Silence: The Key To Fear

A question I have always wondered is, is silence scary, through multiple blogs already I have briefly touched upon the use of silence. It seems to be a catalyst when creating a terrifying mood and atmosphere. But why?

Todays horror uses silence to set up for a cheap jump, the question I am wanting to ask however is if there is any pre-existing theories on silence being linked to fear. Why we hate it and why it’s the key to fear.


(Dead Silence, 1997)

I would go as far to say that silence does not exist, not in the everyday world that is. As of right now I am sitting in a classroom full of people talking, and when they stop it will be the computer fan spinning, and when that stops it will be the cars outside, when that stops it will be creaking of chairs, without that it will be the air con. It’s practically hard to hear silence. So when silence happens, is our fear created out of the worry of seclusion?

Just like every disorder to ever exist, the fear of silence has a name. Sedatephobia.

Sufferers tend to experience symptoms to include panic attacks, heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath and nausea if they are in an environment or situation which is quiet.

(Echo Barrier, 2014)

I can’t help but feel it’s an ever increase of technology. With the increase of mobile phones, Ipods, Ipads and traffic, we are bombarded with constant sounds. As mankind has evolved technology has evolved with us, in a way becoming apart of us. As humans we become attached to what we are comfortable with, or more so what we rely on. Social networking and texting has manipulated and defaced the idea of socializing, we fear that if we are not socializing we are losing friends, popularity or even love.

Dominic Knight a leading hypo-therapist writes:

In the 21stcentury we are bombarded by noise all the time. Everywhere we go there is music, computers, mobile phones, ring tones, buzzers, conversation, people, and television screens. This technological revolution has had the side-effect of creating a glut of people who find silence unsettling and uncomfortable. These patients report an unhealthy need for constant noise and interaction with others which can cause serious problems in their lives.

(Sunwarrior, 2014)

It’s hard to believe this same ‘illness’ was around 50 years ago, that being said silence was used in horror since the 20’s, therefor technology cannot be the only culprit to our fear of silence.

Anechoic chamber’s are padded acoustic rooms that boast complete silence, here no sound enters nor does it leave. Clapping, stamping resonates no sound as any attempt to reverb or echo is destroyed with the pads and foam.

Reports have stated that people find it unbearable to stay in their for a large amount of time, the Guinness world record holder could only withstand 45 minutes.

When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly

(Times, 2014)

(DNews, 2013)

I have a theory of my own that maybe as we have evolved we have lost somewhat of our humanity, or at least some origins of it. In hearing our heart beat this is a reminder of human life. Not only this it can revoke spiritual memories of religion, god and man. A world that we seem to be leaving as time goes on. Apparent silence is used with the film The Exorcist  (The Exorcist, 1973)Sound plays an initial part within the narrative. William Whittington writes:

An abrupt cut takes us to the image of a wall clock, accented by the click of the pendulum mechanism. The sound of the street is now little more than a murmur. The close recordings of the Foley effects of a pen writing and Merrin examining the artifacts of the day bring a sense of intimacy and calm, reflecting perhaps the relationship between the two colleagues. But the calm is broken when Merrin’s associate mutters, “Evil verses Evil” as Merrin examines the figure he found earlier. The ticking clock suddenly stops. Silence. The moment is chilling. This abrupt end to the sound foreshadows Merrin’s eventual heart attack. What makes the sequence so rich for me is that, in this instant, the sound design accesses the metaphysical discourses around death and the afterlife, which sets the tone for the rest of the film.

(Whittington, 2007)

If we go with my earlier theory of losing humanity and realising a spiritual side, good and evil, god and the devil. Is it through sound and silence that makes The Exorcist truly scary?

One of my all time favorite directors Nicolas Winding Refn gives a great aspect of silence and why it’s great to use no dialog.

(Film Society of Lincoln Center, 2013)

So silence should be used, it does create fear. What I like most about this is that it seems to have a much deeper connection to audiences. Where music will affect emotions such as joy, fear or sadness. Silence controls something else, something that we understand we are loosing each day but fail to fix. Our humanity.

A notable scene that creates the perfect blend of silence and terror is John Carpenters Halloween (Halloween, 1978)


Dead Silence. (1997). [film] USA: James Wan.

DNews, (2013). Total Silence Drives You Crazy. Available at: [Accessed 14 May. 2014].

Echo Barrier, (2014). A noisy world increases people’s fear of silence – Echo Barrier. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 May. 2014].

Film Society of Lincoln Center, (2013). Nicolas Winding Refn Q&A: The Power of Silence. Available at: [Accessed 14 May. 2014].

Halloween. (1978). [film] USA: John Carpenter.

Sunwarrior, (2014). The Sounds of Silence | Dr. Weston. Available at: [Accessed 14 May. 2014].

The Exorcist. (1973). [film] USA: William Friedkin.

Times, H. (2014). Why world’s most silent room is scary – Hindustan Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 May. 2014].

Whittington, W. (2007). Sound, Silence and Horror. 1st ed. [ebook] California, p.3. Available at: [Accessed 14 May. 2014].






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s