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team resources evp c iconWhy are Class C EVPs the most common, you may ask? Probably because they're the least likely to be paranormal. Some could be paranormal, certainly, but they're usually too obscured to say with any certainty that they're not caused by some other normal acoustic source in the environment, much less interpret what exactly they're saying....

Class C EVPs are the most common variety, and the ones you will most likely capture, whether you're just starting out or you're a seasoned investigator.

Filters and equalization can help, but ordinarily so much augmentation of the original sound source is required that what you're listening to more often than not is an artifact of the filtering.

Here are a few of the main reasons that Class C EVPs typically do not stand up to scrutiny or are not admitted into the final record of evidence.

White Noise Matrixing: There's an entire cult of paranormal enthusiasts dedicated to the "capture" of white noise EVPs. Probably the most infamous of these is a west coast woman named Charli, who has referred to her coffee pot as a spirit communication portal. Although the title of her book is "The Coffee Pot Ghost," Charli doesn't make claims her percolator is haunted; rather, she believes the white noise generated by the brewing coffee is a medium through which transient spirits are stopping by to say hello. She's collected thousands of alleged EVPs this way, and she inspired a generation of ghost hunters to create white noise generators in order to create more optimal conditions for detecting these sotto voce spirits. More often than not, what is captured instead is just a lot of white noise, recorded with equipment that has even greater acoustic precision than the human ear can discern. People expect white noise to be static and random, but the truth is that it is really a confluence of random sounds whose waves occasionally intersect to create musical notes, or whose cadence and patterns occasionally sound a little like human speech. Why don't we hear revving cars and recitations of the Ghettysburg Address instead of human spirits chattering away? Because our brains are conditioned to recognize human voices and human faces, and to make order out of chaos--a psychological phenomenon referred to as pareidolia. We just can't help ourselves. It's the same phenomenon that occurs when you watch static "snow" on your television: when it looks like some of the static is moving with intent in a single direction, it isn't really; it's just your brain finding intent. So it goes with most White Noise matrixing in EVP. This isn't to say that every poor quality EVP is just a load of matrixed white noise. However, a sizable amount of it is. And, to make matters worse, many will attempt to convince themselves and others that it is not merely white noise, by performing as much cosmetic surgery on the clip as they can. I'm speaking here of over-filtering.

Over-Filtering: In an effort to isolate what is suspected to be a very quiet EVP, the anomalous sound is first amplified, which boosts the volume on the white noise in which the anomaly is embedded. This is usually a disappointing result, so the anomaly and the white noise are both subjected to further fiddling-about: equalization to tease out the quieter high-pitched details, reduction of bass, high pass filters, and noise reduction. To quote the witless cosmetic surgery victim in Terry Gilliam's masterpiece, Brazil, "My complications have had a little complication." A perfect little mess results, all in an effort to create a stable beauty. There's a psychological component to this sort of EVP, too, which explains why some are so defensive and religious about it: they've invested so much work trying to make the EVP clearer and more audible that they begin to find the sounds in the noise that will validate their efforts. An overly filtered EVP generally points back to an overly determined evidence analyst, who has confused alchemy for science.

Environmental Sounds: People often make the mistake of thinking that a recording source imitates the human ear in its discernment of environmental sounds. A scream may be heard in the evidence that the analyst knows for sure wasn't heard in the environment, so it must be an EVP. Well, no. Like it or not, our sound equipment hears better than we do. Its range is far more sensitive, and audio recording devices are only becoming more so in time. Our equipment is designed to enhance sounds in the environment, so it should come as no surprise to us that we hear things in the audio we didn't hear when we were in the environment where we recorded it. A sneeze in your neighbor's house might register on a digital voice recorder as a whispery "Hey!" in your living room. Perhaps the best example of this problem in the field of paranormal investigating lies with a piece of equipment once thought of as the great "white noise" hope of EVP and AVP recording: a parabolic dish mic. It's designed to converge sound into a narrow, compressed area at the focus of the dish: one could point it in almost any direction and hear things the human ears could not detect. For a while, its results were so fantastic that people thought it proved spirits to be ubiquitous. The problem was, it created a very focused "column" of sound, and the termite munching on the foundation was heard almost as clearly as the squealing brakes of the taxi on 4th and Maple. Ironically, all that exacting focus didn't make it any more discerning. This sort of error commonly occurs with technology we presume to be dependable, but which cannot always discern between sounds near and far. Sometimes these minor moments of cacophony occur because we aren't entirely in command of the acoustic environment: we're not noticing noises or shutting out unwanted audio contamination. Other times, they occur because we don't think of ourselves as a source of environmental noise. Our whistling noses, or our gastric gurgles, or even our stretching vocal cords--all these can create some funny sounding stuff, and unless a video recording has documented what is occurring in the environment (as it should, of course), the source of the anomaly may never be sussed, leading one to conclude presumptuously the anomaly is an EVP. 'T ain't necessarily so.

