The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 193: Fright Night

Premier Date: October 28, 2012

There is an inaudible frequency of sound that can make people feel uneasy and lead them to believe that a place is haunted.


The setting for this myth was a group of four abandoned cabins in the woods. Adam, disguised as an unsettling groundskeeper, told volunteers that something bad had happened in one of the cabins. Each of the volunteers was instructed to sit alone in each of the cabins for three minutes. When each volunteer was in the third cabin, Adam and Jamie used a hidden 40,000 watt sound system to play a 19 Hz tone, which is below the audible range for humans. The volunteers were then asked which cabin they thought was the spookiest. Only 2 out of 10 volunteers chose the third cabin, indicating no correlation between the sound and feeling uneasy.

There is a detectable scent that humans give off when they are scared.


After reasoning that the “smell of fear” would be contained in the sweat produced by a person who is afraid, the Build Team began collecting sweat samples from themselves. For a control sample, they each ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes to collect “normal” sweat from exercise. Later they each laid in a transparent coffin for 7 minutes with scary creatures – Kari with scorpions, Tory with snakes, and Grant with rats – and again collected their sweat. Volunteers were brought to smell each sample in a double-blind experiment and try to determine which samples were produced under the stress of fear. The accuracy of the volunteers was no better than random, indicating that they could not smell fear. Next, an experienced odor scientist was given a chance at differentiating the samples. She correctly classified 5 out of 6 samples, leading to the plausible classification of this myth. However, in a second test, she failed to identify which 1 out of 20 samples was produced from fear (generated as Tory rappelled 170 ft (52 m) into a cave).

Moving a dead body around is as easy as it looks in movies.


A 150 lb (68 kg) simulated cadaver was obtained for testing this myth. Adam and Jamie built an obstacle course that required stuffing the body into a closet, pushing it through a window, carrying it up and down stairs, rolling it in a rug, and stuffing it into a trunk. First, the obstacle course was run while carrying a relatively compact 150 lb (68 kg) ball of chain with a solid handle. Adam completed the course with a time of 3:06 and Jamie completed it with 4:33. When carrying the body, it took Adam 1:20 and Jamie 1:55. They were surprised to find that the body was actually easier to handle and they could complete the course faster when carrying it.

Digging a shallow grave is as easy at it looks in movies.


The specific conditions for this myth were that a 2 ft (60 cm) deep grave could be dug in 20 minutes by a single person with a shovel. It took Jamie over 2 hours to complete the task, all the while lamenting that he could complete the job in 30 seconds with a backhoe.