~Written By Alison Oborn~  

“Was that a train going by?” The gentleman from the tour looked at me in surprise.

“Erm… No!” I found myself replying from the open doorway of one of the cells, where I had involuntarily just placed myself.

The main tour had left and having missed out on listening to our EVP samples due to assisting my back-up elsewhere, I had taken a couple back to the New Building so they could catch up on what the others had been allowed to listen to. As we stood in this T-shaped cell block from the 1800s, discussing the paranormal, we fell silent as we strained to listen… ‘what was that faint rumble coming from the other side of the building?’ The rumble rapidly grew in intensity. Looking up we braced ourselves as a sound similar to that of a freight train charging across the whole second floor of the building caused the old cell doors to groan and move in their frames before finally all was silent once more.

“Earthquake?” I suggested, although it hadn’t gone amiss that we had felt nothing through our feet or heard any of the noise flowing through the lower floor. Whatever it was, we were pretty excited though.

Fifteen minutes later we were bidding our final guests farewell and I quickly pulled out my phone to text Spilios, our team member and simply typed “O.M.G!”.

“What the Earthquake?” was the reply seconds later. Puzzle solved… nothing odd or paranormal about the event after all… or was there? Feeling a little deflated I tapped back “No, the activity that happened BEFORE this!”

For a while now I have been meaning to write an article on a certain topic and this was now the perfect inspiration to finally make that start. Does seismic activity have any affect at all on the paranormal or our perceptions of what is paranormal?

How I came to be standing in the most ‘active’ building in the Adelaide Gaol at the very moment that Adelaide experienced its first sizeable Earthquake in 20 years, was by pure chance but one I felt grateful for. How many investigators have had the opportunity to be in a ‘haunted’ location at the time of seismic build-up? How many have also had 20 guinea pigs to monitor in the form of a public ghost tour at the same time? No this was certainly my lucky night in some respects but not in others. The drawback was that because I was officially conducting a tour and not an investigation… we had no equipment running at the time! So the following can only be put forward as observation nothing more. After, I will look at a couple of theories.

It had been a strange night in the Gaol even before the tour arrived. There was an air of unease that I never let get to me too often in there, but I put it to one side and continued to prepare for the tour. Debbie, my back-up for the night came with me to check that all cell lights were off and the Hanging Tower door was shut, though not locked. Our route took us into the Remand Centre, a two part block with a secluded exercise yard off to one side. It also happens to be possibly the second most ‘active’ building in the Gaol. As Debbie walked down one side of the well lit museum section to shut the door leading out into the yard, I took a step into the gloom of the actual 2 storey cellblock. It was then I abruptly came to a halt, for I heard footsteps issuing from down the other end. Not clear steps but ones with a shuffling nature to them. Backing up a little I forgot about the step that lay behind me and ended up assuming a much different view of the block from my back with my legs kicking wildly into the air… much to the mirth of Debbie I might add. But I could still see down the block and there was no further movement. I picked myself up and we walked in to make sure there was nobody hiding. We walked along the bottom floor, searching the darkened cells, our torchlight dancing off walls and under beds as we strolled through. Nothing! It should be noted that I had not been startled by the thought that the footsteps were a ‘ghost’ but that maybe we had an intruder in the Gaol, which we have had several times before. As we could now hear cars arriving, we decided we should move back to the shop.

As I went to let a car through the gates, it stopped and the driver wound it’s window down “Hello Alison, do your remember us?”

“Not in the dark!” I said apologetically peering at the silhouettes that sat in their car.

They reminded me that they were a couple I had met on a previous tour and who I had talked to a couple of times on the phone. With this in mind, just before I started the tour I asked if the gentleman would be happy to go with Debbie and check the Remand Centre for an intruder once and for all. I was to remain behind and start the tour.

Interestingly the tour seemed edgy that night. They too seemed to be picking up on the atmosphere which was decidedly unpleasant and more menacing then usual. My tours are usually designed for fun… after all I can’t promise them a ghost, but I can ensure they go away feeling like they had a great night. For this reason it was unusual for a tour to be getting SO edgy. Their unease only grew as Debbie and the couple returned. It was obvious something had happened and now the tour wanted to know everything… after all, this was happening live folks!

They told how they had re-entered the remand centre and walked down both sides of the museum, passing both doors to the yard as they went. On entering the Remand Cellblock… footsteps had been heard. Again these were described as shuffling steps only this time they were coming from the floor above. Checking the gate to the stairs was still locked, they knew if there was an intruder there was no escape for him. Carefully they unlocked the gate Debbie climbed the stairs, the others waiting patiently in case. Each cell was checked but there was no intruder and nowhere for him to hide. Finally, giving up on the search they headed back to rejoin the tour. It was as they were walking back through the museum that Debbie’s jaw dropped in surprise. A door stood wide open out to the secluded yard… a door that hadn’t been used in years and that had been bolted shut moments earlier. What mystified her even more was the fact that to unbolt this door and shove it open, a lot of noise had to be produced. Their time in the cellblock had been one of silence!

