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The Fear Frequency - Infrasound and the Paranormal

No paranormal phenomenon is more prevalent across the world than ghosts. More people believe in, and believe that they have seen spirits than ascribe to any major religion. Human history is littered with references to spirits of all stripes - from the dearly departed, to malevolent demons.

Assuming that ghosts aren't real, what could be the cause? Hallucinations seem like an unlikely solution. The vast majority of our species does not suffer from any hallucinatory condition. Most drugs and alcohol also do not induce hallucinations (contrary to popular belief).

The alternative is that ghosts are real, and with them all the implications about the afterlife. Some theorize that apparitions seen in hauntings are little more than the psychic imprint of a person. They contain no trace of personality or thought, existing as mere replays (the Stone Tape Theory).

There is another explanation though. Firmly rooted in science, and discovered accidentally. Infrasound.

What is Infrasound?

Sound itself seems like a fairly obvious thing. But how does one describe it? The sound that we hear is only a fraction of the spectrum, after all. Sound can also be felt in the form of vibrations in the air.

Technically, sound is the mechanical disturbance of a medium, such as air, which creates waves of pressure. Our ears pick up these vibrations and interpret them as sound. But there is a lot of sound that exceeds our eardrums' ability to pick up and process.

We call these 'invisible' sounds infrasound (for sounds too low to hear) and ultrasound (for sounds too high to hear). Dog whistles are ultrasonic, for example. Elephants communicate across great distances by producing infrasound.

Low tones make heavier vibrations in the air. That's why people say that they can feel the bass in a song. Legends speak of a particularly low tone that can vibrate the listener's bowels in such a way as to cause uncontrollable defecation. The brown note is likely a myth, but acoustics are capable of many amazing feats that might appear like magic.

Tigers emit infrasound before they attack, at roughly 18hz. This infrasound is actually one of the tigers' main weapons. Scientists speculate that this soundwave can immobilize prey with fear and anxiety, making them easier to catch.

Vic Tandy & The Haunted Lab

Researchers working on medical equipment in Coventry University in the 1980s had a secret. Despite their ardent beliefs in rationality, they knew the labs to be haunted.

Vic Tandy, one of the researchers, did not share this belief. He blamed the generally noisy atmosphere created by the life support machines that they were working on. Combined with the darkness of the windowless labs, this created what he assumed would be a spooky atmosphere.

Tandy was a man who was not easily flapped. He enjoyed working late into the night in the empty, haunted lab. Sometimes he would hang out there after his work was done.

One night, Vic Tandy felt the hair on the back of his neck rise up. He broke out in cold sweat. His breathing sped up. Vic's heart pounded in his ears. His stomach twisted itself into an anxious knot. Deep within his mind a single conviction formed, he wasn't alone.

Frozen in fear, Vic noticed an eerie gray figure float into his peripheral vision. It was a ghost. Tandy felt the bedrock of his scientific beliefs crack. He mustered what courage he could, and turned to face the entity. It vanished.

Tandy fled the lab. He left his fencing foil where he had set it up in a vice.

Vic returned to work the next day. He felt squeamish, and embarrassed. Mentioning none of it to his colleagues, he rushed to his lab.

As soon as he closed the door behind himself he felt the anxiety creep back in. There was definitely something going on here. He scanned the interior with his back to the door.

Then, he saw something. Not a ghost, but still strange activity. His fencing foil was vibrating. The blade oscillated up and down in a steady rhythm. Was this evidence of a supernatural being playing with his foil?

Photo by cottonbro studio:
Have at thee, specter!

Vic's logical foundation resolidified. He rushed out to collect equipment to measure soundwaves. Soon he discovered that there was a standing soundwave resonating at roughly 19hz, concentrated in the middle of the room. Tandy followed the sound to its source, a newly installed extractor fan. He turned it off, and the soundwave disappeared.

Human hearing begins at 20hz. Tandy investigated the 19hz soundwave, and found that it can cause fear, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, feelings of unease, and even induce panic attacks in humans. It can also trick the brain into imagining figures in the peripheral vision, as our eyes begin to vibrate almost imperceptibly along with the sound.

Are All Hauntings Just Noise?

Many famously haunted places have been checked for infrasound. The results are conclusive, most hauntings are caused by standing soundwaves. Old plumbing, faulty fans, and a host of machines have been linked to the creation of the 19hz fear frequency.

It does not explain every haunting. There are still cases that defy this particular explanation. We may yet discover the truth behind the phenomena, but that day has not yet come.

It is reassuring that witnesses of the paranormal are not just imagining things. There is real science to ghosts.



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