Submitted by David DeCosta
Like most scientific paranormal research, EVP study is rooted in the Spiritualist Movement at the turn
of the 20th Century. While cultural beliefs in shamanism, oracles, and other mediums have ancient roots,
this age of psychics and séances spread like wildfire and began to draw the attention of popular culture.
Attending a séance became a fashionable event; and an industry. As the industry grew, it began to draw
the attention of high society. Wealthy socialites, politicians and even Presidents began consulting
psychics and attending séances. It also drew the interest of journalists, authors, scientists and
psychologists who hoped to either credit or discredit the claims of these psychic mediums.
People began testing many of these mediums. Many were frauds pitching parlor tricks though there
were rare occasions where individuals showed certain uncanny abilities. These cases inspired many of
the the forefathers of paranormal research to begin conducting legitimate objective research into
paranormal phenomena. The Ghost Club and the Society for Psychical Research are perhaps the oldest
paranormal research societies in the world, both having been founded London in the late 1800's. Their
goals were to study all manner of paranormal phenomena and to approach this study objectively, using
their collective expertise in a number of literary and scientific fields. One such course of study, employed
by a number of different researchers, was to determine whether or not spirit communication could be
recorded on some device.
(Left to Right: Harry Price, Hereward Carrington, Thomas Edison, William James and J.B. Rhine)
In 1941, American photographer and self-proclaimed medium Attila von Szalay began his attempts at
recording voices of the dead. He hoped that he could capture these voices using a 78 rpm recorder and
would use such recordings to further validate his spirit photography. The practice didn't bear fruit until he
began using reel-to-reel magnetic tapes in 1956. Collaborating with Raymond Bayless, they customized
an insulated machine that utilized both internal and external microphones. They published there finding in
the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1959. Bayless publish his own book in
1979 and called it Phone Calls from the Dead.
In 1964, Swedish painter Friedrich Jürgenson wrote a book titled Rösterna Från Rymden translated
"Voices from Space." He insisted that, while recording birdsongs, he captured voices a familiar voice on a
recording asking “Friedel, can you hear me? This is mammy.” This led Jürgenson to believe that he'd
captured a message from his deceased mother. Many were skeptical of Jürgenson. He was an eccentric
artist, not a scientist. Many accused him of carelessly picking up radio signals, misinterpreting random
noises, and some even considered him a hoaxer.
Two men who seriously considered these recordings were Latvian Psychologist Konstantine Raudive,
and German born Hans Bender. Raudive was a student of C.G. Jung and was drawn to the Swiss
Psychologist because he was a great advocate for the genuine scientific (psychological) study of occult
phenomena. Bender was also influenced by analytical psychology and earned a Ph. D from the
Psychological Institute at Bonn. He was also fascinated by the work of J.B. Rhine from Duke University.
Bender made a name for himself lecturing on the subject of parapsychology. He eventually founded the
Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene.
(Left to Right: C.G. Jung, Friedrich Jürgenson, Konstantine Raudive, Hans Bender)
In 1970, a Cambridge University student named David Ellis undertook the task of challenging Dr.
Raudive to reproduce his EVP techniques. Ellis believed many of the so-called "Raudive Voices" were
foreign radio transmissions and hoped to conduct an experiment in which the reel-to-reel recorder would
be placed in a Faraday Cage (a copper mesh enclousre that repels radio signals). A single voice was
captured during the experiment though Ellis and others passed it off as an external noise. No further
collaborations took place between the researchers.
The following year Raudive was invited by Pye Records to go to London and use their state of the art
sound studio to conduct experiments. The studio was designed to be both soundproof and free of radio
transmissions. The tapes supposedly produced over 200 voices.
In 1982 Sarah Estep established the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena or AA-
EVP. The AA-EVP has since served as one of the foremost databases for those seeking information and
examples of EVP and EVP research. Many of the modern standards for capturing and identifying EVP
stem from the AA-EVP including the popular CLASS A-B-C system of categorizing recordings. It is now
run by Tom and Lisa Butler.
(Sarah Estep with her reel-to-reel recorder)