The Science of Paranormal Sounds: Explaining Ghostly Footsteps


There are certain phenomena in the paranormal realm that nearly defy any possible explanations. With a residual or intelligent haunting we know that a ghost or entity is either continuously replaying life’s events or they are genuinely interacting with the environment. When EMF detectors spike up from their baseline, we know that a spirit’s energy is manipulating the device. If divining rods move in a specific manner, we know that an entity is pulling them in their direction. Some activity; however, is not so easily explained.

How it is possible for spirits to make knocks or create the sound of footsteps are two phenomena that, so far, have eluded explanation.

This article will offer up a couple possibilities as to how exactly ghosts can create audible footsteps or knock on physical objects. This approach will be taken from a point of view which is as scientific as possible, while still bridging the experiences of the paranormal.

But before we can begin to establish any possible explanations for that sound of soldier boots tramping on the wooden floor over your head, we first should gain an understanding of exactly how the phenomenon of sound works.

Can You Hear Me Now?

In order for an object to make a sound it must either come in contact with another object (such as banging a tuning fork) or be able to create sound from itself (like the vibration of our vocal chords as air passes through them). This sound travels in waves just like water or, in paranormal terms, like electromagnetic fields. Sound is described with the same terms as water waves or EMFs – those being, frequency and amplitude.

Frequency is “the number of times a periodic phenomenon occurs over a unit of time.”¹ When we hear a frequency, the brain interprets the sound as either high or low pitch. The figure below will help you visualize its meaning:


Amplitude is the fluctuation or displacement of a wave from its mean value. With sound waves, it is the extent to which air particles are displaced, and this…sound amplitude is experienced as the loudness of sound.”² The greater the amplitude, the louder the sound will be. The figure below shows that amplitude is the distance between the crest and the median level. The key word with amplitude is loudness.


In order for the human ear to pick up on a sound, it must fall between the frequency range of 20 – 20,000 cycles per second – also known as the unit termed Hertz (Hz). Anything falling below or above this range cannot be detected by our hearing.


When we analyze how it is possible to interpret sounds in our physical world, it’s pretty straightforward. (You might remember this from grade or high school.) The sine waves enter the auditory canal, vibrate the ear drum, and then our brains interpret the sound as it travels through the inner ear. All sounds follow this pattern and with paranormal footsteps or spirit knocks, the process is the same. There are, though, a few things that must be considered.

Could it be possible that the “footsteps” one thinks he or she is hearing might actually be something else? In other words – plumbing pipes rattle,  HVAC systems expand and contract, house lumber creaks, and loose window panes move with the wind. All of these types of noises must be ruled out or debunked. Once all of these factors have been fully considered, only then can we ask the big question:

How in the world can an invisible entity make physical sounds?

As has already been mentioned, there are two types of hauntings – residual and intelligent. In considering how to answer this “big question,” we must treat each one separately. Let’s create a scenario:

Basic Geophone

You are a paranormal investigator and you enter into an old Victorian home. The owners have given you the history of the house and in their narrative they say that a woman in white has been seen on many occasions going down the spiral staircase in the center of the home. She continuously suffered from sleepwalking and nearly every night could be found wandering the confines of the home a couple hours after midnight. You set up a DVR camera at the base of the steps and place a geophone halfway up as well. At 2:18 a.m. the LED lights and sounds on the geophone go off and the DVR camera does capture this mysterious woman coming down the stairs.

How is she able set off your equipment by being only in a spiritual body? The answer may lie in the realm of quantum physics.

The Quirky World of Entanglement

It’s been some time since I have referred back to the second concept that this website was established – entanglement. As a brief reminder of what this term means:

“In short, quantum entanglement means that multiple particles are linked together in a way such that the measurement of one particle’s quantum state determines the possible quantum states of the other particles. This connection isn’t depending on the location of the particles in space. Even if you separate entangled particles by billions of miles, changing one particle will induce a change in the other! Even though quantum entanglement appears to transmit information instantaneously, it doesn’t actually violate the classical speed of light because there’s no “movement” through space.” ³

In our example the lady in white is a spirit that, when alive physically in this world, always walked down the steps at 2 a.m. The owners have informed you that this was a nighttime habit she developed. Because of her repetitious behavior the house itself became physically altered from her consistent energy. The sounds of her footsteps, when she was alive, literally became embedded in the woodwork. Now, in death, her spirit is able to trigger the entangled energy that still lies dormant in the staircase. Simply by walking over the same spots, as she did in life, the lady is able to create the footstep sounds that can in real time now be picked up with a geophone.

2418898852_294e3c38c8_zAnother example, more familiar with paranormal enthusiasts, is that her repetitious behavior left an imprint on the atmosphere. Each night this event is able to play over and over again because her energies have been recorded and play back much like a cassette tape. Perhaps through what might only be explained as possible other dimensions crossing over with ours, can we understand how the footstep sounds can be made. This is simply saying that when another dimension manifests itself in our dimension, the interaction is both visual and auditory. Also what I have found in my research is that the residual energy will eventually run out and the activity will cease at some point.

These possible explanations tackle residual hauntings and may help to explain them. The greater challenge lies in intelligent hauntings, where an entity purposely interacts with paranormal investigators or a homeowner through footsteps or knockings on walls or doors. This type of activity is not residual and may not be fully be explained simply with our theories in quantum entanglement or the crossing of dimensions.

The Mind Is Stronger Than the Body

With an intelligent haunting, a spirit may use a very different approach when the entity wants to execute some sort of a sound. Let’s first consider the Natural Laws of our physical world. Some of these entail the Laws of Thermodynamics or Newton’s Laws of Motion. They may also include Einstein’s theory of light speed or the phenomenon of gravity. There are also basic principles that govern how sound works. No matter which natural law you choose, all of us must abide by them. We have no other choice. Unless, of course, you are a spirit.

