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To Sweep or Not To Sweep?

Addressing Manual Radio Sweep ITC

by Margaret Downey

(this article originally appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of the Association Transcommunication News Journal and has been republished with the author’s permission)

There’s been a lot of recent controversy in the world of EVP concerning a technique called “radio sweep.” In the past, I spent a lot of time exploring the use of various background sounds. I would try basically anything I could think of, which eventually led me to explore Portuguese crowd babble. I had good results with it, so naturally, I knew I had to experiment with this technique as well.

At first I was very cautious, sharing the same concerns as many people with a background in traditional EVP work, and the most obvious being the potential for false positives. Admittedly, radio sweep does involve the formations of words and phrases in which the possibility exists they could have come from radio station at the time of the session was conducted, especially if the rate of sweep is too slow.

With this in mind, I set off to discover for myself whether or not I receive responses that had the appearance of intentional communication. At the time, I used a DuraPro emergency flashlight/radio combo unit; the type you crank the handle to charge. I used the thumb dial on it to move from one end of the broadcast spectrum to the other and back again, at a rate of approximately 1.5 seconds for one complete scan in either direction. I found this speed to be satisfactory, in that it was fast enough so that only snippets of words from each station could be heard and nothing made sense to my ears while I listened.

I embarked on the next step of my experimentation with a mix of what might be best described as optimistic skepticism. I knew EVP to be real, well-researched and to some degree explainable. On the other hand, I needed compelling evidence before I could buy into all the claims of radio sweep being a valid method of receiving communication.

I started by asking my most trusted communicators to come through and speak. I felt that if the same etheric people who used EVP to reach me in the past could also come though using the sweep, it would go a long way in swaying my opinion towards the validity of the technique. To my surprise, I did indeed hear from both family and friends on the other side. But even more remarkable, I received communications from others’ loved ones, some of which were confirmed as sounding “just like” the departed did when they were here in the physical.

At an emotional level, I became convinced almost immediately that there was something valid about the sweep. However, my scientific mind needed to make sure I wasn’t deluding myself. I tried to think of everything mundane that could explain my results. Having not much luck, I decided to use several observed characteristics of the communication to determine if any supported the notion of intent rather than coincidence. It wasn’t long before I felt I had a list of strong indicators that the odds of the spoken words and phrases being a result of a fortuitous spin of the dial would be astronomical.

High on my list are those examples in which:

  •  The spoken phrase is directly relevant to my preceding questions or comment. In some cases it is immediate, just as it would be in normal conversational.
  • The duration of the response spans at least one full cycle of the back/forth sweep, sometimes several.
  • The words are spoken in a single tone of voice.
  • The intonation and cadence are suggestive of that which is considered normal human speech pattern.
  • The validation by a loved one recognizing the voice and words. Though subjective, I find it persuasive.

More recently, I began to experiment with automated radio sweep rather than manual, thereby removing myself as a factor in the sweep rate. This technique differs slightly in that the radio scan will move only in one direction and then reset back to the beginning (rather than back and forth). The results continue to be remarkable.

I would encourage those, who have, to date, been closed to the possibility of this being a legitimate means of communication to reconsider your position. Do a little experimenting for yourself, possibly using the above criteria as a guideline in helping to determine whether or not there might be something to all this.

You can start by doing a manual sweep. If you are still interested after trying this method, you can make an investment (as little as $30) in an automated unit. Here are some hints to get you started:

Turn on you radio to AM or FM, depending on your reception. I’ve had good results using either band. Start your recorder. I record into my computer using Audacity and the built in mic. Quickly move the dial from one end to another so only fragments of each channel currently broadcasting are heard coming through the speaker(s). Be mindful of the volume. You want it to be not too loud nor too soft.

Duracell KP028 radio featured image

A Duracell Hand Crank Radio for ITC

I’ve noticed this technique works best with radios which allow for quickly moving through the channels. My favorite handheld radio is the Duracell KP028. The dial is small and easily moves through all the stations. I think that’s key, that there not be long gaps between the stations or that it takes so long to move from station to station that multiple words can be heard from each broadcast (some more expensive stereo units seem to be like this). Also, it seems to not work well when there is a lot of static between stations. So if need be, switch from AM to FM.

While you are moving the dial back and forth, talk as you would if you were having a conversation with someone in the room with you; only speak a little more slowly. Wait a short time between each question or comment. Somewhere between ten and fifteen seconds seems to e good, but you could wait as long as thirty seconds.

When reviewing the session, listen for a voice that stands out from the rest of the radio sweep, and also for the words/phrases to be relevant. Sometimes the voice will be choppy, as if formed from the snippets of broadcasts. Other times, the voice will float above the sweep sound. Listen first to an entire segment a few seconds at a time. Less clear responses can easily be missed during the first pass.

I have a tendency to discard almost all single words because they could have been from an actual broadcast, but when I hear a phrase that is longer, I know it could not have come from a single broadcasting station because I’m sweeping the channels too quickly for more than one syllable to be picked up by the microphone.

Please, have patience if you try this. Even if you are an experienced researcher, it takes practice to learn to hear the responses, just as it does to become accustomed to listening for and hearing EVP. Someone recently sent me the recording of her sweep session, and commented it wasn’t working at all for her. I was able to isolate and return to her multiple phrases that, once individualized, she was able to hear and understand.

I have no definite explanations as to how this technique works, but it definitely produces interesting results that I (and many other radio sweep experimenters) believe are worthy of formal research and investigation.



  1. Gerry B says:

    Since.most.newer radios use a varactor diode for tuning radio stations, could you connect a function.generator to the varactor tuning diode in order to make your own automatic.sweep? You could then.vary the frequency of.the triangle wave which would.change the sweep rate.

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