Fauxist Spirit Recording Project — Theory —
Posted by Regrette Etcetera on June 29, 2010
“Fauxist Spirit Mic Sessions” (2010) CD available for download or purchase soon on NFTFI. A full investigations of its contents appears in the upcoming publication “The Fauxist Spirit Recording Sessions Habitat on 1475.0 kHz wave, Nie śpią tylko duchy: Transcripts & Descriptions of initial Fauxist experiments in EVP/ITS audio & Paranormal Politics”. (2010)
1) Project Introduction
2) The Fauxist Spirit Microphone: History and theory.
– Hitler Heard Beneath Birdsong & The Ghost Orchid (EVP explained)
– White Noise Spirits & EVP
– Schizoanalysis, Degraded Voices & EVP Anthropology
– Burroughs & Backmasking: The Recorder’s Confessing Ghosts.
– The radiophonic Babel of war: Militant Listening in a Remorseless Sea of Noises
– Skeptics and Anti-Science
– Associated Fauxist Investigations- Subliminal Media, PSYWAR, Music Torture.
– “Dialogues with A Dead Doctor: Two Conversations with Dr. Konstantin Raudive (1909–1974) In which he variously encourages the Fauxists in continuing their EVP investigations, speaks about what it’s like being dead, and the pop music of the afterlife”. (Transcripts From Spirit Mic Recording CD) (2009)
UPCOMING: – “Hooray for Cryptozoology” The Fauxist Cryptozoology Tapes (2010)
– “The Fauxist Spirit Recording Sessions Habitat on 1475.0 kHz wave, Nie śpią tylko duchy: Transcripts & Descriptions of initial Fauxist experiments in EVP/ITS audio & Paranormal Politics”. (2010)
– “Exolanguages: SETI, Alien Literature, and voices of space…” (2009)
“Naturalism has served as deceptively in the modern world as supernaturalism ever did in the past”
“If we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.”
“If there is a spirit world full of the flotsam and jetsam of our military and mercantile civilization. If a door has been opened between this world and the next, then the masses armed with the cheap transistor sets and £5 Hong Kong tape recorders, will participate in this new Hydesville.”
“an intricate universe of mysterious messages, morse tickings, modulated hisses, deformed, mangled human voices which pronounced sentences in incomprehensible languages or in code . . . messages of death . . . the radiophonic Babel of war” .
This project refers overtly to the tape experiments conducted by Jürgenson and, Dr. Constantin Raudive, and the subsequent developments of the field of Electronic Voice Phenomena- otherwise known as Spirit Voices or ITS- as discussed below.
In interrogating the historical, political, and aesthetic discussions that colour the reception of this EVP noise, We study how this evidence (and how it is attributed variously to voices of the dead, angels, UFO’s etc) has been turned into a complex, often entrenched belief system of genuine anthropological interest, not least because the process entails the use of electronic technology to help construct, rationalize and validate a fundamentally anti-scientific belief system.
By simultaneously undertaking a sequence of increasingly aesthetically, technically and politically complex experiments into the field, We aim to produce a grounded foray into the techno-spirital, engaging, when necessary, with the ritualistic systems of both science and anti-science to further Our aims.
This publication outline the theory and background of the Fauxist’s work in EVP and associated fields in 2009-10.
As every new media technology has new forms of ghosts associated with it, EVP chases the ghost in the noise-machine, calling on traditional spiritualist, occultist, anthroposophical, and theosophical chanelling capacities and proclivities to plumb these inaccessible layers of human existence in a movement from traditional spirit-mediums to the electronic-medium.
The Fauxist Spirit Microphone: History and theory.
Hitler Heard Beneath Birdsong: The Ghost Orchid -EVP explained
Electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) are voices and other utterances that appear on audiotape and digital media without the person/s being aware of it at the time the recording was taking place. In most examples of EVP, the voice or voices only speak a few words and some of the voices can be very distinct and yet others hardly coherent at all. (For online examples: )
EVP is a subcategory of Instrumental transcommunication or ITC which is the broader term used for investigative techniques of communication with the afterlife via ordinary common place electronic devices. This was originally done with magnetic tape recorders, but includes everything from telephones through to televisions, radios and even computers. EVP is also known as Electronic Disturbance Phenomena (EDP) and Trans-Dimensional Communication (TDC).
