Sound in Paranormal Investigations Part 2

I suggest that an understanding of frequency is the key to what we call paranormal activity. Let’s talk about how animals link to the paranormal through their sensitivity to frequency.

The animal sense that most clearly surpasses human sensitivity is hearing. That some animals hear better than humans is hardly news, but this ability becomes more interesting when we consider that animals are also traditionally better at detecting phenomena like ghosts and earthquakes, both of which probably present unusual frequency patterns. Understanding heightened sensitivity in animals has two advantages: 1) in working closely with animals we become increasingly sensitive to their abilities; 2) we better learn to identify and integrate animal sensitivity into our investigation.

Most Helpful Animals?
It may seem funny, but we can probably find the most helpful animals by watching a few horror films. It’s not because Hollywood has the best ideas about paranormal investigation; it’s more that unconscious knowledge that has long shown up in folk beliefs now shows up in contemporary films. In classic horror films, two of the most significant creatures are fairly easy to identify: dogs and bats. Dogs and bats are now so closely linked to the cinematic paranormal that a thinking person might ask whether there’s some truth behind the cliché. If we go back to my suggestion that the paranormal links to frequency, we may begin to suspect that there is truth. Why? Because both dogs and bats show unusual sensitivity to frequency. Dogs hear better than humans, and bats have sonar that literally helps them to see small objects with their ears. The term “blind as a bat” only works if we refer to eyes. With respect to hearing, however, humans are clearly inferior. Bats can teach us a few things!

Dogs: More Than Floppy Ears
Of one thing we can be certain: dogs hear many frequencies that humans can’t hear (Hossell, 2003). The reason why is fairly simple: prior to domestication, dogs’ survival largely depended on being able to hear small prey in the dark. In addition, sharp hearing allowed them to communicate with companion dogs that alerted them to danger or sources of food.

While, over thousands of years, dogs’ brains have evolved, their hearing has remained much the same. That is, much of a dog’s brain is still focused on sound. This sensitivity gives them abilities that are out of the reach of many humans. Some frequencies that dogs hear may relate to frequencies that are useful for paranormal phenomena.

No, dogs aren’t psychic. They just hear better. For example, they distinguish the sound of our car from other cars so that they hear when our car pulls up in front of the house. Our dog can even hear our unusually quiet hybrid car. I’m impressed. She also hears the difference between a delicious snack and a dreaded green vegetable hitting the kitchen floor. As D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D., a neuroscientist with a special interest in canine sensory systems in Ochlocknee, Georgia, asserts, dogs have a richer auditory life than we do. Their auditory life is so rich that dogs must selectively screen out sounds that don’t normally affect their lives. Like humans, they screen because, quite simply, there would be too much going on. Even with screening, their hearing is more acute than human hearing because, even after domestication, their survival instinct is still strong.

When training a dog, some of us might have used the training tool that uses ultrasonic and infrasonic tones to either reward the dog or let it know when behavior isn’t desirable. In general, dogs like high frequencies and respond with happy compliance. On the other hand, dogs usually react unfavorably to low tones, probably because the dog’s mother used a low growl to warn the puppy to keep behavior in line. In short, while high tones make a dog happy, low tones make them nervous, a trait that may explain why dogs appear skittish before an earthquake when the earth probably emits ultra low frequencies that most of us can’t hear.

The cowering that a dog traditionally shows when confronting a ghost may lead us to believe that ghosts must be a low frequency phenomenon, but there’s also evidence that dogs also shy away from ultrasonic frequencies because they’re another sign of danger. For example, dogs in South America flee from the ultrasonic cries of vampire bats that might attack them. Vampire bats routinely feed on cattle, but dogs are an extremely rare delicacy, a sign that, although dogs react favorably to high tones, they don’t react favorably to all high frequencies. Some ultra high frequencies might actually have qualities that evoke aversion in dogs. For that reason, it’s difficult to assume that paranormal phenomena are exclusively infrasonic.

To discover how ultrasonic tones work in uncovering paranormal phenomena, it might be useful to experiment with bats, a creature that, in itself, seems to exhibit otherworldly talents.

