The electronics expert was dumbfounded. He had gone into the forest to record birdsong… and ended up with the voice of his dead mother. Many other psychics claim that “spirit voices” have been captured from the air or on radio wavelengths. And some even predict that, one day, you will be able to hear your loved ones on the “other side” just by turning your radio dial.
Russian-born writer, painter and film producer Friedrich Jürgenson took his tape recorder into a forest in Switzerland. It was alive with the sounds of wildlife, but it was bird calls which particularly interested him. He returned home and played the tape to see how well his recordings had registered the birds. To his astonishment he found sounds which he had not heard in the forest.
A voice suddenly spoke, saying: “Friedel, my little Friedel, can you hear me?” Jürgenson could, and he played the tape over and over again to confirm that it was not his imagination. Soon he was in no doubt — the voice on the tape recorder was that of his dead mother. She spoke in a voice that was distinct and unmistakable, addressing him in a familiar way.
This incident inspired Jürgenson to experiment further and he obtained hundreds of other voices on tape. He was joined by a number of other enthusiastic psychic researchers who believed that he might have stumbled on an astonishing new method of communication with the next world, and one which — when fully developed — would make radio contact with the dead as simple as that with the living. But not everyone shared that optimistic view.
The appearance of Jürgenson’s mother’s voice on the tape was not quite as unexpected as he at first stated. Fourteen years after it happened Jürgenson admitted that he had been experimenting with tape recorders for several months in the hope of receiving something paranormal. “Somehow, and completely without any known reason,” Jürgenson explained, “there grew in me an overwhelming desire to establish electronic contact with somebody unknown. It was a strange feeling, almost as if I had to open a channel for something which was still hidden and wanted to get into the open. At the same time, I remember feeling skeptical, amused and curious.”
For the first four years after making his discovery, Jürgenson gave all his time and energy to the pursuit of more and more irrefutable evidence of the taped voices. He reported his findings to conferences in Sweden — his home country — in 1963 and 1964, and as a result of the interest that developed he began collaborating with two German scientists, Professor Hans Bender of the University of Freiburg and Dr Friedbert Karger of the Max Planck Institute, Munich.
Jürgenson wrote two books about this startling phenomenon: Voices From the Universe, originally published only in Swedish, and Radio Contact with the Dead, which appeared in both Swedish and German. Because no English translations of his work appeared, and because the experiments which he continued to do were often shrouded in secrecy, Jürgenson’s role in the voice phenomenon was not widely nor fully appreciated.
Instead, Dr Konstantin Raudive, a Latvian-born psychologist, became the researcher whose name was most often associated with the tape-recorded voices. Indeed, they were often called ‘Raudive voices’. Raudive was living in Sweden when Jürgenson announced his discovery and the two men became collaborators. But by 1969 signs of rivalry developed and Raudive eclipsed the phenomenon’s discoverer.
By 1968 Raudive claimed to have recorded more than 70,000 voice effects and he added: “In one ten-minute recording I got 200 voices. With patience, there is no reason at all why anyone cannot tape the voice phenomena. But the experimenter must develop his hearing by constant listening to tapes. What at first seems like atmospheric buzzing is often many times voices. They have to be analyzed and amplified, of course.”
When that statement appeared in Raudive’s book, Breakthrough, many people joined the rush to communicate with the dead. Few experienced the same results — in quantity or quality — as the early researchers. There were two probable reasons for that. As Raudive suggested, hearing the voices was far from easy. It was often like trying to hear a very weak voice which is almost totally drowned by interference.
But when when a voice was loud enough to discern with ease, understanding what was being said presented almost insuperable problems for the amateur experimenter. The reason was that the ‘entities’ whose voices were recorded spoke in a curious polyglot language. Their sentences, claimed the scientists probing these bizarre electronic manifestations, were often made up of words drawn from several languages and with an ignorance or disregard for grammar.
