'When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.'


Many believe that Infrasound can cause people to have ghost-like experiences. This is usually because Vic Tandy and Dr Tony Lawrence wrote a paper in 1988 called “Ghosts in the Machine” for the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. They cited infra-sound as the cause of apparitions seen by staff at a so-called haunted laboratory in Warwick – including Tandy himself.

After he had a few strange apparitional experiences he suggested that the infra-sound being produced by an extractor fan was making his eyeballs resonate, which caused him to see an illusion. Tandy cites a NASA research paper that says the eyeball resonates at 18hz, and points out that the infrasound in the laboratory measured in at 18hz. However there are a few issues with Tandy’s interpretation of the NASA technical report.

We know that a zero to two G accelerometer was bonded to a fiberglas-reinforced empty spectacle frame. This spectacle-frame-accelerometer unit could then be tightly adjusted to the subject’s face so as to follow and measure skull vibration in the vicinity of the orbit. The accelerometer was connected to an electronic apparatus whose output could be viewed on an oscilloscope calibrated to read in “G” units. A Polaroid camera was used to record the output of the oscilloscope during the test period.

They produced the vibration by strapping the subject in an aircrew type seat without cushioning, and restrained them with lap and shoulder harnesses. The seat, in turn, was mounted on an electromagnetic shaker. No infrasound was used to produce the vibration of the eye – the frequency was 8Hz, but this was caused from the motion of the chair and was not a measure of sound waves.

Skull vibration itself is not uniformly transmitted to the eye. In the vicinity of 18 Hz, skull input vibration is amplified more than 30% but there is no increase in occular resonance, and considering the skull vibration has little influence over occular resonance infrasound seems an unlikely culprit for producing occular hallucinations.

There have been a studies conducted over the years to see if infrasound can cause people to have strange experiences, but until positive results can be replicated with proper controls in place it is difficult to say infrasound is likely a sole cause for anomalous experiences. In their 2006 paper ‘Good Vibrations: the case for a specific effect of infrasound’ Jason Braithwaite & Maurice Townsend concluded the same thing.

Recommended reading

The Ghost in the Machine‘ by Vic Tandy and Dr Tony Lawrence

The NASA technical report

‘Good Vibrations: The case for a specific effect of infrasound in instances of anomalous experience has yet to be empirically demonstrated’ by Jason Braithwaite & Maurice Townsend

1 Comment

  1. There is a more recent paper published in JSPR (2012) that explores infrasound & it’s link to paranormal reports. It also questions Tandy’s assumptions.
    This link is to the JSPR paper download

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