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Deadly Vibrations
A Brief History of Sonic Warfare

By BG Nichols

The history of the application of sound in warfare is, by its very nature, cloaked in secrecy and misinformation. Much of what seeps out into public perception has been filtered through government agencies who, understandably, have a vested interest in protecting such covert and often 'black' weapons programmes, and the sensationalist columns of the underground press, whose flirtation with the subject spans at least two decades. Any attempts by myself or others to verify certain 'facts' is relatively futile. We report what we hear.

Possibly the first mention of sonic warfare is the now much-cited 'Walls of Jericho' scenario — a biblical story which no doubt many of us are familiar with. The walls came tumbling down after the synchronised blast of trumpets and voices rendered it unstable. However, it is only recently that sound has seriously been considered as a valid medium for destruction. Human beings respond to certain categories of sound in a number of complex ways involving auditory perception and psycho-physiological response mechanisms rendered through the brain. Certain species of sound above (ultrasound) or below (infrasound) the levels of human auditory perception would theoretically prove most effective within the crucible of warfare.

During the Vietnam conflict in the early 70s, the US military experimented with a structured programme of psychological warfare, dubbed the Urban Funk Campaign. A sonic weapon known as the 'Curdler' or 'People Repeller' was employed to disrupt unruly crowds, and generally irritate the enemy during the night. Audio frequency oscillators were mounted on helicopters, and blasted frequencies at 'Charlie', ranging from 500-5000 Hz at an amplitude of 120dB – equivalent to the roar of a jet engine at close quarters. This was a highly effective panic-inducing weapon, which was also reputedly deployed during the height of the Northern Ireland conflict. The Urban Funk Campaign also employed an 'audio harassment' programme, Wandering Soul, in which recordings of eerie sounds said to represent the souls of the dead were played through the night in order to spook the superstitious enemy. Despite eventually realising that they were hearing a recording beamed from a helicopter, the enemy snipers could not suppress the fear that their souls would some day end up moaning and wailing in a similar fashion after death.

Urban Funk Campaign was also putatively responsible for the 'Squawk Box' – a device which the British MoD denied existed, although authorities in Lisburn confirmed the existence of the Curdler, which they claimed was in storage, but never used. The Squawk Box was a developmental weapon initiated by a joint military/civilian group of scientists and technicians working in secrecy and with a high degree of autonomy in Lisburn (New Scientist, Sept 1973). Mounted on a Land Rover or similar carrier vehicle, this device housed in a 3ft cube was able to emit two marginally different frequencies (eg 16,000 & 16,002 Hz). These component frequencies, their sum and difference, produced a subsonic harmonic of 2Hz (infrasound). It's effective beam was so small and directional that it could target individuals, producing 'spooky' psycho-physiological effects such as panic, vomiting, and seizures. It is worthy of note that infrasound is particularly effective in the arousal of fear or anxiety. The experience of auditory stimuli is a function of the nervous system. We are culturally conditioned to interpret sounds, and recognise them, which is why we are roused to anxiety by an experience we can neither interpret nor dismiss as 'noise'. The very fact that infrasound can be 'felt' but not heard creates a frustrated perceptual impulse. Anxiety can only be resolved by attaching it to an object or cause. In the absence of either, we tend to create one, and in most instances we create a supernatural or preternatural one.

We have spoken so far about psycho-physiological effects of sound as a weapon – but what about the purely physical effects? Going back to our Walls of Jericho scenario, the phenomenon of resonance can potentially be amplified to cause destruction. The opera singer, Caruso, was able to shatter wine glasses with a single note sung at the sympathetic frequency of the glass. In theory the same phenomenon could be created synthetically. In the early 1970's, acoustic engineer Vladimir Gavreau was experimenting with infrasound weaponry. Now the stuff of infrasound legend, Gavreau was responsible for the construction of a giant 6ft whistle, powered by compressed air, which reputedly scrambled the inner organs of it's unfortunate operator (a phenomenon known as 'cavitation', where the internal physiology was fatally resonated). Distraught, Gavreau ceased his experiments, but left behind plans and models for highly sophisticated, directional sound cannons, which were apparently seized by the French authorities. In a recent conference with Dr Guy Peter Manners, Professor of Cymatics (a form of sonic therapy), I happened to enquire about his knowledge of Gavreau. It appears that what I had previously assumed was legend was almost certainly true. Although Manners was reluctant to divulge details, he informed me of certain facts which cannot be repeated here as they would breach the conditions of the Official Secrets Act. Manners also informed me of experiments which he had first hand experience of in wartime Germany, where sonic weapons were being developed under a highly classified strategy initiated and financed by Hitler's government. Once again, frustratingly, I cannot release such information for at least two more years, but a separate source reveals the fact that the Germans were pioneering a sound-based weapon known as the 'Luftkanone', developed at Talstation Lofer. This was a parabolic device which, although untested on humans, was apparently... 'capable of killing a man with sound pressure in about 30-40 seconds. At greater ranges, although not lethal it would be able to disable a man for an appreciable length of time. Vision would be affected, and low-level exposure would cause point sources of light to appear as lines.'

