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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Ruzicki

Jürgenson, the father of research on EVPs (electronic voice phenomena)

Friedrich Jürgenson is considered the "father" or pioneer of magnetic tape voice research. He called himself "the Herald of Immortality".

It is known that there have been previous attempts in this direction; but there is no doubt that he deserves credit for capturing, recording and systematically archiving those voices, as well as for having brought the subject to the general knowledge of humanity.

It was in 1915 that the first news emerged of the possibility of capturing the voices of the dead through electromagnetic waves. The English newspaper Light published an article about it. We do not know, however, whether the experiments were carried out, which, by the way, seems unlikely, considering the technological limitations of the time. In 1956, there was talk of experiments with voices on magnetic tape that would have been carried out by Raymond Bayless and Attila Szalay; but there is no documentation about these experiences either. The same goes for the supposed attempts of Thomas Alva Edison.

With Friedrich Jürgenson it was different. There are numerous articles and interviews, conducted over the twenty-eight years between 1959 and his death in 1987, in which he devoted himself intensely to making public the results of voice research on magnetic tape, which became his life's ideal. . All the media were intensely and comprehensively occupied, not only with his exceptional personality, but also with the results of his research; thus, it would be an exaggeration to try to repeat here all the details of his eventful life.

Furthermore, he himself describes, in his book Sprechfunk mit Verstorbenen [Radio Communication with the Dead], the situations of his life. After all, who better than him to describe his life and work?

Despite this, I would like to record, for all those who, until today, know little or nothing about the existence of Friedrich Jürgenson, the main dates of his life, in chronological order, even if in telegraphic style.

Friedrich Jürgenson was born on February 8, 1903, the son of an Odessa gynecologist. He grew up mastering three languages, as Russian, Estonian and German were spoken in his home. Thus, his linguistic ability was stimulated from early childhood, which would assume great importance in working with polyglot recordings. He also proved to be quite talented in singing and painting, leading his parents to allow him to attend an Art School and study singing.

With the Russian Revolution, the Jürgenson family moved to England.

In 1932, Jürgenson went to Palestine, where he continued his studies in painting and singing, while at the same time earning his living with decoration work and photography.

Between 1935 and 1938, Jürgenson continued his singing studies in Milan, where he began his career in opera. But a prolonged respiratory illness forced him to abandon this profession.

With the outbreak of World War II, in 1939, Jürgenson returned to Estonia, but again had to change domicile with the occupation of the country by the Soviets. He then moved to Stockholm, Sweden.

From 1949, his second career began. He was the only painter to be given permission to paint in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. His task was to record for posterity the "City of the Dead" beneath the Crypt. For four months he worked in this crypt, which was forbidden to all others. Then he painted four portraits of Pope Pius XII. All these paintings are on display in the Vatican.

It was in 1959 that Jürgenson heard the first voices on magnetic tape. In the years that followed, he worked in secret until he was certain of the source of these voices. In 1963, he invited journalists from all over the world to his first international press conference. From her and other press conferences that followed - the subject of voices on magnetic tape became known worldwide.

Between 1967 and 1969, Jürgenson carried out excavations in Pompeii and produced a documentary about them. He soon became known as a producer of TV movies. Altogether, he produced eight films, including The Decline of Pompeii, Murder of Birds in Italy, The Tomb of Peter, and The Miracle of the Blood of San Gennaro. The latter film was awarded at Cannes in 1970.

Even the Pope, who in general strictly prohibited any filming of his person, allowed Jürgenson to make a film about him. After the premiere of Alle wollen den Papst sehen [Everyone Wants to See the Pope], Paul VI awarded him the decoration of "Commendatore di San Gregorio Magno".

In 1967, his book "Radiophonic Communication with the Dead" was published, which showed millions of people the way to voices on magnetic tape, and which is still available today in many bookstores (Goldmann-Verlag, Munich).

From 1970 on, Jürgenson began to dedicate himself exclusively to voice research on magnetic tape, giving lectures in the United States, England, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

In 1975, he abandoned his Nysund Farm and settled in Höör, in southern Sweden. There, he received many visitors from all over the world, journalists, radio and TV people and scientists.

More or less from 1980, until 1986, he worked on a film that represents a summary of his life and work and, above all, of his research, thus becoming practically a testament. This film was shown for the first time during the OARCA Congress in Munich in May 1987.

On October 15, 1987, Friedrich Jürgenson passed into that other world with which he had already been so closely connected for many years of his life.

Source: Bridge between Here and Beyond, by Hildegard Schäfer, Editora Pensamento, São Paulo, 1989

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