Infrasound: The Silent Creepy Sound of the Horror Movies

in #stemng4 years ago (edited)

Sitting comfy with the best friend in the dark theatre, you watch the character navigating the lonely path through the forest. There was nothing scary about walking along a lonely road, but when the low sounds float out through the speakers surrounding the theatre, you somehow fear for the safety of the character while technically sitting on the edge of the seat holding your breath.

By LifeOfMike [CC BY-SA 4.0] , from Wikipedia Commons

Did the above scenario seem familiar? As stereotypical as it may sound, the horror movie directors (and other genre movie music directors) knows the power of sound/music in their movies, and they capitalise on it every chance they got. Films like The Shining did instil some level of fear in the audience with its clever use of sounds and music.

The sounds of silence

Filmmakers now employ another ingenious way to increase the scare factor in the movies. They do this through the introduction of infrasound. Infrasound involves the use of low-frequency bass waves or vibrations to induce fear, a low frequency which can cause anxiety.

Sound range, By LightYear [CC BY-SA 2.5] , from Wikipedia Commons

Our ears usually have a range of frequencies it can respond to, and the field is between 20Hz to 20,000 Hz. Though under the optimum condition and with the use of earphones, a human can hear 1.5Hz. A frequency below 20Hz is infrasound while that above 20,000Hz is the ultrasound.

The sound is a disturbance of molecules which makes it vibrate and sets up a resonance which impacts the next molecule and so a chain reaction until our ears pick it up. Since materials have all their molecules tightly packed together, the disturbance of the adjacent molecules occurs at a faster rate making sound travel more rapidly in the denser medium.

Therefore, a high-frequency sound causes a higher sound pitch perception. The brain perception is dependent on how fast the eardrum can sense the compression changes per second. Older people experience hearing deterioration, the fact that some mischievous young people capitalise on when they develop a special ringtone known as "mosquito" ringtone. The ringtone is usually above the range their much older teacher could hear, so they can communicate in class without the teacher being the wiser. People aged 30 and above stand the chance of being unable to hear above 16,000Hz. You can click here to see if you can hear the ultrasonic "mosquito" ringtone. The sound is higher than an actual mosquito noise at 17.4khz as the real mosquito noise stands between 400 to 600 Hz.

The 2002 French psychological horror drama film, Irréversible made great use of infrasounds to create that scary effects. Check out this 19Hz infrasound; you may need an earphone plus crank up the volume to the max and let me know how you feel.

Aerial View of infrasound station array at Tristan da Cunha, U.K. By The Official CTBTO Photostream[CC BY 2.0], from Wikipedia Commons

The infrasound has a bizarre way of affecting the listeners; this was brought to light by Vic Tandy, a British lecturer and researcher on information technology.

He thought his lab was haunted and he later discovered the cause of his trepidation was from a low running newly installed extractor fan.

The natural cause of infrasound includes earthquakes, meteors, ocean waves, etc. and artificial include nuclear explosions, fans, wind turbines etc.

Infrasound is low frequency and thus capable of travelling great distances.

Due to this inherent capability, scientists use infrasound to track herds migrations over vast distances, check for volcanic eruptions and monitor nuclear explosions.

Comprehensive-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is an organisation in charge of detecting any nuclear bomb testing from any country in the world.

A cleverly hidden underground test may not give off a telltale whiff or residue in the atmosphere, but the seismic and infrasound rumble is one that cannot be masked.

The technology allows for detection of meteors as was evident in the meteorite that hit Russia in 2013. The network of CTBTO's station all recorded the low-frequency infrasound. Astonishingly, the furthest station located at 15,000km in Antarctica was also able to record the sub-audible sound.

Certain animals can produce infrasound such as whales and elephants. The elephants are capable of communicating with herds separated by hundreds of kilometres.

This unique trait of able to hear infrasound gives most animals the ability to run out of a zone just before an earthquake or Tsunami.

The infrasound that a wind turbine creates is now a subject of research and study.

This is as a result of people who are sensitive to sensory stimuli which can cause some form of hypersensitivity and exhibition of symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, difficulty in concentration, unsteadiness, etc.


The low frequency has a lot of uses as well as its annoying sides. The ghostly angle of haunted houses and the connection to infrasound is something I find quite fascinating.

Even though most cannot hear it, it has its effects and uses.

Thank you.