Frequent enquiry on the internet has revealed that the US government, in partnership with specialist agencies, are working on a programme of 'non-lethal' weapons systems designed to disable but not destroy enemies. In a recent conversation with a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, I can confirm that infrasonic weapons are still a viable option, although it comes very low on a list of alternatives due to it's cumbersome nature, and the lack of an effective, and powerful amplification system. This leads us neatly into a slightly more sinister, and perhaps more unreliable subject, which probably warrants an article on its own – HAARP. Conspiracy theorists in their droves are seeing this project (an acronym for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project) as the target of their vitriol. HAARP was initiated by the US government (again!) for a variety of applications, particularly to enhance global communications. A cursory glance at the HAARP web site will reveal all manner of well-intentioned projects and applications for this 'Ionospheric heater' – an array of bizarre looking antennae situated in the back end of Alaska. However, conspiracy theorists claim that the project (reputedly influenced by Tesla technology) has a more sinister intention, and recent investigations highlight a concern that this array can potentially beam EM (electromagnetic) pulses at aircraft, and melt engines, disrupt communications, and destroy life from the upper atmosphere. Although I remain sceptical, I do acknowledge the fact that mankind (and particularly the US military!) has a tendency to use technology to adverse effects. HAARP appears to feed the post cold war paranoia of a suspicious public.

Conversely, there is sufficient evidence from radio hams that the Russians were experimenting with ELF (extremely low frequency) toys at least two decades before HAARP. Radio hams reported ELF clicks from a Russian source being beamed into the US via the airwaves. The Russians were blamed for weather manipulation, mind control, and other unexplainable atmospheric events. Because of the nature of the repeated clicks, the Russian project was dubbed 'Woodpecker'. Truth, misinformation, or paranoia? Eldon Byrd of the US Naval Surface Weapons Centre who controlled the US Non Lethal Weapons programme in the early 80s, confirms that ELF and electromagnetic devices are feasible – but it appears that yet again, all details are contained within the secure 'black' world of hidden research projects. The US Department of Justice report on ELF weapons disclosed that sustained exposure to ELF radiation can produce nausea or disorientation. One researcher subjected animals to ELF radiation through implants, and feels that similar results can be produced from afar without implants. Russian scientists have already claimed to be able to induce sleep from afar (electrosleep) by similar methods. Doubtless, more information on sonic weapons will come to light as information becomes declassified. It would appear overall, that the impracticalities of certain sonic weapons systems far outweigh more sophisticated counterparts... I wait to be surprised!

Special thanks and acknowledgements to Joe Banks (Disinformation), Amok Journal and Dr Guy Peter Manners for direct and indirect help with this article.

Illustration by Boo Cook
Arvo posted 31 May 2009 (08:48:36)
Thanks for sharing this. I hope a recording of that "Wandering Soul" stuff comes to the surface some day, I'd really love to hear it!
C. Barton posted 29 January 2008 (20:37:45)
As for infrasound, it is now in use in Portland, Oregon by the city police as "sirens for the deaf", ostensibly to alert the hearing impaired from squad cars in pursuit, etc. (what about the lights - not enough?) But my contention is that ultra- and infrasound waves can be modulated in ways that would refine or worsen their impact on humans. Also, paired with a silent sound voice delivery system, the sound weapons could be used in a conditioning scenario for commercial or law enforcement applications. E.g., a squak box creates a pain field in the vicinity of an item for sale; when the patron approaches or touches the item, the pain is reduced = voila! Operant conditioning!
Massimo Liverani posted 10 February 2009 (15:41:15)
Thanks for the article, is very interesting and complete, I'm writing from Italy, and i wrote a similar article in 2005. In june i'll be telling in a little conference about the sound and peace here in Italy about the state of art of sonic weapons, so can i use part of your material? (naturally telling the source). Thank you again. Best. Max
Optimus Primus posted 1 December 2008 (07:33:27)
Funny...In the Movie Iron Man 2008 Tony Stark developed a Jerehco Missle and his Rival used a sonic weapon on him to cause paralysis
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