Infrasound — sounds below audible human hearing, especially those close enough to still affect us on some level due to the vibrations — have recently started to become of great interest to researchers. The world has changed and now there are many artificial sources of infrasound, which gives much greater need to understand the phenomenon and how it affects us. Some people believe it could give them negative effects of various kinds, although this could be the nocebo effect, and others have claimed it is responsible for the reports of hauntings around the world. While these theories are fascinating, our understanding of infrasound is very young, so there is much still to learn.
10. Infrasound Has Been Linked By Researchers To People’s Claims Of Hauntings
Infrasound has recently been referred to as the fear frequency, and with good reason. The first scientist to discover this theory was a British engineer named Vic Tandy. He was working in a lab when he felt goosebumps and saw a strange gray blob out of the corner of his eye. While most people would freak out and think they were haunted, Tandy was a man of science, and was less than convinced. After some testing, he discovered that the lab’s extractor fan was running extremely close to 18.9hz, the frequency some now associate with fear. He claimed that after turning off the fan, he suddenly no longer felt so weirded out, like a strange weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Since Tandy’s groundbreaking discovery, many have sought to replicate his claims. In May 2003 a concert called Infrasonic was held in the UK as part of a large experiment on infrasound. The concert had both infrasonic and non-infrasonic performances, but no one told the audience which was which. Based on surveys, about 22% of concertgoers had fear reactions to the infrasonic performance. Another experiment in the UK involved a room rigged up to make infrasound where 79 people volunteered to test it out. Many reported feeling dizzy, or having strange sensations, but the oddest were those who claimed to have felt a feeling of sheer terror while in the room.
Since then, more experiments have been conducted at many alleged haunted hotspots, and usually the results show that infrasound does occur in the area, due to the shape of the allegedly haunted old location and its draftiness (or what have you). However, scientists caution that we should still be careful what we take away from this. Some scientists believe suggestibility still plays a strong role in how infrasound effects people, and that even then, it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.
9. Our Reaction To Infrasound May Be An Instinctual Warning System
Infrasound is something we’re really only now beginning to understand. Until relatively recently, because the sound was slightly below conscious human hearing, most forms of infrasound were an entirely unstudied and unknown phenomenon. However, recently we’ve started to understand it far better and it’s led to all kinds of theories and discoveries. For example, we’ve learned that many different animals can produce sounds below our conscious level of hearing, and some now speculate that predators making sounds like this could be a link to why some people are freaked out so much by this frequency.
It turns out that the roar a tiger makes slightly before pouncing is actually 18hz, which is right around the level that humans can sort of detect a sound on a certain level, but cannot consciously hear it. While it’s hard to know for certain, some have speculated that many people who evolved near creatures like the tiger, that made these sounds shortly before attacking, may have ended up with a reaction to the sound that gives them a feeling of fear, so they know dangerous predators are nearby. This could explain why even among the suggestible, the frequency doesn’t necessarily seem to have the same fear effect on everyone, and certainly not to the same extent — even among those it does affect.
8. Infrasound Can Be Produced By Natural Phenomenon Such As Earthquakes And Volcanoes
Interestingly, while most people tend to think of infrasound as either coming from animals or produced unnaturally, it can pop up naturally in many different forms. Infrasound is really just sound below human hearing — although how close to human hearing the sound is seems to have more of an effect on us psychologically. Regardless, infrasound can be produced by all kinds of weather effects or natural systems. The rumbling of earthquakes, the sounds made inside a volcano, and so many other similar occurrences can be below human hearing but still have effects on the environment around us, and affect us as well in ways we don’t even realize.
Now, it’s hard to say how these sounds may affect us, as not a lot of studies have really been done to test natural infrasound on humans; it would be hard to account for all of the variables. However, perhaps it could explain why people consider some natural regions, mostly untouched by man, to be haunted. Perhaps the resonance of earthquakes, volcanoes, or other natural infrasound just happen to be amplified well at that particular spot, and thus convince people that something supernatural is going on. Back in the day, when beliefs in many spirits was even more prominent and there were less scientific explanations (and frequency below hearing was not something anyone would likely even consider as an explanation for hauntings), they would have had no idea what was going on.
