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.

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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.