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Ceratin animals can produce infrasound such as whales and elephants. The elephants are capable of communicating with herds separated by hundreds of kilometres.

And of course bats that I think are much more famous for their infrasound usage :)

I didn't know this was used in movies. Interesting reading , as usual ;)

Horror movie producers knows how to instill the fear in movie audience, from cries of animals to that of babies. Now the use of infrasound to just give you that thrill that we hate to love.

This had me wondering...
When reading horror stories how do we still get scared?

I guess our minds play tricks on us.

There's more to sounds than meets the eyes... Or should I say ears?

Great, informative post!

The author knows how to get you through their good use of words and suspense.

He thought his lab was haunted and he later discovered the cause of his trepidation was from a low running newly installed extractor fan.

Can't we make sense of the supernatural from so many different perspectives? 😊

I just love it!

Take Care Green :)

Imagine a fan scarring the man witless. Some of the "supernatural" sounds of most old houses may just be a loose board :)

As a fan of horror content, I like people can find new ways to scare others, and sounds does indeed plays a huge role in making horror movies more intense.

At least in my case, after consuming so much horror content over the years, is quite hard to find a good movie or story that really makes you think it is of high quality. And using new technology can certainly help making everything more interesting.

To give another example, VR surely takes the horror experience to the next level :).

Cheers @greenrun!

VR puts you in the movie, you are no longer a spectator but a participant. Kinda changes the perspective of things. I'm hoping for the day the gear will be like a regular sunglass.

I almost damaged stuff on the way when I had a Samsung VR worn over my eyes. I was in the wild, and animals were just passing by. Felt real for a minute.

Hello @greenrun sir,

With each visits I learn a new thing via your blog. And the way you write makes one keep coming here unendingly 😂

Today, I learnt about the difference between ultrasound and infrasound. And more especially the applications of Infrasound in various real life scenarios. Infrasound is entirely new word to me despite my elementary knowledge of high school physics.

I am really learning amazing new things since I started focusing on steemstem community, more especially in those science niches that's not within my niche. I wonder how much all you veteran members of this community have already learnt.

I salute all of you, the managers of this community, who are working to encourage culture of engagement among the members of this community.

It's an awesome way of growing a group of science enthusiasts and core scientists who are verse in their knowledge of science.



@eurogee of @euronation and @steemstem communities.

If you lay aside the monetary compensation that comes with steemit, it is actually a place to learn a lot of new things. I do agree that I've learnt quite some things in the months I've been here. Thank you.

An exciting and fascinating read.

On the premise of the use ultrasound in the creation of eerie sounds in movies, I believe Christopher Nolan has used this to a great degree in his works over the years. Remember Inception?

Anyways, have you seen Dunkirk? it is a fascinating war movie because of how CN used sounds to emit fear, there was no single sight of blood throughout the entire movie, but you'll be at the edge of your seat for the entirety of the movie.

Wonderful post @greenrun

I have Dunkirk in my PC now. I still over 250GB of movie to watch. I watched the movie and saw the monotony of war, the constant waiting. The hopelessness, plus the will to survive against all odds. I would call Dunkirk a horror movie, just another war movie with a little difference.

Is there any chance that in that 250GB war chest of movies, you somehow have Deadpool 2, Inglorious Basterds, Pulp Fiction and Interstellar?

It's the first time i know that infrasounds can induce anxiety, did you know that the green/ orange mixture found in restaurants stimulates the prodution of hunger enzymes ? I mean besides the psychological effects , humans keep amazing me about how far they can go to manipulate physical changes in each other in order to achieve certain goals , think about that if you still think that infrasounds are scary....

I think I've come across that, hence the reason most food are packaged in the colours or a shade of it.

Basically a horror movie is made spooky (his name is also a horror movie).

The problem is that viewers who are accustomed to watching horror movies will quickly get bored with the same scene alone, thus failing to reach the thrill of fear that should have been in the movie sparking fear.

Facing it, the filmmaker certainly does not lack of sense. Many things can be done to manipulate the emotions of the audience, one of which is sound. As we know and feel, the sound of accompaniment or the soundtrack in the film has a very important role in building the atmosphere and evoking the emotions of the audience.

The music composer, in this case of course the film specialist composer, certainly already knows how to infiltrate the human brain, right in the center of his emotions, using only music and sound. More extreme than that, some horror film composers are known to have incorporated infrasonic sounds to influence the fear of the audience.

