Is Supernatural Experiences in The Devil's Church Cave Explained by Acoustic Phenomenon?
Finland has a cave that has a long history of paranormal activity. Because of the strength of the local folklore, contemporary shamanic practitioners still gather here for drumming sessions. But why is this location so unique spiritually? A new study has provided an answer that, while mundane, is still kind of cool.
The crevice cave, also referred to as Pirunkirkko (the Devil's Church in English), is a legendary location for Finns and is situated in the Koli mountain range in Eastern Finland. Koli National Park's surrounding forests and landscapes have drawn tourists and artists for well over a century, drawn by the breathtaking vistas. However, the history of the cave itself is more extensive and shrouded in mystery.
Sages, called in Finnish tietäjä, velho, or noita, are said to have gathered in the cave and used sound as a means of communication with the afterlife. These people, like shamans, would engage in their communion while in ecstatic states of mind, kicking, screaming, kicking, raging, and fighting with unseen forces, all in an attempt to intimidate them. As part of their rituals, they would also incant, sing, and make other noises, such as shooting guns.
It appears that sound was an important component of these rituals, which is what prompted cultural studies researcher Elina Hytönen-Ng of the University of Eastern Finland and archaeology researcher Riitta Rainio of the University of Helsinki to look into the Devil's Church's acoustics.
They were interested in finding out if the space's acoustic qualities could shed light on the superstitions surrounding it and possibly explain why it was picked as a venue for these auditory-based preternatural gatherings.
The Devil's Church is the site of a unique resonance phenomenon that extends and amplifies sound at particular frequencies, the researchers discovered. They surmise that this could have shaped people's perceptions and experiences related to the cave.
After looking through historical records, they discovered that one local sage—known as Kinolainen, or occasionally Tossavainen—used the cave for his spiritual exercises.
Folklore has it that Kinolainen would bring his patients to the 'church' so he could consult the Devil about the origins and remedies of their illnesses. Loud yelling, stomping, shooting, and banging were common parts of this type of healing ritual, according to Rainio's statement.
Hytönen-Ng also conducted an observation and interview with a contemporary shamanic practitioner who performs ceremonies in the cave. They claim that the cave possesses a unique energy that enables them to establish connections with "one's roots" and the surrounding natural world.
"The practitioner told in the interview that drumming sessions especially at the back of the cave have opened up 'new horizons'."
The structure of the cave is akin to a smooth-walled corridor, and acoustic measurements conducted at its rear reveal a strong resonance phenomenon. It is brought on by a standing wave that forms between the parallel walls and produces a tone at the cave's natural frequency of 231 Hz. This tone is audible for approximately one-second following abrupt sounds, such as drumming or clapping.
Vocalized tones in the region around 231 Hz are prolonged and amplified.
"We recorded the shamanic practitioner and found that they repeatedly vocalized tones at 231 Hz, which were then amplified by the cave at its natural frequency."
A remarkable area with unique qualities
The researchers claim that resonance seldom happens in nature but is a frequent occurrence in constructed environments. The smooth parallel walls of the Devil's Church are essential to its ability to produce this unique resonance.
Similar resonances have also been seen in other places, such as the French and Spanish Palaeolithic caves, which are close to well-known cave paintings.
According to Rainio and Hytönen-Ng's hypothesis, the Devil's Church resonance would have accompanied the rituals performed there for centuries in a consistent, if subdued, manner."Where a researcher of acoustics hears [a] resonance, people of the past may have sensed the presence of a spirit, and a shamanic practitioner may feel the presence of an exceptional energy, each according to their background."
The study provides a compelling example of how resonance can be utilized to enhance communication between an actual space and the surrounding environment.