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20 QUESTIONS WITH Tom and Lisa Butler

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Tom and Lisa Butler

Lisa has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Tom has a bachelor of science degree as an electronics engineer. Together, they are directors of the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP). The AA-EVP was founded in 1982 to provide objective evidence that we survive death in an individual conscious state. The Association is dedicated to assisting members and the general public with questions about the phenomena, and ways to collect examples of the phenomenal voices and images. This is accomplished via a quarterly AA-EVP NewsJournal, the Idea Exchange Internet discussion board, http://aaevp.com, an AA-EVP document archive and conferences.

American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena

The Butlers have recently published the book, There is No Death and There are No Dead (ISBN: 0-9727493-0-6). This book includes the history of EVP and ITC, examples with personal stories, information on the latest research from experimenters around the globe, experimental techniques and theories explaining these phenomena.

EVP example, "Prepare to die," recorded by Lisa Butler. You hear her voice and then a male voice.

EVP example, "Wanna see a movie?" recorded in the Marilyn Monroe cabin at the Cal-Neva Lodge in North Lake Tahoe, California by Lisa Butler. We had been asking for Monroe.

EVP example, "Mom, love you" recorded in controlled conditions by Vicki Talbott. This is Vicki's son, Braden, speaking. He is active in the Big Circle.

Tom And Lisa Butler in front of the Robert Monroe cabin.

EVP example, "Big Circle," recorded by Martha Copeland, a cofounder of the Big Circle. You will hear her daughter, Cathy, say "Big Circle" and then Martha asking for help with her father's upcoming operation. Cathy is also a cofounder of the Big Circle, and named it from the other side. We have many recordings made by various people indicating that we should ask the Big Circle for help.

Tom and Lisa Butler 20 Questions

1. Where do you see ghost-hunting and paranormal groups, web sites or ghost information, tours, Books paranormal radio and television in 10 years?

After spending time as a Wikipedia editor trying to make the EVP article honestly represent the phenomenon, we have come to realize that there are many people in this world who simply do not believe in the existence of any "paranormal" phenomena. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voice_phenomena) This is especially true of the notion that our personality survives physical death. Interestingly, this form of skepticism appears to be based on a strong determination to maintain the primacy of science as they see it, and that means anything that mainstream science does not endorse must be false. This skepticism is wide-spread, and we suspect that it has a strong influence on the majority of people.

So, our answer to this question is that we feel in ten years there will be many, many more people who are aware of these phenomena, and happy to work with their different expressions such as EVP and other forms of induced after-death communication. However, there will remain a majority of citizens who think we "believers" are simply mislead. The one thing we see that will tip the scale is when mainstream science seriously studies these phenomena--not just in the laboratory, but in the field where the real phenomena occur every day.

The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena (AA-EVP) was founded in 1982, and the services it offers have greatly increased since. It's focus is on public education about Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC) and the better known subset, Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). We work to encourage and sponsor research on the subject and provide support for people learning to work with ITC. The Big Circle, (http://bigcircle.aaevp.com/) is an important part of the Association and it is all about helping people with their grief from losing a loved one.

It is our goal for coming years to be able to offer research grants that might result in improved recording techniques and tools. This is aside from the Etheric Studies Initiative, which we will address later. We are also attempting to find more ways to encourage collaboration amongst researchers who for now do not frequent common venues.

2. What would you personally consider to be the definitive proof that ghosts are real?

Of course, we feel that EVP/ITC is "in your face" proof of the Survival Hypothesis, but there are a number of other important proofs that we like. You cannot consider a ghost in isolation. A ghost is a person without a physical body, and he or she exists somewhere and is able to communicate "into" the physical. We know that this communication is subject to laws of nature just as are all physical actions. The study of mediumship, especially that conducted by Dr. Gary Schwartz (http://veritas.arizona.edu/) corroborates work in ITC. Also, when a report from a clairvoyant, photographs, EVP, history and personal accounts are mutually supporting, we begin to have important proof that has been replicated in different venues.

ITC image recorded by Tom and Lisa Butler showing a man in uniform holding a small dog, as if posing for a portrait. The feature was found in a video frame of recorded video feedback noise

It is important to become knowledgeable about the whole field of study, what we refer to as etheric studies, to see that definitive proof of ghosts is offered via many sources.