There are hundreds of hours of film footage that show spirits can and do pass through physical objects – such as walls, furniture, even people themselves (ever get a sudden unexplained chill down your spine?). Thus it would seem that the physical natural laws do not necessarily apply in the spirit world. And yet, they have to be able to abide by the same physical laws in order for a ghost to make the sound of footsteps or knock on a wall. What may be happening here?

I propose that the answer is simple: intent.

Gamma Brain Waves

shutterstock_134103404“Gamma rays are the most energetic waves in the electromagnetic spectrum. On Earth, nuclear explosions and lightning produce gamma rays.”⁴ These types of rays are not the same as the ones your brain emits, but they are just as amazing. The only similarity they have is that gamma rays in general have an extremely fast frequency with a small amplitude. Their frequency range is from 25 and 100 Hz, with the human brain functioning around 40 Hz.

“They are associated with the ‘feeling of blessings’ reported by experienced meditators such as monks and nuns, and with peak and extremely high levels of cognitive functioning…. Gamma is the brainwave state of being ‘in the Zone,’ that feeling that you can do anything.”⁵

Although gamma brainwaves are a relatively new discovery, scientists have been able to discover that these rays are responsible for neural communication throughout the brain. “[T]he gamma ray originates in the thalamus and moves from the back of the brain to the front and back again 40 times per second!”⁵ They are quickly discovering that these rays may play a very important role in unraveling the mysteries of the brain.

From a paranormal perspective, this phenomenon is deeply fascinating. This function of the brain will still be a consideration because the mind does live on after death. If not, how else would most paranormal activity even occur? That said, the key phrase to ponder here is that gamma rays will give you the feeling that you can do anything. Here is where the “intent” explanation comes into play.

Perhaps a spirit is able to walk through walls, make audible footsteps, knock on doors or even throw objects simply by accessing the gamma rays of the mind. It is an act of sheer will combined with an understanding of all the natural laws, both physical and spiritual. Through the use of gamma brainwaves a spirit is able to initiate any of the natural laws and make ghostly footsteps as they wish. I further support this evidence with the fact that ghosts in general move silently and so something has to be different for the footsteps to be audible. Once again: intent.

Final Thoughts

Presented in this article are a few ideas of how paranormal phenomena like ghostly footsteps and knocks on walls or doors might be explained through the lens of scientific reasoning.

multiverseAs has already been mentioned, there are different dimensions that may cross over with ours. As an example, there have been reports in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that in the basement of the Pennsylvania Hall a surgical scene was caught when two administrators accidentally took the elevator down one level too far:

“The women were terrified watching the doctors at work, performing meatball surgery on their patients – and watching the growing pile of amputated limbs stacked up in the corner. The scene was completely silent, but when one of the blood-soaked doctors approached them, they hit every button on the elevator and escaped.”

(You can read my entire article here:

Here is where the concept of the multiverse manifests itself, as it has been presented by the quantum theory pioneer Erwin Schrödinger in 1952. In a multiverse there are layers of existence which overlap one another, each layer representing in a different time plane. Events in the past may cross over with present-moment events, creating a kind of multi-layered environment. Perhaps the footsteps created in one time period can become manifested in another time period through the multiverse theory.

With an intelligent haunting, the explanations become a little more complex. Gamma brainwave activity may have some promise in the possibility of explaining how ghosts do what they do. Here in our more scientific world we know that one “of the most remarkable properties of the gamma state is the processing speed: the brain is able to process incredible amounts of information very quickly, remember it, and retrieve that memory later.” There is a fantastic power with this brain function which might also help us better understand the spirit world that lies just on the other side….


Works Cited:

¹ Source: Boundless. “Frequency of Sound Waves.” Boundless Physics. Boundless, 12 Sep. 2016. Retrieved 19 Oct. 2016 from





2 thoughts on “The Science of Paranormal Sounds: Explaining Ghostly Footsteps

  1. Go ahead and delete this if you think it will hurt your readership cause that is not my intention but from the very start, your title mentions science and then starts talking about things that have not been scientifically proven. Then a Grey’s Anatomy(I mean the medical dictionary) lesson on how the ear works. How sound waves work. Why are you throwing your knowledge in our face like we are not smart. It seems so long winded like you are trying to hard to prove yourself,. I do not mean to be mean I am a Assignment editior not editorial editor otherwise my diction would be clearer. What I see here is 30 seconds of reading and they are moving on. I hope this helps you to be a better writer and not taken as offensive even though it may sound that way it was not the intention good luck! again please delete if need to


    1. Hello Paul!

      My apologies for taking so long to reply. I wanted to make sure I thought out my response properly.

      First of all, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to offer up a bit of criticism. Most readers would not do that. When I reach out to my readers I always encourage them to offer up comments, suggestions or criticisms. You are correct that better writers are made through feedback.

      My intentions for this article was to start out with the very basics of sound and then move into a more complex direction. True, many of us already know how sound works – I just wanted to offer up a refresher, just in case. My intentions were not to belittle anyone’s intelligence, but I do see your point. Perhaps the Grey’s Anatomy did not need to be there.

      When we consider what science is, I think there are two disciplines. One is the science that has been proven through the scientific method and can be demonstrated to nearly anyone. The other part of science is theory. This is what you will predominately find on this site. Residual and intelligent hauntings, quantum mechanics, brain gamma waves, and the multiverse are all theories in their own right. Some aspects of each have been proven, but overall they remain as hypothesis.

      I am certainly intrigued by your Haunt’d Empire site, as I have read through some of your material on scientific theory. I will return to peruse more later.

      Thank you again for your comments and if you have any other thoughts, just drop me a line!


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