Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) is the name given to recordings of anomalous sounds that credulous ghost-hunters often interpret as paranormal speech; the vocal imprints of departed souls whose otherworldly communications require a little more nuance than just clanking chains and moaning in drafty corridors. Exactly how the disembodied spirit of a seventeenth century monk could manipulate magnetic tape or digital files is unknown, yet belief in EVP has been prevalent for many years. Even I, when an impressionable teenager, convinced that the family home was haunted by the restless spirit of a domestic maid, once attempted to capture an EVP with my tape recorder.
Relaxing in my bedroom, perusing a dog-eared copy of Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, I would often hear the wretched woman's shade floating through the walls from room to room, wailing that her chores were never done. I tried to catch a glimpse of her on several occasions, but she had already vanished by the time I got to whichever room her voice seemed to emanate from, and only my mother would be standing there.
"Did you see the ghost?" I would demand breathlessly, but mother would simply reply with a pained expression. Apparently only I was the only family member gifted with the aural equivalent of second sight. Consequently I decided to try the EVP approach to prove that I wasn't crazy.
In the event, my EVP session turned out to be an disappointing experiment, only producing a sort of muffled drone bearing an uncanny resemblance to the sound of my father suggesting that I should mow the lawn. Very eerie and disturbing, but since it was obviously nothing I just ignored it.
Most examples of purported EVP are, of course, merely errant radio transmissions or tricks of the ear, so-called "auditory pareidolia," a fancy term for hearing something that isn't really there; and all those futile paranormal-investigator TV shows have finally established beyond all doubt that ghosts absolutely do not exist, never mind borrow someone's microphone when in the mood talk. Yet recently my teenage interest in EVP has came back to, well, it has come back to haunt me.
Settling in my office each workday morning, I began discovering that my telephone was recording messages left late the previous evening, even over the weekend and on public holidays. These were inappropriate calling times when any normal person would not be at work to pick up the phone. At first, having dismissed the appealing notion that they might actually be warnings from the spirit world, urging me to quit my obsolete and unprofitable occupation and turn my undervalued talents to the more lucrative and sustainable enterprise of chimney-sweeping instead, I naturally concluded that the messages must be from either robot-spammers or wrong-numbers (they couldn't possibly come from clients or vendors, so what else could they be?). And so I simply deleted them immediately without listening to the contents. After all, nobody wants to start their day listening to a tedious string of hang-ups, dial-tones and synthetic "Hellos!" But several consecutive mornings of being greeted by a persistently blinking phone eventually peaked my curiosity and on Thursday I decided to let the recordings play.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard the voice of a real, live person; albeit the voice of a real, live person who sounded either half asleep or drugged: "Er, yeah, do you have any jobs available there?" this drowsy voice enquired. "And who do I send my resume to?"
In fact, I was so surprised at hearing a real, live voice (even one that was so obviously exhibiting signs of diminished responsibility) that it took me ten or fifteen minutes to remember to press delete and move on. But the next message was only the same voice sullenly demanding the same information; and so was the next one; and the one after that; until by the fourth message the voice had woken up slightly and seemed quite resentful, accusing me of being unprofessional for not returning its calls.
Although this voice wasn't ghostly per se, I decided it was a bona-fide example of Electronic Voice Phenomena since it and I obviously existed in separate realms of reality. I inhabit a reasonable approximation of the normal everyday world, whereas the source of the EVP apparently dwells in the twilight lands of the Forever Smoking Purple Bong. Yet some sort of cosmic crosstalk had enabled the voice to depart its own half-baked dimension and manifest itself in mine.
Of course, the advantage of only experiencing audible phenomena is being spared any accompanying ocular terror. A fully visible, slouching, sullen materialization of the voice's spine-chilling owner in his grease-stained hoodie, skinny jeans and grubby flip-flops would probably send any witness into fits of uncontrollable shaking and frothing at the mouth. And so my hope is that, having expended whatever feeble reserves of energy it possesses on leaving telephonic EVPs, the voice can never now summon the strength to appear in person. I hate dealing with the general public, especially the general public who harbor the weird delusion that jobs exist for the asking.