Science

Infrasound: The Fear Frequency

Infrasound is sound below 20 Hz, lower than humans can perceive. But just because we don’t consciously hear it, that doesn’t mean we don’t respond to it; in certain individuals, low-frequency sound can induce feelings of fear or dread or even depression.

They may even be responsible for some ghost sightings, but we’ll get to that in a second.

What causes infrasound? Anything from earthquakes to meteors to ocean waves to fans to old, vibrating pipes in your attic. The occassional nuclear explosion, too (we actually use infrasound to detect them). Even certain animals produce infrasound to communicate with one another, like whales and elephants.

“Elephants, in particular, produce infrasound waves that travel through solid ground and are sensed by other herds using their feet, although they may be separated by hundreds of kilometres.”

Animals also react to infrasound. This may be one of the reasons they’re so quick to react when a natural disaster is looming, such as an earthquake.

In humans, infrasound can cause a number of strange, seemingly inexplicable effects: headaches, nausea, night terrors and sleep disorders. But low-frequency sound can do even more than that.

Infrasound and Ghosts

If infrasound hits at just the right strength and frequency, it can resonate with human eyes, causing them to vibrate. This can lead to distorted vision and the possibility of “ghost” sightings. Or, at least, what some would call ghost sightings. Infrasound may also cause a person to “feel” that there’s an entity in the room with him or her, accompanied by that aforementioned sense of dread.

This bizarre phenomenon has been documented on multiple occasions. For example, one night while working at a “haunted” laboratory, Vic Tandy of Coventry University experienced feelings of anxiety, and even witnessed a dark “blob” out of the corner of his eye. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. But when he turned to face the strange figure, he found nothing there.

The next day, Tandy saw the dark figure again, and he also noticed that the fencing foil he was working with — clamped to a vice — was inexplicably vibrating. So he decided to investigate.

As it turned out, there was a silent fan in the laboratory. The fan was giving off low-frequency sound waves at 18.98 Hz, right around the resonant frequency of the human eye. It had also created a standing wave in one area of the room, which is what caused the foil to vibrate.

According to Tandy, “When we finally switched it off, it was as if a huge weight was lifted.”

The strange vibrations, optical illusions, and depressed feelings were due to infrasound, and had given the laboratory the reputation of being haunted. But it was all because of a vibrating fan.

Anyway, is infrasound an explanation for all ghosts sightings and supernatural activity? Of course not. The infrasound connection is ultimately just a theory. But if you ask me, the fact that low-frequency sound can affect humans in various ways is extraordinary in and of itself.

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Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. For nearly 10 years, he's managed Stranger Dimensions, providing a unique perspective on all matters involving time travel, parallel universes, and whether or not robots might one day take over the world.

12 Comments

  1. Thanks, Rob. Interesting article. I’ve definitely become irritated around wind turbines and have experienced waking immediately prior to earthquakes (P waves I suspect).

  2. Thanks and linked to so much more!
    Crop circles produce geometric forms, the higher frequency, the more complex.
    Could this explain the sudden ‘advance’ humans made around 50,000 BC?
    The cave art as advanced as our own?
    But with a down side as well, decreasing left brain function at the expense of right brain art and emotion?

  3. I was just reading a book, Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kravetz, where he dismisses complaints about wind turbines. But it does make one wonder what we don’t yet understand about how not easily observed factors can have significant influence over us. Human senses are severely limited and so we are largely unaware of the world around us, even when it is causing us harm. The human senses can’t detect tiny parasites, toxins, climate change, etc. And the human tendency is to deny the unknown, even when it is obvious something is going on.

    This article reminds me of Fortean observations. It’s been noted by a number of paranormal and UFO researchers, such as John Keel, that various odd experiences tend to happen in the same places. UFOs tend to be sighted in the same repeated locations and often at those same locations there will be bigfoot sightings and other unusual happenings. Jacques Vallee also noted that the certain Fortean incidents tend to follow the same pattern, such as UFO abductions matching the folktales of fairy abductions and the anthropological literature on shamanistic initiations.

    Or consider what sometimes are called fairy lights. No one knows what causes them, but even scientists have observed them. There are many sites that are specifically known for their fairly lights. My oldest brother went to one of those places and indeed he saw the same thing that thousands of others had seen. The weird thing about these balls of light is it is hard to discern exactly where they are in terms of distance from you, going from seeming close to seeming far. It’s possible that there is nothing actually there and instead it is some frequency affecting the brain.

    Maybe many diverse human experiences have common causes. We simply haven’t yet figured them out yet. But improved research methods might allow us to look more closely at typically ignored and previously unknown factors.

  4. Dear Rob,

    I found your article really interesting. I suspect we are suffering low frequency sound effects & are suffering physically from it now ie we both suddenly have hyperacusis & cataracts! Is there any chance you could kindly email me so I can get some advice from you please? Hope you can. Kind Regards Katrina

  5. I often wonder if the increase in depression and stress in the modern world in general isn’t caused in a small part by noise pollution of this kind. It is hard to find a place where we are NOT bombarded by these kinds of sounds. And if the incredible lightness we feel when we escape to natural places isn’t because we’ve taken ourselves away from that constant “dread” drone?

  6. Watching a TV show which talked about infrasound really caught my interest today as I had a really life changing experience last spring regarding it. I decided to google it and I found your article about it. It was so comforting to me to see a name put to something I had thought was just a call to a nursing home or a mental hospital.
    I was going outside with my camera (phone) – I live in the country-in the woods – to videotape the fireflies. It was a really dark, quiet night and I thought it would be fun to put the clip on facebook. As soon as I had filmed it, I felt this ominous, dark feeling come over me and I was afraid. Of course my dog picked up on the vibes and he also became really nervous and watchful. After I posted it, I listened to it and heard a really low, muted hum that sounded eerie. I later determined that it was the sound of the 18-wheelers downshifting on the neighboring highway. But this was not until I told my kids, my doctor and too many people about the terrified feeling I felt. I was afraid to go past a window, to another room without a gun, to go outside for ANY reason….I have lived in this house for 25 years and have never before had these feelings of inexplicable terror that I had last April. Nor since. I can go anywhere in pitch dark on my property and feel prepared now, but I really had my friends and family wondering for a while…This seems like an answer. I wish you could hear the video I took of that evening. It still makes me a little nervous when I listen to it.

    1. Fascinating. Sorry to hear about your experience but very glad that you are feeling safer now – and even better, that you found a scientific explanation for it! We are designed in a way that can sometimes confuse us.

  7. Super interesting article! I’m a psychic medium, and I remember one time going into a building I was told was haunted. I’m extremely sensitive and able to perceive many types of entities that most do not, but I didn’t sense anything there.

    Now, I’m also mostly blind and tuned in to what I hear. I can’t say I heard a sound, but I felt something that gave me a deep headache. I asked if there was some machinery going. The person first said no, but I asked if they had an attic fan, and they did. I advised them to turn it off. The “paranormal activity” ceased.

    On a related note, the water department by where I live is tearing up the ground for new lines. When the machines are running, even when they’re miles away from me, I get that deep headache and feel really nervous. All I can do at those times is breathe deeply and recognize the feeling is not from an imminent threat.

    Thanks. I hadn’t thought about the water dept. machinery in that light until just now.

    Ronda Del Boccio
    psychic, medium, and best-selling author
    all over social &&/or connect at InnerGuidanceOnDemand “dot” com

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