Spooky Season Part Three: Hush Hush, Keep It Down Now
Most hardcore ghost hunters and those of us who want to believe will tell you that ghosts are more than just ethereal visions of people in posh Victorian garb quietly reading in the library. Sometimes the presence of otherworldly spirits appear as unusually cold spots, floating orbs, or even sounds. In fact, one of the most popular bits of "proof" that ghosts exist come in the form of sounds and patterns in EMF fields. Which of course, can usually be attributed to auditory pareidolia.
Pareidolia is the perception of patterns out of randomness. Whenever you hear about someone who has seen the face of Elvis on their toast or the miraculous emergence of Jesus from the knotty pine of their paneling, that’s pareidolia. This can also happen with sound. Everything from the washing machine spin cycle to the sound of cars passing by creates white noise. Anyone concentrating hard enough is going to be able to pick out paying close enough attention is going to hear something in that if they try hard enough. This explains that one time I reversed an Ozzy Osbourne album and swore I heard the dark lord command me to “Order extra potatoes.”
Just kidding. The dark lord advocates for a low carb diet.
But all joking aside, I've had plenty of moments where I've heard recognizable sounds emerge from patterns of white noise. Nothing quite as exciting as putting my ear up to the bathroom exhaust fan and hearing angry spirits threatening to haunt my dreams. The things I've heard have been far more mundane, like our old water heater, which had this low roar that I swear sounded just like a crowd going wild at a sporting event. I liked to think of that as my own personal cheering squad.
But that isn't to say what I have heard isn't strange. Most notably, there was a period of about 3 years where I would randomly hear what I referred to as The Stock Report whenever there was background noise coming from the fan or washing machine or whatever. During the time that this happened, we didn't own a TV, but my husband would often turn on the radio in the morning while getting ready for work. Typically he'd listen to a local sports talk station or NPR.
Which is why I wouldn't find it weird to hear what sounded like the radio on while I was laying in bed at night. At first, I assumed that my husband left the radio on. Except that I knew where the radio was and knew he hadn't. Still, it didn't seem odd because we'd have the fan on. But every so often, out of the unintelligible chatter, I'd hear clear words. More of than than not, they were numbers.
As much as I'd like to believe I was hearing the winning lottery numbers from beyond the grave, I'm afraid it wasn't quite that clear. Typically I'd hear phrases like ‘seven points’ or ‘gained ten,” which is why I gave it the name The Stock Report. If I was getting stock advice from beyond the grave, it was lost to me. As soon as I began to pay attention and concentrate on hearing the words, they would go away, which is also why I knew I wasn't hearing a particularly loud neighbor’s television or a radio left on in another room.
White noise and the familiarity of radio chatter combined with the suggestibility of being sleepy is the very obvious explanation for what I'd heard, but I do have to wonder about the conspiracy theorists who say we can pick up radio signals with our dental fillings or brainwaves or whatever. I've had a lot of dental work so it's not entirely impossible that I am in fact capable of receiving far off radio signals. After all, how many times have I suddenly had a random song pop into my head only to turn on the radio and not only have it playing, but have it be in sync with the song in my head? Often enough for that coincidence to be spooky as well.
I know what you're thinking. This is supposed to be one of my spooky October posts and so far it's been less spooky and more fun fact of the quasi-scientific variety. You're right. Nearly all of my auditory pareidolia has been of the mundane variety, but not all. There was this one time I was seated in the back of an airplane...
Now, for those who are not familiar with the experience, sitting in the back of the airplane is quite loud. I mean, air travel is loud by default, but sitting in the back, right by the engines is really loud. Most of the time when I travel, find sleeping to be an impossibility thanks to the cramped quarters and combination of audio and visual stimuli. But in this one instance, perhaps due to the fatigue of delayed flights combined with the loud and consistent sound-blocking roar of the engines, I found myself drifting off. And that is when I very clearly heard a female voice inform me that:
“There is no captain on this starship.”
Fatigue and engines aside, I can assure you, I didn't get a wink of sleep on that flight.