7. Infrasound Was Used In World War I To Locate German Artillery Pieces
Back in the early 1900s, when World War I was raging on, infrasound was something people really didn’t understand — or at least understand the effects of — and every country was also looking for any new technology that could give them an edge in combat. While some were looking at how to upgrade their own weapons of war, there were also people dedicated to better scanning technology in order to figure out the movements of the enemy’s own, fearsome new tech.
In 1915, William Lawrence Bragg, a Nobel Prize winner from Australia, was serving in France. He had started out as cavalry, but with his skills in science soon found himself involved in the process of mapping out enemy emplacements and other such tasks. While serving, he made one of the most important discoveries anyone has ever made while sitting on a toilet. His entire toilet seat would jump off the ground a bit when artillery fired relatively nearby. Most people would not have noticed anything amiss, but as a Nobel Prize winning scientist, it got him thinking.
He realized that despite the lack of audible noise from the artillery fire, there must’ve been an incredible amount of energy being released in a form of sound considering the vibrations. He was able, with the help of another physicist named Corporal W.S. Tucker, to rig up a little wooden box with a wire and use it to measure the resistance when a puff of air made its way into the box after artillery fire, giving them a way of measuring the amount of energy that had reached them from the artillery. This invention helped the allies locate German artillery to within 25-50 meters and played a role in changing the course of the war.
6. The Cuba Embassy Attacks Have Been Theorized As Some Kind Of New Infrasonic Weapon
Not long ago, the world was mystified by the strange attacks going on at the United States Embassy in Cuba. Many different state employees all claimed to hear a strange buzzing noise at various times, and believed that they were dealing with some new kind of sonic weapon that was being deployed against them by either the Cubans or their allies, the Russians. Some got sick or dizzy, and had various other similar symptoms. Now, there is always the possibility of mass hysteria in situations like these, but as far as investigators were able to tell, there was no reason to believe anyone was making up the noise, or its effect.
Most people blamed the Russian government and suggested they had used some kind of new weapon. And, despite infrasound being below audible human hearing, many people started suggesting that it was to blame, and that at the very least, there was an infrasonic component that was being used to slowly drive the ambassadors and other employees mad so they would leave. However, further research into the situation has yielded results that suggest otherwise. It turns out that the audible noise as well as the unpleasant effects were probably unintentional, and a side effect of spying. It is possible that two listening devices, placed in the wrong places, could have caused this effect. If nothing else, it may have been a somewhat less than competent attempt at hearing what US personnel were talking about.
5. Irreversible, Paranormal Activity, And Other Films Have Used Infrasound To Great Effect
Since people started to realize that infrasound could actually creep us out on an unconscious level, there have been those who saw dollar signs and little else. For those who are in the business of creeping people out professionally, especially those who make horror movies, this was a great lbit of news they could use to their advantage. Now, interestingly, many directors have not made huge use of this yet… but the knowledge of infrasound’s power is still relatively new, so it may yet become a trend. Regardless, some films have already made conscious use of these frequencies, and have had great success — especially in theaters — at disturbing people. Two of the most notable examples are the films Irreversible and Paranormal Activity.
Irreversible registered at 27hz, which is still a little above the normal infrasound range, but provided a sort of low key vibration that people had going on in the background while watching and hardly noticed. This helped add to the generally shocking and surreal nature of the film, and helped make it truly disturbing. It’s also said that the Paranormal Activity franchise used infrasound as well, and actually used a more proper infrasonic frequency.
4. Many Different Animals Are Capable Of Producing Infrasound
While animals like tigers may be known to make a sound slightly below human hearing before pouncing and killing, many animals actually utilize infrasound for far more benevolent reasons. Some use it as a warning system, and others use it to communicate over long distances. Whales are known for this ability and can communicate with each other over incredibly vast distances in the ocean. Elephants may not have quite the range of whales, but for land animals, they can still carry their infrasonic communications for miles to communicate with the rest of the herd, and warn them if necessary. Only recently has our equipment become sophisticated enough to even realize that elephants are doing this.
