Death Rays from Silent Sounds (May, 1932)

Death Rays from Silent Sounds

THE day of death rays in warfare was foreshadowed in an experiment conducted recently at Johns Hopkins University in which a beam of ultra-frequency sound waves instantly converted glass into a thin white powder, oil into thin vapor, and wood into a burst of flame.

These amazing new sounds, with frequencies as high as 300,000 vibrations per second, inaudible to the human ear, were created with a standard radio oscillator of the vacuum tube type, as illustrated in an accompanying drawing. In converting this wild but powerful current into sounds, scientists make use of what is known as pieze crystal which contracts and expands violently when subjected to a periodic electric field set up between two metal plates connected to the radio oscillator.

In demonstrating the death-dealing effect of the “silent sounds,” a frog was placed in a beaker, which rested on the quartz crystal. The frog died almost instantly, due to the coagulation of red corpuscles in the body. In another experiment glass exposed to the waves was shattered to a fine white powder. To date no attempt has been made to extend the terrible killing power of these sound waves beyond the laboratory bench, but army experts who have witnessed the experiments believe that here, for the first time, they have discovered the real “death ray.” In this discovery, warring forces would have a weapon that would not only annihilate armies, but would also bring airships and planes spinning to earth in a mass of flames.

  1. Rick Auricchio says: December 16, 20081:41 am

    The sad thing is that the Pentagon continues to work on things like this today, 75 years later.

  2. Charlene says: December 16, 20081:52 am

    Maybe they’ll move on to Belgian Death Fog.

  3. Paul says: December 16, 20086:26 am

    Weren’t these used in Earth Vs The Flying Saucers?

  4. JM says: December 16, 200810:29 am

    I suppose that all the experiment’s documentation and device are inside a big wood box, and it’s stored along with hundreds of other boxes (containing the Ark, the Holy Grial, a big chunk of kryptonyte, the ironman suit armor, a frozen bigfoot, etc) in a very big hangar… like the one in Indiana Jones…

  5. Mark says: December 16, 200811:49 am

    I wonder if with todays tech if it could be practical.

  6. jayessell says: December 16, 200812:54 pm

    I read about a French version in the early 1960s.
    It used INFRAsonics, about 7Hz.
    It was a giant whistle.
    It was deemed unfeasible however, as there was no way to sheild the operator or aim the sound away from friendly forces behind it.

  7. Rick Auricchio says: December 16, 20081:36 pm

    Yes, low frequencies are quite nondirectional. Higher frequencies beam very nicely.

  8. LightningRose says: December 16, 20083:07 pm

    So that’s where Ayn Rand got the idea for the sonic weapon in “Atlas Shrugged”.

  9. John M. Hanna says: December 16, 20086:07 pm

    Didn’t the Japanese deploy one of these against Godzilla?

  10. Cassy Velinos says: December 17, 20089:51 am

    …most of you joke, but I infact find this indeed frightening… Is there any reason why this couldn’t be made practical in the age of today if any defence department devoted further research to this idea?? I think not… What a terrifying thought if this is a glimpse of the future of war.

  11. Al Bear says: December 17, 200810:28 am

    I agree with Cassy, it’s scary stuff. I had no idea that this concept was so old! THe closest thing the military has today is the microwave ray —> http://www.military-hea… I’d say this is the distant relative of the article’s version.

  12. Cassy Velinos says: December 17, 200810:57 am

    Indeed -I’m glad someone agrees with me Al…
    I wasn’t aware of the microwave -but I have heard that the military also use Pulsed Energy Projectiles (PEPs) which I think is closer to the laser concept expressed in this article…> http://www.newscientist… It induces immense and unbearable pain and is supposedly only being used for crowd control. It is claimed to be “non-lethal”, however I have heard that if the body of a person stands in the line of path of the sound waves for long enough -which is not long might I add- it can rupture their internal organs. I don’t see why the military wouldn’t already be considering upgrading it into a more efficient and “lethal” weapon for their own use, hence relating to this article…

  13. JMyint says: December 17, 200811:37 am

    Every few years someone trots out the audio death ray only to be defeated by physics. First the is the normal things that affect the propagation of sound, temperature, air pressure, relative surfaces, and the things that only affect high frequency sound. The biggest thing is that the the higher the frequency the poorer the sound propagates. An example of this is when a car with the stereo blaring is near by you only hear the low notes.

  14. Cassy Velinos says: December 17, 200812:22 pm

    JMyint, you are a fool. Already as discussed by myself and Al Bear previous to your naive comment, such ‘death rays’ are already in design, production and in most cases use. They are specifically designed to penetrate the area of skin of the body for which they are intended… Basically, as for your ‘audio-ray-gun-is-crap’ drama, I suggest you do some actual research rather than rely on your arrogant ‘superior knowledge’ (it lets you down).
    A couple of links to get you started on reality;


    And FYI, if your so hung up on the ‘quality’ of the sound, do you not realise that such intensity is going to mess you up anyway?? The fact is you don’t even need to technically ‘hear’ the scream through your ears…it will penetrate your body and skull regardless, and will possibly burn your epidermis and rupture your internal organs as well as send you insane with an unavoidable drone inside your head.

    This may not be death, but I sincerely doubt you can prove it has no chance of resulting in such.

  15. Avery Montembeault says: December 17, 20085:19 pm

    300,000 vibrations per second is only 300 kHz – Basically the upper end of AM radio…

    I would suspect that this apparatus was more about the intensity then the frequency, and for anyone who has taken high school physics, intensity decreases as a function of the square of the distance to the source (In other words, the further you get, the intenstiy drops exponentially). I’m sure the scientists in this lab had no trouble killing a frog at point blank range, but they arent going to do it at 100 yards. Not with golden oldies and NPR anyway (though if I had to listen to that crap all day I might just kill myself). Given enough intensity, any frequency can be damaging or potentially fatal.

  16. JMyint says: December 17, 20086:35 pm

    Hmm… Generally I go by engineer but I’ll bite. The two articles posted both are talking about microwaves not accoustical energy. Here are some links about accoustical energy.

    The main thing that limits the usefulness of any energy type weapon is the inverse square law.

    The thing about the microwave based active denial weapons that are outlined in the articles in the previous post. Since the early 90s these thing have been promised to be deployed “next year” as in this article.…

    So any how here is article about the specifics.…

    So here is a little about calculating power loss for microwave signals.…

  17. Jari says: December 19, 20085:35 pm

    JMyint had just my thoughts, Cassy is bundling “microwave-sonic” and “sonic-sonic” as a same. JMyint is spot-on with the claim that high frequencys fade really quick in the atmosphere compared to low frequencys. Also incerse square law is valid. Aaand don’t you thik, that if this was viable technology, would’t it already used in some war theatre? And I recall from my army papers, that internal organs have their resonating frequencies, but they are generally in infrasound range.

  18. M.R.BROWN says: March 9, 20095:58 pm

    Deterances-let your foe know what you have or might have ! Then he may think twice about attacking you !
    I remember a book , talking about blowing horns, marching men, loud shouts, and the walls that came down !!!
    Build it in secret so your people will not say , it is too terrible to use in war or against people !
    And I keep Muddling thru !!

  19. jayessell says: March 9, 20097:52 pm

    I think there are some sonic weapons but meant as non-lethal active denial systems.
    Dispersing protesters for instance.

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