Brown Note

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    The Brown Note is a sensory input - usually a sound, image, or written work - that has an inherently harmful physical or psychological effect on anyone who hears/sees/reads it. This can range from wounding/killing someone, causing them to go insane, or become obsessed with it to the exclusion of all other things (including eating, drinking, sleeping, and yes, even troping). Usually, we don't get to see or hear it ourselves.

    The Brown Note is named for the urban legend about an audio tone that, when played, causes the listener to lose control of their bowels and spontaneously defecate.

    If it's not harmful itself, but summons or draws the attention of a harmful entity, then it's a Speak of the Devil. When it is specifically a book, it can be a Tome of Eldritch Lore or a form of Reality Writing Book. Musical examples are extreme cases of Hell Is That Noise, Ear Worm or possibly The Power of Rock. See also Magic Music. A lighter version used for torture would be Cool and Unusual Punishment. Can overlap with Suckiness Is Painful, when the note is a really bad work. It may occasionally serve as a type of MacGuffin.

    Compare Words Can Break My Bones, some of which have similar effects given by single words, written or spoken, and are by magic. See also Weapons Grade Vocabulary if its simply straight words, spoken or read. Contrast with Gale Force Sound, where the sound has a physical effect, not a psychological one, and Incessant Music Madness, where repetitive music drives a person to distraction. If you aren't affected right off the bat, perhaps You Cannot Grasp the True Form or You Are Already Dead.

    See also Loud of War, Make Me Wanna Shout and Musical Assassin for specific forms of sound-based attack. For a practical application in science fiction to showcase harmful energy sources, try Showing Off the Perilous Power Source. Compare and contrast Made of Evil.

    Examples of Brown Note include:

    Anime and Manga

    • The Read or Die OVA revolves around a symphony that causes anyone who listens to it to become suicidally depressed. The villains' plan is to broadcast it around the world and wipe out the weak-minded. To spare the viewers of such a fate, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is played.
      • This is possibly based on the myth of the Hungarian song "Gloomy Sunday" (see Real Life below). It was so sad that it was dubbed the "Hungarian suicide song", and caused depressed people to kill themselves when they listened to it. This, however, was all a marketing ploy (while the original lyrics were thought to cause people to become depressed, they were almost completely changed when it was released outside Hungary), and no suicides were actually linked to the song.
      • The manga also contains a scene where two captives are tortured with the audio version of The Dark Abyss, a book bound in human flesh and printed by five different people, one page at a time, so they wouldn't succumb to it. The pair withstood the audiobook for some 4 minutes before caving in.
    • An interesting plot from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (the episode "escape from"); a cybernetic puzzle box is discovered that traps the mind of anyone who cybernetically links to it. The intruder is placed in a virtual environment of an old fashioned theater, along with the trapped minds of those that came before. Playing is a certain obscure director's last Film, which he never shot, which contains images so profoundly emotional, that intruders never want to leave, only remain and watch the Film. Notoriously unemotional Major Kusanagi is trapped by the device, and at the climax of the Film, she actually cries. As for what the image was, the show viewer can't see it, but Take Our Word for It. The device turns out to be the director's own brain, encased in the GITS universe's cybernetic equivalent to a drive enclosure for gray matter. The interesting part was that the director had no evil ulterior motive or anything...the movie was just that good that anyone who watched it would want to keep watching it forever; the perfect movie. Motoko ultimately tells him that she admits its very good, but even the best of TV and Film is no substitute for Real Life.
      • This incidentally may be a subtle demonstration of psychic powers at play, since the idea of a brain-case abducting Ghosts of other people contradicts the internal logic of the series at many levels.
      • This also turned out to be how the terrorist group The Individual Eleven recruited in 2nd Gig. A series of documents that contain the group's manifesto are scattered across the Net. If a person of suitable personality and physical qualifications reads all eleven in order, a cybernetic meme is unleashed that turns them into a fanatical soldier for the Eleven. People who don't fit in the mold demonstrate different kinds of personality shifts, like the reporter who became obsessed with the refugee issue, but never acted on his own right, until the virus drove him to commit suicide, or the old professor, who simply took interest in the literary value of the imaginary manuscript, without getting a single radical idea out of it.
    • The Chapter Black tape from Yu Yu Hakusho reportedly contains hours upon hours of humanity's worst deeds, and just watching it for five minutes can turn anyone into a Nietzsche Wannabe as their respect for humanity drops to rock bottom. It's mentioned that the tape is part of a set with Chapter White, which contains all the greatest acts of human kindness and compassion. Koenma even says Chapter Black is a "One sided argument", and both tapes are apparently about the same length.
    • Kyon and Haruhi of Haruhi Suzumiya uploaded a symbol made by Haruhi onto their website... which just happened to magnify data in such a way to bring into our reality a long-dormant "digital cave cricket" that infects the minds of those who looked at the image file. He disarms it by changing the "SOS" logo into a "ZOZ".
      • In the Drama CD, Haruhi creates the musical equivalent, which had to be defeated by The Power of Rock. At the end of the CD, while the Ear Worm properties of the tune had been excised, Haruhi goes on to come up with the dance version of this. Kyon warns the audience to avert their eyes if they see it, even though he thinks it's already too late.
    • In Madlax, the words "Elda Taluta" and others bring to life parts of a person's psyche that are buried within; only a handful can hear these and not go insane. And god help you if you read the books that these words come from.
    • Played with in Tantei Gakuen Q. The "Banquet of Evil" violin solo drives a violinist into increasing insanity as soon as he hears it, and it's mentioned that a mysterious person is forcing three other people to hear it as well through cellphone calls. The reason? It was the favorite musical piece of a brilliant player who was incapacitated and killed herself... after an horrible trap staged by the other four. Who end up murdered by the girl's fellow violinist and boyfriend. And had he not done it, they would've died at the hands of the girl's vengeful half-sister.
    • Lucy Monostone's songs in MPD Psycho can either make people bonkers or allow him (or other lunatics) to transfer his personality, depending on the interpretation. Either way, it will end with at the very least one bloody, mangled corpse (the listener's).
      • One antagonist/vessel for Lucy planned a massive concert with such songs.
      • More accurately, it only affects "barcoders", killers who are created by a shadowy government agency seeking to produce the ultimate corps of "sleeper" assassins; and "activates" them or transfers/replicates the control personality (based on musician-turned-terrorist Lucy Monostone) between them. The concert was intended to active them en masse.
    • In Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, one story was about our Five-Man Band investigating a certain railway crossing with an unusually high suicide rate. It seems to have to do with a suicide song played near the tracks, until they go there and discover that the music is an accidental combination of the railroad warning signal, the school chime and the tune played by the recycling truck, which makes people want to die.
    • Hunter X Hunter briefly mentions the Sonata of Darkness, said to have been written by Satan himself and includes parts for different instruments. Just listening to a few notes of the flute solo was enough to horribly deform the Music Hunter Melody (it also gave her music based powers though). Her friend that actually played it died horribly.
    • In Shotaro Ishinomori's manga, Tokusatsu and anime series Kikaider, the Big Bad Professor Gill has a flute that allows him to control his robotic creations. The flute affects Jiro/Kikaider as well: because of his incomplete conscience circuit, the flute's sound causes him physical pain and also sends him into a Brainwashed rage. Only after he transforms into his "Kikaider" form does the flute not affect him.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist (anime and manga), although not really a bad thing, Ed sees "truth" after attempting to perform a human transmutation on his mother at the very beginning of the series and, along with learning a good deal of alchemic knowledge, is able to perform alchemy without a circle, something only those who have also seen the "truth" can do. In the manga only, Al also ends up seeing the "truth" and gains this ability as well.
      • That happens in the anime too, he just forgot for most of the series. After remembering, he could transmute without a circle, but refrains from doing any transmutation for other reasons.
    • A Certain Scientific Railgun has a primary plotline which revolves around this trope. The "Level Upper" is a sound that connects the espers through a neural network simulating a very powerful supercomputer. The "Level Upper" has the positive side effect of temporarily increasing an esper's powers, but later causes them to universally lapse into a coma, and then go berserk when they awaken.
      • Similarly, Capacity Down is a sound that shuts down esper powers. And it is quite headache-inducing to those who have sensitive ears.
      • The second season of A Certain Magical Index has Index getting surrounded by armed nuns. She responds with a song that subconsciously exposes all the supposed contradictions of Christianity to every believer in range, instantly incapacitating all of her attackers, who writhe on the ground screaming in agony. The second wave responds by everyone taking out a pair of fountain pens and stabbing themselves in the ears to deafen themselves so that the song won't affect them.
    • One episode of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman has The Man Behind the Man of Galactor compose "Murder Music #1", a rock song that can drive people insane and even shatter buildings when played from the Mecha Of The Week.
    • Violinist of Hameln runs almost entirely on this trope, flavored with Rule of Cool, Refuge in Audacity and copious amounts of crack. But what else can you say for a series whose entire premise is that the heroes use magical music to beat evil up (and to beat each other up, they're rather dysfunctional)...?
    • Not a major plot element but once in a while there is mention of a whistle that is about the only thing to harm Kamen no Maid Guy's Kogarashi. (First and last episode, actually)
      • Not to mention Kogarashi's MEIDO GUY FREEZE VOICE, which renders most people unable to move for 30 minutes.
    • Played for laughs on a national scale in this clip from Kujibiki Unbalance.
    • Hakko from Canaan has the ability to kill people with her voice, but whenever she speaks or sings it sounds perfectly normal. The audience only hears how she perceives her voice herself, rather than the people affected by it.
    • Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou at one point has the heroine put into a coma by the cursed kin; due to the extra string, the music produced by said instrument caused disorder in the souls of whoever heard it, killing them. Exorcising the ghost of the first victim who continued playing and causing deaths still required a specific person to play the kin and die in the process. Eisen finds a way around it by playing the kin under water, reducing the sound to a non-lethal strength -- and he still gets injured by it.
    • The powerful human and crow tengu of Japan Tengu Party Illustrated have only one real weakness: seeing a "real" tengu, a large seemingly flightless bird causes instant DePowering. This is due to the tengu's view that they are unique supernatural beings, and discovering that their legend is based on a real animal completely shatters their powers.
    • In Naruto, the character Tayuya has one of these: Her weapon of choice is a flute, with which she can control these three creepy puppet corpses. Specific notes cause them to move in certain ways, one in particular causes the corpses to emit chakra devouring soul.. mouth worm things. However, her real kicker comes in the form of a melody, which simply hearing causes the victim to fall into an illusion in which they appear to be strung up by wires as the skin melts off their bones.
    • In one chapter of Keroro Gunsou, Keroro manages to disable Natsumi by whispering something in her ear. Fuyuki later asks Natsumi what he said to her, but Natsumi only replies "Do you want to get this book banned?"
      • Also, it's revealed Kururu can use his headphones to generate a sonic attack that broadcasts the target's least favorite sound (nails on a chalkboard, pieces of styrofoam being rubbed together, etc.) right into their brain.
    • The titular RahXephon and the D-1 Dolems that appear throughout the series can sing in such horrific ways that things around them explode, disintegrate, or cease to exist. It gets worse when they start doing harmonies or descants with more than one in the area.
    • Wunder X's music in Weiss Kreuz causes people to go insane and kill themselves.
    • The songs of the mermaids of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch are beautiful to listen to but hurt people with an evil heart to the point of death.
    • Gintama: In episode 50, Sougo's pitch on how to improve the show comes as an extended guttural noise that drives everyone crazy.
    • Dimitri from Kurobara Alice is a tenor who acquires this power after being turned into a vampire. He accidentally kills his own audience, to start.