3. What is the most real evidence you personally have uncovered so far?

Well, again, it is EVP and visual forms of ITC. We have included visual ITC images and voice examples which we find convincing. But, what really makes them convincing is that the techniques used to collect them have been replicated by many people and you can find good examples of these on many web sites. The replication and abundance is, in itself, proof. Certainly a rational person could not seriously argue that we are all deluded or frauds.

4. Are you skeptical of the claims others make of their findings?

As in any field of study, ours has both beginning and veteran practitioners. Perhaps the newest people to the field are too excited and have not learned the many ways that artifacts can form. On the other hand, we have been accused of ignoring good examples because we are too determined to avoid false positives. Yes, we are skeptical of some claims. Our policy is to look for decisive demonstrations of phenomena, and to put ones that are not so certain in that good old "wait and see if more turns up" folder. We wish more people in the field would do the same.

But here is an important point. If you bring an example to us that falls way outside of the usual characteristics of EVP, we are probably going to ask to see others and want to know how the example was collected. There is a good list of the characteristic for EVP we know about at http://aaevp.com/articles/articles_about_evp11.htm. Extraordinary results require substantial support.

Also, extraordinary results triggers us to find out how it is done so we can teach others. That is how the replication occurs. If the results cannot be replicated by others, then we have to consider the possibility that there is a different form of phenomena involved. The face on the turned off TV is an example of this. We doubted the first example we were shown, but became convinced as we found examples from other people. See http://aaevp.com/examples/examples_photography6.htm.

When people record for themselves, and they believe they have captured the voice of a loved one, we accept their report at face value. Since we know EVP are real, we hesitate to demand that all people follow stringent practices. It is a personal thing and we are especially sensitive to personal contacts. We simply do not know enough to say the person has not made contact with a loved one. There are so many ways.

5. If you could investigate your "Dream-Haunted Hot Spot" where would it be?

We are probably not the best people to ask this question. We do advise people who are having difficulty recording their first EVP to go out and find an old place that has had long-time human occupancy, and record there. We think it is all about the energy and haunted places have plenty of the energy necessary for trans-etheric influences. We do advise the person that they should not think that the recording of their loved one's voice they collect in a haunted place is proof that the loved one is stuck there. We think it is just proof that there was enough energy to communicate.

6. What was your first paranormal encounter?

Tom conducted what the Silva Method instructor referred to as a health case back in the early 60s. He was right on in a number of trials, clearly identifying the presence of such abnormalities in the energy field of a person in another part of the world as a missing lung or a broken leg. This was by no means a scientific test, but it convinced him that abilities such as clairvoyance and mediumship were possible.

About the same time, and before she met Tom, Lisa learned to influence her future through positive thinking techniques. Being able to imagine a desired outcome and then see it come to pass is a powerful teacher that our thoughts are real things.

7. What scares you about ghost hunting or paranormal investigations?

People who are scared.

8. If you could work side by side with one of the paranormal investigator greats, who would it be?

Garrett Husveth: www.hauntednewjersey.com

9. Read any good paranormal books lately?

Radin, Dean, Entangled Minds, 2006, Pocket Books, New York, ISBN-13:978-1-4165-1677-4.

10. What question do people ask you most when you tell them you're a paranormal investigator, or personality?

We receive many questions about how the writer can reach a recently transitioned loved one. This question is usually followed by, "Is it dangerous to try to contact the dead?" and then, "What is the best recorder to use?"

It is important that we tell people that there are no guarantees that they will be able to contact a particular person via transcommunication. Some have, but many have not. On the other hand, there is good reason to believe that a person can successfully record EVP, and even messages from a stranger should give them reason to believe their loved one is okay, as they will be when their time comes. We have advised against people seeking out others to make contact for them. We have seen that EVP recording is uncertain, and few people can reliably record meaningful EVP for others. There is also the personal knowledge that "I recorded that," which has much more of an impact on a person's worldview than if someone does it for them. It is true that we have a few members who are successful in recording for others, but this may not be the culture we want for transcommunication. We are still learning in this area.

There are many views on the subject of safety, but we have to go by history and personal experience. From over fifty years of people around the world working with EVP, we have no reliable report of anyone being harmed by the etheric communicators. The only danger we see is if the person is apt to do something a stranger tells him or her to do.