From the moment that human beings started communicating with electrical and electromagnetic signals, the ether has been a spooky place. Four years after Samuel Morse strung up his first telegraph wire in 1844, two young girls in upstate New York kick-started Spiritualism, a massively popular occult religion which attempted to fuse science and seance. One of the movement’s main newspapers was called “The Celestial Telegraph,” and many of the spirits contacted by mediums were electricity geeks. Totally legitimate scientists like Thomas Edison, the radiographer Sir Oliver Lodge, and Sir William Crookes (inventor of the cathode ray tube) all suspected that spirits were real and that the afterlife was electromagnetic in nature. Edison even built a device to communicate directly with the dead.
Electronic voice phenomena came to light in 1959 when the Swedish filmmaker Friedrich Juergenson unwittingly captured voices on audiotape. After recording birdsong in a forest, Juergenson discovered on playback that there were “voices” buried in the field recordings, notably a distinct male voice remarking about birdsong at night! Listening carefully, Juergenson also heard the voice of his deceased Mother. After his discovery, Juergenson went on to record hundreds of ‘spirit voices’ (his archive came to encompasses some eight hundred reels of tape) for the following four years and consequently published a book in Swedish in 1964 called “Rosterna Frdn Rymden” (“Voices From The Universe”) in 1964, “Sprechfunk mit Verstorbenen” (Radio-Link with the Dead) in 1967, and “Radio och Mikrofonkontakt med de Dda” (“Radio Contact With The Dead”) in 1968.
With the help of tape-recorder, microphone and radio he was able to hear voices on tape which he called “voices from space”; that these voices did not belong to any other “physical” world, but to a world in contrast to ours, a spiritual world; that the voices were those of the dead.
Later translated into German, Juergenson’s writings caught the attention of Dr Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian Psychologist. Dr Raudive was at first skeptical of Juergensons’ claims but after many successful experiments, he too recorded hundreds of voices- allegedly making tens of thousands of recordings- including that of his own deceased Mother. As these experiments progressed, microphone recording was given up in favor of recording from radio receivers set to non-broadcast areas of white noise. Dr. Raudives experiments have influenced generations of experimental musicians and spiritualists alike, and his tapes still constitute one of the greatest noise archives in the world.
Jürgenson’s and Raudive’s tapes attracted the Fauxists even as a form of a-compositional music. The implication was that the signal being inscribed on the tape in Raudive’s experiments had nothing to do with the recording process; the voices were not audible in the room and thus must have found their way onto the tape in some manner other than through the microphone. If this is the case, “Why record at all?” is the obvious next question; why not simply amplify the natural “hiss” of blank magnetic audiotape?
Another researcher, Attila von Szalay, has made similar tapes with no signal entering the recorder at all. He simply held the end of a wire jacked into the recorder so that his body acted as a “microphone.” (Since the early Forties, von Szalay, an American, has been trying to record the mysterious voices that he hears, first on a record cutter, then on an early wire recorder.) These recordings sound, basically, like amplified white noise, and must be listened to very carefully to discover the “voices” buried within them. The voices on these tapes are said to consist of snippets of phrases, in various languages, and at different speeds. All of these particular researchers concluded that these voices were those of the dead.
Since the late 50’s, many people have recorded voices on audiotape and now digital media and the obtaining of EVP samples has become common practice in the activities of those investigating paranormal activity. The tape voice phenomenon came to wide public attention with the publication of Raudive’s book Breakthrough in 1971.
EVP is at heart a DIY affair, especially now that computers have given us studios-in-a-box (e.g. EVP maker software). The EVP industry now encompasses many amateur paranormal seekers, and has been the subject of renewed interest upon the rise of noise, glitch and electronic/ found sound work, which has reopened such recordings as valid in their own right (i.e as sound), though predominantly without investigating the claimed EVP-spirit content. In other words, the resurgence of interest in Raudive’s tape experiments has more to do with contemporary musical tastes than in their spiritualist content. With the rise of Electronica as a popular musical form, the history of electronic sound production is being scoured for source material.
In this environment, the tape hiss that is considered distortion in Raudive’s recordings as that which hides their true content: the voices is now the object of primary interest. The hiss is the content, and the search for voices within it is now considered a kind of charmingly naive sublimatory excuse to revel in the pleasures of electronic sound.