    Comic Books

    • The Invisibles must be the chief proponent of the trope, filled with "superdimensional" sounds and words with both positive and negative effects. There's sounds that cause rapid cancer, sounds that opens your consciousness similarly to an explosive, permanent LSD trip, sounds that make you throw up but only if you're a secret agent with multiple cover stories and at one point a hyperdimensional villain is defeated by the word "POP". (It makes him go pop.)
      • The Invisibles even posits that the alphabet itself is a Brown Note, the true name of a powerful demon that the Conspiracy uses to restrict human minds by inculcating the name as a sort of mantra in children.
    • The comic book Transmetropolitan has a literal brown note in the form of the bowel disruptor gun, which has settings including "loose", "watery" and "prolapse".
      • And more creative later settings like "Intestinal Maelstrom", "Unspeakable Gut Horror", "Rectal Volcano", and everyone's favorite, "Shat Into Unconsciousness".
      • Also in Transmetropolitan are the buybombs, a momentary flash of concentrated subliminal advertising that comes from the TV screen, which then causes those exposed to see the commercials in their dreams as they sleep.
      • Warren Ellis used this trope again, but with more grounding in reality, in the fifth issue of Global Frequency. Disturbing subaudible frequencies are a major element of the mystery explored in this issue, and one character mentions the original Brown Note myth.
        • Also used in Global Frequency #3. An alien signal spreading The Virus is dangerous even in the form of programming code on a computer screen. Merely reading the code makes an agent's eyes bleed as she struggles to keep the information from reprogramming her mind.
        • An earlier Ellis example occurred in City of Silence, where a hacker overrides every TV channel so demons can "relate all the secrets of hell on live TV". Hearing these secrets drives viewers insane... except for the protagonists, who "knew it all already" on account of being natives of hell.
      • And in one issue of The Authority, there's an idea so disturbing that anyone who hears it has to tell someone else, and then kill themselves. It's stopped by having the last victim tell it to a film producer, then be restrained. The producer declares it "too downbeat" and promptly rewrites it to be more cheerful.
    • In Jack Kirby's New Gods mythos (and consequently The DCU), there is the Anti-Life Equation. This is a fundamental mathematical proof that life is not worth living, thus allowing the wielder to destroy the wills of any being by simply exposing them to it. Most recently a major plot point in the Final Crisis event.
      • There also exists the Life Equation, which is the fundamental proof that life is worth living. The heroes use the Life Equation to counter the Anti-Life near the end of Final Crisis.
      • Of course, if you read the quote page, you will find that that equation does not work out at all.
        • Of course, you probably didn't say it out loud...
    • Pied Piper, usually a mostly harmless reformed villain in The DCU, turns out to be able to cause a Brown Note effect with his flute, as demonstrated in Countdown to Final Crisis. Not only does he kill Desaad with it, he takes out Apokolips. And he does it using the music of Queen. Pied Piper could do this because he was one of the rare humans who possessed the entire Anti-Life Equation inside his mind.
      • In that same event, Superman destroyed Darkseid by creating a sound that disrupted his energy form.
    • An old Casper the Friendly Ghost comic had a story about a scarecrow so un-scary that the Ghostly Trio gave it the scariest face in existence: a photo of the Ogre of the Black Pool. It was so scary it even scared ghosts! In fact, the only thing it couldn't scare was a sweet little old lady who painted over the scarecrow's face with a friendly one when it came to life and went berserk. (Those old Harvey comics could get weird.)
    • DCU villain Johnny Sorrow's face instantly kills anyone who sees it.
      • Ditto for the face of Dinu from the the Marvel comic Inhumans.
        • And both are likely inspired by Judge Fear, who had the same thing going on, and whose face was only ever once shown to readers.
    • From Bone, Fone Bone's reading voice causes mild drowsiness for human listeners, and debilitating pain for rat creatures. This is probably mostly due to the fact that he always reads Moby Dick.
    • In Mike Carey's Lucifer, a primordial Jin En Mok creature in human guise punishes a janitor, who disturbed his train of thought, by giving him a gold coin bearing "the sigil Calx." As the janitor stares transfixed at the sigil, the Jin En Mok tells him that he will look at it more often each day, with a corresponding increase in pain and pleasure, until he dies within a year.
    • When Marvel Comics had the Star Trek license, they did a Deep Space Nine Dominion War crossover where the bad guys decided to incapacitate all the good guy telepaths with what amounted to an earworm. It flipped your brain, so friends were enemies and enemies friends. When the Marty Stu original character figured it out, he fought back with another earworm. (TNG telepaths liked sharing thoughts on the aether.)
    • In The Sandman #45, Ishtar is a goddess in human form working as an exotic dancer, and apparently she's been holding back the full extent of her dancing talents. After a visit from Dream and Delirium, she stops holding back. Her last dance kills the audience and burns the strip club to the ground.
    • In The Umbrella Academy story arc "The Apocalypse Suite", the antagonist has constructed an orchestra of the sadistic and suicidal to play a symphony that will end the world. Similarly, The White Violin is capable of making heads explode and bodies tear themselves apart by just barely scraping her strings.
    • In Phil Foglio's Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire: The Gallimaufry, there is a game called "Martian Charades", in which a human performs a series of ritualized gestures at an audience of aliens. The gestures have all been clinically proven to be hysterically funny to almost every race in the cosmos except humans themselves. The alien who can keep a straight face the longest is the winner. Moreover, the sight of an audience of multivariate aliens falling all over itself in laughter tends to make the performing human sick. Making the human sick is considered an important secondary goal of the game. (All of this was suggested in a fan letter after Foglio mentioned "Martian Charades" in an issue of Buck Godot, and Foglio embraced it as canon.)
    • Marvel Comics villain Angar the Screamer had the power to cause nightmarish hallucinations by screaming. He would then rob his victims while they were paralyzed with horror. Amnesia would set in after the effect faded, leaving the victims wondering where they'd left their wallets.
    • Mark Waid's Irredeemable had a sonic virus that melted off its child victims' skin right down to their bones and animated their skeletons. It spread through the screams of the adult witnesses.
      • Orian, a demonic hunter, is summoned by merely reading (not aloud) a mystic sigil. He arrives in our world by ripping his way out through the victim's mouth.
    • A Hellblazer story seemed to be about this when people celebrating a revived pagan festival became many interesting shades of crazy while some scientists were conducting mysterious tests at a nearby facility it turns out that the festival itself was the cause, since the scientists' equipment was not only unplugged but never worked to begin with.
    • In the one-shot Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum, the Hamburger Lady believes that her face is so deformed that anyone not already insane can't look upon it. Dr Arkham tries to prove her wrong by looking at her face... and is later implied to have gone insane because of it. Except that she was a figment of his imagination.
    • One of Tharg's Future Shocks from 2000 AD written by Alan Moore gave a spin on the alien parasite Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style tale by suggesting that an alien life form could even be as abstract as an idea. One such "idea" takes over the mind of a person once they are told the "idea" by someone already possessed by it.
    • In Scott Pilgrim, the rival band "Crash and the Boys" has a song that is so epic, it knocks the audience unconscious for twenty to thirty minutes.
    • National Lampoon once ran a comic about Ugly Deirdre, a little girl who was so hideous that the sight of her face caused people to lose bowel control. A kind plastic surgeon tried to fix Deirdre's face... and the results were so horrible that anyone who looked at her would violently blind or kill themselves. The cartoonist spared us the sight of the after-surgery face by covering it with a black box labeled "TOO HIDEOUS FOR PUBLICATION".
    • Again in the DC Comics world, the Accomplished Perfect Physician of the Great Ten (the Chinese Justice League) is capable of both healing diseases and creating earthquqakes, among several other things, by making special vocal sounds he learned in his training.
    • The Mike Allred comic, Red Rocket 7, featured a secret note of existence that if played, signaled the destruction of evil and the dawn of paradise. He used it to destroy an evil alien empire that was invading Earth (after it had taken over most of the universe) and signal the second coming of God.
    • One issue of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man gave Kraven the Hunter a girlfriend named Calypso, who could play the drums in such a way that it interfered with Peter's spider-sense.

    Fan Works

    • In the Danny Phantom fic Danny Phantom Stolen Years, Jack invented a device that emitted a painful sound that only ghosts could hear. He got the effect backwards.
    • In the prequel to a Portal 2 fanfiction called The Punishment, Wheatley falls victim to a glitch programmed into all personality cores which makes them "fall asleep" at the sound of human singing.
    • Brown notes abound in the Worm/Luna Varga crossover Taylor Varga:
      • The very nature of the Taylor/Varga symbiosis does this to Thinker powers.
      • Some of the ... more extreme body shapes Taylor tries have this effect on those who see them -- even the microshoggoth. Lisa in particular seems especially prone to just shutting down when she sees one.
      • The various multi- and fractionally-dimensional constructs Taylor and the Varga create have this effect on most normal humans.
      • The drawings Vista makes after seeing online photos of Danny's birthday present from the Family have this effect on her classmates and teachers. She actually makes one teacher vomit (unintentionally, of course). Amusingly, she doesn't quite realize the actual effect they have on other people.
      • After a little tutoring from Saurial, Vista (as Cloak) can create (or warp existing items into) multi/fractionally-dimensional objects that are also visual brown notes.


