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This is EVP:
A Look Behind the
"The Ghost Orchid"

by Mark Poysden

I first heard about EVP several years ago, but I never paid much attention to the subject until I listened to "The Ghost Orchid," an amazingly informative CD containing 79 "electronic voice" tracks, as well as a booklet of highly intelligent essays on the subject.

What is EVP? Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP, are weird and mysterious, apparently paranormal sonic events of unknown origin, which can sometimes be heard (and captured in recordings) on various types of electronic apparatus, and which are usually discounted by skeptics as being simple forms of radio interference. Some people believe the voices have a satanic or demonic origin, others postulate that they are extraterrestrial attempts at communication, or that they may, in fact, be "projections" from the researcher.

The voices take on diverse forms; they may appear to be speaking in tongues (polyglot), singing or making public service announcements. They interrupt standard radio broadcasts, and can apparently call on by name, and speak directly to researchers (and most likely attempt to communicate with people too busy to notice they are being addressed by the voice of weirdness). They may make themselves heard over telephones, during television broadcasts, and as anomalous interference on tape recordings. Some of them seem to enjoy engaging in dialogue, answering questions, or willingly supply secret, or highly specific personal information, no doubt as an indication of their greater insight.

Often, intercommunication between those waiting and hoping to speak finds its way onto the tape, just as background talk might during any normal recording, the difference here being that the discarnate technicians' ability to create a window of communication is seemingly random, or poorly fixed. In other words, that acoustic window only opens for a moment, and whoever happens to be making noise ends up on the recording, whether they are the designated speakers or the bystanders. Of course, as with all "sciences," both conventional and paranormal, there are those investigators (or "investigators"), who are so keen on finding evidence to support the validity of their chosen field that they will impose meaning on what might otherwise be a mere cloud, albeit oddly shaped.

Intense research and investigation, which seriously began in the fifties (when assumptions that they were enemy propaganda were nullified by the Allied victory), has revealed that EVP is quite possibly an actual, recurring system of interdimensional communication.

Interestingly enough, the EVP phenomenon was predicted by those reputed fathers of radio, Marconi and Thomas Edison who believed it was only a matter of time before such magnificent technology would enable us to communicate directly with the dead. Indeed, Edison even went so far as to suggest that the spirit world would perhaps be the first to initiate the communication by using radio to make contact with the living. He also worked on developing a "psychic telephone" that he hoped would create a means to converse with the discarnate, alas, without success.

The Early Years

It seems the honor of recording the first spirit voice on tape goes to the Reverend Drayton Thomas who, during his investigations of the abilities of the famous medium, Gladys Osborne Leonard, captured one of the audible, disembodied voices she had started producing on tape. He later identified one of them as the voice of his own father. This occurred sometime in the late 1940s.

The psychic Attila von Szalay, who frequently heard disembodied voices in the air around him, started researching the phenomenon with Raymond Bayless, a psychologist in the early 1950s. Their initial attempts with a 78 RPM Pack-Bell record-cutter and player were disappointing. Undeterred, they continued their efforts using a device that Bayless had devised and constructed. It consisted of a cabinet with an interior microphone resting inside a speaking trumpet. The microphone chord led out of the cabinet and was connected to a tape recorder and a loud speaker. Almost immediately, they began to hear whispers originating from inside the cabinet and duly recorded them. In 1956, they produced an article documenting their research for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Von Szalay carried on taping for many years using an open microphone connected to a reel-to-reel recorder and he achieved excellent results.

At the end of the fifties, Friederich Jurgenson, a retired Swedish opera singer, film producer and bird-watcher, was occupied with a project recording wild bird songs in the forests near to his home. On playback he discovered that strange garbled fragments of seemingly human speech had somehow made their way onto the tape, although he was absolutely sure that he had been completely alone when he made the recording. He even recognized one of the voices as his dead mother calling his name. Later, Jurgenson admitted that he had been trying to record EVP voices for a while, but without success and it was no accident whatsoever when he finally succeeded.