White Noise Spirits and EVP
“If we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.” Thomas Edison
The style of a typical EVP recording is as follows: a narrator introduces “contacts” that manifest as brief bursts of distorted voice accompanied by very high levels of radio interference and what appears to be machine noise picked up from the recording apparatus by a microphone. The examples are repeated several times, and the ambience of the recordings is menacing. A typical EVP process involves prompting the imagination by asking questions of deceased “entities” out loud- in the manner of a Spiritualist seance- and recording and then repeatedly analyzing any signals that have emerged. (See section on Burroughs below). Thus, despite focus on the characteristics of the voices themselves, one of the most important requirements for good EVP is the presence of noise: a distorted channel, interference, echo, superimposition.
Lyall Watson, the author of ‘Super Nature’, states that a tape recording always seems to pick up more background noise than there is in a real-life situation. This is true. We are programmed in such a way as to screen out as much extraneous information as possible, otherwise we would not be able to deal with the amount of external stimuli that bombards us constantly. A tape recorder does much the same thing that putting a seashell, or a simple tube, up to our ear does it makes us aware of the amount of white noise that surrounds us continuously. Much of the technology of EVP-spiritualism is designed to re-introduce this white noise into our perceptual range. Indeed, many early spiritualist electronic devices took as their starting point the medium’s speaking trumpet, listening tube, or cabinet. These were all simple tools meant to amplify the paranormal voices supposedly channeled through the medium. Used as enclosures for electronic amplification or recording, these objects produced an effect similar to that of the seashell they accentuated the white noise.
For example, in listening to a tape by Raudive, one is hyper-conscious of the fact that the distortion of the recording process is the primary experience. This distortion is much louder than the “voices” buried within it. This is so much the case that one is compelled to question whether there are voices there at all; they might only be projective audio hallucinations induced in the listener by the general uninflected nature of the white noise. The detection of voices in the tape hiss could be considered analogous to the recognition of imagery in Rorschach blots.
Historicizing the relationships between EVP and channeling, possession, mediums etc is important. The experiments of Jürgenson and Raudive are part of a long spiritualist history of attempts at communication with the dead. What differentiates the likes of Jürgenson and Raudive from their 19th Century spiritualist predecessors is that the human “medium,” the person who acts as conduit for the voice of the departed spirit, has been replaced with an electronic device. As soon as electronic communication devices were invented, the same technical principles were applied to spirit communication. Plans exist, attributed to Thomas Edison, for a “telephone” to communicate with the dead. He is known to have been working on such a device in the Twenties. Edison and Marconi both believed that radio technology might enable contact with the afterlife-an idea that fit well within the context of Victorian enthusiasm for various forms of Spiritualism. Both Guglielmo Marconi and Thomas Edison believed in the possibility of using new recording devices to contact the dead, or the “living impaired,” to use Edison’s uncanny twenty-first century term. Sir William Crooks, President of the Royal Society and inventor of the cathode ray tube, and Sir Oliver Lodge, one of the leading contributors to radio technology, believed the other world to be a wavelength into which we pass when we die.
The following section will take an anthropological view of EVP and theosophy-spiritualism, asking: “who or what is talking?”, “who is listening and for what?” and so on. Such questions help to draw out possibilities for the investigation and use of EVP media and techniques in Our context.
Schizoanalysis, Degraded Voices and EVP Anthropology
One issue that We hope to address through the use of EVP, trance channelers etc, is the so-called “schizophrenic” nature of much contemporary life, and indeed, art. Much of the rhetoric of this aesthetic is indebted to the writings Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Instead of describing schizophrenia as pathological, Deleuze and Guattari stress the positive aspects of the condition, praising the schizophrenic’s capacity to range across mental fields to transcend the bureaucratization of the mind. They dismiss the psychoanalytic desire to interpret unconscious production, which they describe as having no significance or meaning. Non-meaning, thus naturalized, becomes the basis for an abstract, and anti-critical, aesthetic one that, on the surface, emulates the “schizophrenic” effect of fracture.