This, of course, made it easier to produce meaningful messages from a few jumbled sounds — so long as the researcher had a good knowledge of languages. It so happened that Raudive spoke Latvian, Russian, German, Swedish, French and Spanish. (though not fluent in all of these languages) and he was also able to understand most Slavonic dialects.
The polyglot nature of the mysterious taped communications was held by many to be strong evidence for their paranormal origin. If these voices were no more than stray radio broadcasts picked up under freak conditions, they said, then the voices would speak either in English or French or whichever language was being broadcast. But which radio station on Earth transmits in a polyglot language?
However, this led to some strange effects. For example, Raudive claimed to have received a communication from the great British statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, who said: “Te Mac-Cloo, mej dream, my dear, yes.” This, said Raudive, was a mixture of Latvian, Swedish and English. Two British researchers who listened to the recording believed that they could interpret it entirely in English. One suggested it was “Hear, mark you, make believe, my dear, yes,” while the other preferred “Mark you, make thee mightier yet.”
This apparent message from Britain’s wartime prime minister caused more controversy than any other voice, particularly when it was played on British television during a debate on the phenomenon. One of the participants, Gordon Turner, a well-known spiritual healer, observed: “This is obviously one of Churchill’s less important speeches which he saved to broadcast from the other side.”
The Luxembourg Effect
Gordon Turner did not doubt the authenticity of the voice phenomenon, incidentally, but he was extremely worried about the possible dangers of trying to contact the entities. It seemed likely to him that the tape recorders were picking up transmissions from the lower regions of the next world, inhabited by the less desirable spirits who often manifest themselves through Ouija boards and glass-and-alphabet seances. They give false messages and play tricks on the sitters. Turner pointed out that the communicators, with whom Raudive claimed to have established contact, included Hitler, and there was a strong ‘neo-Fascist undertone’ to some of the voices. What Churchill was doing in such company has not been explained.
But before the psychic researchers could be sure the voices were paranormal a number of other possibilities had to be excluded. The most important, and probably the most likely, was that the voices were, after all, from ordinary radio stations and it was proved that Raudive’s collection of over 70,000 voices did include such broadcasts.
According to the Latvian researcher the voice on one tape said “Glaube du Schidin” — a reference to belief coupled with the name of a man known to Raudive who did not believe in the voices. Then came a recording which followed a request by Raudive for a dead friend, Nimowald, to speak to him in Russian. This sentence, with a reference to Romanov Nimowald, was translated into English to mean that Nimowald was exhausted to death.
It then transpired that these messages were not what Raudive thought them to be. They were not in German or Russian but were, instead, a broadcast from the European station, Radio Luxembourg. What the researcher mistook to be voices from the dead was, in fact, an English disc jokey announcing the start of his program in the early hours of the morning: “Hello, this is Kid Jenson (Glaube du Schidin) reminding you about Dimensions (Romanov Nimowald) Later on tonight on 208: soft rock, hard rock, jazz, and blues…”
The man who discovered the truth of this particular recording was David Ellis, a young researcher, who in 1970 was given the Perrott-Warrick postgraduate studentship for Psychic Research, administered by Trinity College, Cambridge, England, to enable him to investigate the ‘Raudive voices’.
Ellis soon became convinced that ordinary radio transmissions accounted for much of the phenomenon., including what is known as the ‘Luxembourg Effect’. In an interview in 1974 he pointed out: “The air is full of broadcast transmission — commercial and amateur radio, radio telephony, scrambled speech — no wavelength in the normal range can be guaranteed to be clear…”
Once method of picking up the electronic voices was to tune in to a wavelength which was quiet and await developments. Since some people occasionally picked up radio broadcasts on vacuum sweepers or hearing aids, it was hardly surprising that stray signals might also be picked up on an otherwise quiet part of a radio waveband.
