Ghost Hunting: How to Capture Good EVPs
Capturing your first EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) can be a thrilling experience, if a little unnerving. I'll never forget the very first disembodied I caught, and to this day it remains one of the best we've collected in the nearly four years my mother and I have been hunting ghosts. In 2004 my mother, sister and I were at the Quaker cemetery on Meeting House Road in Springfield, NJ around dusk taking some pictures and exploring the small plot of land. Located in rural New Jersey, the Quaker cemetery is tucked away on a vein just off of Route 537, about a mile down an actual dirt road (yes, they still exist) and a good twenty minute drive from any major highways. It was a late spring evening and darkness fell quickly upon us. We decided to linger for just a little longer, although typically we like to leave when it gets dark, and during that time all three of us repeatedly heard what sounded like footsteps coming up behind us and stopping short just a few feet from where we were standing. I guess I don't have to stress to you that we were absolutely alone in the graveyard; there were no other (living) people, no voices in the background, no animals and no passing cars. It was deserted.
This began to freak us out so I walked over to my sister, who was holding the tape recorder and said, "You can turn it off now." Although we normally review the footage that night after returning home, something delayed us and it was not until the next day that I was listening to the audio recording while driving in my car. I had gone through almost the entire tape without incident when suddenly, at the very end, just after telling my sister to turn it off but before she had actually pushed the button to do so, a mysterious voice came blaring through the speakers and loudly whispered, "YOU LOOK LIKE DEATH." ((Click here and scroll down to the bottom to listen to the EVP.)) I was absolutely petrified when I first heard it, but it was in that moment that I became addicted. Photos of orbs are one thing--they could be ghosts but they could also be dust, and their presence is easily explained away by nonbelievers--but picking up an audio EVP of a man's voice when only women are around is, to me, hard evidence of paranormal activity.
EVPs are classified into four categories:
- Class A: EVPs are 100% audible. They come through loud and clear and are intelligible words, not just random noises. Nothing is needed to enhance these EVPs as they are able to be understood perfectly by the naked ear. Some people believe that in order for an EVP to classify as a Class A, the captured voice must be responding directly to a question that was asked by the ghost hunter. This is such a rare occurrence, however, that I do not feel it's a proper requirement. Easily understood, disembodied sentences are good enough for me.
- Class B: EVPs are audible to the naked ear but there is some doubt as to what they're saying.
- Class C: EVPs are barely audible, or require enhancement in order to be heard. The voice comes through very faintly; there's no question that something is there, but it's not clear enough to make out.
- Class D: These EVPs are not good enough to classify as evidence of paranormal activity. Inaudible whispers, breathing or wheezing noises fall into this category. Class D EVPs typically are not published as they are not definite proof.
Equipment and Procedure
If you've ever seen the SciFi show "Ghost Hunters", then you'll be familiar with all the high tech gadgetry they use during their hunts. This amount of equipment is NOT necessary for the average ghost hunter; if a spirit is present and wants to come through, it is going to do so no matter how cheap your recorder is. We have been using the Olympus VN-2100 digital recorder since day one and have always received great results. It is available online or at your local Radio Shack for a mere $39.99 and it will last forever. If you choose a different brand, make sure it's still a digital recorder. Standard recorders will pick up the sound of the gears turning inside, which is a huge distraction while listening to the playback. An external microphone, which we use as well, is also a good investment. Held out in front of you as you explore the area, the microphone records the faintest of sounds in crisp, clear detail. Over the years I've received dozens of questions asking me how to go about picking up good EVPs. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof formula to capturing any class of EVP. You are pretty much at the mercy of the entities. There are some things you can do, however, to try to boost your chances of catching a voice.
First and foremost, avoid crowds and background noise at all costs. The more noise you record the harder it will be to pick out a ghostly voice, and the more prone it will be to skepticism. This doesn't mean you should operate in dead silence. It's okay for you and your ghost hunting buddy to talk amongst yourselves, in fact I strongly recommend it. Read the names on the headstones out loud, including dates and epitaphs where visible, talk about what it must have been like to live in that time period and as you're doing so, visualize it in your head. Speculate about how difficult it must have been to fight disease or lose one's children to something as simple as the flu. Ghosts are attracted to energy, and energy is produced through empathy, so the more you put out the more likely they may be to manifest. You might feel silly at first, but speak as though the ghost were right there in front of you. Don't be afraid to ask open-ended or basic yes-no questions like, "Is anybody here with us tonight?" and "What is your name?" Requests are another idea, giving instructions such as, "This device I'm holding is an audio recorder. If you come close to me and speak into it, it will pick up your voice. Even if I can't hear you, this machine can." Try asking for permission as well, saying, "Would it be alright if I took your picture?" In fact, it is a good idea to make a general statement at the beginning of the hunt in an attempt to put any surrounding entities at ease by explaining that you are just there to investigate and observe. Stress that you are not there to do any harm or vandalize the area, that you come in peace and would like simply to record, if that's alright with them.
Whatever you do, don't whisper. Sometimes the voice of a spirit only comes through very faintly on the audio recording. If you're whispering, it's easy to mistake your own voice for that of a ghost. If you do catch yourself whispering by accident while recording, make a verbal note of it (for example, state "That was me whispering at 15:44".) It is good to make verbal notes of any other random noises or voices that suddenly appear. If a couple jogs by with their headphones blaring or chatting to each other as they pass, take the time to mention on the tape what that just was so you don't confuse it as something paranormal later on.
When reviewing the tape, if you come across something unusual that you think might be an EVP but you aren't sure because the strange voice actually sounds like your own, don't be alarmed. This is actually fairly common in the world of EVPs. Ghosts manifest themselves either visually or audibly by drawing on the energy of the live people around them. This is why a room will grow cold when a ghost is present. Usually when a ghost speaks it will be in his own unique voice, but there are times when they draw on your energy in order to manifest and because of this they come through in a voice that is eerily similar to your own. Don't discount these instances. If the voice is something you clearly do not remember saying and is out of context from the conversation or is a direct answer to a question you posed, it's probably an EVP.
Of course, your chances of catching good EVPs are always doubled if you visit a place that was the site of an extremely emotional or violent event. Battlefields, such as Gettysburg in Pennsylvania or homes where a murder occurred, like Lizzie Borden's house are prime targets. Hospitals that were in use during wartimes or were the site of a large number of deaths, particularly during the tuberculosis outbreak, are another good bet as are old cemeteries that have a lot of history behind them, especially if they used to have a church or meeting house on their land. But ghosts are everywhere, even in the most modern of graveyards. If you have a cemetery close to your home, try to visit it frequently. Doing this over time will increase your chances of obtaining evidence because the more you visit the more accustomed the entities will come to your presence, and they will soon start to loosen up.
Remember that the more data you gather, the better your odds are of picking up an amazing EVP, so get out there and start investigating!