Listening closely to the voices, Jürgenson found that they spoke in different languages, often changing to another idiom in mid-sentence. Also, longer phrases often had an improper structure or grammar and, in some cases, the syllables were either stretched or compressed in a way that made it quite hard to comprehend the messages. The strangest aspect of all was the uncanny way the voices seemed to respond to his comments. Jürgenson began to hold conversations with the strange voices by recording questions and later searching the tape for answers. After four years of experimental recording, he announced his strange discovery to the world at an international press conference in 1963 and his book, Roesterna Fraen Rymden (Voices From the Universe) was published the following year in Stockholm. His conclusion was that the tape recorder was acting as a form of electronic communication link to the realm of the dead.

Following this initial burst of enthusiasm, EVP was forgotten, even by the parapsychological community who were, in the 1960s, far more interested in studying ESP and telekinesis, and who were no doubt quietly encouraged by the military community in their efforts.

Comprehensive cataloguing was started in the sixties by a small team of researchers assembled by one of Jurgenoson’s protégés, Dr. Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian-born psychologist and philosopher. He recorded thousands of disembodied voices, many of which communicated in a polyglot of languages. (Raudive himself spoke nearly a dozen, so interpreting the messages was not usually difficult for him.) A typical polyglot message might begin with a word in Latvian, then two in German, ending with one in French. Because it seemed so odd that spirits should choose to use polyglot, Raudive was often criticized and accused of misinterpreting his voices. However, his critics were unable to decipher exactly what these voices on his recordings were actually saying--if they were indeed just speaking in a single language--and they often neglected the fact that Jurgenson, too, had recorded similar polyglot messages.

Raudive’s messages also came under fire for their seemingly nonsensical content, which sometimes included comments on the color of the sweater he was wearing, tidying up his house in preparation for anticipated guests, or even on the virtues of living in Upsala in Sweden. A counter-argument to this criticism is that if the voices originate from the dead, it should be remembered that they were once normal (living) people; the only difference being that they have experienced the change-of-state known as "death," which need not necessarily make them any more wise or erudite! Raudive was not the only experimenter whose work documents that the dead have a sense of humor, get bored, like to tease, or even talk about the weather. Most EVP researchers apparently record a substantial amount of this sort of "verbal junk" on their tapes.

Raudive also came under fire for his use of a diode. He discovered that the voices gained in strength and number when background noises were prevalent. The diode, which is a broadband, crystal radio detector with a short antenna and a second wire directly connected into the microphone input of the recorder, provided white noise and greatly aided the voices in manifesting. Raudive's critics claimed what he was actually recording were snatches of ordinary radio transmissions. Perhaps the main defense against this charge is that Raudive's voices made a point of mentioning his name as often as possible.

Some of his recordings were made available on a 7" record together with a book titled Unhoerbares Wird Hoerbar (The Inaudible Becomes Audible), based on the 72,000 voices he recorded. This audio document included spirit messages from the likes of Spanish philosopher Ortega Y Gasset and Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. The book was translated and published in an expanded edition as Breakthrough, an Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead. by Colin Smythe, Ltd. England in 1971. Indeed, Dr. Raudive was so absorbed by the phenomena that he started to communicate with investigators after his own death.

Thomas Edison made an unexpected reappearance in 1967, when he spoke through Sigrun Seuterman, a West German clairvoyant while he was in a trance. Edison discussed his attempts to develop equipment for recording voices from the beyond in 1928. Edison also made suggestions on how to modify TV sets and tune them to 740 megahertz to get paranormal effects.

There seventies saw a resurgence of interest in the EVP phenomenon and a number of books were published world-wide which documented various researchers’ discoveries: Talks With the Dead was written in 1971, by William Addams Welch, a Hollywood scriptwriter and playwright, and published in 1975; and Carry On Talking by Peter Bander, a British researcher, was published in the United States as Voices from the Tapes: Recordings from Other Worlds in 1973. Two Americans, Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless conducted extensive documentary research and published a book, Phone Calls From the Dead (1976). Wen Die Toten Reden (When The Dead Speak) was written by Father Leo Schmid, Oeschegen, Switzerland and published posthumously in 1976. He had been assigned a small parish almost ten years earlier to give him time to experiment with recording the mysterious voices.

