Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Things That Go Bump #2

Broken face, Tula cemetery.
In this second October installment of my Things That Go Bump series,  we're going to focus on EVPs.

EVP is an acronym for Electronic Voice Phenomena. I'm sure you're familiar with EVPs -- every ghost hunting show and quite a few movies feature them now, usually billed as 'voices of the dead.'

I'm not suggesting such a thing. I have no idea what agency is behind the voices. In fact, when I first heard of EVPs several years ago, I laughed at the whole concept.

I laughed so much, in fact, I got a mic of my own, and I took it to a graveyard, and I walked around talking and listening. My intention was to fail to record anything, and then mock the very notion of EVPs on my blog.

But things didn't happen as I planned. I actually caught an EVP my first time out. I've recorded a number of them since.

So while I don't claim to know by what means these voices wind up on recordings, I do know the phenomena is real.

And, oddly enough, it happens to me most often in cemeteries. I can set up my mics in the backyard or the warehouse or anywhere else, and get nothing.

But head into a boneyard, and out come the voices.

Which brings us to today.

Yesterday, October the 10th, I ventured back to the tiny cemetery in equally tiny Tula, Mississippi. Is this cemetery haunted?

Nope. Haven't heard a single story.

Did I go in the dead of night?

Not just 'no' but heck no. I don't avoid rural graveyards after dark out of some fear of ghosts. I doubt they'd hurt you, even if they do exist.

But copperhead rattlesnakes certainly do, and will. Ditto for wild hogs and drunk teenagers and I can think of no better way to get off to a bad start with local law enforcement than for someone to call the sheriff on me in a cemetery in the middle of the night.

So I do day investigations. And yesterday's was certainly fruitful.

In addition to my trusty Zoom H1 field microphone, I employed a device I built that same Saturday morning. It's a Velleman Super Ear mic, which provides about 50 times the normal amplification and a stereo pickup.

After the EVPs, I'll go into the Super Ear build, but let's get right to the spooky stuff.

Manning -- or, I suppose, woman-ing -- the Velleman was Karen, accompanied by Executive Investigator dog Max.

They headed back into the old, overgrown part of the cemetery, while I took the Zoom and went in the opposite direction, to eliminate crosstalk.

About nine minutes in to the session, Karen thinks she hears a faint voice or voices. She's heard this before there, a sort of chant, and she comments upon it.

The mic picks up nothing then. But soon after that, it captured what sounds like a single word. I can't make it out. Maybe you can. The EVP is below, in the form of a YouTube video.

Here's the same word, with noise reduction in place.

That's a single word. Strange, but not really spooky.

What follows is probably the spookiest EVP we've ever recorded. It's nothing but whispering. This was about 4 and a half minutes into the full session.  She's just walking with Max, hasn't said anything in a few moments, when out of nowhere came this:

The next clip is from about 10 minutes and 30 seconds in. Karen hears something odd, and says 'Not sure of the recorder picked that up, but it was a very weird sound.' 30 seconds later, this was captured. A single word, maybe 'what?'

Finally, we have this. You may need headphones for this one, it's extremely faint. Around the 14 minute mark, Karen notes many of the graves lack markers, and comments that 'gone but not forgotten' sadly doesn't apply to those poor souls. About 5 seconds after she speaks, there is a faint murmuring -- but again, you may need headphones for this one.

Now let's switch to the things the Zoom H1 caught. It won't take long, because there are only two. 

The first is a single word. I laid the mic down on a sandstone marker, stepped back, and asked if anyone had anything to say. I then snapped the following picture.

It's a child's grave, from around 1850. I heard nothing, and after a moment I moved on.

But here's what the mic captured:

What word is that?

No idea. I can only say I didn't hear it while I was standing there.

Finally, I give you this. It too is faint, and headphones are recommended. I took a photo of another child's grave, commented that the poor little guy only lived a year, and walked away. This is what the mic caught (again, very faint).

With phones, it sounds as if someone near the recording device recently dined at Taco Bell. I can assure you the source of the mysterious raspberry was not me, and I don't think it was Max, either. 

What were these sounds? Why were they captured on recording devices, but not heard by the persons operating the devices? Why (in my experience at least) are they only captured in cemeteries?

Heck if I know. 


Second only to screwing around on Facebook, building gadgets is my favored way to avoid real work (i.e., writing). So I build a lot of things, and most of today's EVPs were captured by my newest DIY gadget, the Velleman Super Ear mic.

The astute observer may notice the tell-tales signs of duct tape and Velcro. Why?

Because I'm a fantasy author whose name, when spoken, is almost always followed by the word 'Who?' 

So you do the best you can with what you have.

The heart of the Super Ear is a simple mic-and-amp circuit, available anywhere for less than ten bucks. It comes unassembled, so you'll have to do your own soldering and cutting.

What you get is a stereo mic with a built-in IC amplifier. The gain is set to about 50, which makes it extremely sensitive. The output jack can feed a pair of headphones or, in my case, a simple digital recorder.

Let's start with the kit, which looks like this:

You will need a soldering iron, and you'll need to know how to use it. The parts are tiny and the circuit board to which they must be soldered contains delicate copper tracings that are easy to short out.

I have a big magnifying glass on a flexible arm over my work bench. Otherwise I couldn't see anything.

So you follow the instructions, put resistors and capacitors and potentiometers and all the rest as indicated. 

Then you solder and trim the ends. 

After an hour or so of work, you have this!

It needed a case of some sort. I didn't have a box to fit, but I did have an old cordless soldering iron, duct tape, a broken camera mini-tripod, and some Velcro. I opted to use my Olympus digital audio recorder as the output, and viola, the Super Ear was born!

That's the device that recorded most of the EVPs above. Ten bucks, some batteries, a few junk odds and ends.

Mad science can be fun!


Good news, folks! The new Markhat book is all but done. I mean 95%, and it's a good one, too.

I'll probably be posting IT IS FINISHED in next Sunday's blog.

I hope you enjoyed this foray into the unknown! 

See you next week!

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