Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Ghosts Of The Underground: Part Four

Since last I posted about the Underground ghosts, I've gotten myself a new job. One that involves twice daily trips on Underground network, so maybe I shouldn't have started researching this subject!

Anyway, today I bring you the much promised discussion on what might possibly cause the Underground to be such a fertile place for ghost stories.

When compared to similarly aged subterranean transport systems, such as the New York Subway or the Paris Metro, the London Underground is simply in a league of it's own in terms of the amount of ghost stories associated with it.

Well firstly London is a city with history. Those who visit or live in this city can not fail to absorb that sense nor, perhaps, allow their imagination off it's leash for a little while. Add to this the rather oppressive, ancient feelings engendered by traveling upon the aging Underground system and you have a mind on the edge of believing in the impossible. The urban legend that a race of underground cannibals lives in some of the tunnels might seem ludicrous above ground but when you travel deeper and deeper into the labyrinth tunnels of some tube stations you might start to question your scepticism.

So as you can see, the average tube worker and traveler is already primed and ready to interpret anything anomalous in a more romantic, dramatic fashion than they might above ground.

But there is another factor of immense importance, something not often mentioned; infrasound.

Infrasound is sound whose frequency makes it too low to be heard by human ears. But just because your conscious brain does not detect the sounds, it doesn't mean they don't have an affect on your body and mind.

Studies have suggested that such sounds can make people feel awe, fear, anxiety, pressure on their chests, feelings of revulsion and many other startling dramatic emotions. The sounds can cause things to vibrate quite violently and can even cause vibrations in the eye which can create optical illusions. What's more in the documentary I mentioned many posts ago, The Ghosts of The Underground, one scientist took infrasound readings at a few "haunted" spots. You probably won't be surprised to find that he discovered very high levels of infrasound at some of them.

So you're deep under the ground, in a city renowned for it's history (and it's ghosts!) with your body being bombarded with wave after wave of sound which has properties still being discovered. Is it any surprise that the London Underground is a prime ghostly location?

Of course this doesn't adequately explain all the supposed hauntings but I think it cannot be ruled out as being the cause of most of them. Add a couple of factors in and it's easy for a ghostly story to emerge through no deception on the part of the eyewitness.

I don't want to suggest all reports of ghosts are merely illusions. I would love to believe some of the stories were true. But I also see that a lot of so called hauntings are simply badly researched cases of misidentification.

Do not let this turn you away from the magic of London, nor of the mysterious nature of the underground. You never know what you might encounter as you descend hundreds of feet below the ground.


Gee said...

Infrasound you say? Sounds way too plausible says I. :-)

Again great work Jae. Oh, and congrats on the new job too.

Jae said...

Aww thanks :D