    • The Signal features an audio/video signal that has a psychological effect on anyone who hears/sees it, causing people to go insane, or become obsessed with the signal, and trying to make others experience the signal.
    • The videotape from Ringu (and its American adaptation, The Ring) which causes anyone who watches it to die seven days later unless they made a copy of the tape and gave it to someone else. In the American version, the short film Rings and the website "She Is Here" expand on the concept; Samara's videotape is treated almost like a mind-expanding drug.
      • To be clear, although the death of anyone who watches the Tape is just as inevitable as a Brown Note artifact, the videotape itself is harmless, it's the fact that anyone who watches it draws the attention of the psychotic ghost haunting it that leads to fatalities, making it more of a Speak of the Devil.
    • David Cronenberg's Videodrome, about a TV signal that causes brain tumors and hallucinations. The discoverers of the signal attach it to a violent Gorn show in order to clean up society by killing everyone who watches violent television.
    • In Mystery Men, Casanova Frankenstein built a machine that could warp reality itself. Apparently the equations underlying it were so complex that anybody who studied them would go insane. Fortunately for Frankenstein, he was already insane and had spent a decade in the asylum with several of those scientists.
    • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has the Knights who say Ni!. Like their name makes clear, they utter the word "Ni!" in a very screechy high pitched voice to hurt passing travelers and scare them into doing their bidding. It's later revealed the word "it" serves as a Brown Note against the Knights themselves.
    • In Mars Attacks!!, it is discovered that the Martians' main weakness is the singing voice of Slim Whitman, which causes their heads to explode. Seriously.
      • Which is itself likely a call back to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, where the title tomatoes are pacified by a song called "Puberty Love". The last tomato, wearing earmuffs, was defeated by showing it a copy of the sheet music.
    • The James Bond film Live and Let Die opens with an assassination carried out through sound piped through a diplomat's translation earpiece.
    • According to the Metatron in Dogma:

    "... human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God's true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that out."

    • Pi was about a number sequence that helped define the universe. However, the process of determining this number was fatally destructive to a computer, be it machine or human.
    • The film Pontypool is about a memetic virus that is spread through human speech, leading to confusion and murder.

    "For your safety, please avoid contact with close family members, and refrain from the following: all terms of endearment, such as 'honey' or 'sweetheart'; babytalk with young children; and rhetorical discourse. For greater safety, please avoid the English language. Do not... translate... this message."

    • The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz features the Tuning Fork of Annihilation. When played back over the emergency broadcast system, it causes the destruction of all TV sets and kills all children who hear it.
    • In Steve Sullivan's A Heap of Trouble, any man who hears the naked men singing about walking down the road has an irresistible urge to join them.
    • In Iron Man, one of the weapons Stark Industries had developed was an auditory paralysis device. It caused anyone who heard the noise to be temporarily paralyzed. The government didn't ok production because it violated the Geneva convention. Obadiah, however, had no qualms about using it for his own gain more than once.
    • In High Anxiety Dr. Wentworth gets trapped in his car and killed from an ear hemorrhage caused by the loud rock music blaring from the car radio.
    • In Disturbing Behavior, the E-Rat-icator device used by Mr. Newburry is designed to have this effect on rats to drive them away, but it doesn't work so well. It is, however, damn effective against mind-control chips.
    • The Sick Sticks in Minority Report cause the victim to projectile vomit.
    • The David Lynch film version of Dune shows Atrades advanced weaponry is sonic in nature, using ultra and/or infrasound to shatter structures, inflict pain in enemy soldiers, etc. When Paul becomes The Chosen One he acquires the ability to imitate the effects of this sonic weaponry with just his voice

    Atreides: I can kill with a word.
    Soldier: And his word shall bring death eternal for all those who stand against the righteous!

    • In the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, the villains use a television program that causes the viewers to become zombies and attempt to broadcast it across the United States so Fearless Leader can become president.


