A Scientific Approach

Electronic Voice Phenomena UK

Cheshire & Staffordshire
ENGLAND

Equipment - Tools of the trade.
For this Chapter I am going to break it down into two articles. HARDWARE & SOFTWARE.

HARDWARE.

RECORDING DEVICES. This will be completely dependent on budget. Forget about the cheap dicta-phone and anything that uses tape. Dicta-phones are suitable for close in recording, next to your mouth. Tape recorders use moving parts are always best avoided and the tapes become worn and can contain parts of older recordings which will contaminate a new recording. It is possible to use a laptop computer with a  separate recording interface which your microphone(s) plug into and you would also need software called DAW Digital audio workstation . The issue is the cost of the hardware for no obvious benefit and the increase risk of unwanted noise recorded due to the computers hard disc spinning away. My best advice is to avoid computers for recording EVP. A mobile phone should also be ruled out as a recording device for obvious reasons. Again, avoid mobile phones as a recording device, poor quality microphone, sound file formats and storage. It is also possible to contaminate a recording when using a mobile phone.

The hand held recorder has recently become popular with live and studio recording engineers which has helped with the quality as well as the price of these recorders, with costs between £65 to around £450 plus. You can only buy what you can afford.  I am not saying that paying £400 for a recorder is better that paying £65. I need a recorder for other applications as well, I use a Roland R26 which just so happens to be as good as you can get for recording EVP. It would be too difficult to review all the recorders out there, so I will review just one for the benefit of the researcher, the Tascam DR-05 Portable Hand held Audio Recorder costs £65.00. Most recorders need some user input to select the best settings, so be prepared to learn about it using that often neglected instruction book. You need a recorder that will record at 96kHz/24-bit high-resolution audio, which this Tascam does. The Tascam has two built-in Stereo Condenser Omni directional Microphones, other recorders may use more. My Roland R26 uses four built in microphones - two Omni directional and two Directional microphones with the option of plugging in two more microphones.
The Tascam DR-05. A great starter hand held recorder. The two Omni directional microphones can be seen at the top of the recorder.

  • Handheld Portable Recorder
  • Built-in Stereo Condenser Omni-directional Microphones with sensitivity up to 125dB SPL
  • Up to 96kHz/24-bit WAV (BWF) linear PCM recording
  • Stereo MP3 recording from 32-320 kbps bit rate
  • Peak Reduction function, optimized for music recording, automatically sets the gain of while recording
  • Limiter and low-cut filter to help prevent distortion
  • Automatic or manual level setting
  • Self timer recording starts recording 5 or 10 sec. after pressing the record button for waiting until you are ready
  • Auto and manual track increment
  • Variable speed playback (50%-150%) without changing the pitch
  • Loop and repeat playback
  • Level Align feature prevents uneven volume levels during playback
  • Playback EQ setting
  • Editing function (Divide and delete)
  • Up to 99 mark points on each file
  • Chromatic tuner
  • 1/8" stereo mic/line input
  • USB 2.0 port for transfer to PC and external power
  • Up to 2-second pre-recording buffer
  • Jump back function returns to previous point with one action (1-10, 20, 30 sec.)
  • 1/8" headphone/line output
  • Built-in speaker
  • micro SD (64MB - 2GB)/micro SDHC (4GB - 32GB) card slot (2GB card included)
  • Powered by 2 AA batteries, AC adapter (optional: PS-P515U), or USB bus power
  • Tripod socket hole
  • Dimensions: 2 3/8" W x 5 9/16" H x 1" D
  • Weight: 4 1/16 oz

Important options are what memory capacity it stores. Most use SD memory cards (similar to a camera memory card) The bigger the memory card the more data it holds. Because of the recording format you need to use, 96kHz/24-bit, this format will need more data capacity than the smaller recording formats, in this case it will accept a memory card up to 32GB, you could of course take along a number of smaller memory cards to change as one memory card becomes full. Some recorders are supplied with free bundled software DAW Digital Audio Workstation

