The EVPs that aren't: Environmental noises most commonly mistaken for the supernatural
By Investigator Irvin
The first and most common mistake of researchers listening for EVPs is an overarching term called Auditory pareidolia. This is kind of a catch-all phrase for how your brain likes to make sense of the senseless...finding patterns in the static and noise where there are none. Most paranormal investigators and enthusiasts are more familiar with this dealing with visual phenomena, like seeing a "face" in a dirty mirror. When this happens visually we call it matrixing. Our ears do the same thing.
This is why there is, or should be, a large emphasis on "CLASS A" EVPs: recordings that sound like a human voice speaking clearly understandable words. If it sounds mechanical, like a voice made of static, and you have to listen to it 20 times and ask 3 friends and decide what's being "said" by committee, there's a good chance it's not an EVP.
Most commonly mistaken sounds:
Radio interference and CB transmissions: This is a big one and happens a LOT more commonly than you'd think. But wait, you say, my recorder isn't a receiver! It's just a recorder. Well, possibly, but it can also be using RLC circuitry, which can pick up radio transmissions. Any device that has some other wireless function has this danger, even if you've got it turned just to record. Don't try picking up EVPs with your iPhone's recording function.
Biological sources, namely you: You are probably the most common source of all your EVPs. Your finger brushing too near the microphone, your jacket sleeve or other clothing whispering as you turn toward a mysterious shadow (HEY! I picked up this EVP at the EXACT SAME TIME I saw the shadow person! That's uber-compelling!). No, you just turned fast in your excitement and your sleeve brushed the recorder or it rubbed across your jacket as you raised and pointed it. Your breathing accelerated and your senses were attuned to a potential phenomenon, so you didn't hear it or perceive the noise you made. These can be avoided by being still, letting things settle out and holding the recorder and yourself quietly. If there's an EVP during the silence, you may have something, but look suspiciously at any EVP that just happens during a burst of excitement. Doesn't mean it wasn't a paranormal event, but it should be reviewed with extra care and critically.
Whispering: Very often people forget that they whispered or muttered something under their breath. Nobody else really paid attention to it, and if you don't review the audio files immediately, then you are likely to forget that you whispered to yourself that you "needed to get bread," which could explain why that ghost just told you the family that lived here "needed to get dead."
Wind and debris: If you're investigating an old, drafty house or a sanitarium that's been abandoned for 20 years, there's a good chance that there's both drafts, dust and occasional falling debris. You may not have heard that slight gust of wind near that old window, but your recorder did, and it sounds just like whispering. Of course you didn't see dirt falling from the ceiling hitting your recorder, it's 2 a.m. and you're stumbling around in the dark. In inhabited houses, watch where the registers and vents are. They can blow across your recorder and cause a lot of would-be EVPs.
Your recorder may be a bug light! Okay, so you sit your recorder down on that old desk and get quiet, or you leave the room and just let it record for an hour while you investigate the basement. You come back, listen to it and hear the strangest, inhuman sound! Wait...you may not have what you think you have. You know how that little red light or that brightly lit LCD shows up really well in the dark? Well not only you and your dead Aunt Bertha's ghost can see it. Bugs can see it too! And boy does it look interesting! They'll land right on it, crawl all over it, checking to see if it's a snack or a mate. As soon as you reach for it in the dark, they take off...and you've got yourself an EVP. Or so you thought.
Okay, so how do you prevent this stuff from happening and lower the chances of false EVPs? Well, nothing's foolproof, but here are some tips that help me.
1. Only use digital recorders that serve no other function. No iPhones or iPads or recorders that double as radios or anything similar.
2. Raise, aim, record. If you see or hear something and your recorder is not on, raise it, aim it and then record...and be still and quiet!
3. If you're running an active EVP session while holding the recorder, keep it raised and away from your body and move slowly, again being as quiet as possible. If you do whisper or talk quietly, make a verbal note to ignore that whisper when you're done talking.
4. If it makes no sense, it's probably not an EVP. The paranormal entity probably isn't trying to tell you that your "Briefcase is beautifully wet." And if you're investigating in Siberia, the spirits of the dead there probably do NOT speak English.
5. If it doesn't sound anything like a voice, there's a good chance it's not. Flat pitch? All rasping and swishing noises that seem to make words? It probably wasn't a voice.
6. If you're leaving the digital recorder in a room for an hour, it might be a good idea to place an IR camera or night vision camera on it and record it. This will prevent you from being fooled by an overly amorous firefly trying to hump your recorder, and it also might give you visually corroborating evidence to back up an audio claim.
7. Review audio as soon as possible, while events are fresh in your mind. This will help eliminate a lot of mistaken whispers and other things you noticed at the time. It is also just a good way to investigate in general, while the experience is still vibrant in your memory.