Ghost Hunting 201: What is said in this sound clip? A live experiment

The next installment of the “Ghost Hunting 201” series! A few years ago I was asked to give a lecture at Long Beach, CA’s Midsummer Scream event about ghost hunting. Assuming that those attending that speech would already be familiar with ghost hunting shows and have a general knowledge about gear (not to say all investigation shows are educational), I decided to dig deeper and present some lesser-known concepts and ways to use conventional devices in new ways. So, I decided to continue on the concept of a deeper look at ghost hunting here.

The following is a portion of a speech I recently gave at the (amazing) Haunted Galena Conference in the very haunted and historic town of Galena, Illinois.  If you ever get the opportunity to take their walking tour of Galena’s haunted hot spots, I can’t recommend it highly enough!  As part of my speech, I conducted an experiment with the audience that returned some wonderful results.  You’ll be able to partake in the experiment yourself right here while reading this post.

If you’re like most of the readers of this site, you know how common it is to watch a paranormal investigation show where the ghost hunting team captures an EVP (electronic voice phenomena, a spirit voice recorded on a device that one can hear during playback, but usually not heard in the room in the moment).  Usually the voice is something of a whisper and often it’s difficult to decipher.  Eventually (sometimes immediately), they will display on the screen what they think the voice is saying.  If the show gives you the opportunity to hear the sound clip without their influence sometimes you’ll come to a different conclusion on what the voice said.  Heck, sometimes it sounds like no discernible word at all.

Without going into ideas or theories further at this point, I will play a recorded voice without telling you what it said.  Listen on your own and feel free to listen with and without headphones.  If you feel like participating in this experiment yourself, write it down after hearing the clip immediately, before reading the rest of this post.  Here’s the clip:

At this point during the speech, I displayed my cell phone number and asked the audience to text me what they heard.  The full list of guesses I got is at the bottom of this article.

“Ben 10” promo poster showing the main character wearing the device that was made into a talking toy.

This particular audio clip made the rounds a few years ago due to its ambiguous nature.  However, I was very disappointed by how the clip was presented.  It would constantly be shown along with two examples of what people hear, asking viewers, do you hear Option A or Option B?  In my opinion, this already biased the results.  It’s telling people that you WILL hear one of the two given options without allowing for the possibility that people might hear something else entirely.  I’m happy to say that I got over two dozen responses.  If those many responses, there were very few repeats, though some very similar syllables were observed, and absolutely NO one heard the actual word (yes, there really is a word stated in the clip).

Let’s talk about that clip.  I assumed this was an experimental clip developed by a university for an experiment of some sort.  Turns out it was a snippet of a moment from a toy unboxing video on YouTube.  There was an animated show called “Ben 10” (promo artwork from the show above).  The toy in question had a number of character figurines.  When you place each one on a platform, a character-specific sound clip would play.  Either a quote from the show or them shouting out their name.  One of those names… “Brainstorm.”

Yes, the sound clip is saying “Brainstorm!”

An interesting thing happened in the room when I was giving my speech where people closer to the speaker started nodding ‘yes’ (as if they heard it now) while people further from the speaker started unconsciously shaking their heads ‘no.’  So, there was clearly an additional audio issue at play here that’s going to be deeper than my knowledge.  However, in that case, my guess is that it’s closer to the Yanni/Laurel phenomenon from 2018 where certain people heard one of the two, but the concept behind that clip is much more straight forward where “younger” (less damaged) ears could hear higher pitches, which transformed the word…. Or, more accurately, if you’ve been to enough concerts, blowing your ears out next to speaker stacks you can’t hear the higher tones, so you’re not able to hear the full range of sounds, causing you to hear something different than those with more pristine hearing. Much better explained here:

So, do note, we are talking about different things here.  Yanni/Laurel has to do with the listener’s physical abilities.  Meanwhile the “Brainstorm” clip is really about personal bias.  The was presented in social media as “Brainstorm or Green Needle,” but my audience found another 50+ options.

Conclusions
First off, whenever possible when watching a ghost hunting show, close your eyes or look away the first time an EVP is revealed.  Try to listen for yourself to see if you get the same result as the hosts.  Otherwise, the bias of seeing the words in advance will bias you to automatically agreeing with the narrative the show is putting forth.

Are Ghost Hunting Shows Scamming the Viewers? Not Necessarily.
It would be easy to read this post and assume the worst of the shows, that they’re manipulating their viewers.  “If that’s not the case, then why don’t I agree with what the hosts say the EVP says?”

My belief: (and note that I’m saying “Belief” here – this isn’t a scientifically ‘true’ or provable statement, but a more of my personal, philosophical belief) during a paranormal investigation, people are taking in all sorts of information.  This includes recordings and other more measured data, plus personal observations – what people saw, heard and felt.  This includes any psychic, unconscious influence.  I think it’s possible these television ghost hunters might get a psychic ‘nudge’ from the other side on what was recorded in the moment. I think it is possible there is a blend of listening to straight audio and getting a sixth sense impression that is helping lead these investigators to their observations. And, of course, that doesn’t travel through the television signal, leaving us viewers to only observe part of the equation.

As I mentioned, it’s nothing provable, but it’s possible and something that makes sense to me personally.  In the end, ideas and things that make sense to us personally are all we have to go on.

Now, on to the list of responses I got during my Galena speech.  I would love to hear from you what you heard.  Please do live a comment or send an email with the word or words you picked up.  Also, please do let me know if you used earbuds or not.  Feel free to playback the sound clips while you go through this list see how much you could be influenced by what you’re reading while listening.

Full list of responses:

  • Oneneenum (the listener also shared that this is something they get during automatic writing sessions too – possibly a proof of unconscious bias)
  • Red meat, red meat
  • Why me?
  • One need them
  • I need… (something – can’t decipher the third word)
  • My feet hurt
  • Why’d Vego move?
  • I am stone?
  • I beat them
  • When need it
  • Why meat?
  • I need ’em (x2)
  • White people
  • Christina’s
  • I see you
  • I mean it (x2)
  • I’m evil (x2)
  • Gravestone
  • Winston
  • What needle?
  • Green needle (I wish I had thought to ask in the moment if this person had heard the original clip prior to my presentation)
  • I’m Eden
  • Why me, doll?

Final, final conclusions
We are trying to be the first scientists in this yet un-recognized new discipline of science (so far just called the paranormal or the unexplained). All scientists have to acknowledge unconscious bias and we ghost hunters are no different. The more we can acknowledge this, the more pristine our observations cab be. Did your EVP really sound like “Roger shot me” or do you just happen to know that a man named Roger shot someone at the location? Maybe it’s best to have a third party listen to your EVP in a vacuum without knowing what you think it said or where it was recorded.

Big thanks to Mark Rober for inspiring this portion of my speech and this blog post. Check out his great video here (you’ll also gain a new appreciation for how pianos work, if you watch from the start):

2 comments

  1. What I heard in the video presented above was “Why vegan?” I listened with my customary headphones, a Sony stereo MDR-ZX100, with the volume set at about two thirds.

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