You can work on battery or AC power, I advise you use battery. AC power cords can introduce noise to recordings. I use rechargeable batteries and always have spare ones with me. Most recorders come with a standard tripod socket hole which allows you to fasten the recorder to the tripod ( any standard camera tripod will fit ). Consider a protective carry bag. A headphone socket is again useful if your task is to do nothing but record. IMPORTANT NOTE: Recorders and water (rain) don't go well together!
There are many recorders out there. Buy the best you can afford and take into account what you want from it. Feel free to drop me a line if you need more advice about recorders.
The most important aspect with recorders are the microphones they come with. You really need Omni directional. For more information about microphones and how each one works go to this link; MICROPHONES
RECORDER EXTRAS:
Headphones - See below for more information.
Tripod.
Spare SD cards.
Spare batteries -  Consider rechargeable batteries and carry spare batteries.
Protective carry bag.
Cling film to cover recorder in case of rain - DO NOT COVER THE MICROPHONES.

FOR ADVANCED RECORDER OPTIONS PLEASE GO TO THIS LINK.
 
OTHER HARDWARE - Optional but useful.




A HAND HELD DIGITAL THERMOMETER is very useful to take readings from areas of the room without leaving your seat. Constant readings from different room areas allows you to investigate places which suddenly appear cold.


I bought one such device from ebay for just £15.00 and it works well. It uses a laser pointer for up to 30 metres away to record temperature readings at a given point.



 

A DIGITAL LASER MEASURE is great to quickly measure the room your investigating. I was able to pick one up for £25.00.

Again this is an option, but if your serious about research then you need tools and a digital measure is a quick way of getting room sizes and with some heights of ceilings you will understand why a tape measure simply would not work.

Measuring a room would be your first task.
EMF METER.
You may be wondering what an EMF meter is for?. The EMF meter is to detect any electromagnetic field that maybe present. The potential health effects of the very low frequency EMF's surrounding power lines and electrical devices are the subject of on-going research and a significant amount of public debate. The link to EVP is that strong evidence exists that when Paranormal forces are encountered, unexplained fluctuations in the electromagnetic fields occur. Therefore an EMF meter that remains green showing no EMF present suddenly bursts into action and shows a series of lights depending on the strength of the EMF. One of the symptoms of exposure to EMF is nausea and light-headiness. The use of an EMF meter often forgotten is that it could rule out Paranormal activity being a cause of a 'troubled house' if you find high levels when you first arrive at a location. The house holder can then be informed of that finding to enable them to seek help from other sources like the Local Authority.

For EVP investigations it could prove to be a useful tool. Your recording silence with EVP and if you suddenly get your EMF meter flashing which you can time match to other activity, then it could provide further evidence with your research.
I would be delighted to hear about any research you have conducted with an EMF meter. If there is a case or not for an EMF meter being a 'ghost alarm' is not relevant due to the fact you could rule in or rule out EMF being present in a house which would cause those living in that house ill health and the very symptoms which they felt were Paranormal when in fact it was the high level of EMF being the problem.

The meter shown above is the K2 EMF meter and appears to be the industry standard with Paranormal Researchers. It uses a simple but effective LED light system, green being normal and then going to various colours before hitting red. It is silent in operation which is important with EVP recordings being taken at the same time. Built in the USA but available in the UK for approx £50.00. Go to this LINK for further information.

TO VIEW LOCATIONS OF THE Electricity Network - Overhead Lines - Location Finder CLICK HERE.

TO VIEW MOBILE PHONE MASTS (LOCATION FINDER) IN THE UK CLICK HERE

GHOST/SPIRIT BOX.

Over recent years the use of the Ghost Box has increased and given we are listing up 'tools of the trade' on this page I have little option but to include this device as a possible tool. 

What is a Ghost Box? How does the Ghost Box work?