    • The word "fnord!", from the Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea; at a young age, everybody is trained to unconsciously ignore the word, but feel unspecified fear and anxiety when they see it.
    • The play The King in Yellow, from a collection of horror stories by Robert W. Chambers, caused anyone who read it—no actual performances are ever suggested—to either go mad or meet a horrible death. Often in that order. Rightly censored by governments, it was, effectively, civilization-destroying Forbidden Fruit.
    • The King In Yellow is later used by August Derleth for the Cthulhu Mythos, with a performance of the play acting as a summoning ritual for Hastur. Anyone who wasn't driven insane by reading or viewing the play can say goodbye to their sanity once he shows up.
    • In the novel Infinite Jest, a movie known only as "The Entertainment" was described as so fascinating, anyone who watched it became obsessed with it.
    • SF author David Langford invented the basilisk, also known as the Langford fractal basilisk or blit (see here), a fictional type of computer-generated image that basically acts as a Logic Bomb to the human brain. In the story, it is explained that logical paradoxes like THIS SENTENCE IS FALSE aren't normally dangerous to our sanity or our health because we filter them through three or more levels of cognitive understanding; basilisks, as theorized by Langford, cutright pass cognition and infect you directly through the visual cortex. One of the stories. According to Langford, death is not immediate, because You Cannot Grasp the True Form.
    • An image similar to Langford's "basilisk" was used in the Star Trek novel Before Dishonor.
    • The short story Von Goom's Gambit featured a mathematician who became the world champion chess player "by default" when he discovered a certain arrangement of pieces on the board which formed an image that would short out the brain of anyone who saw it from the opposing player's perspective. Effects of the gambit included; causing some to go blind, driving others insane, and in one instance even turning all of those who saw the gambit at one tournament to turn to stone.
      • Some Post Cyber Punk writers who've used the concept have acknowledged Langford as inspiration: Greg Egan calls it the "Langford Mind-Erasing Fractal Basilisk"; Ken MacLeod has the "Langford Visual Hack"; and Charles Stross has "neural wetware-crashing Langford fractals" and the "Langford Death Parrot". (MacLeod also has his narrator claim it's completely impossible, but now the idea of it is out there people feel they have to take precautions, concluding "What kind of twisted mind starts these things?")
    • H.P. Lovecraft created the fictional black magic tome, the Al Azif aka Noise of Demons by the "mad poet" Abdul Alhazred. It was written under the influence of some pretty heavy, although unspecified, drugs; among other things. It is supposed to cause or trigger madness in the careless reader.
      • Almost everything in Lovecraft's stories is described as being just a little bit harmful to sanity. He must have been fascinated by the idea of things so horrifying and/or alien they're inherently upsetting. Besides of all the Eldritch Abominations and other Ultimate Evils you really don't want to look at too closely, there are things such as Pickman's paintings, of which the tamer ones caused an uproar when displayed, while the ones he didn't show everyone were enough to make a jaded and prepared onlooker scream in terror.
      • Played utterly straight in the story Out of the Aeons (co-written with Hazel Heald). The Eldritch Abomination featured there is so horrible and/or accursed that not just its appearance, but even any sufficiently-accurate image thereof will cause a human onlooker to soon afterwards grow stiff and be transformed into their own mummy -- while their brain remains alive and helplessly trapped inside their skull.
    • One of Ramsey Campbell's more notable additions to the Cthulhu Mythos was Y'Golonac. Part of the reason why was how easily Y'Golonac could be summoned: if you just read his name—not even aloud, but on the printed page—there was a chance you could end up possessed by him. Which you've already done twice. Seeing as he's a god that represents every act that could be viewed as depraved by all individuals sane or mad, this is not a pleasant fate.
    • The Dragon Below trilogy has a Daelkyr whose telepathic voice gives sane people horrendous headaches and insane people orgasms.
    • The plot of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash revolves around the titular Snow Crash virus which resets a person to speaking and understanding only ancient Sumerian, which is described as a programming language for human beings. It allows people to be programmed directly, but leaves them gibbering crazy people spouting glossolalia until then, and shows up in the form of a bitmap image. All hackers are vulnerable, because they can understand the embedded binary code in this bitmap, which causes their unconscious to be able to pick up and mentally "run" the virus. Any Hackers who sees the bitmap, whether in cyberspace or in real life, becomes infected with the virus and instantly turns into a wandering bag-lady (or, erm... bag-lord?).
    • Logic Bombs were used in the Discworld novel Thief of Time to slow down (or destroy) the logical and obedient Auditors, in the form of signs saying things like "Ignore this sign. By order", and an arrow pointing right that said "Keep Left".
      • The Discworld also features the gonagles of the Nac Mac Feegle, who fight by reciting atrocious poetry and by playing music on their painfully high-pitched mousepipes. They can make it rain.
      • The Library of the Unseen University is full of books that do horrible things to people. In particular the Necrotelecomnicon (written by Achmed the Mad, who preferred to be known as Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches) will drive mad any man who attempts to read it. Fortunately The Librarian isn't a man (but an orangutan) so he has no problem with it.
      • On a less-rarified level, the 128-foot "Earthquake" pipe on the UU's pipe organ is said to have caused acute bowel discomfort across a quarter of the city when sounded. Which was only attempted once, as the same subterranean-depth note also got the six students who'd worked the bellows to power the organ sucked into the ductwork, plus the university's Great Hall shifted an inch to one side.
      • In a less-than-lethal example, the species of bird called "geas" (mentioned in Sourcery) uses this trope defensively, by being so monumentally silly-looking that any potential predator will laugh itself sick at the sight.
      • The Patrician's waiting room has a clock designed so that the ticking is irregular, the sounds coming a tiny bit before or after you're expecting it, or sometimes not happening at all. It's described as, after about ten minutes, reducing one's mental state to mush.
    • One of the best known examples of a Brown Note in Hispanic literature is in The Zahir, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. In the story, the Zahir is a random, unique object, picked by Allah himself, which drives anyone who takes even a tiny little peek to total and complete obsession with that thing, to the point of becoming unable to feed himself out of pure detachment. The list includes a navigation device, a tiger, a vein of marble in a mosque, and an Argentinian coin with a "2N" scratched on one side. The story itself tells how the character became increasingly obsessed with the Zahir.
      • This trope was a favorite of Borges' actually (especially the obsession version). In The Book of Sand the protagonist becomes obsessed with a book which has no beginning and no end. In Blue Tigers the protagonist becomes obsessed with a collection of stones which defy all laws of mathematics.
    • Ubbo-Sathla, a story from the Cthulhu Mythos by Clark Ashton Smith, is about a British archeologist, called Paul Tregardis, who found a strange gem that causes anyone who looks at it to have all his mind and consciousness transferred to all the ones who looked at the gem before, until his body disappears and his mind is transferred to the "original chaos".
    • In the Cordwainer Smith short story The Fife of Bodhidharma, the fife can cause either serenity or madness, depending on how it is played.
    • Necromancers' bells in the Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix. Different bells give different effects, and the effect also depends on how the bell is played. One of the bells kills everyone who hears it, including the player.
    • A variation of this occurs in A Clockwork Orange. After Alex's psychological conditioning, he is unable to listen to classical music without feeling sick and weak (in the film, only Beethoven's Ninth has this effect). At one point, one of Alex's former victims uses this knowledge in an attempt to drive him insane.
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Gruthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Gruthos was said to be "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to recite his masterpiece, "Some of My Favorite Bathtub Gurgles", when his small intestine, in an attempt to save galactic civilization, leapt into his skull and throttled his brain.

