Laurie Eddie

(Investigator 21, 1991 November)

From time to time we read reports in papers and magazines of voices from "beyond" being recorded on tape recorders.

The author experienced a similar event recently, when he recorded a video. On playback the tape was found to have recorded voices and music not related to the actual recording.

After careful listening to these "phantom" sounds, it was possible to pick three or four different voices and music channels. At one stage the 5KA radio station identification was heard, clearly establishing the fact that the origins of the signals were local radio stations.

Checking later, it was discovered that an incorrect camera extension cable had been used. Because the cable had the incorrect plug, the sound channel remained unconnected, and as a result no sound was being carried through the cable. Instead the cable acted as an aerial, picking up radio signals and carrying them into the video recorder.

As a psychologist, from time to time we see patients who are complaining of "hearing" noises, or "seeing" things, that obviously are not there. Before jumping to the conclusion that you are dealing with a psychiatric disorder, it may pay to check the claims out.

In the instance described above of the faulty sound cable, similar events in the past have resulted in claims that the voices were supernatural in origin, the voices of dead people. In fact the air is full of signals, radio and TV, given the right circumstances they can be picked up by any receiver, including tape recorders. There is no need to attribute them to supernatural sources.

In this instance it was fortunate that the radio identification came over clearly enough to be heard. Usually with these recordings they are indistinct, and it is extremely difficult to identify their actual source.

All of which leads us onto an unusual and almost bizarre case which was recently reported of an elderly woman, with a hearing disorder, who was being haunted by phantom sounds. The material consisted of music and songs from the Thirties and Forties. These played unceasingly, in her head, only stopping when other loud noises interfered.

An investigation was launched. Her neighbourhood was checked out to determine whether or not the noise was a signal from a local source. This was ruled out.

Her hearing aids were also checked out, to ensure they were not receiving any local radio stations. There have been examples of radio signals being picked up by electric irons. However, they were quickly ruled out also.

Finally she was given a thorough medical check and when this failed to reveal any likely source, she was then tested by being placed in a soundproof room, where she continued to hear the sounds.

Although, during her medical examination, no physical abnormality was revealed, her medical history revealed possible clues. A rheumatoid arthritis sufferer, she was taking about 12 tablets a day, mainly aspirin derivatives. It was suspected that a possible combination of the tablets and her hearing problem was at the source of the problem.

Aspirin, which can cause ringing in the ears, was suspected of opening up musical memories from the auditory centre of the temporal lobe.

To test the theory she was ordered to halve her intake of aspirin, within a few days the music faded and disappeared.