirit communication is no less important, and sometimes every bit as tedious. and should therefore be treated as tenderly and with as much heightened significance.

One could certainly criticize the researcher for asking so many yes or no questions, but that doesn’t lessen the value of the response – only the researcher. That aside, I was fortunate to have hooked up with someone who set me straight on this issue. Not only did he insist that I reconsider the practice, he recommended I go back to my originals and find those EVP I had disposed of. I never managed to comply with that last suggestion but I definitely adhered to the first. Now, I save everything. I may not play it for others, but as long as it passes muster and remains unexplained, I hold on to it.

Sometimes the answer is less important than the question or the situation, because even the simplest response can shed an immense amount of light on a subject. Plus, since we don’t know what’s involved for a spirit to make itself heard, I think it behooves us to give every comment good and serious attention. Clearly, we’re all hoping to record those amazing phrases and sentences that reveal so much, but I have learned to see the value in the diminutive and the expeditious as well. Hopefully my knowledge and understanding will increase as a result.