The idea that infrasound (inaudible, low-frequency sound waves) can cause “anomalous perceptions” (illusions, hallucinations, feelings of “presence”) has become almost a truism in paranormal investigations. If someone says that he keeps seeing something odd out of the corner of his eye, one of us is bound to suggest infrasound as a possible cause. The idea comes from just a few studies over the past decade, principally those of the late Vic Tandy.
But I’ve come across a recent paper that casts considerable doubt on the hypothesis, on the following grounds:
1. The relationship between infrasound and anomalous perception has not been established empirically.
2. The proposed neuro-physiological mechanism does not make sense.
3. The effects attributed to infrasound by Tandy and others could be attributable to variable electromagnetic fields, which are known to elicit strange experiences.
That’s the critique in a nutshell, as I understand it. The authors point out that many sources of infrasound– a faulty fan, for example– also emit a “wobbly” electromagnetic field, the kind that is understood to directly affect perception and cognition.
So the next time somebody suggests that infrasound can cause hallucinations, spooky feelings, and so on, I’ll be thinking “maybe, maybe not.”
Braithewaite, Jason J. and Townsend, Maurice, 2006. Good Vibrations: The Case for a Specific Effect of Infrasound in Instances of Anomalous Experience has yet to be Empirically Demonstrated. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol 70(885), Oct 2006. pp. 211-224.