The 1980s

In 1982, G. W. Meek made a trip around the world to distribute tape recordings of 16 excerpts of communications between William J. O'Neil and an American scientist who died 14 years earlier. He also distributed a 100-page technical report giving wiring diagrams, photos, technical data and guidelines for research by others. The bulk of this material had resulted from the extensive research he had conducted together with two other Americans, Paul Jones and Hans Heckman, at a laboratory they had started. Their intention had been to create a two-way voice communication system far more sophisticated that the equipment used up until then in EVP research.

Rapid advances in technology introduced not only new research techniques, but also new media for the voices to use to express themselves. Researchers in several countries reported pictures of the "dead" appearing sporadically on their televisions. There is apparently no control over the appearances of these images.

Klaus Schreiber, a West German, developed an optical-electronic feedback system together with Martin Wenzel, and began to receive images of dead people on television. Many images were accompanied by audio communication, and could be positively identified. Schreiber even claimed that he had even received video-audio contact from two deceased wives. His work was the subject of a documentary TV film and a book by Rainer Hobbe of Radio Luxembourg.

Perhaps the best known experimenters receiving visual-audio communication are Maggie and Jules Harsch-Fischbach of Luxembourg, who have been busy researching the EVP phenomenon for many years now. They developed and successfully operated two electronic systems in 1985, which were significantly more dependable than their predecessors, producing results that could be reliably duplicated. One of the techniques they developed allowed them to hear spirit voices speaking audibly over a radio frequency which in Europe is exclusively used for personal beeper signals. In 1987, they received their first TV picture sequences of good quality. About a year later, Jules and Maggie Harsh-Fischbach established sustained computer contact. Messages were left on unattended computer screens, and photographs of dead friends and co-workers were mysteriously uploaded onto their PCs.

The most incredible case of EVP on computer occurred in the tiny village of Doddleston, England, during the years 1984-1986. Ken and Debbie Webster began receiving messages from a man named Thomas Harden, who claimed he was writing to them from the year 1545, during the reign of Henry VIII. The language of his messages was pre-Shakespearean in construction and was studied by at least one linguistic expert who found the writings all-but-flawless, and who thought it inconceivable that they might have been faked, even by the most skilful Elizabethan linguist. In all, the Websters received more than 250 such messages, many accompanied by poltergeist phenomena. Intermixed with these bizarre communications from Thomas Harden in the 16th century was a confusing set of messages from a group calling themselves 2109. It was not possible to tell if the members of this group were humans from the future or extraterrestrial. After the mysterious writings at Doddleston ceased, the 2109 group began communicating with the Harsch-Fischbachs in Luxembourg and apparently still does. Webster wrote a book in 1989 titled The Vertical Plane, and included extensive photographic documentation.

Finally, experimenters began receiving images on their VCRs. These tapes show faces, crowds, scenery and animals. The people in the images look extremely ectoplasmic; similar to the types of images seen in spirit photography, although recent images appear much more "normal." Perhaps this is reflective of improving technologies on both sides of life.

A year earlier, Sarah Estep, resident in Severna Park, Maryland, USA published the results of fifteen years of EVP research in her book ‘Voices of Eternity’. Sarah also founded the American Association- Electronic Voice Phenomena, which is a loose collective of experimenters and others who are interested in survival research. The organization has well over two hundred members scattered around the world and it publishes a quarterly newsletter.

Sarah Estep has made it her goal to collect as much information as possible from her non-corporeal guest speakers about life in their world. She has also made contact with entities from "Space" worlds invisible to us, but not commonly thought of as spirit. The entities who communicate speak of flying ships, often repeat all or part of their words, sound robotic on occasion, and mention names of stellar bodies familiar to us, like Alpha Centauri or Venus, as well as those we do not know, such as a place called Palymachie. The denizens of the spirit world tell her that they are happy, that their world is our true home, and we should come back and see how lovely it is. There are plants, trees, and animals and they even mention they have homes of a sort and even cities. They are able to view future events, although they do not automatically know what will happen in the future. They appear to have to do some research of their own before discussing any future occurrence.

