“Where’s the party?”

So often, while investigating, we act as though the spirits are right beside us wherever we go. We behave as if the doors to rooms are impassible barriers, and that the invisible residents trapped within are patiently waiting for us to enter. The extent to which we tend to limit spirit movement is alarming to me, so I try very hard not to make those kinds of assumptions. Spirits may indeed be hold-up in the bedroom, but where’s the guarantee? Why are we so certain of that?

I frequently move in and out of rooms unpredictably or position myself in hallways, foyers, and staircases – more centralized areas, because I believe they more comfortably watch us from a “safe distance.” I think it’s human nature, and therefore spirit nature, to establish a kind of DMZ between strangers – especially considering the intensity of a paranormal investigation and the potential for heightened emotions. I think this is backed up by the frequency of EVP I’ve captured on remote devices planted in adjoining areas. A recent investigation serves as a clear example. Most of our attention was given to the living room. The previous homeowner died in that room, and it was the only spot that provided any contact with the team medium. However, one of my personal video cameras was parked in an adjoining family room throughout our visit, and produced more EVP than any other device – by far.

There are really very few indicators available to aid in determining location “hot spots,” so I try to place remote devices in the least interesting areas and visit them less often during the proceedings. On the aforementioned investigation, not only was I able to record more EVP on that remote device, I was also blessed with some interesting, though inconclusive, video anomalies. One EVP was especially fascinating and actually makes my point. It said, “The party’s in here,” and that certainly seemed to be the case. If I relied solely on recording devices I could carry, that gem and others would have been lost, and that would have been a shame. Perhaps we would be better served to look where we’re not.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

Settling In

Often, after setting up the equipment, we vacate the building and let it rest. There’s an obvious and necessary flutter of activity getting everything in place for a good investigation, but letting the location settle for awhile might be the best tactic of the day. It makes perfect sense too – offers a resident spirit (or more) the chance to feel at peace again. Investigations are almost always tranquil endeavors; not usually loud or active – a striking contrast to the set-up. A few minutes of silence and a return to the status quo is a reasonable segway to the actual investigation.

Over the years, this methodology has provided us with some compelling footage. On one occasion, we observed video of an apparition moving freely throughout one of the rooms, while we cooled our heels outside. It was the only verifiable video evidence we were ever blessed to gather during seven visits. Video evidence can be more acceptable when there’s no danger of investigator contamination – audio, as well, so if everyone on the team is locked outside, whatever is recorded leaps on the credibility scale.

Personally, I’ve always felt that these moments of peace give spirits a time to accept our presence; to begin viewing us as an inevitability. We’ve left our calling card of cameras, recorders, and meters, and when we finally return in person, they’ve had time to acclimate and consider the level to which they intend to cooperate. We give them time to adjust, and maybe even to explore the devices we’ve left.

Perhaps most importantly, the results seem to indicate that this tact is productive. Statistically, we’ve recorded more EVP throughout the night, and captured more video evidence when we’ve allowed the location this time to settle and prepare.

There are all kinds of ways to conduct a successful investigation, and the ambience of the location itself is a huge contributing factor, but I think it’s always a good idea to pause, take this metaphorical deep breath, and let the spiritual inhabitants do the same. Since most investigations are less than fruitful, we need all the help we can get, and by allowing the location to rest, the idea of “us” settles in as well.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

“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

Seen and Not Heard

A little quiet goes a long long way. I’m amazed at how many paranormal investigators have trouble keeping their mouths shut. I know that’s blunt, but sometimes being blunt is the only way to get the message across. We need to understand that our incessant chatter bothers everyone – including spirits. How could they possibly communicate with us when we’re so busy finding new reasons to flap our gums? We’re supposed to be providing a natural and inviting environment for them to speak; an encouraging atmosphere that’s focused on them – not us.

My most satisfying investigations are always the quiet ones, when hardly a word is spoken. I think we should indicate that we’re ready to listen, and that usually comes by being quiet. I’ve remained totally hushed for ten minutes or more before breaching the silence with my first question or comment – spacing my remarks within long gaps of nothing. This doesn’t always provide a ton of EVP, but sometimes it does, and the results are clean and easier to decipher.

Once, I only asked three short questions in the space of half an hour. “Do you live here with the Smiths? What do you do here? Why don’t you just calm down and give these people some peace?” I captured eleven responses during that time and discovered that the spirit did not actually stay in the house, that he liked to visit in the morning, and that he came there because they made him laugh. That’s a lot, don’t you think? It was a great exchange, and to this day, I think the spirit was so forthcoming because he knew I was actually listening. My visit was clearly all about him – not me, and why not – that’s the whole point.