The tour nervously bunched closer together, and even though the yards were well lit, a couple of people were clearly on the verge of panic. I have to admit that I too was fighting a feeling of dread, a feeling that had long become a stranger to me for many years now.
But why did this night have a completely different atmosphere? Why were people feeling unusually fearful and uneasy, including myself. Why were people reporting having seen things and felt things as they were walking through, including one lady who had her ear whistled into?

It was after we waved goodbye to the tour and the four of us returned to the New Building, the earthquake struck!

Could this have been the cause of the differences in the Gaol this night? So, this now leads me into discussing theories.

There has long been told stories of the seemingly psychic abilities of animals to know in advance when danger is pending, such as earthquakes, tsunamis etc. Dogs howl, horses become agitated and all manner of animals have been witnessed to leave an area before a disaster strikes. Elephants in Indonesia were reported to have headed to higher ground just before the tsunami struck that Boxing Day. I have even observed my own horses suddenly become agitated and leave an area of their paddock moments before a lightning strike hits the area where they had just been standing. But is this really evidence of psychic abilities in animals?

It is now known that storms, tsunamis and especially earthquakes are accompanied by something that genuinely is not paranormal but a more natural product of the event… low frequency sound waves, more commonly termed as infra-sound. But what has this to do with psychic animals and paranormal activity and earthquakes?


Sound travels in a wave that is an oscillation of pressure or vibration. These are measured in cycles per second. The cycles for infrasound is below the human range of hearing which is 20Hz to 2,000Hz. So on this basis 1Hz = 1 second. Infrasound waves can be powerful waves that hug the ground and travel for long distances, passing through solid objects as they go. In fact it is known that Elephants, whales and even alligators can communicate over long distances by producing infrasound rumbles. Elephants have been witnessed suddenly freezing and laying their trunks on the ground as if intently concentrating on something that we are unable to see or hear. What has just been discovered is that other animals such as Giraffes produce infrasound to communicate also.


There are many causes of infrasound both natural and man-made. Seismic activity such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions will produce infrasound waves. Thunderstorms, waterfalls and surf crashing onto the beach or rocks will also produce these same sounds.

For man-made causes we only have to look at some of our engines or machines (especially diesel), fireworks and other artificial explosions. One of the signs that a rocket launch or nuclear explosion has taken place is the tell-tale infrasound wave that is released with the explosion. Monitoring stations around the world assist groups in seeing when illegal weapon testing is underway through measuring these infrasounds.

But how does all this relate to the paranormal and in particular to the story of the earthquake experience. Well for this we have to look at the effect that infrasound appears to have on our minds and body.


It has been found in various experiments that infrasound may induce certain sensations in us. Psychophysical effects on people subjected to this include changes in cardio-vascular function, irritability, anxiety, nausea, headaches and the feeling of being watched, amongst other symptoms, many of them very similar to the effects felt in a ‘haunting’ scenario. Some researchers even believe that images can be induced and seen by the vibrations on the cells of the eyeball itself.

Infrasound and it’s link to paranormal experiences, was first realised by Vic Tandy who was a Coventry University Lecturer. People had been reporting strange feelings in the lab that he was working in. Cleaning staff had also reported seeing a shadowy figure and Vic Tandy experienced a similar sighting himself.

It was by accident however that he fell upon the explanation of it being caused by infrasound. He had brought in a fencing foil for repair and it had started to suddenly vibrate whilst being held in the vice. This gave him the clue and with further research he tracked down that a new fan had been installed into the lab and was producing a standing wave. Once the problem was fixed the ‘ghost’ mysteriously vanished too.

But Vic Tandy didn’t stop there. Opposite the University was the Visitor Information Centre that contained a 14th Century cellar. People had been experiencing strange things in the cellar, much like what was experienced in his lab. Upon further investigation it was found that this too contained a standing wave of infrasound.

Since this time other experiments have been done including one done by Richard Wiseman and Richard Lord. They took 750 people and staged a concert for them. During several pieces of the music, infrasound was piped into the room. Afterwards these people were questioned on how this music made them feel. 22% described feelings of fear during these particular pieces.

Without a doubt infrasound does have an affect on the human body. In fact sound weapons are now being experimented with and used for this reason.

Another interesting finding is that some people appear to be hypersensitive to infrasound. It would seem these people react more strongly to it then others. Could this explain why in a room of people, only a few will experience the feeling of fear or see shadowy figures, whilst others see and feel nothing? The Gaol tours would be a good example of this.

So in conclusion to this theory, was the earth, building up to the earthquake that night, producing low infrasounds? Without a doubt it would have been. Were the people on the tour feeling these waves? I know I was experiencing a lot of these symptoms myself that are reported in conjunction with infrasound.

This brings up the question of whether there is something at the Gaol, other then ghosts that could be producing these feelings and fleeting images. I do get people feeling nauseous and sick on some tours… yet another symptom of infrasound. Sadly unless we can get equipment into the Gaol and other sites that can measure this, we may never know for sure.

Of course like most theories, not everything neatly fits into it. It would not explain locked doors opening without a sound or the clear footsteps heard moving around. Could it also be that the energy produced from an earthquake building up also helps the ‘paranormal’ phenomena to manifest?

I will leave that one up to the reader to decide.


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