Infrasonic sound is a sound with a frequency too low to be heard by the human ear. Infrasound is in the range of 17 Hertz to 0.001 Hertz. Although inaudible, infrasonic sound has a special effect that can be felt by humans. The special effect of infrasonic sounds is what composers use to evoke emotion of audience fears (though the effect can be different for each individual). It is believed to be the effect of the use of infrasound sound waves that are shown to cause anxiety, deep sadness, palpitations, and body shivering.

Thank you for breaking it more down. I do appreciate the detailed information.

Science recruited as a terror enhancer... I like that :P

Lol. The horrors must be unleashed.

Horror movies are never my thing, they scare the hell out of me, even when I try to create the perception in my mind that it is just a movie, yet I am usually still caught up in the fear. I guess I now understand the reason behind that. The truth is that no matter how hard I try, horror movies are a no go area for me.
Knew most about ultrasound and if I could remember, it's been decades.
Infrasound really sounds new to me.

It really has quite some good and useful applications as you have stated.

So is there a stable way to generate infrasound without resorting to technological devices or extreme forces of nature? More specifically, is it possible to construct something (with simple tools) which has an eigenfrequency in the infrasound range?

Yes, you can produce low frequency sounds electronically. Since there is a dog whistle whistle which can produce frequency in the ultrasonic range, I think we can get a similar one for infrasound.

I think if you want to make a whistle which generates infrasound you need something extremely long.

Ah I just found this -> But based on the design I guess it uses interference to generate the right frequency

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This be the first time I'm hearing about such a thing as "mosquito ringtone" lol.

This unique trait of able to hear infrasound gives most animals the ability to run out of a zone just before an earthquake or Tsunami.

A noble survival skill, even for animals. If these seismic wave receivers could be mounted on streets and buildings in earthquake prone areas, I think it could mitigate the loss of lives.

Good write green. Run.

There are usually warning issued in newspapers, radio, and TVs. Sometimes people do not take it seriously or wait till the last moment to evacuate.

Am used to be scared of horror movies... Not anymore

Now they have new method of doing it Filmmakers now employ another ingenious way to increase the scare factor in the movies.

Nice one sir

Thank you Sir.

Wow, this quite amazing..

This unique trait of able to hear infrasound gives most animals the ability to run out of a zone just before an earthquake or Tsunami.

This piqued my interest the most. How fabulous learning about the power of low frequency

Thanks for this interesting post

Thanks a lot.

Always a pleasure 🙌

I actually knew about the use of infrasounds to instill fear in viewers two years ago. Have you tried watching a horror movie on mute ? You can not get scared. It doesn’t matter how hideous the characters look. These sounds actually make our hearts beat faster, prompting an adrenaline rush and consequently keeping us edgy. I’m glad you decided to compound on this and refresh my memory in the process too.

The sound of every movie heighten the overall emotion or "feel" of the movie. Be it horror, romance, or any other genre. That is why experts like Charlie Chaplin brought their A game and still made millions laugh in the era of silent movies. He deserve all the accolades and awards he got both while alive and posthumously.

Charlie Chaplin is a legend. Good one man.

He really did put effort to make us laugh, getting wounded multiple times for his efforts. He was his own stuntman and there was no CGI to help.

Our ears usually have a range of frequencies it can respond to, and the field is between 20Hz to 20,000 Hz.

I really wonder why this is so. But some animals like the whales and rhinos can communicate in infrasound.

PS: Are there some people with special abilities of hearing these very low frequency sounds? I think I should research on that.

Nice piece buddy

If you can hear all the range of frequencies, it may be stressful. It will be similar to seeing all the electromagnetic spectrum including infrared, etc. That will be a little too much information for the brain to process.

My first time of coming across infrasound. I now understand why teachers find it difficult to detect student murmuring in class and yet fellow student knows but cover up.As we grow up, the less we hear sounds at low frequency. Thanks @greenrun.

They may hear murmur, just that some older adults can't detect frequency higher than 17kHz.

Truly the sound of horror is more horrifying than the horror itself.
I'm not a fan of horror movies.

Thank goodness everyone can't go for the same thing. The ability to choose makes life and freedom the most sought thing after oxygen :)
I like my horror movies :D

I actually discovered i am more scared of the sounds from horror movies than the movie it self... This confirms why... Infrasound o😑😑

The idea of a horror movie is to watch something scary :)

Am a big fan of horror movies mehn.. This sounds are what makes them more scary.. Feels good to know the whole science behind it. I read somewhere that bats are capable of producing this infrasound, great addition of the elephants and whales.