One aspect of the so-called voice phenomenon that is often commented upon is the meaningless and garbled nature of the recorded utterances. This has been explained as the result of faulty reception of spirit transmission, or more interestingly as representing the degraded mental state of the “spirits.” The scrambled babblings on the tapes have been interpreted as the tortured voices of those in Hell, as the taunts of demons, or as the by-products of some numbing mental process that occurs after death. They could be described as schizophrenic; however, relative to the voice phenomenon, this description could hardly be understood as a positive one. Writers for the supernaturalist periodical Fate magazine, in response to Jürgenson’s recordings, came to the conclusion that “intelligence seems to deteriorate rapidly after death.” And, alarmed by the disjointed nature of the voices, psychic researcher R.A. Cass warned against the possible dangers of Raudive’s experiments being performed by non-professionals:
“If there is a spirit world full of the flotsam and jetsam of our military and mercantile civilization. If a door has been opened between this world and the next, then the masses armed with the cheap transistor sets and £5 Hong Kong tape recorders, will participate in this new Hydesville.”
Cass’s statement is reminiscent of Theodor Adorno’s rants against mass culture’s frenzied infantilism, which are echoed in William Burroughs’ satiric depiction of a pop band whose “baby talk” lyrics send their listeners into ecstatic infantile abandon. In these examples, delirious response is not held up as something to emulate. An interesting parallel exists between the negative reading of the voice phenomenon as the pronouncements of base elemental beings, and as the equally dangerous by-products of a, purposely, regressive aesthetic.
Importantly, the imbecilic quality of the tape voices is not characteristic of the output of traditional mediumistic devices. Few examples of automatic writing, or even Ouija board pronouncements, are as garbled as the phrases in Raudive’s transcriptions. This kind of fractured language usage would be especially inappropriate if uttered by a human medium, whose portrayal of a specific persona is an important condition of their believability. In fact, mediums often tend to channel dead celebrities and famous historical figures, as if the same social hierarchies that exist in this world extend into the next/other. Compared to this cliched fixation with star system, unified psychology, and history as grand narrative, the confused and ambiguous nature of Raudive’s spirit voices comes off as positively contemporary- “Deleuzeian,” if you will. Ecstatic channelers who “speak in tongues”, may be the only comparable traditional medium.
The need to directly grapple with information is particularly strong today, given earth’s new skin of communications, the web of computers, data networks, satellites, modems, and monitors that some call the Net. The Net is as much our environment as the biosphere, and in itself will neither save us nor sentence us to doom. Information myths are already afoot, and many of them obscure as much as they illuminate.
Paranoid theorists undercover hidden networks of coded conspiracies which link every bit of data that has strayed into their path. UFO churches, the channelling fad (spiritualist TV) and Starseed transmissions all point to literalist cults of information, where the messages received are uncritically celebrated as revealed truth even as the “messages” themselves often consist of bad SF plots or a noisy haze of New Age jargon. Many evangelical Protestants believe that technology exists not only to spread the pure signal of God’s Word across the globe, but to help bring about the apocalypse itself. Citing Matthew 24:14 (“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”), some even hold that the angels in Revelation refer to global satellites.
This contrast of unified psychological portrayal with meaningless glossolalia might be made to echo the shift in meaning of white noise from deep meaning to surface meaning from that which contains hidden mysteries (spirit voices), to that which is simply disposable popular product (Techno music).
For Michel Serres, the play of information involves three actors—the sender, the receiver, and noise, which he calls “the third man” or the “parasite” (in French, bruit parasite means background noise/static- bruit meaning noise/sound/rumour, parasite in a telecommunications context revealingly meaning interference- thus rumours/interference). The sender and the receiver set up a system of communication to defeat the third man, the demon of noise. But Serres’ genius is to recognize that these three actors themselves form a total system, and that the demon parasite paradoxically forces the two other actors to integrate on a more holistic level. Its a matter of a change of perspective: what looks like noise (or a demon) from one level becomes an integral aspect of a dynamic system from a more integrated level.
Undoubtedly, a complex two-way relationship between the spiritual and the technological.
Burroughs & Backmasking: The Recorder’s Confessing Ghosts.
William Burroughs was interested in the tape voice phenomenon and wrote an essay, It Belongs to the Cucumbers, detailing his thoughts on the tape experiments of Raudive. The transcriptions of Raudive’s “voices” reminded Burroughs of schizophrenic speech or dream utterances, and he proposed that the voices might be “a backplay of recordings stored in the memory banks of the experimenters,” instead of the voices of the dead. They were, perhaps, recordings of the unconscious. Perhaps, Burroughs was hoping to cut the pre-recorded time line of pre-sent time, and let the future leak through.