But the mysterious voices cannot be dismissed, in total, in such a way. Ellis, at that point in his investigation, was forced to admit that it was possible that Raudive possessed special powers which enabled him, subconsciously, to influence the tape recorder to produce voices. The psychic term for this mind over matter effect is telekinesis. Very often the voices only appeared on tape after Raudive had asked a question — they seemed to respond and have a sense of timing one could not expect from freak radio signals which were bouncing off the ionosphere unevenly.
Aware that some critics of the voice phenomenon believed it was caused by normal radio broadcasts, English publisher Peter Bander arranged for experiments to be carried out in a laboratory which could eliminate such interference. Bander arranged the tests when his company, Colin Smythe Ltd, decided to publish and English language version of Raudive’s book. When the book first appeared in German its title was The Inaudible Becomes Audible but Bander said that the task of translating this massive work with its numerous polyglot messages was a case of “making the unreadable readable.” He succeeded, however, and because those concerned with the voices believed they were such an important discovery the book’s title became Breakthrough.
Raudive went to England to promote the book’s publication and held several tape sessions with a number of witnesses, including journalists, at which good results were achieved. Then David Ellis took Raudive to the Radio-Frequency-Screened Laboratory of Belling and Lee Ltd, on the outskirts of North London. There they met Peter Hale, who is described by Bander in his own book about the voice phenomenon, Carry on Talking, as “one of the five leading experts in screen suppression in the West; he is certainly Britain’s foremost expert.” Hale had told Ellis two days before this meeting that he believed the voices were caused by normal radio signals. Yet inside his special laboratory, which was designed to screen out such signals, Raudive still produced the phenomenon. He believed there were as many as 20 voices on the tape which was made on that occasion, and Hale later gave the following statement about the experiment to Bander for publication in his book: “From the results we obtained last Friday, something is happening which I cannot explain in normal physical terms.”
Two British psychic researchers made a particular study of the phenomenon. After years of investigating, Richard K. Sheargold declared: “The voice phenomenon is by far the most exciting and challenging development that has taken place in psychic history.” He produced a booklet, which gave hints on producing the phenomenon, in which he stated: “I now feel confident that anyone possessing average natural hearing who conscientiously follows the advice given cannot fail to achieve a measure of success.”
But Raymond Cass, a Yorkshire researcher, took a more skeptical view. According to him 95 percent of experimenters get nothing and soon give up. He also stated that there has not been the slightest technical advance in probing the voices since Jürgenson’s book appeared in 1967. Cass, though a realist, has a collection of “over 2000 audible, veridical paranormal voices” as a result of his own experiments.
The first recognizable voice on Cass’s tapes was produced in 1972. He identified it as that of a dead man, Francis Harland Smith, a retired Hong King merchant who was, in Cass’s words, “a lone researcher into the occult.” After reading Jürgenson’s book in 1973 Cass realized that some of the voices on his tapes which had identified themselves were the same communicators about whom Jürgenson had written.
One of the strangest of Cass’s recordings was a voice, recorded on May 31, 1972, which he believed, said: “Raudive, man of oak, towards the tomb.” He filed it away with the others until, on June 18, 1974, he suddenly felt impelled to find it and send copies to three other British researchers — Peter Bander, Richard Sheargold and Spencer Wilson of the Society for Psychical Research. Less than three months later Raudive died unexpectedly.
Nearly one hundred years ago speaking to the dead by mechanical means — as opposed to communication through mediums — was discussed by Baron Lazarus De Paczolay Hellenbach, a Hungarian philosopher. He conducted many tests with mediums but the telegraph system of that period led him to predict that a similar form of speaking to the next world would be developed. Thomas Edison, American inventor of the transmitter and receiver for the automatic telegraph as well as of many other electrical devices, was also convinced that such contact was possible. In 1920 he tried constructing a means of achieving communication, working on the assumption that there would be a radio frequency between the long and short waves which would make contact with the next world a reality.