      • The "Total Perspective Vortex" (a machine that displays a map of the entire universe with a tiny beyond microscopic dot pointing out where you are) causes anyone run through it to feel so insignificant that they go mad (except Zaphod, and that was under special circumstances).
    • The Father Brown story "The Blast of the Book" has a book that supposedly causes anyone who tries to read it to vanish into thin air and never be seen again. It's actually all just an elaborate practical joke. Robert Anton Wilson brazenly plagiarizes this in Masks Of The Illuminati
    • The Ultimate Melody by Arthur C. Clarke revolved around a scientist attempting to reproduce the primal tune from which all music is derived. He succeeded, but on hearing the song caught it in his head for the rest of his life, rendering him catatonic. On discovering him, his assistant shut off the machine playing the tune, and it was dismantled before it could be reactivated; the assistant was immune to the effect due to being tone-deaf.
    • The Fritz Leiber short story "Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-TAH-Tee" is about the discovery of a waltz rhythm that causes anyone who hears it to become maniacally obsessed with it, listen for other examples of it, and recreate it at every opportunity.
    • The Chuck Palahniuk novel Lullaby is about a poem which kills anyone to whom it is recited. Or even those toward whom it is thought.
    • Palahniuk also included a box in Haunted with an eyepiece. Looking inside had some horrible effects such as madness and consequent suicide.
    • Harry Potter
      • Passing references to books that burn out the reader's eyeballs. And also books that can't physically be put down—readers are cursed to go around reading those books for the rest of their lives.
      • A more harmless example is the occasionally-mentioned Sonnets of a Sorcerer, which makes you speak in limericks for the rest of your life.
      • The big threat of the book is a basilisk—a gigantic one, at that.
      • The legend of the Mandrake (see below). The students have to wear hearing protection when pulling them out of the ground. Immature mandrakes just cause fainting. One can even tell their level of maturity by what they do—when they start trying to move into each other's pots, they're just about mature.
      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has, along with the basilisk, the Fwooper. Prolonged exposure to Fwooper call is said to make listeners go insane. One wizard who tried to prove that Fwooper call was beneficial to health came back wearing nothing but a dead badger on his head.
    • The protagonist of Ian McDonald's novella Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone has discovered visual patterns with various effects on human neurology—and has two of them, one that blanks memory and one that kills, tattooed onto his own palms as self-defense.
    • The Euphio Question by Kurt Vonnegut was about a device which picked up the "music of the spheres" (though it wasn't called that.) Anyone who heard it experienced pure happiness and, because they had no desire to fulfill their needs, stopped whatever they were doing to listen to it.
    • Will Ferguson's novel Happiness™ is about a self-help book which tells you how to lose weight, make million of dollars, have great sex and be happy—and actually works. Somehow, reading the book acts on your mind to make you happy and content. This brings about the collapse of the economy, the death of culture and the end of history. Or, more simply, the end of the world.
    • A China Mieville short story features a disease which causes the victim to slowly go insane while constantly repeating a phrase referred to only as the "worm-word." The disease is caused by pronouncing the word properly; it is theorized that the sufferer repeats it so that the listeners will repeat it in confusion, risking infection through proper pronunciation. (There is mention of young Victorians who would live dangerously and take turns reading the word aloud, each time gambling with accidentally getting the pronunciation right.) This story first appeared in The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases as "Buscard's Murrain" and was reprinted in his collection Looking for Jake. For those who like to live dangerously, the word is yGudluh.
      • That story isn't the only one in the Lambshead Guide, either. There's actually a warning marker for diseases which can be contracted by reading the descriptions - and it gets used several times.
    • A seemingly harmless bard in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series at one point plays a song with massively nasty effects on the listeners. Subverted eventually, with the revelation that he's the telepathic Big Bad and the music just enhanced powers he already had.
    • Stephen King
      • Cell has people reset to a primitive state by a signal they receive over their cell phones. It's even a literal reference to the Trope Namer, since afterward they don't seem to notice or care about soiling their clothes.
      • Everything's Eventual revolves around a man who can make people kill themselves by sending them a seemingly random pattern of symbols and a word that is significant to their life over email.
      • IT, the sight of the title monster's true form causes whoever views it to go completely insane.
    • The scrimshaw Turtle in Dark Tower VI, a Clingy Artifact which possesses whoever sees it in a good way, hypnotizing them and leaving a chain of forgetful, happy people in its wake. The turtle is possibly a Shout-Out to Borges above, given its presumably divine origins.
      • The "Black Thirteen" crystal ball from the Dark Tower series has similar effects from an evil perspective. Left alone, it would kill everyone it comes in contact with by causing them to kill or commit suicide and/or release the Beast into the world. Fortunately, the heroes, who are pressed for time, decide to leave it in a long-term storage locker under the World Trade Center.
    • The house, particularly the deeper parts of it (such as the Grand Hall and the Spiral Staircase), in House of Leaves. Some would argue that the book itself is a Real Life Brown Note. Seriously, it's that strange. It has managed to cause inspired nightmares.
    • Mark Twain's witty essay/short story Punch, Brothers, Punch! (also known as "A Literary Nightmare") concerns a tune which the narrator is unable to force from his head, and is unusual in that the killer verse is presented for us in full—and the nature of the silly little ditty is such that just reading the lyrics really is enough to get the damn tune stuck in the reader's head! He finally banishes it from his mind by tricking a friend into getting it stuck in his head.

    Conductor, when you receive a fare, Punch in the presence of the passenjare! A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare, Punch in the presence of the passenjare! CHORUS Punch brothers! Punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

    • Centerburg Tales: More Adventures of Homer Price by Robert McCloskey has a story where someone puts a horrible song on the jukebox in the lunch counter. Anyone who hears the song—whether the original jukebox tune or someone else's rendition—can't get it out of their head. Ultimately the main character gets it out of his head by using Punch, Brothers (above), then gives it to the rest of the town. Now he's cleared but they have it. So, he tells them to sing it to the one person who hadn't been in town. Now everyone is cleared except that person, who now has to be smuggled out of town to keep from reinfecting the whole town.
      • The flip side of the same record causes the listener to get hiccups at the thought of the words "pie" or "Mississippi".
    • In Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Dr. Hilarius, That Wacky ex-Nazi, claims to be able to cause madness by making weird faces at people. And then those nice young men in their clean white coats come to take him away (ha ha).
    • The Deplorable Word from Narnia was used by Jadis to destroy Charn, her homeworld. We don't learn what the word is—only that it sounds horrible. We do learn that, whatever it is, it does not work on Earth.[1]

    Aslan: While mankind has not yet reached the levels of corruption that Charn has, there is the possibility that man could learn the Deplorable Word.

