Ghosts in the Machine

Since 1986 Brad Masert, an audio engineer, has been going to 'haunted' places and trying to record the sounds the ethereal inhabitants make. He has hours of sound recorded in such places as haunted houses, abandoned mines and even a haunted bar.

I spoke with Brad about his audio quest over beers at a local bar.

Derek: So what got you into recording ghosts?

Brad: In 86 the theme park I work in . . . I don't want to name them since they might not like this kind of publicity.

D: Understandable.

Brad Masert next to his ghost recording audio equipment

B: Anyway, this park was interested in redoing the soundtracks of their haunted house ride. The ride had the same audio in it since they opened in the 70's so it was showing a little wear here and there.

D: So that got you on the hunt for ghost sounds-

B: Well kinda, I mean for other jobs I do I always try to get the right kind of sound from the natural world. If you want the sound of a car I'll go out and put microphones all over a car and run it through it's paces. Sometimes I have to make up sounds for more futuristic things but I still try and base them in the real world. Like for a spaceship I had to do I found the sound for it's engines in a industrial laundry press.

D: Laundry press?

B: Yea, I was at my dry cleaners and they were running this large press. I heard it and thought 'there's my spaceship.' I used the sound of it's steam valve as the main engine in the spaceship. But for the sounds of ghosts I was kinda stumped. I mean ethereal voices don't really jump out at you when you're running around doing the household tasks. I finally used actors but thinking about the idea got me on the road to spectral recording.

D: So what was your first experience.

B: Well there's a home out in Casadega-

D: Oh yea, a whole town devoted to spiritualism, more mediums per square foot than any other place in America.

B: Right, right, there's a hotel there that is built on the spot where the original founders of Casadega spent their first night back in 1875. Anyway it was on that night that a woman died giving birth. The owners and visitors to the hotel had reported hearing footsteps on the stairs, seeing ghostlights and stuff like that. I contacted them and they agreed I could come out and set up some equipment.

D: Tell me about your equipment.

B: Back then I was just using a standard recorder. I also did some research and found that sometimes when radios are turned to dead channels, you can get ghost recordings. I set up one radio connected to a 8 hour tape in the lobby and another in the dining hall. I also had a open mic set up in my room. I didn't hear anything but at about 3 am I woke up with a weird feeling so I said 'here' out loud to mark the time on the open mic.

D: So did you capture anything?

B: Well the next day when I was going over the stuff in my lab I came upon a drag in the open mic tape. A place where the recording had slowed, like the electrical flow had gotten spotty. Just after this point I heard my own voice saying 'here.' That got me a little suspicious so I speeded up the tape and sure enough I heard the faint sound of footsteps.

D: In your room?

B: Yea, a room that I had locked from the inside. So that was my first experience with the supernatural.

D: Have you gone back to the hotel?

B: A couple of times. But I just set up my stuff in unoccupied rooms. I don't spent the night there anymore.

D: What else have you captured?

B: My best recording was at a deserted house in New Orleans. I had heard about it in an e-mail from a friend. There had been a murder suicide in the place in the 30's and ever since people had been seeing weird stuff. The current owner of the house actually saw a ghost coming at him with a gun while he was in the upstairs bedroom where the murder had taken place.

D: Thats when you know it's time to leave.

B: Yea, that's what this guy thought. He was selling the property to a developer who was going to tear it down for a strip mall. I convinced the guy that before he did that he should let me set my equipment up for a night or two. He agreed and so in September of 94 I went to New Orleans.

D: What happened?

B: Well it was a cool looking house. Built in the late 1800's and just this huge rambling plantation. This guy had already cleared all his crap out of it so it was real spooky being in there even in the daytime cause there was no electricity and all these huge rooms with nothing in them. An architectural company had been in there and taken down all the interesting molding and detail work in the house so there was broken plaster and wood laying around. I set up open mic recorders in the upstairs bedroom where the guy had seen the ghost and 3 more in different spots.

A picture of the haunted New Orleans house.

D: You stay the night in there?

B: You kidding? I stayed in my car parked on across the street. I got a bad feeling being in there during the day. At night? No way.

D: So what happened?

B: The next morning I went back into the house and started taking the reels off the recorders to change them over. I was going to do a quick check of my stuff at my friend's studio and then come back in the afternoon to put fresh reels in. Well in the upstairs bedroom I got spooked because my recording equipment had been messed with.

D: No way.

B: Yea, I had put it in the center of the room and placed the mic up to capture the entire area. When I went into the room I saw that the equipment had been thrown against the far wall. The mic was bent like a pretzel. The reel was broken off the recorder and the tape stock was strewn around the room like it was party streamers. Even the car battery I had been using for power was bent out of shape.

D: Freaky

B: Yeah, I was awake right across from the house all night and I didn't see anybody going in. There's a side door but it was locked tight. I went and looked at all the windows but they were unbroken and all the hinge locks were still closed from the inside. Finally I just gathered up all my stuff and went over to my friends. That recorder and microphone cost me a grand so I was a little upset. I decided not to record in there for a second night.

D: But it was worth it?

B: Well I spent a day splicing the tape back together when I got back home. Parts of it looked like it had been set on fire so I had to cut them out, they were totally useless. Finally I got a workable tape together and ran it. The first couple of hours had nothing on them but sometime around 1 am things got interesting. You can hear the sound of the door in the bedroom opening. Then I swear you hear the sound of a gun being cocked. Then there's a huge blast of white noise. After that the recorder was broken.

D: Not a whole lot of sound for your thousand bucks.

B: Well I was still a little disappointed but then I transferred the white noise to another tape and played around with some noise reduction I got a voice. A man's voice saying what sounds like "Missy."

D: Missy?

B: Yea I looked up the murder/suicide thing from the 30's I found out that it was a husband who killed his wife and then himself. He shot her in their bed, that same room. His name was Walter Scott and her name was Melissa. The short form of Melissa is Missy.

Listen to the original non-noise reduced recording:
WAV Format (1.3MB) | AIFF Format (1.3MB)

Listen to the same recording after Brad applied noise reduction (listen carefully to the end for "Missy"):
WAV Format (1.3MB) | AIFF Format (1.3MB)

Brad Masert still is on the hunt for ghost sounds. He's currently planning to travel to Europe and spend some time in some famous haunted spots of London and Paris.


-interview with Brad Masert May 5th, 1999

photo by Derek Barnes

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