The argument has been made that Thomas Edison was working on a ghost communication device – a ghost box of sorts, to contact the dead. However, there are many Edison experts that would argue that it was only legend, a myth that is untrue. They will point out that he neither believed in the afterlife, nor did he believe spirits and ghosts could be contacted through an electronic device. Whatever the truth behind Edison, his personal diary makes a good story and backdrop to the ghost box.

Even more intriguing, some today claim they are in contact with Thomas Edison via the ghost box; but many respected researchers of the latest ghost box technology have yet to make contact with the famous, dead inventor. That said, what is a ghost box, and what is the history behind it?.


The Ghost Box: Who Is There?
The biggest debate over the ghost box might be just who is coming through these devices? Are they spirits? Ghosts? Demons (the religious ask)? Aliens? Our own projected thoughts? The research continues in this area, but many believe both ghosts, spirits and beings from another realm are making contact through the ghost box. Experimenters have received positive, good messages, as well as negative and cursing messages. This would indicate that perhaps the range of messengers who are able to manipulate this device into audible words is broad. Some believe that there are spirits from the light called “controls” or “operators” who work to establish contact and can bring other spirits and ghosts forward through the ghost box. Some of these same operators have been recorded coming through different ghost boxes by different people in different geographical locations. This would lead one to think that operators are involved from the other side in order to try and organize a grid of control and functionality. Whatever the case may hold to be true, it does appear that one’s connection with the other side seems to influence how good and what type of results will be experienced through the ghost box. It just may be that those who are recording the best results might be psychic in nature, truly connected with the spirit realm prior to the existence of any ghost box.


I have seen and heard these devices in action and for the moment I am open minded. Do they work? Well, yes I have heard voices emit from them. Are they spirits? That is the number one question, and for me, who is always looking at 'above the realms of possibility' before suggesting they can be regarded as a 'real' communication device with spirit, I feel they are in the lower half when middle can be considered as a 'possible'.


If these devices do interest you then the device which is commonly considered as the industry standard is the P-SB7. They cost approx £90.00 and are built in the USA. Be careful of the ones being sold in China. I would be happy to hear from people that have used these devices and their thoughts on there functionality. 


ECHOVOX - Although software, I have included this here due to it being a 'Ghost Box'. As a previous skeptic of this device, more recently a guy that had joined our investigation had EchoVox installed on his mobile phone. OK it played havoc with the EVP I was doing, but I am glad he did turn it on, we were able to match the words from EchoVox with my EVP recordings and what else was going on at the same time. So, I am now turning towards EchoVox as an excellent source of possible information. I have a new page dedicated to this software via this LINK. I am still a beginner with EchoVox but I will update the page when I get to know the software better. 


CCTV & MONITORING.

Over the last few years the cost of a full working CCTV kit has come down in price, plus the quality of the movies are now excellent as long as you apply a little thought before you purchase. Firstly, your going to need to power the kit, so some form of electrical supply will be needed. It is possible to power the unit via a portable battery pack for outside events where there is no electric supply.


You will need to decide on what you need CCTV for. Are you going to just film the location? or do you want to monitor the location? or do you want to do both?.


In either case your going to need to decide on the number of cameras, I suggest two cameras as a minimum, the ideal is four cameras to enable multi room surveillance. Make sure the camera uses night vision technology due to the fact your going to be recording in the dark, although they film in excellent colour as well, you will find the majority of filming will be in the dark. The recording signal format should be 720p minimum to ensure a quality movie and monitoring. 

The shape of the cameras will be important. Your not going to leave them at a location, so they will need to be portable. For those cameras that do not have a base to sit flat, for example, on a table, you could consider using Velcro or making stands to allow table top fixing.

The advice is to purchase a kit that has everything, cameras, recorder/hard-drive and leads, and the leads being long enough for your needs, normally 60 foot leads are supplied.

The Recorder & Hard Drive (storage).  Once your cameras are fitted your going to need something to record the CCTV as well as to monitor whats happening. For example; If your using four cameras, each camera will have a lead to send the signal back to the recorder, so that is four leads, so you will need a four channel recorder. Some will buy a larger recorder, say eight channel, to allow more cameras to fitted later, up to eight for example.
Once your cameras are plugged into the recorder, your going to need to monitor each camera like on the photo to the left.

