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Guess what? Paranormal raps are... paranormal!

A considerable part of my learning about psychic phenomena comes from the pages of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), a learned publication dating back to 1882, which publishes, after a rigorous peer-review process, papers from high-calibre investigators. The May 2010 (Vol. 73) edition of the Journal carries an article by scientist Dr Barrie Colvin, Ph.D. which I found particularly interesting and want to bring to the attention of a wider public. Before I do that, though, I would like to warmly encourage the readers of this blog to consider joining the SPR. Just the publications (the Journal, the Proceedings and the Paranormal Review) would be well worth the modest yearly membership fee. There are other, tangible and intangible advantages in becoming a member, however, and anybody with a scientific mindset and an interest in the paranormal should consider joining. More information at

Now, the article I would like to talk about in this post shows instrumental evidence for an inexplicable and objective banging sound detected in recordings made during alleged poltergeist activity.

Whilst paranormal rappings associated with poltergeist activity have been described for many hundreds of years, it is only recently that an interesting pattern has been discovered within the fine detail of the paranormal rapping sounds. Whereas raps and knocking sounds produced by ordinary means exhibit a normal acoustic pattern, those recorded in alleged poltergeist cases show quite a different sound signature. No explanation can be found for this pattern at present.

Dr Colvin has analysed recordings of alleged poltergeist knocking obtained from around the world over a 40-year period. The earliest was a recording made by a local physician at Sauchie (Scotland) in 1960 and the most recent was obtained from a poltergeist case at Euston Square, London in 2000. The sample involved 10 separate recordings recorded on different recording apparatus.

Whilst the two types of rap sound rather similar, computerised analysis shows that they are actually acoustically different. In each of the allegedly paranormal recordings, regardless of the place or time of the recording, and even of the recording apparatus, a particular sound pattern is detected which so far remains unexplained. Attempts to replicate this pattern in ordinary ways have so far been unsuccessful.

The essential difference between these raps and those produced by normal means lies in the details of their sound envelope (the way sound evolves over time). In the case of a normal rap, the sound (which often only lasts a few milliseconds) starts loudly and decays over a period of time. The loudest part of the sound is right at the beginning. In the case of a poltergeist rap, the loudest part is near the beginning of the sound - but not at the very beginning. The rapping sound starts relatively quietly and works up to a maximum before it then starts to decay. This effect has been seen in all ten of the poltergeist cases studied.

The picture above shows the waveform of a sound produced normally, on the left, and on the right the waveform of a paranormal rap.

The question arises as to how such a sound is generated. There is evidence which points to the sound arising from within the structure of a material rather than from the surface of it, as would be the case with a normally-produced rapping sound. This phenomenon will be examined further in future investigations of poltergeist activity.

Dr Colvin states: "Ever since my personal involvement in the investigation of a rapping poltergeist at Andover, Hampshire, in which it was absolutely clear that no normal explanation could account for the observed phenomena, I wondered whether the recorded raps were in any way different to those produced by normal methods. It is now clear that they are indeed different".

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