We have observed that the attitude of the experimenter has a lot to do with the nature of the messages they will record. In the "Prepare to die" EVP example (attached), we found what might be taken as a threatening voice to be rather funny. The point here is that, even if the voice sounds threatening, it is how you react to it that counts. Be respectful and firm but not afraid.

Since digital voice recorders came on the market, the quantity and quality of EVP has greatly increased. We usually advise people to give themselves a week or more of trying before giving up on EVP. These days, it is common for people to report that they recorded an EVP on their first attempt when using a digital voice recorder. Different recorder models come and go so fast that it is difficult to say which on the market is best for EVP. The golden standard has been the Panasonic RR-DR60, but that little noisy recorder is being sold at outrageous prices on eBay. There are newer, even more effective models. Some of the Sony recorders are very popular now. There is an article at http://aaevp.com/techniques/techniques_evp10.htm that describes some of the characteristics of a recorder we look for. Anything will work, so look at that article and set up whatever you have, based on what we say there as a beginning point. After that, experiment to see what works best for you.

As a rule of thumb, the higher-quality recorders do not do as well for EVP and if you are using one, plan on supplying additional background noise for voice formation. If you look at the skeptic's explanation for EVP at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voice_phenomena, you will see that some sound engineer claims that we are all delusional because he has better equipment than we do and he has never heard an EVP in his recording. (This is not a direct quote.) In fact, he cannot know whether or not he has better equipment, and if he knew anything about EVP, he would know that his high-quality equipment is the last place to look for EVP. (By the way, should you decide to become an Wikipedia editor, read the essay at http://etheric-studies.aaevp.com/articles/articles_wikipedia.htm first. You may decide it is not worth the trouble unless you just like a good fight.


11. In your opinion, where is the most haunted city in America?

We do not know, but if we are right about the belief that long-time human occupancy and/or the expression of extreme emotion produces the energy necessary for transcommunication, then the older the better.


12. Do you feel more people should get involved with ghost hunting or paranormal investigation and EVP?

As we previously stated, personal experience is more effective than simply reading about the paranormal. Many of these phenomena can be induced, and there is good reason to think that a person can experience such abilities as mediumship, clairvoyance, insight through deep meditation, transcommunication and the like. After experiencing some of these, a person has more reason to accept accounts of other's experiences, and a better context in which to consider those accounts.

We divide the paranormal into two categories. One is Psi Studies, which is concerned with human potential, such as clairvoyance, psychokinesis and ESP. The other is Etheric Studies, which is concerned with survival of the personality after physical death and the aspect of reality in which the personality survives. You can study human potential without ever mentioning survival. Some parapsychologists study survival, but for the most part, the field of psychology is concerned with human potential and Psi Studies.

The AA-EVP is sponsoring what we call the Etheric Studies Initiative. You can read more about it at http://etheric-studies.aaevp.com/index.htm. This fledgling initiative is designed after industry standards committees, such as the one that gave us the Simple Network Protocol used in the early Internet. There is an Organizing Committee and Publication, Best Practices and Research Committees. And committee members are supposed to come from the community and not just the AA-EVP.

A discussion board is being used as an online peer review journal and to debate proposed Best Practices. The idea is that there are things we have substantiation for, and that need to be codified in a way that new people can learn and new lessons can be added. Best Practices are not rules, just statements as to lessons learned that can be substantiated by referring to research, well-documented accounts and/or good logic--and which are agreed to by people representative of the community. Some candidate practices will require further research for substantiation, and those requirements will be used by the Research Committee to develop requests for research proposals and to seek donations so that grants can be awarded for targeted research.

A participant in this initiate does not need to be an AA-EVP member, and in time, the AA-EVP will only have one vote. Paranormal organizations are encouraged to "volunteer" one or more of their members to participate in one of the committees. Qualifications range from accounting to fund raising, so people need not be "paranormal experts." There is information about contacting us here: Organizing Committee.

13. What does the future hold for you?

The AA-EVP will remain our highest priority in the foreseeable future. We would like to have a little more time for research and to continue our personal education but that always comes after writing the NewsJournals and taking care of members. Meanwhile, a conference for 2008 is being planned (keep an eye on http://aaevp.com/news.html for updates) and we have discussed another book. The Etheric Studies Initiative is coming along and it will probably take more time until the committees can take over.