Burroughs famously used tape recorders to ‘write’, compositionally (cut-ups), and in investigating space and time, and their use/the technique appears in many of his novels (notably “Nova Express” 1964). In Nova Express, he described a series of elaborate, even hallucinatory, assemblages of tape recorders and microphones that could be carried from city to city. Borderless, these roving sound installations, with their capacity for instant playback, would blur the line between your own thought processes and the sounds of the city around you. Like Muzak, Burroughs’s legion of rogue microphonists could thus “bypass the resistance of the mind,” installing a soundtrack where there once had been thought. (For audio, see: http://www.ubu.com/sound/burroughs.html)
Burroughs would leave recorders running whilst he slept, and would randomly edit and re-order the resulting tapes… sometimes believing them to contain the voices of the dead. His recorder picked up Hitler, Goethe, Nietzsche and Hibiscus amongst the dead voices. He approached the voices like a detective, deducing from them secret messages, and acting upon their clues and exhortations. Furthermore, Burroughs demonstrated that one cannot simply pick up the little voices but should provoke them into being, in a sports-like manner, to see how many can be scared up in one day, in one hour, in one minute.
In Burroughs’ methodology, ambient audio recordings are made, then counter-edited: chopped up and slowed down, etc., in order to expose what he describes as the “control machine” a prerecorded “grey veil” that separates you from true experience. These recordings could be compared to the tape collages of John Cage that are produced through random game-like strategies: the Williams Mix of 1952, for example. But the focus in Cage’s work is on pure aural experience; his works lack the critical intention at the root of Burroughs’ efforts. When Cage chops together tapes recorded at different locations, the changes in background hiss are experienced as tonal shifts as music, and not as documents of specific places. The abstract qualities of his work are foregrounded since he denies any investment in his source materials. Burroughs’ focus on the political ramifications of the recording and editing process is much more compelling to Us.
Burroughs thus exhibits a politicized, active/assertive technique- which We hope to emulate and extend. His open treatment of linearity, narrative and authority are of key interest in this project.
The radiophonic Babel of war: Militant Listening in a Remorseless Sea of Noises
The documentary “Assigned to Listen” describes the “ether war” fought by BBC foreign-language radio monitors, who scanned the Second World War’s “remorseless sea of noises” for the broken voices, coded messages, news, propaganda, disinformation and entertainment broadcasts that fought for bandwidth with the incessant vagaries of ionospheric propagation and the turbulence of electrical and magnetic storms. BBC radio monitors recorded (often-weak) impulses onto primitive Ediphone wax-cylinder “transcribers” (magnetic tape recorders were not introduced until the end of World War II), further degrading the quality of discernible ‘intelligence’- military or otherwise.
As outlined in the reports of the trials below, Our theorizing of ‘Militant Listening’- the dedication and lateral-thinking necessary to truly engage with EVP and spirit phenomena, owes much to the situations and experiences of the radio monitors. Indeed our use of the term Monitor to describe an active, militant listener is a hopeful tribute to these workers. The monitor’s dedication, sitting for months a tiny workstation aurally adrift in the remorseless seas of noise, and the organizational capacity to fill offices with headphon’d devotees…
One of the most poetic of the WWII monitors was Primo Levi. Among the wartime experiences related in his autobiographical novel “The Periodic Table”, Levi recalled a laboratory test apparatus called a heterodyne, which, under certain conditions, functioned as a radio receiver. He described an “intricate universe of mysterious messages, morse tickings, modulated hisses, deformed, mangled human voices which pronounced sentences in incomprehensible languages or in code . . . messages of death . . . the radiophonic Babel of war” .
Much can be learnt from the military-industrial engagements with EVP/noise spirits, and especially now that the production of EVP/aural-spiritual phenomena is a part of the arsenal of the military.
How the voices voice
EVP’s or the so-called “voices from beyond”, are easily distinguishable from terrestial, human voices. They speak in an unmistakable rhythm and usually employ several languages in a single sentence; the sentence construction obeys rules that differ radically from those of ordinary speech and, although the voices seem to speak in the same way as we do, the anatomy of their “speech-apparatus” must be different from our own. Some have been alleged to sing, others just bark garbled or surrealistic phrases like “dead machines” and “We can see Edith by radio,” some of which apparently refer directly to the experimenter.
See this Standardized EVP log sheet for examples of the categorization of voices, questioning and so on.
To summarise briefly:
1. The voice-entities speak very rapidly, in a mixture of languages, sometimes as many as five or six in one sentence. EVP’s tend to be very short sentences or single words.
