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university night logoThe Voice in the Machine
by Christopher Doty

A voice from someone's past leaves a chilling calling card on a video tape.

In mid October 2004 Rogers Television was on location at the University of Western Ontario, shooting a segment for its popular prime time show, University Night at the Drink.

The crew consisted of a camera operator and a correspondent named Michelle. The subject of the shoot was a sociology student from Oakville named Jillian.

Less than two minutes into the interview Michelle asked Jillian what was the greatest film of all time.

"I like to think Goonies because it's all about adventure," she replied.

A few days later an editor was assembling the raw footage when she noticed something odd about the clip. There was a third female voice on the audio track whispering, "Shelly, Shelly, Shelly." Perturbed, she went back to the original field tape, only to find the voice was embedded on both tracks of audio, and was not a glitch in the editing equipment.

Word about the mysterious voice circulated through the building until it reached Michelle. She started when she heard the news. As a child she had been called Shelly by close family members - but no one involved with the show, other than herself, knew that.

The associate producer of the show leaked the story to the local media. On the night the segment aired, viewership and website hits relating to the program went through the roof.

This writer had an opportunity to inspect the field tape with the cameraman who shot the interview. The audio quality makes it clear it's not a person whispering off-camera. The interview had been recorded by a microphone wired into the camera in order to eliminate any atmospheric interference, and yet the incantation of "Shelly, Shelly, Shelly" was picked up by both the interviewee's lavelier and the camera mike. The shooter also dismissed the possibility the voice had bled through from a segment that had been recorded over.

In layman's terms, there is no technical explanation for the voice being on the tape, short of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena).

In retrospect, it's hard to figure out which is scarier; the voice on the Rogers field tape or that five other people connected with the show - including Michelle - cite Goonies as the best film of all time.

For more information on University Night visit:
www.universitynight.ca

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