By Rae Lipscomb
Are ghosts real? The answer to that all comes down to the individual opinion. Some believe they are and some spend countless nights calling out to the dead into empty, dark rooms of dilapidated hospitals, abandoned jails and houses that hold horrible pasts filled with pain, grief and anger, hoping for an answer from someone in the world beyond. The fear, dread, sadness and anger that is felt as they move throughout these buildings, hoping for a glimpse of something not belonging to this world, is caused by the negative energies that ghosts put out. Other thinks it’s a bunch of hogwash and all supernatural phenomenon can be tied to real world events. These are the type of people to ensure their fellows that the creaking is just the house settling, that that bang could have been anything, from the pipes to some random outside and that if you go into a dark space, expecting to hear voices then you are going to hear voices.
And now, those naysayers have another explanation for a supposed haunting in their arsenal: low frequency soundwaves or infrasound waves. According to Vic Tandy, an engineer from Coventry University, that sickly feeling of dread and unease that is found in the presence of a so-called ghost is actually low frequency sound waves, which cannot be heard by human ears but still sensed and felt through various afflictions. Tandy managed to discover this when he himself had a ghostly encounter with a ghoulish apparition, which he not only felt through cold shivers and paranoia but saw as a greyish shape out of the corner of his eye. Being a man of science, Tandy decided to run some tests on this so called haunting after a the tip of a fencing foil he had clamped into a vice began to vibrate intensely, seemingly without reason, in the very same spot he had been in during his spooky encounter.
After some careful detective work, Tandy came to realize that there was something known as a frequency standing wave in the lab where he worked. The extended explanation for said phenomenon is a bit complicated so Richard Wiseman’s article on the event is a highly recommend read as he goes into depth and detail over the scientific aspect of it. The frequency standing wave was being generated by a fan that had recently been installed in the extraction system for the cleaning room at the end of the lab. When the fan had been slightly modified, the standing wave went away and with it went the ghost. However, this leaves the question as to why did the standing wave cause Tandy to think there was a ghost in the room, and even witness a something that appeared to be one?
That answer is actually not that simple but can be simply put: low frequency sound waves have the habit of wreaking havoc on people. There have been various studies done on the effects that this type of noise has on humans and research has proven that being exposed to low frequency sound waves can cause your mind and body to go just a little bit haywire. Symptoms include shivering, anxiety and breathlessness, often with a little hyperventilating in there for good measure, as though danger is imminent and a person’s fight or flight response has kicked in.
Tests performed by NASA have shown that the human eye has a resonant frequency of 18 Hz and when exposed to an infrasound wave vibrating at a similar frequency, the human eye will start sympathy vibrating or rather, will start vibrating at the same rate as the infrasound wave. This can cause a smudging or smearing of vision, usually out of the periphery, which, when set in the right environment with the right mindset, would look an awful lot like a ghost. Combine that with the dread and unease that you’d already be feeling at that point in time as well as maybe some suggestions of a haunting by others who had experienced similar events and you got a perfect storm for a supernatural happening.
This is what Tandy experienced during that spooky encounter. The infrasound in the room at the time was vibrating at around 19 Hz, which caused Tandy’s eyes to start vibrating at a similar frequency and this led to the supposed ghost popping up in his periphery. The low frequency sound was also responsible for the way Tandy was feeling: shivering, uneasy, as though he was being watched and that he was in danger. Without a shadow of a doubt, at least in Tandy’s mind, the entire incident had been caused by some simple ole soundwaves messing with his head. Tandy went on to disprove two other hauntings by proving similar low frequency soundwaves had been occurring at those locations.
Does this prove without a shadow of a doubt that ghosts do not exist? Again, that is left to the opinion of the individual. For some, this will just be another nail in the coffin of the ghost theory. It will just be another explanation to sweep away whatever happenings had been going on. For others, it is the as drafts and radio waves and lights casting shadows – something to be taken note of and proven or disproven, confirmed or busted in places of supposed hauntings. Is there or isn’t there? Science will undoubtedly continue providing so called answers but believers will always find ways to wiggle around them. Until we have undeniable proof either way, we’ll just have to speculate as to whether or not what we see is real real or simply pesky soundwaves conjuring up a not so friendly ghost.
Ghosts Created by Low Frequency Sounds. (n.d.). Retrieved May 04, 2016, from http://www.meta-religion.com/Paranormale/Ghost/ghosts_created_by_low_frequency.htm
Wiseman, R. (1998, April). The Ghost in the Machine. Retrieved May 04, 2016, from http://www.richardwiseman.com/resources/ghost-in-machine.pdf