Infrasound and Paranormal Activity: Are They Connected?


Some theorize that sound waves with frequencies inaudible by humans, also known as infrasound, could explain paranormal activity like noises, feelings of fear and blurred vision. Jing Yang/EyeEm/Getty Images
Some theorize that sound waves with frequencies inaudible by humans, also known as infrasound, could explain paranormal activity like noises, feelings of fear and blurred vision. Jing Yang/EyeEm/Getty Images

Ghosts have fascinated humankind for centuries. The first literary reference to ghosts is found in the epic Gilgamesh, which was written between 2150 and 1400 B.C.E. and is considered the oldest piece of Western literature. And a 2005 Gallup poll showed that three out of four Americans believe in the paranormal, and 21 percent believe they have communicated with or made contact with the paranormal.

So, are ghosts real? Are they connected to religion? What about angels? There are so many belief systems today, it's hard give a solid answer one way or another. But in this episode of Stuff They Don't Want You to Know, hosts Ben Bowlin, Matt Frederick and Noel Brown do their best to speculate on specters in all their forms, and they give a few of their own experiences with the paranormal.

But the main focus here is on the science behind hauntings. Even if you don't admit you believe in ghosts, it turns out there might be explanation for hauntings that any Scully can appreciate: infrasound. Infrasound refers to low-frequency sounds vibrating from 0.1 to 20 Hz, just below the threshold for human hearing. It's used for monitoring earthquakes, in World War I, for locating artillery. But it was engineer Vic Tandy in 1980 who discovered that infrasound could be responsible for perceived "hauntings."

In his paper "Ghost in the Machine," Tandy describes working in a laboratory that had a reputation for being eerie. People complained of feeling anxious and uncomfortable there. Tandy himself thought he saw an apparition. One day, a fencing foil clamped in a vise started vibrating for no reason. He found a fan emitting noise at a frequency of 19 Hz, and when it was turned off, the noise — and the feelings of discomfort — disappeared. Tandy found that these low-frequency vibrations caused blurred vision, dizziness and feelings of fear in humans. He repeated his experiment at several locations reputed to be haunted.

Don't breathe a sigh of relief yet: There are many different kinds of ghosts, so this can't account for every spectral incident reported. Whether you're experiencing bumps in the night or class-five full roaming vapors, let Matt, Ben and Noel be your guide through all the strange things in this episode of their podcast.