Remarkable Bats
Bats are remarkable because they not only fly around without hitting objects in a darkened environment, but they also capture small insects for food in total darkness. It’s no hit-or-miss technique: bats do seem to see in the dark. Actually, bats don’t see well. If anything, they “see” with their ears. That is, they send out ultrasonic sonar, or inaudible (to humans, at least) high-pitched chirps that reflect off objects in the way, thus alerting the bat of the quality of terrain that lies in its flight path. This ability is called echolocation, a talent that scientists acknowledge, but don’t fully understand. What they do know is thanks to Lazarro Spallanzani, an Italian scientist in the late 1700s who experimented with how bats find their way in the dark. In an experiment, he put a bat and an owl in a semi-dark room and found that both could find their way in semi-darkness. In total darkness, however, the bat flew without incident, while the owl collided with objects. These events seemed to indicate that the bat had some means to navigate in the dark. When, however, Spallanzani placed a sack over the bat’s head, it was as disoriented as the owl. Spallanzani concluded that bats used a “sixth sense” with which to navigate darkness. In vain, he encouraged other scientists to conduct other experiments that would help clarify bats’ abilities.

Other Experiments
Later, Charles Jurine, a Swiss zoologist, had the inspired idea to block bats’ ears. The result? With blocked ears, a bat also became disoriented. As a result, Spallanzani created new experiments that suggested bats see with their ears, not with their eyes. In spite of clear evidence, however, fellow scientists rejected Spallanzani’s theory on the ground that, although interesting, the theory was untestable.

Spallanzani’s theory fell into obscurity until, 150 years later, Donald R. Griffin, then an undergraduate at Harvard University, seriously considered Spallanzani’s “bat problem” in new studies during the1930s. Using microphones, Griffin proved that bats produce sounds that are well above human hearing. At that time, it became clear that they bats use echoes of their ultrasonic, high frequency calls to locate objects. Griffin described this behavior as echolocation, or the ability of bats to find their way in darkness by using the echoes of sounds bouncing off objects to map their terrain.

Echolocation, now established as the sonar “sight” of bats, is similar to the sonar used by the military to locate hidden weapons and opponents. In contrast to military machines, however, the sonar that bats use is called “biosonar,” a sophisticated natural phenomenon that is also a property of dolphins, porpoises, and whales.
Once again, in using echolocation, bats send out high frequency, or ultrasonic, squeaks or clicks that bounce off objects and return to the bats giving information about surrounding objects. These returning echoes are so detailed that bats even receive information about small creatures like gnats and mosquitoes. They can even tell how far away objects are (Hossell, 2003). Not only are bats able to detect small objects, but they produce ultrasonic holograms that record on sound-sensitive photographic plates. Off these plates, we can (with the right technique) construct three dimensional images of sounds ‘heard” by bats (Murchie, 1978).
Investigation with Sonar

The ability to record a broad range of frequencies that humans can’t normally hear seems an asset to paranormal investigation, particularly since there’s no convincing proof that paranormal phenomena actually falls within the relatively narrow ranges that humans now use for research. More importantly, dogs and, most especially, bats appear to have a special edge to their sensitivity that humans are still unable to emulate, even with sophisticated equipment. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that, even for humans, ultrasound imaging has become a useful tool for revealing hidden tumors, injury, or fetuses that aren’t visible from the outside (Hossell, 2003).

Yes, ultrasonic tools depend on the presence of solid matter to give results, a quality that may be absent in detecting ghosts. Nonetheless, it might be worth experimenting with a sensitive multibeam sonar that scans a large area (Hossell, 2003). To collect most information, it would probably be fruitful to conduct experiments in allegedly “hot spots” with both multibeam sonar detectors, and animals like, yes, dogs and bats. In this way, we can compare results to see if significant results emerge. As of yet, we’re unable to determine conclusively if some form of undefined matter accompanies paranormal events. In effect, we don’t know whether ghosts are a phenomenon of frequency, or whether a particular frequency tends to draw ghostly phenomena. It might be the time to start experimenting with frequencies!

Indeed, if parapsychology is going to become a new integrated science, we have to be ready to experiment with new modes of investigation. We can’t rely on old science done in the old ways. On the contrary, paranormal investigators must be fearless pioneers who, using creative experiments, create a new view of science.

Hossell, K.P. (2003). Sonar. Chicage, Ill.: Heinemann Library.

Murchie, G. (1978). The Seven Mysteries of Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.