Until his death in 1937, Marconi, the Italian inventor who developed the use of radio waves as a means of communication, endeavored to pick up voices from the past. He produced a sophisticated device with which he hoped to travel back in time and record great historical events. A devout Roman Catholic, Marconi hoped to record the words spoken by Christ on the Cross.
Sir Oliver Lodge, the eminent British scientist, who was also a President of the Society for Psychical Research, predicted a form of spirit radio in 1936. Lodge’s early work on radio transmissions formed the basis for Marconi’s development of radio. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a prominent spiritualist, was said to have communicated after his death and revealed that scientists in the spirit world were experimenting with new ways of making contact with us.
Perhaps the earliest recorded contact with the mysterious voices was established by the Swedish military in 1934. In that year their radio frequencies were often interrupted by voices speaking in strange accents. At the time Nazi intelligence was blamed — just as the CIA has been blamed for Raudive voices in recent years — but no positive evidence was found.
So are the voices real? Are they the first stumbling attempts by people living in another world — the spirits of the dead — trying to find ways of opening up a permanent channel of communication with our world? Or are they stray radio transmissions which have been misinterpreted by the researchers?
The discoverer of the voices was in no doubt. Jürgenson stated categorically that they were “voices which I believe belong to post-mortal men or women, who, for the last 12 years, have been trying to build a bridge between two dimensions of life; they are motivated by compassion and understanding for us.” The late Dr Raudive was just as certain: “There is no doubt that we have established communication with another world.”
Proof that the voices were intelligent communications seemed to be provided by the accounts of Jürgenson’s later work in which it was said that had achieved a dialogue with the voices lasting up to 20 minutes at a time.
On the other hand, there was the problem of interpreting the voices. Once a researcher made a tape on which the made-up word ‘captative’ was repeated over a 15 minute period. It was then played back to 300 people and in these tests the individuals who heard the tape gave a total of 2300 other words which they said they heard.
The interpretation of the voices, then, is very subjective and, one suspects, some researchers hear what they want to hear. But now a new phenomenon has been recorded which may overcome this problem. Raymond Bayless, a Los Angeles researcher, reported the discovery of low-amplitude tape-recorded raps.
In a letter to the SPR Journal (March 1977 issue) in London, Bayless wrote that many experiments had been accomplished which demonstrated that the reality of the raps, which are inaudible to the unaided ear but are revealed by high amplification and tape recorders. He goes on: “On August 1, 1976, a new phenomenon surfaced consisting of ‘scraping’ sounds again unheard by the unaided ear and revealed by high amplification. These sounds have been demonstrated to be of paranormal origin, as are the raps, and their reception has been amply verified to be free from experimental error.”
“They originate close to the microphone which is placed on the surface of a wooden table and are obviously made by an unseen structure touching the microphone and probably the immediate surface of the table. This phenomenon is consistent, occurs in good quantity and should be an excellent effect for laboratory investigations. Its very nature, its minute intensity, insures that it can be revealed by sound, take place in comparative quantity and in all probability can be produced by many.”
What is intriguing, and perhaps ironic, about Bayless’s discovery is that in a way it brings the study back to the point where it started, in the 184os, when spiritualism came into being through raps and other strange sounds. It was found that these raps could communicate by code. It remains to be seen of the recorded raps will do the same.
For more than a century scientists have been troubled in their study of the paranormal by the need to use mediums. Human beings have faults and time and again apparently paranormal effects were found to be due to fraud. The Fox Sisters, whose early raps helped create the spiritualist movement, confessed to fraud — though they later retracted their confession. With the advent of the electronic voice phenomenon it seemed that at last, scientists could dispense with mediums. But the results were so poor that at least one leading experimenter pointed out that human mediums provided better results.
If the phenomenon is proved to be real, however, a startling discovery may well be made. Some researchers get better results than others which leads to the belief that they are, in some way, responsible for the manifestations. In which case, far from having dispensed with mediums, the scientists who are now probing this fascinating and controversial phenomenon may discover that they themselves are mediums.