This is Part 1 of a two part series dealing with audio recording concepts, terminology, equipment and usage.
Note: The below are based on techniques used by the Warrens prior to Ed Warren’s death.
In this Technical Note, equipment and equipment terminology will be focused on as well as their uses, capabilities, and drawbacks. Audio is one of many key factors for gathering evidence or data when investigating a haunted location. Many people have asked “Why bother, we know it’s haunted”, but to put it simply, can it be PROVED that a given site is haunted? Not unless evidence is taken at the sight. Audio alone cannot substantiate a haunting but when used in conjunction with Video, photos and witness statements, audio will prove its worth.
The use of audio to record the unnatural has been used since the advent of practical recording technology. Many researchers have recorded some of the most phenomenal events such as a case in England in which two investigators drove two metal spikes into a stone wall, connected a low voltage power source to the spikes and attached a microphone to the wall. What was heard was an organ playing and witch hunt trials of the 17th century. It is believed that these events were psychically imprinted into the walls and by channeling power into them, the walls acted as a playback medium of prior events. These sounds are now part of an audio collection by the investigators.
Sound recording equipment varies from the extremely simple and inexpensive to the complex and pricey. Obviously, the better the equipment used, the better the quality of the end product recording. In general, all tape recorders are functionally the same. They use an electromagnetic head that imprints the tape with frequencies identical to what is heard at the microphone. Three major types of recorders can be used. Reel-to-Reel recorders are the first, and are excellent for sound recording because they can be used to speed up, slow down or play backwards. A modest, new reel-to-reel usually will have a performance characteristic competitive to a higher end cassette recorder but is generally much heavier, bulkier, and more expensive. The second type of audio recorder is the standard cassette recorder. These units are less expensive, more compact, and easier to operate than their predecessors. Some models of portable cassette recorders have the voice activation system (VOX) built in, therefore giving the unit the ability to record only when an audible sound activates it. This function is very good for extending the useful recording period of a single cassette. DO NOT USE THIS FUNCTION if it is available though, many sounds captured by audio recorders are never actually heard and if VOX is enabled, the sound may not be recorded. The third type of recorder is the digital cassette recorder. Digital cassette recorders are relatively new to the consumer market and carry a high price tag. Recorders of this type are very useful because the primary cause of distractions, tape hiss, has been effectively removed. These units can be very small in size, which make them very useful in investigative work.
Regardless of the type of recording equipment used, there are several types of tapes to be familiar with: Metal, Chromium Oxide (CrO2), and standard. Use either metal or CrO2 when recording as standard tapes generally create too much hissing and are of lower quality. ALWAYS use new tapes when attempting recordings of this nature. Used, erased, or degaussed tapes may not have been completely erased or may have lowered quality which may impede the recording process.
With computer technology at its current state, recordings can be made and later stored on computer hard drive for further analysis. Storing audio is memory intensive (i.e. One Minute of stereo recording set at a sample frequency of 44 Khz will use One Meg of hard drive space), but with a decent audio program, it is worth the extra memory. The audio can be manipulated in any way imaginable; slowed down, sped up, reversed, equalized, frequency enhanced, etc.. Even the basic Windows based sound recorder, with a sound card, can provide the basics needed to utilize a computer. Prices have fallen so drastically lately, it should be within reach of almost everyone to use a computer to analyze audio.
It is commonly believed that spirits imprint their message directly to the tape itself (using electromagnetic energy), bypassing the microphone and sometimes, the human ear. Remember, sounds do not necessarily have to be voices. Screams, banging, scratching or other unusual noises are possibilities. A person may not hear anything directly but when a tape is played back, the sounds are there. As was the case in a prior investigation where the investigators set up a video camera to record in a bedroom. At one point in time the three investigators where all in that bedroom and later, upon playing the video tape back, a distinct voice is heard telling the group to “get out of here right now”. No one in the room heard a voice when it happened. Conversely, people have often heard psychic sounds clairaudiently which never appeared on tape.
One last hint. If direct taped communication is attempted, ask a question, wait fifteen seconds or more (this gives the spirit time to reply), then continue on to another question. You may be surprised at the results.