      • Presumably it doesn't work in Narnia either, else she surely would've used it there when she realized she was about to become lion-chow.
        • Popular opinion holds that because Jadis's powers are diminished in The Wood Between Worlds / Narnia / Earth, she simply didn't have the juice necessary to use the Word as she did in Charn. Plus, the Word was her absolute last resort, since she preferred destroying everything than submitting to her sister and her armies. Besides, destroying everyone and everything on Earth or in Narnia before she had a chance to conquer would just be silly.
    • The Magician's Nephew, which mentions the Deplorable Word, was written in 1955, just as the Cold War was starting to get serious. Aslan's final speech reads 'some wicked one of your world will find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things.' He then goes on to reference the World War. One might almost think C. S. Lewis was making a thinly veiled anti-WMD speech there. (Magician's Nephew is set in the late 1800s.)
      • In fairness to Lewis, the Bomb is the first weapon humanity has ever invented that seriously has the potential to depopulate the planet. Given the antagonistic politics of the day, and the fact that the Soviet Union had until recently been ruled by a genocidal madman, and well, the ongoing danger of nuclear weapons, he was right to be worried.
        • And despite the fact that the Cold War has ended and the Soviet Union disbanded, the fact that the United States and China still hold more nukes to destroy the world at least four times over more or less turns this into an allegory for "He who launches a single nuke on a populace effectively ends all humanity".[2]
    • Peter F. Hamilton's Nights Dawn Trilogy introduces a mind-destroying version as a weapon. This is a universe where the soul is immortal, and the souls of the dead are coming back to possess the living, gaining "energistic" powers in the process. The "Anti-memory device" is humanity's response: a laser beam that carries a mind-virus. When viewed by human eyes, the virus is processed into the cortex, where it proceeds to destroy the "mind" (i.e. thought processes), thus killing both the possessing soul and the soul of the body's owner, leaving the body in a vegetative state. The resident Sufficiently Advanced Aliens are unsurprised by the fact that humanity was the first to perfect such a terrible weapon. They theorize that the virus might even transmit back into the afterlife (with which the possessing souls still have a connection), kill every lost soul in there, and even go past the "human spectrum" and attack alien souls as well. It's that bad.
      • It gets worse: Quinn Dexter gets the weapon at one point. He's very happy when he finds out what it does. Turns out it facilitates possession when the body is soul-less.
      • What's disturbing is that the technology was derived from commercial memory-imprinting educational devices, which have made schools obsolete by the 25th century.
    • In "The Bottle Imp" by Robert Louis Stevenson, the eponymous bottled imp will show itself if its owner commands, but both the owner and any other witnesses will be paralyzed with terror for several hours after seeing it. This happens to the protagonist and his friend, but because of this, no physical description of the imp is given.
    • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester mentions advertising melodies called 'pepsis' which, once heard, are almost impossible to remove from the conscious mind, due to the way they are constructed. The Big Bad asks specifically to hear one of them because he wants to use it as a blocking mechanism to avoid telepathic detection of the criminal thoughts he harbors.
    • The whole plot of Simon R. Green's Nightingale's Lament deals with this: a singer whose songs cause (some) audience members to commit suicide.
    • Piers Anthony's Xanth novel Night Mare. Looking into a hypnogourd caused a person's consciousness to enter the gourd, leaving them catatonic.
      • And in Macroscope there is a sort of video that will destroy the intelligence of anyone above a certain IQ who hasn't evolved beyond violent tendencies.
    • Paul Robinson's short story It Can't Be That Bad tells how Clark Rosecrans discovered something terrible that bothered him. He goes to visit a psychiatrist. This is when the police show up as the psychiatrist, upon hearing what Clark knows, used a chair to bash a hole in the window of his 20th story office, and jumped out, screaming. His secretary calls the police, and at first it's thought Clark has killed the psychiatrist. So he's taken down to the station to be interviewed. A police officer and a deputy district attorney interview him before his lawyer show up. When they hear his story, the police officer draws his revolver and eats a bullet. The Deputy DA runs out, runs across the street, and jumps off a bridge. The tape recording of the interview is transcribed. After the transcriber finishes, she walks out of the office, walks into the ladies' room and drowns herself in a toilet. Her supervisor picks up the transcript, reads it, then walks down to the motor pool, douses himself with gasoline, and lights a match. The DA has decided not to prosecute, because first, nobody knows if he's done anything illegal, and second, because no judge will touch the case, for fear of hearing what Clark has to say. The joke is, every time Clark tells his story, he's worried, and the response is always, "Oh, it can't be that bad."
    • Neil Gaiman wrote a poem entitled Virus, which details how human civilization is destroyed by an utterly addictive video game.
    • In The Idol of Cyclades by Julio Cortazar the main character is driven mad by a statuette he had found while exploring an island. He spends months making replicas of it until his replicas are identical to the original. In the end he attempts to sacrifice his friend to anoint it with blood.
    • Goethe's book The Sorrows of Young Werther is generally reputed to have raised suicide rates among European youth.
    • John Varley's short story Press Enter starts with an investigation into the suicide, possible murder, of a computer hacker and reveals that somebody roaming the young Internet (or perhaps the Internet itself) defends against persistent probing with a signal that compels the intruder to commit suicide.
    • Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy books feature the "Name of God", a powerful word that contains within it the secrets of the nature of the entire world... or something like that. Carey resorts to some very clumsy cheats in order to avoid printing the Name. Whenever it is spoken, it appears as "____________".
      • She uses these "clumsy" cheats because when Phedre speaks the Name of God, everyone later says that the word they heard was "love" in their mother tongue.
    • Ted Chiang's short story Understand features two super-intelligent people duelling by trying to implant deadly Brown Notes in each other. The one that succeeds had been subconsciously planted in its victim in the previous few days; it is then triggered when his enemy tells him to "Understand"
    • One of Bentley Little's perverse stories involves a numerical code that causes anyone who looks at it to suffer a crippling orgasm. The military considers using it to end all wars.
    • The hero of one of Mercedes Lackey's SERRAted Edge novels uses the entire discography of They Might Be Giants to do this to a group of psychics sicced on him by the Big Bad; the theory was that the nonsensical nature of the band's lyrics made it impossible to sing along to without devoting a considerable amount of conscious thought to them, meaning his (and their) minds would be too preoccupied with thinking about the lyrics to do much of anything else. (It helped that the psychics trying to pick his brain were culturally stuck in the Middle Ages and had no possible context by which to even begin to grasp what the hell was going on in his head; one of them was led off wailing helplessly about alchemical formulae.) Also, they were Ear Worms, so every psychic who didn't have them stuck in their head yet would hear it from the ones who are already affected, thus infecting them too.
      • However, one of the hobgoblin servants found the tunes quite catchy and was also singing them before being bitch-slapped by his boss.
    • In Animorphs, at one point they fight a race of aliens called Howlers, who have a screaming cry that has very nasty effects on any sentient creature who hears it.
    • The Lord of the Rings universe has the Nazgul's screeching.
    • Uttering the "right names of things" is the basis for magic in Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series and similar works.
    • Andre Norton's novel Lord of Thunder mentioned that subsonic noise could be used to control animals or drive them into madness.
