“Island”

While preparing an episode for The Voices Podcast entitled “My favorite EVP,” I ran across a lost voice in my archives. It was recorded in late August 2012, and basically consisted of a spirit comment to a vacation question. This is coincidental because I leave for vacation in two days – we’re spending a week on the island of St. Croix in my favorite part of the world.

After last year’s highly enjoyable Los Angeles trip, and during my first EVP session back, I wondered aloud where we might go next year – this year. The voice responded by saying “island.” Obviously, I never thought anything more about it since the EVP found a comfortable spot in the archives and was never heard from again. But he knew! He said “island.” We’re going to an island. He was right!

I never plan these things – my wife does all the research and work. All I do is say “yes,” and I didn’t even get that opportunity this year. St. Croix was her choice from the beginning, and I was just relieved to be included. So, I probably won’t accept that I was subconsciously influenced by my chatty deceased friend, but I’m definitely in the coincidence camp this time. Over the years, spirit voices have not shown me a single convincing sign of being clairvoyant, and this singular incident is not nearly enough to change my mind.

But it was a cool rediscovery of yet another EVP of significance. I guess you never know what to expect. Today’s innocuous comment could be tomorrow’s reality. It may have been a time slip, or true evidence of the fluid nature of time; perhaps they actually are in touch with our future. I still haven’t a clue – there’s no proof either way. But one thing’s for certain – we’re going to an island, and before the day is out, I’m gonna turn on a recorder and ask someone how he knew. I doubt I’ll get an answer – it’s just one more on a long list of EVP that make me smile. Maybe I should invite this voice to tag along. Maybe he already said yes.
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Also visit The Voices Blog at http://thevoicesblog.wordpress.com
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Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon.
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.

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

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.

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!