Estep is not alone in receiving "Space" voices. Other researchers do so as well. They frequently receive calls for help, prayers, and guidance from souls who are wandering, unaware they are dead, or greatly tormented at their separation from loved ones. It seems these spirits are drawn to the researcher, or brought to them by other entities whose job is rescuing the lost. These souls are allowed to speak, perhaps to warn us of the consequences of being unprepared for death, and then they are shepherded on, and hopefully given the help they need.

The Ghost Orchid

"The Ghost Orchid" CD, recently released on British record label Ash International [R.I.P.], was compiled, edited and produced by Justin Chatburn and Ash International's Mike Harding. They sourced a massive tape archive, property of an organisation called the Parapsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative (PARC), to bring the curious up to speed on this weird and vexing phenomenon. Sam Ayres and Justin Chatburn established PARC in Autumn1998. As a co-operative effort, PARC consists of many members who willingly contributed to the project or concept under development. The results were then archived, documented, and finally published.

I welcome the release of this definitive CD. Ringmaster Leif Elggren unravels the threads as we proceed through the tracks, which, by the way, includes the material from the 7" record released with Raudive's 1971 book Breakthrough. The CD is most certainly a valuable addition to this field of research, and, dare I say it without appearing to be flippant, a source of some of the most beautiful textural sounds I have heard for a long time.

The hero of "The Ghost Orchid" is Raymond Cass, who devoted a great deal of his time to researching this phenomena. He first became interested in EVP when a male voice suddenly called his name over a primitive radio, which was switched off at the time. An investigation of his genealogy revealed that he had psychic ancestors, one of whom was persecuted for her paranormal abilities in 1773, and another who could levitate a table with three men sitting on top it. The publication of Konstantin Raudive’s book Breakthrough in 1971 was the impetus that propelled Cass to the forefront of British EVP research, and he was soon producing recordings of voices of such amazing clarity and amplitude that he attracted worldwide attention. His previous studies in acoustics and his practical experience as a hearing-aid technologist were probably invaluable tools in his research. Cass was one of the first to record examples of the disputed polyglot voices, which construct phrases and sentences from several different languages, examples and interpretations of which occur on this CD. However, in 1997 at the age of 76, his abilities seemed to falter, and it remains to be seen whether he will return successfully to the field.

Cass seems to favor the ET scenario, suggesting that fragmented communications might be being directed at selected individuals over a long period of time, possibly from extraterrestrial monitoring and relay stations positioned somewhere in our solar system. The fragmented nature of these messages keeps the recipients finely tuned and simultaneously ensures that they conduct their own continuous research in order to corroborate their observations and conclusions. He also suggests, however, that "the voices may be a mutant development of the subconscious mind, or a transient by-product of the electromagnetic pollution which now rings our planet."

Joe Banks, who is no stranger to peculiar audio phenomena--as he spends much of his time recording natural radio waves from stars and galaxies--contributed one of the several excellent expositions included in the CD booklet. He makes the very valid point that there is a natural human inclination to "project" meaning onto otherwise innocent phenomena, in an attempt to either simplify them even further, or to make them appear (more) mysterious than they may already (appear to) be. The human imagination will try to impose meaning on configurations of sounds, in this case, and of course each individual will usually use his or her own language as the basis for interpretation. If no sense can be made of what we perceive, then some form of auxiliary hypothesis will be invented and/or introduced to support the conclusion. The wilder the territory that unfolds before us, the stranger the language that we use to attempt to describe it becomes.