    • The overlord of the Redeemers in Star Trek: New Frontier knew words that things. From inflicting severe pain, to forcing a person to reveal everything they know (which was actually used, and it wasn't a pretty sight). Their one weakness is that they can be blocked by Starfleet Universal Translators because they're from a language the Translators don't recognize.
    • Larry Niven has a couple of short stories set in his Draco Tavern universe that use this trope, with Niven's typical twist applied:
      • The Subject is Closed—Rick, proprietor of the Tavern overhears a priest discussing religion with one of the most ancient, gregarious, ubiquitous and therefore knowledgeable races to visit the tavern, the Chirpsithra. The Chirp relates a tale of an ancient race with whom the Chirps had commerce who had announced they were embarking on a search for an "Afterlife", either to prove or disprove its existence. When the Chirps lost contact with the race shortly after they announced a breakthrough in their research, explorers discovered the planet abandoned. The entire race had calmly, orderly and methodically committed suicide. The Chirps decided it pragmatic to not attempt to investigate what they had discovered.
    • In the Dance of the Gods quadrilogy by Mayer Alan Brenner, has a character named Jurtan Mont who has a mental illness that causes him to hear a soundtrack to his life, to the point that hearing music outside of his mind made his brain jealous and knocked him out. Later on he finds that playing (or in some cases just shouting) the music in his head knocks out or puts others to sleep.
    • In Dream Park, an industrial spy steals samples of 'neutral scent', an odor that causes a person's pre-existing emotions to become hyperintense. Too strong an exposure can make people lose all control of their fear, anger, lust, etc.
      • It's actually odd that more examples of smell don't exist, since it's been suggested that smell is the fundamental sense, and is crucial to memory-retention in most creatures.
    • The "Ultimate Perfume" crafted by the protagonist in Perfume, a deformed man with a heightened sense of smell. It's a pheromone made from the dead bodies of women he's killed, capable of seducing anyone. When he finally puts it on, it causes all the random passerby around him to love him so much that they tear him apart limb from limb and devour him.
    • Anne McCaffrey's Talents are susceptible to a "sting-pzzt" sensation whenever they're near Hivers or anything built by Hivers. Not really harmful, but as it's described as a constant metallic, acidic "smell" (for want of a better term; it's actually a psychic sensation), it tends to make them very irritable.
    • Johnnie Rico's first encounter with a Bug from Starship Troopers drives him into a panicked state that he doesn't snap out of until well after he's overkilled it. The neodogs deployed in the first encounter with the Bugs apparently are also driven nuts, as they reflexively suicide-bomb the Bugs as soon as they come into contact with them. Johnnie gets used to it, though, and mentions that later batches of neodogs are trained to overcome this instinct.
    • A Wrinkle in Time does this. IT pulses with a deep rhythm that causes people around to experience altered heartbeats and breathing to fall in line with the rhythm. It goes on from there to total control.
    • Stephen Dedman's novel The Art of Arrow Cutting features a mujina (shapeshifting creature from Japanese mythology) whose true face is a blank gray void that causes humans who see it to become mindless vegetables.
    • A short story called "Hypnoglyph" features a tactile example; a small carved object that acts on the sensory nerves in such a way that a person who touches it becomes obsessed with holding and stroking it, to the extent that they lose all interest in their surroundings (at which point they become prey for the alien creators of the objects).
    • Henry Kuttner's short story "Nothing But Gingerbread Left" a semantics professor develops a German-language ditty so catchy that a person hearing it will be able to do nothing but think about it. Broadcast in occupied Europe, the song drives the Nazis so insane, they lose the war.
    • In More Information Than You Require, anyone who looks at an axolotl (a type of salamander) for too long will become one.
    • The short story/long sentence "The Fulcrum" features a punctuation mark that will destroy your understanding of language, which in turn leaves you incapable of comprehending reality. This was presumably an attempt on the part of the social sciences to dispel the popular notion that it's incapable of creating a world-ending monstrosity in defiance of God's will. Take that, the hard sciences.
    • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the cry of a rathorn (a vicious, carnivorous unicorn-like creature) induces terror in those who hear it. The Kencyr house of Knorth adopted the rathorn as its banner and its cry as their Battle Cry; members of the House appear to be immune to the sound.
    • The Ravenor series of Warhammer 40,000 novels contains the arch-villains quest to learn Enuncia, the language of the gods. A single, out-of-context syllable read aloud causes the speakers mouth to bleed, a nearby servitor's head to explode, and drives another berserk enough to smash its head to itty-bitty little pieces against a stone wall.
    • In Orson Scott Card's Songmaster, the protagonist, Ansset, can manipulate people psychologically with his singing. At one time, he causes a sadistic man to disembowel himself by showing the sadist the depth of his own evil through a song.
    • In Wheel of Darkness, an Agent Pendergast novel, the Agoyzen is a type of this - the mere sight of it unhinges something in the viewer's brain, making them become a sociopath. Pendergast is one of those who suffers from Agoyzen sociopathy, but he gets better.
    • German sci-fi pulp series Perry Rhodan has Alaska Saedelaere, a man who had an alien fragment fused to his face in a transporter accident which made everyone go insane and die just from looking at it. He had to wear a mask to disguise it. Being one of the series' main characters who had received cell activators to make them immortal, he had to wear that mask for a very long time. He got better after a couple of centuries, but had his condition reverted again.
    • The short story The Riddle of the Universe and its Solution by philosopher Christopher Cherniak provides an example where comprehension of a certain fact induces a coma. Often, the last word uttered by a victim is "Aha!".
    • Some of the magical tricks Garrett keeps up his sleeves in the Garrett P.I. series would qualify, as they impair anyone who's looking at the flashy F/X when he activates them.
    • In Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, we have Du Svardenvyrd, the Wyrd of the Swords. The man who wrote it was insane, and the first person to encounter it immediately committed suicide. Only one other person's response is shown, and he went from being the best and brightest of a circle of wise, learned men to being a wandering thief and alcoholic, unable to commit suicide, but unable to live with what he'd read.
    • In Into the Looking Glass, one of the results of the creation of the Chen Anomaly is a bubble covering Boca Raton, Florida. Any attempt at recording what's inside the bubble fails, and anyone who sees it goes incurably insane. A technician assisting Weaver's investigation of the anomalies caused by the explosion at the University of Florida suggests the result is like that from a human in the Lovecraft mythos looking upon one of the Old Ones, by seeing something that's completely beyond human comprehension.
    • In Stephen Tunney's One Hundred Percent Lunar Boy, people with a certain genetic condition have the ability to see the fourth primary color all around them, and this color happens to be in their irises as well. This color does not bother them, but normal people who see the color of their eyes fall into a temporary catatonic state, in which they are extremely suggestible and can have their thoughts manipulated.
    • E. E. "Doc" Smith's Second Stage Lensmen, features near the end a scene in which the Thralian Prime Minister Fossten is revealed as an Eddorian, specifically Gharlane. For various reasons, his true form is hidden from Kim Kinnison, but everyone else on the enemy flagship's bridge can see it and falls into a paralytic, near-braindead stupor.
    • In Of Snail Slime, the short film "Everything That Ever Was". Showing Exactly What It Says on the Tin, it's unintentionally designed to drive men completely out of their minds, so long as they're not too intelligent or stupid.
      • The full length film following it, Everything That Ever Wasn't, was apparently such a Brown Note that it completely destroyed itself, as well as the theater and anyone watching it.
    • In A Fire Upon the Deep, high-protocol networks use supersentient packets. These are dangerous. Reading them can assimilate you into the blight (a fate that may be worse than the death of your entire civilization). There exist defenses, but they aren't fullproof. After discovering they have been subverted, a security firm offers the following advice:

