According to Mike Lockley of the Birmingham Mail, paranormal researcher Don Philips ‘has allowed scientists to pore over his unique talents and emerged with reputation untarnished.’ When I read this I had to do a double take – readers of my blog may be familiar with the issues I have with Don Philips and his research methods, so to discover he had worked with scientists to prove his abilities once and for all was news to me and my skeptic senses started tingling straight away.
I contacted Professor Chris French from the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths because I assumed it would be Professor French that this had happened with considering that Philips has been on investigations alongside Chris in the past, but he knew nothing about it. It turns out that this reference to allowing scientists to ‘pore over his unique talents’ may be reference to Steve Mera whom Philips has recently started to work alongside.
Further in the Birmingham Mail article Mike Lockley explains that Philips uses audio recordings to capture evidence of ghosts and explains that ‘Among believers, the activity is dubbed Electronic Voice Phenomena. Among non-believers, it is pareidolia – presented with a wall of incoherent noise, the brain will scramble the cackles and hisses into words.’
According the article Steve Mera has been able to discount that the recordings Philips provides as evidence are pareidolia. He is quoted as saying
“We’ve played Don’s tape to three people and they’ve picked out the same name. With pareidolia, they should all hear different words.”
It’s great that there has been an attempt to use a control here by asking a (albeit small) sample of people to listen to the recording to gather their independent opinions of what the recording is but this doesn’t mean anything. I play samples of EVPs in the talks I deliver to the general public all the time and the hundreds of people who have sat and listened to these clips in my talk often hear similar things said in the recordings but this is not evidence that these recordings are made by ghosts.
They are not made by ghosts and there is a very good chance that the recordings are a product of external interference from broadcast sources such as radio transmissions, walkie talkies, wireless baby monitors and similar devices.
To suggest that three people hearing the same thing in an EVP recording is evidence that the recording is not a result of the pareidolia effect is quite odd really and it certainly isn’t scientific. Not to mention the pareidolia effect doesn’t make people interpret things differently than others. If the recording follows a specific speech pattern or sound pattern then it isn’t difficult to see how three people could hear the same thing.
Below is an example of one of the EVP clips I often use in my public talks. Give it a listen:
The hundreds of people who listen to this alleged EVP recording tell me that they hear some of the following things:
Just give it to me
Where is Timmy?
Just listen to me
Does this mean that this clip is a ghost saying one of these things? No, there is no way that I can rule out any of the possible rational causes for the recording and I find it very hard to believe that this has been possible for the clips that Don Philips records and presents as evidence. By all means allow scientists to examine your evidence and use a scientific approach to your research, but claiming that EVP isn’t pareidolia or caused by external interference? Please… change the record.