Our objective is to see EVP/ITC become a viable tool for grief management and researching other aspects of the paranormal. Our etheric communicators are also our partners, but it is up to us to figure out how to put them to work.

14. Paranormal conventions do you see them growing? And which ones are the must go to ones?

The AA-EVP conference, of course. See here for information about the 2006 conference: http://aaevp.com/conference/aaevp_conference.html. We think it was an important event for the world of EVP/ITC and expect the next one to be equally as interesting.

15. What is your most favored tool of the trade?

The digital voice recorder, Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net) and Audition (http://www.adobe.com/products/audition/index.html) audio management tools, a good computer and the Internet. Also, a good digital camera and a good photo-editor program.

16. Tell us about your best moment in investigating EVP or conference attending.

Beyond the ones that got us hooked on EVP, there were three milestones in the last few years. The first was the development and continued evolution of the Big Circle. The Big Circle shows us that people on both sides of the veil can cooperate to help others. It is a group that began first with children on the other side contacting their parents here, and then working together to improve communication. Now we are being told to turn to the Big Circle in times of need. See Children Together on the Other Side (http://aaevp.com/articles/articles_about_griefmgmt2.htm) and The Big Circle Recording Sessions (http://aaevp.com/articles/articles_about_the_big_circle.htm) for more information.

The day that we put together the first article about the 4Cell EVP Demonstration was a real eye-opener. That series of experiments has shown that a person can record a previously unknown answer to an unknown question posed by a distant person an average of better than 60% of the time. In other words, it shows that using a protocol and a small group of people, EVP can be used as an effective tool for information gathering. See 4Cell EVP Demonstration for details.

This was not our best moment. It was actually a rather painful realization that much of the resistance to public acceptance of the reality of EVP and ITC was coming from people who should know better than to have a closed mind, but who are clearly determined to remain closed to the possibility of survival. It is important to know who fundamentally believes in what, because that helps us know how to talk about these things. The day we assumed leadership of the AA-EVP, we vowed to be honest brokers in our community by remaining as neutral as possible, insisting that the evidence should lead the way in our work, while maintaining an open mind to alternative views. Sure, we are strong advocates of the Survival Hypothesis, but that is where our research has taken us. We remain open to having future research take us somewhere else.

17. What is the hardest part about being a paranormal investigator?

Not being able to spend enough time investigating. It is also sometimes depressing when we cannot express what we feel about these phenomena in ways that others will see how wonderful this all is.

18. How do you document your investigations?

We keep records of conditions and results for our personal experiments, but it is important to note that almost all of our work is in controlled conditions. Some of you will see us in the media in haunted locations, but those instances are mainly for the benefit of the camera, as our modest laboratory is not very interesting on TV.

The Etheric Studies Initiative will require academic-quality documentation.

19. Have you ever taken a ghost tour? And, what about it did you not like?

Yes. It was cold!

20. What in the field of ghost hunting and paranormal investigating needs the most attention?

The things we claim as a matter of belief should be clearly distinguished from things we claim as a product of research. The last thing we want is someone telling us that we should do one thing or another, but at the same time, we know that there is a really large and mostly uninformed public looking over our shoulders. There is nothing wrong with believing an orb might be a loved one. We do not have research to say otherwise. But there is something wrong with giving the impression that such a belief is a matter of fact.

We think there is a great deal that can be said about the paranormal as a matter of fact, but all of us, including ourselves, are prone to mix statements based on empirical evidence with statements based on belief in the same sentence. We describe the need as "discernment" or "critical thinking," and know that these tools for wisdom are developed through education. The more we learn with a discerning mind, the more we will learn, so we think education is important.

We were nervous at first about some of the early EVP schools that started up on the Internet, but we can now see that any organized approach to teaching techniques is helpful. Our association is not able to reach nearly as many people as is needed, so we look at these things as a community effort.

21. Comment

We like the idea of a standardized set of questions being put to veterans in the field because it offers a unique opportunity for them to share their accumulated wisdom. So, thanks Haunted American Tours for asking us.

Tom and Lisa Butler
AA-EVP Directors

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