This hasn't been an all-inclusive discussion of Class C EVPs, but it's a good start because, honestly, if you're just getting started with EVP hunting, this classification is the one you'll probably be working with. And why not? Throw yourself deeply into the part if you want to train yourself to analyze EVP. Capture, catalog and analyze dozens of them in a single sitting. A healthy attitude about Class C EVP is that they're the small fry you gently dislodge from your fishing hook and throw back into the water to wriggle away. However, if you want to learn how to cast a fishing line, you have to get used to catching fish that are not "the big one." Trust me, you'll know when the really impressive EVP is calling to you.


Examples

The following annotated waveform videos should help clarify some of the Class C EVP attributes discussed in this article.  As you might expect, headphones and volume adjustment are the most effective way to listen to these clips.

Environmental Noise

This Class C EVP appears either to be saying "talk" or disclosing the name "Tom"—or some other phonemically similar monosyllabic word. It's more likely, though, to have been matrixed out of the sound of someone who was moments earlier laughing but now drawing breath. The clip is repeated in this waveform video with increased amplification of the anomaly.

    [equipment clacking]

Investigators: (laughter)

Client: As he should appreciate.

EVP: (breathy) Talk (or "Tom" or "Ta" or....)

 

 

One Syllable Whispers

The whispery "No" is the most common example of the Class C EVP, and probably for all the reasons that Class C EVP are so common: in reality, it's an inarticulate huff, but because it seems to answer a Yes/No question, our brains matrix it into the closest contextually appropriate response. Again, headphones are likely a must for this one.

 

Investigator 1: Do you remember us from last time?

    [clients quietly murmur in background; equipment clacks in the room]

Investigator 1: That's me turning my flashlight off.

EVP: (whispered) No.

Investigator 2: And if you do remember us from last time,...

 

 

Misidentified Sounds and Speech

Originally labeled as a Class C EVP then later identified as a false positive, the "anomaly" in this event is actually my own voice distorted by craning my neck. Biased at the time to hear, "Yeah, Mikey," I'm actually saying, "Yeah. It might be," which, once recognized, is harder to hear on subsequent listenings as anything else.

    [Investigator 2 reports seeing a light anomaly near the top of the fridge, from the corner of his eye.]

Investigator 1: Maybe it was the cat that had gotten up there?

Investigator 2: Maybe it was, yeah. Or maybe I was just looking at it through the [huffs] rim of my glasses, or something.

EVP: (whispered) Yeah, Mikeeey. [Actually, "Yeah, might be.]

Investigator 1: Mmm, yeah.

 

Again, by no means should this introduction to Class C EVPs be taken as the be-all and end-all of the discussion about their salient features and their reliability. However, it's a starting point for you to consider the factors that need to be weighed in the determination of the most prolific class of EVP entered into the record, and the most misidentified classification at that. And, what are those factors?

Sounds in the immediate environment (including yourself): announce ANY sound you hear in the environment that might be mistaken later for a paranormal anomaly.

Corroborating evidence: use a video recorder and/or multiple audio recorders in the same recording session so as to verify the presence of an anomalous voice, or to attribute it to a visible acoustic source.

Over-determination: keep your own attitude in check about how badly you want to find something in the evidence; get a second opinion about whether or not you're making too much out of the evidence.

Understanding your equipment: know the strengths and limitations of your audio recording devices, and anticipate how they might create audio artifacts mistaken as EVP.

Be realistic: force yourself, no matter how painful it may seem, to discount evidence that will not convince others or persuade them to hear what you hear, even if you think it's an actual EVP. Keeping a skeptical attitude about your own evidence will build your credibility, and when you're ready to stand by an EVP as hard evidence, others will take you more seriously.