Alligators are another animal that can create infrasound, using special sacs in their mouths that create sounds below our hearing, meant to attract mates. While many animals such as alligators, whales, elephants, and others can produce infrasound, it’s theorized that many different animals can also detect infrasound. This would stand to reason. Scientists have long wondered why so many animals are good at detecting coming natural disasters, such as tsunamis, and this could explain it all. If animals can detect infrasound, especially from extremely long distances away, they could theoretically predict things like volcano eruptions well before they happened and make their escape ahead of time.
3. Infrasound Sound Makes Up An Important Part Of The Nuclear Detonation Detection System
The world hasn’t been the same since the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People have been worried ever since about the potential outbreak of nuclear war, and a generation of children grew up being told to go hide under their desks in the event of a nuclear explosion — as if that would have done them any good. In a way, the fear was understandable. After the first bombs were dropped, the major world powers started testing nuclear devices like crazy, which likely started putting most of the world extremely on edge. By 1963, Russia and the United States had signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, and by 1996 the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was signed as well. The United States, in both cases, wanted to make sure that Russia did their part and put together a comprehensive system to test for any worldwide nuclear detonations.
The current system is an upgraded and overhauled version of the original, but it contains all of the same basic features. Along with satellites, there are hundreds of monitoring stations set up all over the world to measure every possible kind of sound, vibration, or energy you can imagine. Among them are hundreds of stations with micro-barometers, meant to detect infrasound waves traveling around the earth. While alone the infrasound system could occasionally be tricked into thinking a nuclear detonation is something natural, or vice versa, from a long distance it makes up an integral component of the entire system.
2. There Has Been A Theorized Link Between Wind Turbines And Infrasound Disturbances
Some of the strangest things that have popped up in the modern world are all the new “diseases” and conditions brought on by modern technology that are often claimed as an affliction by many, with dubious (or no) science behind them. One of the most pervasive of these is “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” a supposed condition where being around the constant low hum of wind turbines is actually causing people to get dizziness, nausea, lack of sleep, headaches, and even cancer, for those who take it really, really far.
Science has been been unable to satisfactorily prove any real physical link, aside from the fact that sound can cause annoyance, and occasionally lack of sleep… which isn’t new and isn’t really a special condition. People who live near freeways, airports, or in big cities have been using white noise or earplugs to get to sleep for ages.
However, while some might just blame the nocebo effect, there could still be a certain effect it could be having on people psychologically that’s not just due to mass hysteria. Some wind turbines could put out vibrations that are not just audible hums, but also some frequencies that are below audible human hearing — infrasound. These frequencies can give people psychological discomfort that can result in simple, physical stress symptoms such as feeling sick or having headaches. Perhaps those who think wind turbines are affecting them negatively should test the area around their local turbines to see if it’s a hotspot for infrasound. Now, in a way this would still sort of be all in your head, especially if it is infrasound, and suggestibility still plays a role.
1. Scientists Have Theorized Recently That Detecting Infrasound Greatly Helps Pigeons Navigate
Pigeons are a species of bird that are really good at navigating — among a group of animals that are known for navigation skills already. Many people may assume that they use magnetic fields to navigate, and this likely would have been a good assumption for quite some time. But it turns out there may be a lot more going on. Now, some scientists did consider the possibility that infrasound could play a role, but no one had really had much more than an inkling. However, a geophysicist named Jonathan Hagstrum was thinking about a case involving a lot of lost pigeons, and he started wondering.
Hagstrum remembered a race in 1997 where 60,000 pigeons had been lost on an event from England to France; they had crossed the path of a jet, and subsequently lost their ability to navigate properly. Hagstrum believed infrasound must be the culprit, and set about looking into the issue. From the University of Menlo Park in California, he put together data from pigeon releases and started analyzing sound data in the area, testing temperatures and other things that could affect sound, and studied lost birds. When he published his paper, it was a very convincing argument that pigeons, and likely many other birds, utilize infrasound as a large part of their navigational suite.