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Contacting the Dead in the Electronic Age

Communicating with the dead through electronics

By

TV ghoul

Goulish image captured by photographing a static-filled TV screen.

~ Caitlin Wagner
No one can deny that computers and electronics have revolutionized life on this planet. There are electronic controls and computer chips in everything from the small appliances that toast our bread to the cars we drive, and make possible myriad forms of new entertainment, from DVDs to video games and iPods. We're just at the beginning of this remarkable revolution.

And now many serious and casual researchers are claiming that some of this gadgetry can be useful in a quite unexpected way: to contact the dead... or at least allow the dead to contact us.

Obviously, these claims are highly controversial. They make many assumptions: that there is life after death, that the dead are interested in contacting us, and that they have the means by which to do so. Assuming all that, many people experimenting with electronic voice phenomena (EVP) and instrumental transcommunication (ITC) say they have received messages from "the other side" through tape recorders, VCRs, televisions, telephones and even computers. It seems we may no longer exclusively need Ouija boards, psychics and mediums to contact dear deceased Uncle Harold... just turn on the TV instead. Yes, even spiritulism has entered the electronic age.

These phenomena have manifest themselves since the appearance of the instruments themselves. EVP (electronic voice phenomena), for example, has been reported for well over 30 years: unexplained voices heard faintly on magnetic recording tape. It's said that even Thomas Edison experimented with devices for spirit communication. Investigators around the world are trying to get to the bottom of EVP and ITC, endeavoring to explain, in one way or another, how these voices are encoded on audio tape, how unexplained images appear on video tape and TV screens, where phantom phone calls come from and how computers can relay messages from "the beyond."

Here are some interesting cases of EVP and ITC, about which you can read more at the links provided:

Audio tape

Two of the pioneers of EVP were Konstantin Raudive, a Swedish psychology professor, and Fredrich Juergenson, a Swedish filmmaker. In the late 1950s, Raudive began to hear words recorded on blank audio tape and eventually made more than 100,000 recordings. (A CD of some of this recordings is even available.) Around the same time, Juergenson first captured unexplained voices while taping bird songs outdoors. He continued his research for over 25 years.

Is ITC phenomenon genuine? relates how Belling and Lee, a British laboratory, conducted some experiments in EVP, suspecting that the "spirit voices" were actually caused by ham radio broadcasts bouncing off the ionosphere. The tests were conducted by one of the leading sound engineers in Britain, and when phantom voices were recorded on factory-fresh tape, he was baffled. "I cannot explain what happened in normal physical terms," he is quoted as saying.

Another interesting case is that of two Italian Catholic priests who in 1952 were trying to record a Gregorian chant, but a wire in their equipment kept breaking. Out of desperation, one of the priests asked his dead father for help. Then, to his amazement, his father's voice was heard on the tape saying, "Of course I shall help you. I'm always with you." The priests brought the matter to the attention of Pope Pius XII, who reportedly accepted the genuineness of the phenomenon.

Today, many individuals and groups are experimenting with and gathering EVPs. Dave Oester and Sharon Gill of the International Ghost Hunters Society travel the US collecting EVPs from various haunted sites, and they post many of their recordings on their site. Many more EVP links can be found in our list.

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