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What Are EVPs?

Updated on February 2, 2015

An EVP Session in Progress

The acronym “EVP” stands for “electronic voice phenomenon”, and has been made famous by various paranormal shows.

They manifest on recordings as voices or sounds which were not audible to individuals present in the location at the time. Often, they provide direct responses to questions asked.They can be picked up on any sort of recording device, including cell phones, computers and DVD recorders.

Part of what makes them so compelling is that often, distinct words and statements can be deciphered. Other times, sobbing or laughter is present.

What exactly is an EVP, and how was it discovered?

A marker500 Sinclair Lewis Avenue, Saulk Center, MN -
500 Sinclair Lewis Ave, Sauk Centre, MN 56378, USA
get directions

A historic, haunted location just outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

What causes EVPs?

The most common origin believers subscribe to is that EVPs are ghostly communication. Because the recordings can be refined and catch everything that was being said, they’re more likely to pick up very quiet sounds that the human ear has difficulty deciphering. Our natural filtering systems could also be at fault for the fact that we may miss a reply from a spirit, but that it made it onto tape.

Patterns from our minds
The human brain naturally makes an effort to identify what might otherwise seem to be nonsense. This theory is very often applied to visual phenomena like Shadow People, but it also works with this sort of auditory phenomena as well.

Could meteors like this one cause EVPs?
Could meteors like this one cause EVPs? | Source

Like crossed phone lines, it’s also possible for radio, cell phone or television transmissions to be imprinted on a recording.

Meteors also relate to this theory. When they enter Earth’s atmosphere, they leave a trail as they disintegrate. It’s possible for radio waves to reflect off of those particles and be recorded as a result.

Background Noise
Acoustics can be very tricky. In some places, someone speaking in one part of the building can be heard clearly in another. There’s also the fact that some outside noises are just as loud as if they were happening right next to the observer. Because recording devices can be more sensitive than our hearing, it’s possible that outside sounds be picked up on them.

Although evidence points to the possibility of each of these causes, the thorough investigative team will be able to eliminate sounds on a recording which may or may not come from any of these sources.

A young Thomas Edison with a phonograph.
A young Thomas Edison with a phonograph. | Source

What’s the history of the EVP?
Although the theory has recently become popular, it’s been around for a very long time. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, spirits and ghostly communication was all the rage. Mediums had a great deal of popularity and high profile individuals sought their advice.

One of America’s great inventors, Thomas Edison, was no different. He was amongst the first to attempt auditory communication with spirits in the 1890s, through a phonograph device to record their voices. He’d continued his research into the 1920s and moved on to chemical experimentation before his death.

Interest had been maintained through the years thanks to a string of personal experiences.

In 2002, Frank Sumption invented what’s commonly known as a “Ghost Box”. This device scans the AM radio waves and has a built in white noise generator. The theory is that the spirits can stop the scanner on the words they’d like to convey to the investigators.

Although science as a whole may not recognize the EVP as a valid theory, it has still had an impact on our culture. The phenomenon has been found in many movies and books which have a connection to the paranormal or ghostly phenomenon. As time progresses, the idea will no doubt stick around and continue capturing the attention of people around the world.

A Ghost Box in Action


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    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 5 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Pretty wild, isn't it? There have been quite a few EVPs which have sent chills down my spine, and the paranormal has been a pretty normal part of my life for quite a while now!

      To be honest, I'm a little up in the air about the use of ghost boxes. It could be that spirits are attracted, or at least influenced by the tech, or that it might be the operator's own subconscious psychic abilities showing up through the box. Or hey, they might be ambient ghosts to his area, or spirits who had attached to him and were following him around. Who really knows?

      If you do get vids of local historical places, it'd be great to see if you come up with anything! NC sure has a lot of them.

      I'll check back on your hub tomorrow when I have more time. :)

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      "You must go back, your not allowed to stay, good-bye" for real.. Amazing ghost box and pic captures by Steve with his cool equip, ES. Were the voices attracted by him or the potential to communicate with his cutting edge stuff you think? Learned some things through your article ES, thanks. I might start doing some vids at the multitudes of historic sites in this region next year. Oh, if you get the time check the Oulstee battle evp video again. I had the wrong part up. The one on now is awesome but be prepared- it is somewhat disturbing, eerie and sad.