Hearing Voices at Haunted Places?

woman's ear with earring - listening
Can you trust what you hear during a ghost investigation?

When you’re ghost hunting, are you hearing voices?  I don’t just mean EVP that you hear in real time or on playback.  I also mean anything that sounds like an actual voice.

It barely needs to be mentioned, but if you or someone you know is hearing unexplained voices — especially voices that give him or her instructions to do something — a  professional should be consulted immediately.  You must rule out mental confusion, or other personal issues.

However, if you seem to hear voices when you’re investigating haunted locations — especially voices from the past — explanations can vary.  Here are a few.

1. It’s a prank. 

Audible voices of actual spirits are rare.  When I hear one, or a team member says they’re hearing a voice clearly, I first suspect that it’s a prank.  Rule that out before taking any voices seriously.

Whether it’s a hidden microphone or MP3 player, or someone using acoustics (or ventriloquism) to fool you, even the most convincing “ghost voice” could be a hoax.

People can deliberately set the stage so you think you’re hearing (or recording) a ghost.  Here are some reasons why they’d do that:

– Those people have too much time on their hands.

– They’re bitter people who want to make ghost researchers look gullible, and call it a “practical joke.”

– They have something to gain if the location seems really haunted. This includes owners of “haunted” hotels, shops, restaurants and museums, as well as homeowners who plan to write a book about their ghosts, with an eye on a movie deal.

– If it’s a ghost tour, “special effects” are routinely used in theatrical-style tours and presentations.  Read the fine print and ask questions before taking any ghost tour, so you’ll know whether the experience is supposed to be real or just for fun.

– A member (or the leader) of the ghost investigation team wants to impress others with his/her choice of locations, or how much more happens when he (or she) is there.  Predators and power-hungry people may see ghost hunting as an opportunity to achieve status, control over others, fame, or fortune.  Never underestimate what that kind of person will do to achieve his or her goals.

Nobody has the time to screen every location for microphones.  You’ve seen that question raised about some TV shows where they hear voices, or their EVP is a little too clear or loud.

The more life-like the voice in EVP, the more skeptical I am.  During an investigation, if I hear a “whoo-o-o” kind of voice (like ghosts in cartoons and old movies), or something obviously faked, I leave the site immediately. I don’t even go looking for the source of the sound.  It’s not worth my time. Someone at that location is playing pranks, and that kind of nonsense is a slap in the face for any serious ghost researcher.

2. You’re hearing normal sounds from a nearby location.

In an early episode of Ghost Hunters, the team were investigating Brennan’s, the (actually haunted) famous New Orleans restaurant.

Unfortunately, Brennan’s had scheduled a party in a room near the Red Room, where the team were conducting their investigations.   The Ghost Hunters team had to leave early, because they couldn’t rule out normal noises and interference from the party.

At another event, someone proudly played some “genuine EVP” for us to hear.  Later, the person mentioned that the next-door neighbor had a party that same night. Sadly, the EVP had to be discounted since party noises couldn’t be ruled out as the cause.

Never underestimate the effects of echoes and other reflected sounds.  If you’ve ever visited a site where the acoustics are extraordinary — such as Boston’s Mary Baker Eddy building with the Mapparium — you know how baffling it is to hear an apparently-disembodied voice, clearly.

If someone brings a bored companion to one of your investigations, see if he or she is listening to something.  No matter how low the volume seems, when you’re filtering EVP or even listening in real time, the voice or music can seem ghostly.

3. It’s a poltergeist.

If your ghost (or apparent ghost) is talking, shouting, or making loud noises, it might be a poltergeist.  Some people believe that poltergeists aren’t ghosts, but personality disorders venting a psychokinesis. Many people are certain that poltergeists are ghosts or even demons.  Others (including me) believe they’re a collaboration between a spirit and someone in a volatile emotional state.

4. You’re confusing psychic perceptions and external noises.

If you think you hear voices speaking aloud at haunted locations, check with others on your team.  Do they also hear something?  If they do, investigate the source.  First, you’re looking for a prank.  Then, you’ll rule out other, perfectly normal explanations.

If you can’t find a normal reason for what you’re hearing, and/or nobody else hears what you do, consider a paranormal explanation.

New researchers, especially highly sensitive and psychic investigators, may need time to learn the difference between external and internal perceptions.  In my 1999 report about Gilson Road Cemetery (NH), I described the psychic “hearing” of Alan, an experienced investigator, contrasted with Jane, a skeptic on her first ghost hunt:  Alan knew he was hearing the voices, psychically.  Jane insisted the voices were audible, external to her, and real.  Alan was fascinated by the experience; Jane was terrified.

Audible ghostly voices are extremely rare at haunted locations.  They’re only slightly more commonplace than full-body apparitions.

“Noisy ghosts,” one of the literal translations of the word poltergeist, are also quite rare.

Pranks and normal explanations are more likely.  You’ll also want to rule out auditory, psychic phenomena.

It’s most important to investigate any voices you hear (or record) while you’re at the haunted location.  The normal explanation for them — such as a nearby party, or a companion listening to MP3s or the radio — might not be there when you return for your follow-up investigation.