Classic EVP: A Ghostly Drowning at the Exchange Building

There was never anything quite as terrifying as sitting alone in the middle of the night and listening to EVP episodes of Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but EVP, or electronic voice phenomena, is one of my favorite topics of the paranormal — these alleged voices crossing over the veil between life and death.

Not only voices, though. One particular EVP has always stuck with me, and that’s because it was so much more than just a ghostly voice or a terse whisper.

It was during the April 2, 2005 episode of Coast that a particular EVP was shared by that night’s guests, Brendan Cook and Barbara McBeath of the Ghost Investigators Society (G.I.S.). The EVP in question was recorded in a room at the Ogden Exchange Building in Ogden, Utah.

Notably, Art Bell warned listeners beforehand that they might find the audio “disturbing.” Cook said it was “easily the oddest recording [they’d] ever recorded.” It’s certainly one of the strangest EVPs I’ve ever heard.

As Cook went on to describe, the EVP was recorded by a laptop in an empty room near the end of the building. The laptop was placed on a shelf and left alone, while Cook headed outside along with the other members of the G.I.S. team.

When they eventually checked the laptop’s audio, what they found were seven minutes of nothing, followed by, well, listen for yourself (3:57 in the clip).

“I Can’t Breathe”

According to Cook, there were no children present during the investigation, and no water that could’ve made any kind of violent splashing sound. The room was empty at the time.

And yet, there it was in that recording.

What we hear in the audio (and this is my own interpretation) is what sounds like a higher-pitched voice saying something in a pleading tone, followed by a gutteral and almost demonic voice. It’s hard to make out what either of them are saying.

The two voices continue, back and forth, and then the splashing begins. This goes on for a short time, until you hear a deep grumbling sound, perhaps a thump, and the thrashing water stops.

“My God, what are we hearing?” – Art Bell

After the clip of the EVP finished, Art Bell and the two G.I.S. members went on to speculate about just what was going on in the recording.

Bell read a possible translation: The first voice, perhaps that of a child, said, “Help me, can’t breathe, I couldn’t breathe.” That was followed by a much lower voice saying, “Murder.” A third voice, perhaps belonging to an older woman, might’ve been present, also saying, “I couldn’t breathe.”

All of that, of course, is open to interpretation, as is the nature of most alleged EVPs. The consensus that night, however, was that the EVP contained the ghostly sounds of someone drowning, and perhaps being murdered.

For their part, the two members of G.I.S. provided their own possible explanations. Cook believed the EVP may have been of a residual haunting, a traumatic event recorded by the environment. McBeath, however, questioned that possibility. Residual hauntings, she thought, would at least reflect their nearby environments, and the sound of splashing water was quite the anomaly in an office room at the Exchange Building.

She did, however, mention a well in the basement.

Ogden Exchange Building: A History

Back then, listening to this EVP, I always had it in my mind that it took place in a concrete room with a single bathtub and nothing else. But that was never the case.

In fact, on the outside, the Ogden Exchange Building looks quite ordinary, if not a bit run down (here’s a short video of some urban explorers venturing inside in 2013).

Its story is an interesting one, though, and parts of it actually muddy the waters as far as its link to paranormal activity goes.

Opened in 1931, the place was originally part of a stockyard. In 1971, it closed down, and then reopened as a trade school. In 1974, it became a mental health center. That lasted until 1987. In 2005 (and here’s where things get tricky), the Exchange Building was turned into a haunted house. This is when its real history became entwined with the fictional one of the very much made-up Bellshire Hospital, an alleged insane asylum. And that’s also the same year of our EVP, here.

Rumors have it there have been multiple deaths in the building, including suicides, deaths from natural causes, and even a triple murder in the 1940s. Paranormal investigators in this video from 2007 mention apparitions of a little girl.

Curiously enough, there’s also a claim that an 8-year-old boy once drowned in a nearby canal.

But how many of these claims are true, and how many are simply urban legends or, worse, tales made up in the service of a haunted house attraction?

The Dead History has probably the most detailed breakdown of the Exchange Building’s history, and answers at least a few of these questions. Simply put, not everything said about its alleged haunted past is true.

However, in their article, they do drop one little factoid that could possibly be related to the EVP at hand: In 1985, a woman went missing in Ogden, and a pair of legs later turned up floating in the Weber River, not too far from the Exchange Building…

* * *

So, was the Exchange Building EVP the real deal? In some ways, it doesn’t matter: The question of authenticity never affected the chill I got down my spine when I first heard it. Heck, that still happens. Like I said, these things stick with you.

The nature of this EVP also raises questions. If it’s real, is it an environmental recording (or residual haunting), as Cook suggests? An echo in space-time of something that actually happened long ago?

Or is there something more nefarious happening on the other side?

Sometimes, I want to believe. Other times, not so much.

Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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