Horror movies lean heavily on sound and the idea of hearing or lack thereof to create atmospheres of dread. It makes sense – hearing is the scariest sense. Hear me out (lol): if you have a typical sense of hearing, sound is a hard sensory input to avoid. For the most part, you have a good degree of control over what touches you or goes into your mouth. A bad smell may enter your nostrils without your permission, but plugging your nose does a pretty good job of blocking it out. If there’s something you don’t want to see, look away! Close your eyes!
But if there’s a loud sound? It’ll reach you where you are, doing what you’re doing, whether you like it or not. You don’t have to be “looking at it” with your ears in order to perceive it. You can’t quickly turn your ears away like you can your eyes. You can plug your ears, but you’ll still probably hear the sound at least a little bit (and hear your tinnitus even better). Those of us with typical hearing are helpless against sound; we are sound’s perfect prey.
Sound plays a starring role in paranormal investigations as well as in movies; we capture and analyze hours of audio, listening carefully for that intelligent EVP or Spirit Box response. Sometimes films feature sounds you really might encounter during a paranormal investigation – yes, kids’ toys do go off by themselves in the silent basement; yes, you do sometimes knock on a wall and something knocks back – but there are also some laughable representations in film of how mysterious sounds are actually handled during a paranormal investigation. Here are a few of the noises, both spooky and silly, that we’ve encountered on real paranormal investigations.
During a 2018 investigation in Columbia, CT, our team gathered in the darkened living room as Chris recounted a vision he was receiving of a soldier who’d died on the land: "He was riding his horse...he went over a wall...he broke his neck--" and just at that tense moment, the home's Amazon Alexa, which the client had neglected to tell us about, LOUDLY blared: "There are many things I can help you with! Say: 'play Queen from the seventies!'”!
After we’d all changed into clean pants, the inquiry began: we had to ask the client whether this was a common occurrence with this device, we considered what we might have said to trigger the response, and most of all, we now make sure to locate these kinds of devices before we turn out the lights!
During a tense investigation in Waterbury, CT, we heard a distinct knocking and scraping coming from the corner of the room. Intrigued, we followed the sound. It led us to an old furnace, and to the little brown mouse that came running out of it! Debunked.
The Madwoman’s Song
This one still gives me chills. On a very active case in Oxford, MA, the team felt the presence of a female spirit who’d been driven insane after the loss of her child. As we asked her to come forward and communicate with us, the unmistakable sound of a woman’s voice humming a few notes of a tune filled the room, as though she were just passing by us on her way into the kitchen. On our recording of the session, you can clearly hear the humming, followed, of course, by us asking each other what the f*** we’d just heard. This happened a couple more times throughout that night, the same humming, different notes of the same tune, seeming to move around the house as though the spirit were pacing the halls.
We’ve tried to debunk this, but thus far, it remains unexplained. We looked up train schedules to see if we could have misinterpreted a distant train whistle, we asked the homeowners if they had any gadgets in the home that could have made a similar noise, we immediately checked for anyone making noise outside the house, we accounted for the locations and sounds of everyone’s phones – nothing fit.
One thing that movies and shows about paranormal investigators fail to realistically portray is how our very powerful recording devices pick up everything, even tiny sounds from across the room that no one wants to hear, like your colleague’s stomach growling. The rule is that if you make a noise, you have to say “that was me” so whoever reviews the recording later doesn’t mistake your digestive orchestra for the growls of a demon. To avoid owning up to your every bowel noise on tape, eat something that’s easy on your stomach before investigating!
But stomachs aren’t the only things growling in the night. We’ve heard numerous disembodied growls over the years that we haven’t been able to explain. One stands out to me: in a “cabin in the woods” in Bethany, CT, one of our team members walked across the living room to grab her jacket. As she bent down to grab it, everyone heard a low, angry growl coming from the dark hallway to her right! She scampered backwards in her high-heeled boots so fast it sounded like a stampede of wildebeest. We’ve got this one on tape, too, but debunking it is complicated: see, there was a dog in the house that night. And that dog happened to be giving birth to puppies during the investigation. Seems safe to write off the growl as the laboring dog saying “stay away,” right? Except that the growl wasn’t coming from anywhere near the room where the dog was sequestered. This one’s inconclusive, but the message is clear: don’t wear high heels to an investigation.