Even conventional science has been reduced to poetic terminology to articulate the infinitesimal and abstract worlds within worlds that it seems to continually unearth. One of the problems pointed out by Joe Banks with regard to this particular aspect of the phenomenon of EVP is that 'we are asked to accept that the entities have the intellect to acquire a grasp of many languages, while having lost the ability to speak grammatically or confine themselves to proper words'. Additionally, he observes that it is conventional when compiling EVP demonstration tapes to reinforce the process of projection by first having the narrator announce the meanings before playing the examples.

The human mind has to fill in the blanks, or else it would go completely bonkers and the mysterious voices which we might hear through our radios or telephones will start to resound inside our own craniums. To be frank, there are simply not enough lampposts around for us all to have one to talk to.

It remains to be said that the phenomenon has been considered serious enough to have not only been assessed by various paranormal groups, but also to have come under scrutiny by Defense Ministries on both sides of the Atlantic and no doubt by their counterparts in the (former) East bloc too.

Personally, I cannot make up my own mind about the phenomenon of EVP, but I know that this audio document will be a thing to treasure and listen to from time to time, just to tantalize and encourage my human desire for the all-too sweet, and eternally uncharted terra incognita which may just possibly be waiting beyond the gate.


Anyone with an interest in the study of survival of the human consciousness beyond physical death stands to learn and grow from investigating and/or conducting his or her own EVP research. There are many ways to approach the possible manifestations of post-mortem survival; perhaps the best attitude to take is to consider it a mix of both science and spirituality. Most researchers conduct recording sessions in their homes, on a regular basis. Frequency and consistency seem to aid in obtaining results.

What do you need to tape?

1: A tape recorder, obviously. Early recordings were made on reel- to-reel machines, then cassette decks. Anything with a built-in microphone or speakers has proven unreliable as they increase distortion and often pick up too much local motor noise, if recordings are made at high levels. The introduction of digital technology has greatly improved recording quality and is a still more preferable medium.

2: A microphone. Condenser mikes aren't up to scratch. You will end up hearing yourself talking and there will more than likely be a wall of hiss in the background. Good quality microphones can be bought at most hi-fi stores.

3: Decent headphones always come in handy. They can help to pinpoint sounds more specifically if used simultaneously with (loud) speaker playback

4: Good loudspeakers that can tolerate high volume levels, a stereo amplifier to drive them, and if possible, a graphic equalizer, so that you can filter out unnecessary frequencies.

5: A sound source. Try tuning to a frequency between stations on an AM/FM radio. You'll probably achieve better results on the AM waveband, as FM contains so much bleeding between the stations on an already overloaded dial. Seek out areas where white noise is the dominant sound. This same procedure can be applied to short-wave radio, where there are less frequencies. If utilizing the AM/FM or short wave bands doesn't appeal to you, try the air bands. These are frequencies air pilots and control towers use to communicate. The only earthly voices you are going hear will be clearly evident as air traffic communications, so if someone says, "This is your dead uncle," you can be sure it isn't a British Airways pilot. You might also try playing a record or making a tape of running water. Apparently both of these methods also work well.

7: A commitment to taping.

What should you expect?

Do not expect to hear anything the first time you tape, or perhaps the ten times after that. It seems to take about two weeks before most tapers get anything, or before their ear has been trained to distinguish a spirit voice, which might sound like a whisper, be low and tonal in pitch, be faster or slower than normal speech, or oddly accented. If you are successful, you will undoubtedly hear voices uttering strange, seemingly unintelligible words and phrases. You may hear calls for help from distressed souls. You may never receive messages from the people (in spirit) you love best, or if you do, you may hear from them only once or infrequently

Web Resources:

Metascience Foundation Inc.

Electronic Voice Phenomena EVP Alphaland

International Ghost Hunters Society—Electronic Voice Phenomena

Cyberpunk Archives--EVP

Rev. Jarvis' Electronic Voice Phenomena Page

The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena

Robin's EVP Examples & Transcommunication Page

All About EVP - Fortean Times 104

EVP Spirit Recording

More information and reviews of "The Ghost Orchid" CD can be found at the Parapsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative.

Copyright 1999 Mark Poysden