Turn down the volume before you play this video from the Action Lab YouTube channel, which explores the blood-curdling sound of the "Aztec Death Whistle," an ancient ceremonial instrument that sounds like a woman shrieking in terror. Discovered in an archaeological dig in Mexico City, the death whistle was originally thought to be a toy until scientists realized that blowing into it produces a chilling, scream-like tone.
As Action Man explains, "It was a startling discovery. Because it sounded like a screaming human, this object came to be known as the Aztec death whistle." Though the exact purpose of the death whistle remains uncertain, it was likely used in human sacrifices and other rituals.
Its scream-mimicking acoustics are no accident — the whistle's shape mirrors the human larynx. Analyzing the death whistle's soundwaves shows a peak frequency around 1000 Hz, which aligns with the most fear-inducing range of human screams. As the host of Action Lab demonstrates with several 3D-printed death whistle replicas, the shrill, variable tones elicit visceral reactions of dread and dismay. His young son was frightened to tears when he heard its hideous sound. "He told me to never make that sound again," says Action Man.
I'm tempted to make one of these on my 3D printer, but I would be afraid of using it because someone might call the cops.