2. They speak in a definite rhythm, which seems to be forced upon them by the means of communication they employ.
3. The rhythmic mode of speech imposes a shortened, telegram-style phrase or sentence.
4. Presumably arising from these restrictions, grammatical rules are frequently abandoned and neologisms abound.
5. The EVP is more often than not very specific to the person doing the recording or present in the same vicinity.
Furthermore, the microphone voices fall into three classes of audibility:
Class “A” voices can be heard and identified by anyone with normal hearing and knowledge of the language spoken; no special training of the ear is needed to detect them.
Class “B” voices speak more rapidly and more softly, but are still quite plainly audible to a trained and attentive ear. The ability to differentiate increases with practice, but this is a slow and wearisome process. For this reason it is difficult to use non-regular participants for experimental purposes with class “B” voices.
Class “C” consists of the most interesting voices; voices that give us a great deal of information and much paranormal data. Unfortunately, these can be heard only in fragments, even by a trained ear, but with improved technical aids, it may eventually become possible to hear and demonstrate these voices, which lie beyond our range of hearing, without trouble.
Class D, E and F-h voices: These extended classes are of particular interest, and are being…
Skeptics and Anti-Science
It certainly sounds fantastic to assert that we have made contact with spirit-beings, i.e. the dead, through tape recordings. Today, however, when more or less adequate technical devices are at our disposal, it is possible to test the facts by experiment and to lift them out of the realm of the fantastic. Tape-recorder, radio and microphone give us facts in an entirely impersonal way and their objectivity cannot be challenged. Dr. Raudive
Science has long ignored or deplored the EVP/Spirit recording phenomenon/field. The scientific community’s ignorance of EVP would seem to indirectly support the spreading of this cult, as potential followers are confronted with convincing demonstrations that are only ‘explained’ by the quasi-religious musings of the convinced cultists.
Considering the low quality of almost all EVP recordings, and the unverifiable source conditions, outright forgery of such material would be absolute child’s play. The most primitive tape-recording and overdubbing techniques could easily produce phenomena of this nature- not least because the more basic the technology used, and the lower the signal-to-noise ratio, the more the finished product would resonate with an aura of menacing low-fidelity mystique, which could even help impart a subjective impression of authenticity to such material. Put simply, if the voices recorded had been of a quality comparable to conventional studio recordings of speech, then nobody would have believed such rubbish for a minute-the fog of noise that degrades these signals still seduces some people into suspending disbelief.
Some of the ‘voices’ are most likely people creating meaning out of random noise, a kind of auditory pareidolia (the illusion that something obscure is real) or apophenia (mentally connecting unrelated phenomena). These critiques essentially state: Humans are exceptionally wonderful at finding patterns in noise, the hardware in our sensory system is designed to see changes in things. So when we hear repeated sounds, our brain picks out and pieces together what sounds to us like spoken words. Therefore, if you listen to thousands of pieces of audio, you’ll eventually find one that sounds like a voice. “It’s the monkey on the typewriter issue.” EVPs are also sometimes referred to as “Rorschach audio,” after the psychological test in which subjects read their own interpretation of inkblot images.
Professor Chris French, who heads the anomalistic psychology research unit at Goldsmith’s College, London, agrees on the ambiguity of the phenomena: “According to modern experimental psychology, and not just with the paranormal, you’ve got two different sources [of stimulus] coming in. You’ve got the raw sensory input, referred to as ‘bottom-up’ processing, but because that comes in at a hell of a rate and a lot of it is very ambiguous and hard to make sense of, you are also influenced by what are known as ‘top-down’ processes – your general knowledge and beliefs and expectations. “The ‘top-down’ processing tends to have much greater influence if you’ve got degraded or ambiguous stimuli. In those situations, your own beliefs and expectations will tend to determine how you perceive them.”
EVP researchers counter that the highly interactive communication they have engaged in would be impossible to discount as interference or brain tricks. Asking: “How can an interactive EVP, where the spirit is responding to my questions or commenting on my words, ever be considered interference?”