Thanks for making this great contribution @greenrun

Keep running green

I know the bats emit high frequencies in the range of up to 200kHz for their navigation while using echolocation. They can hear infrasound too. But the bats usually operate in the high frequency range. Elephants, whales, and dolphins, are the animals that can create infrasound. The most popular animal, in this category, still remains the elephant

The elephant... Always standing outta the pack; with its amazing brain

They are the king of the jungle.

Really?! @greenrun
This must be new facts.. Last I heard--it was the lion.. Guess I got some reading to do.

Really?! @greenrun
This must be new facts.. Last I heard--it was the lion.. Guess I got some reading to do.

Elephants belong to the Big 5 family made up of the big five game animals such as the lion, leopard, rhinoceros (both black and white species), elephant, and Cape buffalo.

Sometimes the name King of the Jungle may be attributed to either of them. But in a fight, an adult elephant will most always be victorious against a lion. The lion can only win if it's a young calve in the fight. The lion can also be the King of Jungle, it is something not cast in stone. Thanks.

I would rather be an elephant than a lion in this case...
Thanks for sharing the information @greenrun

The ringtone is usually above the range their much older teacher could hear, so they can communicate in class without the teacher being the wiser

This is amazing, mischief or not, I'll love to try it out.

OK, I need an emoji for a mouth wide agape, coz that's how I was from the moment you started explaining the infrasound idea, I've learnt a lot here, another is it's relationship with ultrasound and the human hearing range.

With the way animals use it to detect underground sounds, t means they are much safer from those natural disasters than we humans are.

A very educating and interesting read, the best I've read this week. Kudos

Thanks for the compliment. The animals have got the "sixth sense" and knows when to run away from a natural disaster.

Mystery of the universe is the main reason when people read more they become more curious about hidden powers. Our mind think about our creation and the creation of the universe and the power of the darkness that society is telling us hence either you are hearing horror sound or reading horror story you get goose bumps.

I am obliged for appreciation.

One might reason infrasonic sounds to be sounds with high volume. But it has more to do with frequency.

I admire and respect your writing style and humor.


Thank you. The sound is usually almost inaudible or downright inaudible.

well, now i know what they use and i wont be scared when next im watching the horror movies....spoiler alert!!!

Nah, they know how to get you :).

This is great @greenrun i usually fall victim of this. Am sure anytime the infrasound is use. Maybe that is why i fear horror movies. Maybe ultrasound movies are better though. What of some Nigerian based movie do they use infrasound too? Because most time i fear though. Especially local films

Truth is, I don't watch a lot of our movies.

@greenrun thank you for sharing your knowledge, in fact, I stop watching some movies because I began to wonder why I become scared after watching even when I know it is not real. From what I have read today, I think that I will attribute my fear to the sound.
Thank you

I'm glad I could help in that regard. Thank you.

This is quite enlightening. Never heard of infrasound, and the very subtle humor made it an interesting read. Thanks for sharing @greenrun

Thank @greenrun

In the film industry, the horror genre is a movie genre that branches again into a more specific sub-genre. One of the most interesting sub-genres of horror films to me is the psychological horror. Because through the sub-genre of this film, the audience is frightened not by the things that appear physically in the movie (the emergence of ghosts or jump-scare scenes), but by things that affect psychologically, such as the scary atmosphere or the music gripping.

That is true; the music helps to heighten the scare.

Thank you my friend😎

I always knew there was something about the sounds in horror movies. I conducted a mini experiment when I was younger. I watched “the grudge” -a very scary movie, with and without sound. The one I watched without sound wasn’t even scary to me compared to the one I watched with sound.

Thanks for sharing this interesting piece.

The Grudge was a good horror movie, if you are a fan of psychological crime thriller do check out Identity.

After reading your post i clearly understand infrasound.....Thanks for sharing @greenrun

interesting post very different got to know a lot from this one :)

Lovely, applying science in theaters and movie production. it makes and bring a sense of reality when watching a movie, especially with the development on surround speakers.

Yeah, good speakers will always give off that stereo effect.

Great post bro.....i usually fall victim of this when watching horror film.

1st one is the best one!!
its too good

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