Friday, January 22, 2010

Demonic White Noise, Georgia, USA

I usually don't include stories sent in to podcasts, but this one was too creepy to ignore.

A fellow named Archer, who lives in Georgia, sent an MP3 containing this story into the Anything Ghost podcast...

Archer had bought a white noise machine to help him sleep. You've probably seen these machines before, they produce various different sounds - rain, a flowing creek, etc. - to act as background noise, and cancel out other noises that may interfere with a person's sleep. Archer liked the creek setting, and would turn it on as he went to bed.

One night, a friend of Archer's was visiting from out of town. The next morning, he asked Archer about the talking machine that had been on all night. Archer explained that it was not a "talking machine" but a white noise machine, and that it had been playing the sound of a flowing creek. His friend insisted that he heard it speaking, though he couldn't understand the words, but Archer heard no such thing and figured that his friend was joking.

Later, another friend came to visit, and reported the same thing. After this visit, Archer decided to try turning the machine on and visiting different bedrooms in his home to see if there was something about the acoustics of the place that would cause the machine's noises to sound like speech. He found nothing, and just thought it was odd, without giving it much more thought.

A short time later, Archer went on a trip to another city. He brought the white noise machine with him, and turned it on when he was ready to go to sleep. This time, though, he didn't just hear the flowing creek, but rather the strange voice, and it was screaming in a deep, angry tone. While the screaming occurred, a hot wind began to blow through the hotel room. Archer hit the power button numerous times, but to no avail. He finally unplugged the unit from the wall, causing the sound to stop and the wind to stop blowing in the room.

He threw away the machine and has stated that he hasn't bought a replacement.

Commentary: So, this is the second "haunted object" that I have written about here. This is also an interesting one in that, given that it apparently hosted an angry spirit, it could also fall into the "demons" category, and might be thought of as a possessed object.

Unlike some of the other stories on this blog, my interest in this story comes not from an intellectual interest in the structure or elements of the story, but simply from the fact that it is a damn effective scary story. I have told the story to, or played the podcast for, several people, and all of them have been suitably creeped out by it.

I discovered the hard way that telling this story to your girlfriend late at night is a good way to get her both unnerved and angry with you. Thankfully, I have also discovered that this can be neutralized to a degree by suggesting that she imagine that, rather than a deep demonic voice emanating from the machine, the voice of Bill Cosby telling a rambling anecdote that goes nowhere is coming from the machine. Really, it's hard to be frightened when you imagine that the eternal damned babble incoherently about Jello pudding through a set of cheap speakers.

It's worth noting that devices that produce white noise, including white noise generators, but also including items such as electric fans or televisions and radios set to static, as well as devices that simply produce other types of random noise, can be thought to produce speech because of a phenomenon known as pareidolia - the tendency for the brain to perceive distinct patterns even when there is only randomness, in this case to hear voices or language where none actually is. This is likely the phenomenon behind most electronic voice phenomenon and the claimed backward messages on rock albums* as well as the tendency for people to see things such as religious figures in burn marks or alien spaceships in cloud formations.

But, of course, that wouldn't explain a machine screaming at the owner. Whether this is a case of something strange actually happening to Archer, or a case of someone simply wanting to tell a scary story to an audience via a podcast, I haven't a clue. But it makes for a damn good ghost story.

For more on how paradolia can cause us to hear things that aren't there, check out these two podcasts: this one and this one

Sources: Podcast (the story starts at the 30:14 mark)


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