You are then able to watch all the cameras as well as recording each one. With eight cameras then the picture with be split by eight, not four, so whatever monitor you use, it will need to be large enough to accommodate all the cameras your using at a given time.

The recorder will have a High Def HDMI & VGA output to use either a separate TV or monitor, or in my case, a laptop computer (must have a HDMI input).

The less gear to carry the better, and lugging round a heavy TV is not in my remit.


Most, if not all recorders, will come with a mouse to allow you to view just one camera at one time on big screen, you do not have to watch all of them at the same time. The recorder does however record all the cameras.

As far as storage is concerned, you need a minimum of 500GB of hard-drive to store the movies, which the recorder should have pre-installed. I use a 1TB (1000GB) hard-drive which allows for more than enough CCTV to be captured for all investigations. Once your home you can then copy the files to another storage device and delete the CCTV hard-drive data ready for your next investigation.

CCTV is becoming more wide spread with investigations which allows for more fun packed research. Many investigators like to sit and watch what's going on in the rooms in the hope of catching something. If you use investigators for this side of research, always have note pads standing by so the person doing the monitoring can make notes of which camera picked what up, and at what time. This allows you to easily scroll through the recordings later.

To help you record incidents you can download a free 'CCTV Incident Report Form' via this link to print off.

SMART PHONE USE: A number of kits allow you to also monitor via a Smart Phone and will normally come bundled in with your software when the CCTV kit is purchased. However, an internet connection is needed.

SAFETY TIP: When setting up, try and make sure leads coupled to cameras don't become tripping hazards. Use 'Gaffa' tape as a secure way of fastening leads down. Loose leads and feet don't mix well. Let other members of your team know what your doing and where the leads are.

SET UP TIP: Place number stickers on leads (both ends) and on the cameras. For example; If your using four cameras you need to number the cameras and the leads on both ends using the simple 1,2,3,4 formula. This ensures when you hook the leads to the recorder you know which lead is for which camera. An easy fix is to use white insulation tape and a black marker.

BREAKING DOWN KIT AT NIGHT END TIP: NEVER put long leads around your hand and elbow and stress the lead when you pack away. Nothing breaks a cable or lead faster than using this lazy method. Watch this movie and use the method explained to ensure you don't break a good cable.

Budget wise, allow approx £240.00 for a four camera system which includes all leads as well as the recorder and hard-drive. As a recommendation look at the Swann DVR4-4400 as a great affordable kit ready for any investigation, the only thing you will also need is the monitor.
HEADPHONES.
I consider headphones as an essential item. They allow you to listen (monitor) as you record your EVP investigation. Your also able to listen back to recordings made at the time. I suggest you avoid ear-plug type (in ear) because they still allow other noise to filter in.

The best type of headphones for this work are 'over ear'. The whole of the ear is covered.

The Behringer HPS3000 (pictured left) have incredible performance for around £20.00. Supplied with a  1/4 (small jack) and the larger 6.35mm jack plug for any application.

Just be aware that if your going to monitor whilst recording to keep the headphone lead away from anything that can cause a noise, knocking items over are an example of that.


DIGITAL CAMERA - PHOTOS AND MOVIES.


For taking images and movies of the location and rooms your investigating, a camera is a must. For reasons of electronic noise, avoid using a mobile phone.


Nothing stops you taking photos and movies whilst recording as long as the camera shutter remains silent.


Investigators do advise taking periodic photos due to the chance of taking photographs of the Paranormal.

