Discovery Channel’s MythBusters recently sought assistance from US loudspeaker manufacturer Meyer Sound, as the set out to test claims that subaudible low-frequency sounds near 19 Hz can instill feelings of discomfort and fear.
Filming for the episode, which is to be aired on the Discovery Channel on October 28th at 8.00pm, took place in and around four abandoned cabins at a secluded forest resort in Northern California. To test the theory, the show recruited ten volunteers to spend time in the cabins.
“One cabin was subjected to infrasonic sound, while the other control cabins had no sound,” said Dr. Roger Schwenke, Meyer Sound’s staff scientist and honorary MythBuster. “Although the cabins were essentially identical, the idea was to ask the participants if one cabin seemed more eerie or frightening than the others.”
Without the subjects’ knowledge, a U-shaped array of nine modified Meyer Sound 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements was hidden behind one of the cabins to create the ultra-low sounds.
“We used the U-shape to get the 1100-LFCs as close together as possible,” explained Schwenke, “and to direct any higher overtones away from the cabin so we could get the infrasonic level as high as possible without anything being audible.”
It subsequently transpired that nine of the potent 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements were more than sufficient. “We had to be careful with the level because, at around 95 dB, we started rattling the cabin walls,” Schwenke noted. “That would have been a dead giveaway.”
However, following MythBusters experiments, Schwenke is hesitant to confirm whether or not the myth was in fact busted: “I did feel a sense of unease. You could tell when it was on even though you couldn’t hear anything. It was more of a whole-body, change-in-the-air sensation, an undefined ominous feeling.”
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