Professor Bender tries to interpret Spiritualistic phenomena as aspects of pathology in his “Mediumistische Psychosen” (Mediumistic Psychoses; Parapsychology, 1966, Pages 574 to 604). He describes Spiritualistic practices as “psycho-mechanic automatism” and explains them by means of what he calls “overflow pipes of the unconscious”: the belief that Spiritualists are in touch with the “world beyond” is erroneous, he asserts, for the Spiritualistic supposition that other-worldly intelligences, “spirits”, appear before us stems from the personification-tendency of the unconscious and these phenomena are encouraged by paranormally gifted automatists; alleged contact with the dead therefore has to be classified as a pathological phenomenon. “Many find solace and hope in the conviction that contact with the dead is possible, and they can defend their conviction by pointing to documents of some literary value containing such ‘messages from the beyond’ ” (page 576). In a nutshell: Professor Bender’s own observations, as well as existing literature on psychiatry, have prompted him to regard Spiritualistic practices as “mediumistic psychoses”.
Professor Bender’s term for functions provoked by such subconscious reactions is “psychic automatism”, and he distinguishes between a mechanical and a sensory form. The mechanical function manifests through subconscious processes of movement such as automatic writing, table-tilting, knocking, etc.; the sensory form through visions, voices, or haptic illusory experiences. His classic example is the shell, which acts as stimulus for acoustic pseudo-hallucinations. He regards acoustic hallucinations as rare occurrences in Spiritualistic practices. Acoustic voices, heard by Spiritualists or mystics alike, he describes as illusory acoustic perception. He explains it all as a “clever deception of the unconscious, which uses the normally incorruptible senses the moment the critical ratio of the patient is no longer convinced by former procedures–a sign of the strange split in the personalities of such Spiritualistic adepts” (page 584).
Professor Bender thus dismisses the Spiritualist’s hypothesis as pathological and so precludes any possibility of discussion. Spiritualists are, in his opinion, pathological cases in need of psychiatric treatment. He illustrates this belief with examples of his own observations from which he concludes: “Once more the affective shock becomes evident, induced by the misunderstood experience of the beyond and the functional dependence of the voices on the progressive development of complexes made autonomous through night-long experimenting with the pendulum” (page 599).
Clearly his view is that the Spiritualist hypothesis is a kind of psychic sickness which he tries to explain by what he calls “psychic automatism”, and he regrets that most psychologists dismiss the idea. His treatise ends with the following statement: ”The superstitious attitudes built on misunderstood communication with ‘spirit-beings’ are widespread and carry, as case histories show, the seeds of mental illness.”
With so many hobbyists at work, globally, so much sophisticated electronic equipment available, and so many advances in the field of electronics — it seems to Us that we can only look forward to an increasing accumulation of higher quality evidence. And, I’m not sure that the same could be said for any other area of paranormal inquiry these days.
EVP in Fiction
To illustrate the general acceptance of EVP in modern times, the subject has been immortalised in many works of fiction.
“Of Unknown Origin” by Edwin Rostron is inspired by the tape recordings of Raymond Cass, a hearing-aid specialist from Hull and one of the UK’s foremost researchers into EVP. Through a series of fragmentary scenes rendered in pencil and watercolour animation we enter into an unsettling territory somewhere between the real and the abstract. We hear the strange sounds of the EVP, and Cass himself talking about his work. But the film is not ‘about’ Cass, instead it takes the details of his life and work, and the recordings themselves, as a route to explore the hidden realms of the unconscious mind. The film mirrors the uncanny, inexplicable nature of the EVP, the mystery and poetry of the recordings, and challenges rational explanations.
A few other examples:
– “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson – “Ubik” by Philip K. Dick
– “The Electronic Ghosts” – “Ghost in the Machine” (Movie)
– “Pulse” (Movie)
– “Poltergeist” (Movie)
– “Supernatural” (TV series)
 The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AAEVP) has information about EVPs and samples of EVPs on their website. Shadlowlands Ghostly Sounds has a number of EVP recordings you can listen to. Voices in the Wind has several EVP recordings you can hear. GhostStudy.com has EVPs captured in a number of locations that are reported to be haunted. YouTube has a large number of EVPs. To locate them, search either the terms EVP or electronic voice phenomenon. What’s great about EVP recordings on YouTube is that you can listen to EVP recordings from all types of EVP collection devices including Frank’s Box, the Telephone to the Dead, a Ghost Box and various other devices. Sound Board has several EVPs you can listen to on their site. Other online EVP samples: http://www.paratexas.com/ghostpg7.htm , http://www.ghostsrus.com/evp.htm, http://theshadowlands.net/ghostwav.htm http://www.evpvoices.com/evps1.htm, http://www.talkboy.com/haunted/group01.htm