THERMAL IMAGING SCANNER/CAMERA.
The use of thermal imaging cameras for 'Ghost Hunting' has increased following a number of TV shows that use them. The general opinion, even with the various Ghost Clubs, is that they don't produce. Thermal imaging works with solid objects such as walls, pipes, floors and other solid objects and built to detect leaks from hot or cold items of equipment. Place your hand on a cold wall and remove it, an thermal image camera will pick it up for a few minutes before dissipating, but don't expect them to pick up a ghost entity. They are also expensive, forget about the cheap imports. A quality thermal imaging scanner will cost from £500 to £10,000, some of the more expensive units allow photos to be taken. For filming you would also need a camera to film the scanner screen. Expensive to purchase and of limited scope for catching anything except a cold. There is no evidence that they are beneficial for paranormal investigation. There are now apps available for smart phones that uses the same technology that you could try and it is the cheaper alternative than a stand alone unit.

MOVEMENT DETECTOR


Using one of these devices can be helpful when your trying to rule out human interference when conducting an investigation. They can also help you find evidence of the paranormal, there are reports of spirits triggering movement.

If you are using trigger objects as part of your own investigation, placing one or more of these devices can help with evidence gathering.


Only use detectors that use a light when activated. Avoid sound alarms.


These devices can be bought cheaply and run on batteries.

INVENTORY LIST - Remembering what to take with you is not easy so a simple list is the way to go and saves you realising when you have arrived at your location miles away you have left something behind.

CLOTHING -
The last thing you want to do is arrive at a location at midnight dressed in a T-shirt and solid shoes. It's going to get cold so wear clothing that will allow you to sit down and keep warm for 30 minutes and consider wearing a warm hat . Wear shoes or trainers that have rubber soles to reduce footstep noises. Instruct helpers and other people that are investigating the location to do the same. Clothing that uses material that makes a noise should never be worn. Zips and Velcro opening can be a pain if your recording!.

PENS - The last thing you want to do is run out of ink or even discover you don't have one.

NOTE PADS: Obvious but always have one. If your using a report form you may need a clip board. Rustling paper can be heard on recordings.

TORCH: It is not uncommon for investigations to take place in total darkness or even lightly lit rooms. There is a safety case for having a torch. Use a torch that is LED and some have a dimmer function.

FLASK/DRINKS: You maybe sat for a while so having a warm drink available is the way to go. AVOID alcohol at all times during investigations.

FIRST AID KIT AND SAFETY FIRST: You maybe in a house that is in poor condition. If that is the case you really should consider taking a look at the location during the day or even not going at all. It's your decision. In any case having a first aid kit handy really is an essential item. PLEASE - Do not conduct investigations alone. ALWAYS go as a team and make sure everyone knows about procedures. Consider in all new investigation locations completing a Risk Assessment.

MOBILE PHONE: - BUT TURNED OFF! - Mobile phones play havoc with recordings so avoid them and always have them turned off. Ensure other members of your team are aware but you do need to discuss and implement safety procedures in case of accident and emergency. 

SOFTWARE.

Once you have your recording you would normally listen back on your recorder during an investigation and when you return home and there are a few ways to do that. If you need to listen during an investigation then headphones are your only option as noted above.

Once your back at home you will want to save your recording to a computer which will allow you to listen on your computer. If your using a Windows PC, use media player or if you have a MAC, you would use itunes.

Your recorder will normally use a SD memory card but it will also come with a USB cable to allow you to transfer the sound file to your PC.  Read your instruction book that comes with your recorder for more information.

One of the things you will notice is the recording you have is large in capacity. A thirty minute recording using a Tascam as above will be TWO stereo recordings NOT one recording. So one of the things you need to consider is where you are going to store the recording and does it have the capacity left to store large files?. You could consider a portable USB external hard drive to store your EVP recordings. You will be dealing with very large files, let me give you an example:

You are going to record at a bit rate of 24 bit, 96KHz. Your memory card will consume 576 KB per second or 34.56 MB per minute. One thirty minute recording therefore would need 1.3500 GB and the Tascam will record TWO tracks, one track for each microphone (two) which equates to 2.0736 GB of space. One audio music CD you buy from a music shop is approx 700MB.  1000MB = 1GB. So your going to have approx three music CD's worth for every hour you record. So you are going to have to look at some device to store your recordings.

