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Monday, October 31, 2011

Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Vic Tandy on Ghosts and Infrasound


  Neil DeGrasse Tyson Eugene Mirman - StarTalk - Infrasound by SciBinge

Listening to this excerpt of StarTalk, Neil DeGrasse Tyson points out a fascinating study.

Vic Tandy of the School of International Studies and Law at Coventry University put together a paper back in 1998 called The Ghost in the Machine.  In it, he describes the science behind a phenomenon concerning the human eye, which stands to be the root cause of a portion of "ghost sightings."  Apparently 18hz-19hz sound waves can cause a resonant vibration in the eye, inducing artifacts misinterpreted as supernatural.  These frequencies are referred to as infrasound because they are below the hearing range of humans.  20hz is classically the lowest frequency a human can detect via hearing (vibration through touch is a separate issue), and the overall range of hearing narrows with age.  20hz-20,000hz is classically known to be the range of hearing in a baby, with pristine undamaged ears.

Everyone's eyeballs are different, so the exact frequency must vary.
 Tandy states on the resonant frequency:
"Eyeballs (1-100Hz mostly above 8 Hz and strongly 20-70Hz effect difficulty in seeing)"

As a side note, infrasound can be heard by elephants; which leads me to conclude that there must be significantly less ghost elephant sightings amongst their communities.

Here's the abstract of Ghost in the Machine:
"In this paper we outline an as yet undocumented natural cause for some cases of ostensible haunting. Using the first author’s own experience as an example, we show how a 19hz standing air wave may under certain conditions create sensory phenomena suggestive of a ghost. The mechanics and physiology of this ‘ghost in the machine’ effect is outlined. Spontaneous case researchers are encouraged to rule out this potential natural explanation for paranormal experience in future cases of the haunting or poltergeistic type."

Download the paper here: Ghost in the Machine

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Vic Tandy, Tony R. Lawrence (1998). The Ghost in the Machine Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 62


  1. One wonders why this isn't used more by haunted house attractions. Seems like it would be pretty easy to just set up a big-ass speaker and run it back and forth through this sound range.

  2. Recent;y published in the JSPR this paper might be of interest

  3. Recent;y published in the JSPR this paper might be of interest

  4. I heard one friend explain it off as a gas leak, although that doesn't hold water since these things are caught on videos and with recordings answering back to a question asked etc. My wife had woken up to a dark figure with no features just pure shadow once, it was standing right over her and Tyson's comments could explain it maybe. Although I was just talking to a woman near our area that moved into a house couple of months ago, where things are touching her hair with no one around and other odd things like that, although she said it was 'nice' whatever that means. I think there is still some researching to do on what's going on out there, that is why I'm here in the first place.


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