Unfortunately, not all investigations can provide the kind of laid back situation I just described, but there’s no reason for us to contaminate the scene with our constant yammering. The goal isn’t to see how many questions we can ask, you know. The goal is to see how many responses we can capture. My grandmother used to say that “children should be seen and not heard.” Sometimes that applies to paranormal investigators as well.
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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

 

Colossal Dork

Last entry I discussed the values of employing a naming convention for EVP clips, and here I am, back again, to add to the confusion. What a colossal dork, right? Not only do I think your EVP clips should be organized, instantly recognizable, and consistently named, I think this nerdfest needs to prevail over the entire disorganized mess you’re loosely referring to as your “evidence.”

From my limited observation, paranormal investigators love to brag about how neat and orderly their stuff is. Hmmm. If that’s accurate, why is it frequently so difficult to find anything? I’m not talking about the equipment cases – those are almost always staunch representatives of a well-oiled machine ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. I’m talking about your results. Can you find investigator Joe’s personal video masters for around 2:15 am from three years ago? You know, where you claim to have captured that free floating mist on the stairs. So, find the original and let’s make absolutely certain we’re seeing it right. Three years later? Of course. Can you put your hands on it – like now?

That never happens, right? Not three years later. Well, it will. How quickly and easily can you find the footage? And while we’re at it, hopefully no one will question that super cool EVP; hopefully you won’t have to compare Bonnie’s audio with Bill and Ted’s. Hopefully, your excellent adventure in search of the authentication won’t cost you half a day digging through 12 years of poorly labeled DVDs. Fingers crossed…

This isn’t like back issues of Superman Comics – it’s proof of the afterlife – the hereafter. Eternity! Have some respect! And every last piece of evidence contributes to the universal collective understanding. Dude, it’s not just Jason and Tango who get to prove that eternity exits. Plus, your EVP are frequently better than their’s – you just have to be able to prove it. There are thousands of us on the case, you know – not just Zak and the boys. And in my book, our evidence is more valuable because we help people directly and don’t have to answer to ratings.

So shape up. Get organized. Show some pride in yourself and your very valuable work. We are the keepers of an awesome thing – paranormal validation. Being organized isn’t so tough – you can figure out how to do it, and then you too can be a colossal dork. It’s easy, and I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.

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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com

It’s All in the Name

In the overly-organized place that is my world, everything has a place and everything is properly labeled. That includes EVP. There have been occasions where I’ve been equally mystified and horrified by the way others store and label their EVP. I swear, if I were king of the world, my first royal action would be to insist that a proper EVP naming convention be immediately installed. So, you’re in luck – I’m not king of the world, but I am going to tell you how my EVP are tagged.

Primarily, I like to look at the file name and be able to instantly know everything about the clip without having to guess or listen. With a single glance at the name, I am immediately aware of the following things: EVP classification, date of capture, what recording device was used, investigation location, name of original file, where the clip can be found on the original file, what time the EVP occurred (optional), and what the EVP is alleged to be saying. Sound like a lot? It is, but with the help of abbreviations, it’s definitely doable. Here’s a sample name:

Including time: A-031713L-03SFH1134-0314am-get out.wav
Or without including time: A-031713L-03SFH1134-get out.wav

Okay, I know it’s long, but all that valuable information is right in the name. You may choose not to save the actual time, but everything else is pretty standard. Lets break it down using the first name above. The letter “A” tells me that this is an A-class voice – it could also be a B, C, or D. The numbers that follow the first dash are the date. In this example, the date is March 17, 2013. The “L” that follows is the letter code I selected to represent my Olympus LS7 recorder. After the second dash, the “03” indicates the clip came from the third master file recorded on the investigation. The “SFH” is a three-letter location description. In this case, it stands for the Smith Family Home, and the following numbers “1134” tell me that the clip was taken 11 minutes and 34 seconds into the original file. Next comes the actual time of day – that’s pretty obvious, as is what follows – the alleged words spoken by the voice on the clip.

After a while, it becomes second nature, and you’ll be able to find everything there is to know about an EVP clip just by reading its name. Of course, you may not like the way I do it – that’s okay, create your own system; something that makes sense to you. But keep in mind that the whole point is to be able to visually spot any audio file without having to hear it. I like being able to store all this info right in the name – saves me paperwork and time, and it allows me to sort and filter them as well. Most of all, my confusion is minimized and I am confident that all is organized and right with the world. Best of all, it works.