You can find more information on bit rates and how much capacity they consume by going to this LINK


This external hard drive is USB powered and has a 500GB capacity.

This would give you approx 240 hours of recording storage.

Costs are about £40.00 for a 500GB external hard drive but as I write the costs of larger drives, 1TB for example (1000GB) can be found for less than £60.00.
SOFTWARE CONTINUED:
Your recording should have a file name that your recorder automatically names which normally would be the DATE and TIME and may also include a a short description such as TM1.180115.0346. Once you have the file on a computer your then able to rename or add other information by right clicking the file recording and then PROPRIETIES. You may then edit the file name and include other information to make it easier to recognise later. It is wise to keep a database of your recordings.

Once you have your recording on your computer you may be happy with just listening to your EVP recording using the computers default playing device such as Media Player for Windows and itunes for MAC. If you want to give access to your recording to others then you will need some form of Cloud access. I can assure you the recording will be too large to email. There are free upload sites which allow you to upload your recording, normally up to 100MB per file, one such site is The Box.
The Box and sites like this allow you to upload your file and then provide your friends with a link where they are able to listen or download your recording. NOTE: Some Cloud accounts compress (squash) files to save space. The downside if you were just to listen to the file online is that it can loose some of it's play back quality. Best policy is to download the file, which is now not compressed, and use your desired media player to listen. 
If you want to go a stage further and analyse your recording, cut the file size of the recording down, eliminate the silence and/or editing the recording such as making sections louder (volume) making it clearer (EQ and Compression) and even reducing unwanted noise, then you are going to need some form of  DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION or DAW for short.

You will have seen in Chapter 1 a number of screen shots and movies. These were done with DAW. You are able to load your recording into the software and analyse (using a spectrum frequency analyser) listen too and edit the recording to make it Clearer, Increase Volume, Cutting down in size files (splicing) Compress the file so the lower volumes are heard louder as well as Noise Extraction, all can be done on DAW. The intention here is to give you tools that allows for better recording play back. But of course, this brings the risk that some may use it to doctor recordings. This is why I wrote in an earlier Chapter that any EVP recording should be looked at with suspicious eyes and ears unless the recording is your own.
For a beginner DAW can be a daunting software to understand and use. The subject is far too complex for this web site alone but there is plenty of help via the Internet and in particular forums. One free DAW software suite is Audacity and I know people that swear by it. I use Mixcraft which is approx £165 but again I stress I use it for recording instruments and CD preparation.

DAW uses a simple track method. You load your recording into the DAW track and then use a number of VST's to correct the sound file. VST's are small bits of software contained in the DAW and are found by selecting EFFECTS or FX. The VST maybe EQ, Compression or you can use the Mixer controls to increase/decrease volumes on all or small parts of the track. Once your happy you then re-save the file.

The main issue you have with EVP recordings is the sheer amount of unwanted noise contained within the recording. It is possible to reduce the noise by again using software. Some years ago I wrote a tutorial on noise extraction from recordings for a music forum, you may find this useful. You are free to download this from the links below.
If you need any further help feel free to use the CONTACT FORM

As a working musician I use a considerable number of software suites. Each one doing a certain job and making life easier for me. One such product is called 'Riff Station' and would be useful if your looking to isolate a particular sound or voice in a recording. Although designed for guitar use to enable easy frequency isolation, the same could be applied to any recording. The software works similar to a karaoke machine which removes the vocals from an audio CD to allow another singer to replace the voice.
Riff Station works in reverse by removing as much unwanted frequency as it can leaving you with just what you want to listen too. It is not an exact science but can improve the quality of sound files from a listening point. This maybe a great easy tool for you to use on your recordings. Currently the software is on a free 20 day trial which gives you more than enough time to learn and use it.

I will be interested in hearing about your own experiences with this software so please get in touch.
 
I have placed a movie about DAW below but as explained the software can be difficult to understand.
 
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