The Reel Story: In the new thriller "White Noise," Michael Keaton spends a lot of time gazing into snow-filled television screens, listening to static on phones and fiddling with knobs. No, he's not trying to steal pay-per-view porn — his character, Jonathan Rivers, is listening to messages from beyond the grave.
After Rivers' wife, Anna, dies in a mysterious car crash, he's contacted by Raymond Price (Ian MacNeice), who claims Anna has been contacting him from the afterlife via what's called electronic voice phenomenon. Price, an EVP expert, convinces a dubious Rivers that spirits really are reaching out through the television and other electronic devices. Rivers starts with the knob twiddling, trying to hear from his dearly departed wife, and as he translates messages between the lines of static, thrills ensue.
This raises an interesting question: Do people actually try to communicate with the dead via electronic devices?
The Real Story: They most certainly do. EVP devotees are organized, high-tech, and have developed an entire methodology for listening to and recording messages from the great beyond.
The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomenon is a group that seeks to "better understand the nature of unexpected paranormal information that is frequently discovered on recording devices." They consider it their job to teach people how to communicate with the other side.
But while they believe in EVP, they don't necessarily buy into "White Noise" entirely. On their Web site they take some issue with the way Keaton's character attempts to collect information. In the film, he watches hours of recorded videotape of white noise. However, the AA-EVP suggests scheduling recording at a regular time so that "entities" will learn when recording is taking place and presumably drop in at that time. They also suggest keeping the recordings short so that you don't take up too much time listening to the recording.
Those wishing to reach the beyond would also be well served to add some additional noise to the mix. Apparently, ghosts use sounds in the environment to help form their messages — running water, fans or tuned-out radios are purported to be quite effective. It's also advised to speak at the beginning of the recording, inviting the entities to communicate.
Finally, the AA-EVP reminds us that paranormal voices are rarely heard until the playback of the tape. So don't expect to hear Grandma start chatting away just because the fan is on.
It's also probably a good idea to keep in mind that there are millions of electronic gadgets out there filling up the airwaves. That voice yelling at you in Spanish while you're trying to call your mom might not be a ghost — just a neighbor with a cheap cordless phone.
Check out everything we've got on "White Noise."
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