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Zoom in: Evanston

The anechoic chamber at Northwestern might make you a little too aware of your own heartbeat.


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Remember exploring creepy carnival fun houses with whimsical walls and floors that always seemed on the verge of collapse? Well, Northwestern University has its own fun house.

In the dungeon of the Frances Searle Building lies an anechoic chamber, completed during the 70s. The 40-by-40-feet echo-free room absorbs sound and was once used for hearing testing and research.

Northwestern audiology professor Jason Sanchez says the combination of a double wall and four feet of foam cones lining the room's perimeter makes it "so quiet that [people inside] can hear their internal systems—their heartbeat, sounds they had never heard before—coming from their own body." Feeling claustrophobic yet?

But wait, this place might harbor more sketchy secrets. According to Sanchez, rumor has it that a former physician at Northwestern's med school would use cadavers in the chamber to obtain measurements of sound at the human eardrum—likely because the placement of the microphone on the eardrum and the sound intensity would be too much for a living person. The bodies would often stiffen and harden too quickly, though, so the physician started to lop off the head of the newly deceased and transfer it in a cooler on a shuttle from Chicago to Evanston for examination.

And now that you're sufficiently grossed out, here's a final word of caution: if you ever actually visit, go with someone you trust. You do not want an evildoer to lock you in from the outside.

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