    If during the last thousand seconds you have received any High-Beyond-protocol packets from "Arbitration Arts," discard them at once. If they have been processed, then the processing site and all locally netted sites must be physically destroyed at once. We realize that this means the destruction of solar systems, but consider the alternative. You are under Transcendent attack.

    • A lesser example than some of these, but nonetheless: in Tales of Kolmar, the Rakshasa lords must have their true names spoken for them to be summoned. Demon summoners are practiced in this and manage, but a non-summoner overhearing is driven to vomit. Late in the series, we see that the sound of the Demonlord's laughter has the same effect.
    • The Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic had Princess Ateh protected in sleep by the runes painted on her eyelids, that would kill anyone who sees them, i.e. sees her face while her eyes are closed (she didn't mind the night light, apparently). This worked fine until she received as a gift two mirrors, one of which allowed to see reflection from the very near future, and the other slightly delayed (thus allowing to see oneself in motion and from the angles normally unavailable with a simple mirror, aside of the amusement value). She was shown these early in the morning before having the runes washed off and... three guesses at what could possibly go wrong with that.
    • Lars Bengtsson's novel, The Long Ships, had an appearance by two Irish jesters/dwarfs who said they were careful to tone down their performance because they'd killed one patron by being so funny that he laughed himself to death. The Viking crew who'd picked them up decided not to tempt the fates/Norns by calling the jesters on their claim.
    • The second Tom Stranger audiobook has a sequence claiming Bill Nye's "My Sex Junk" can function as such. A character leans on the fourth wall to make clear Bill Nye really did make something called "My Sex Junk" and that the audience can look it up on YouTube and witness the effects for themselves.

    Live-Action TV

    • Monty Python's Flying Circus had a classic Brown Note in the form of the "Funniest Joke Ever Written", so funny that anyone who heard it would die laughing, used to parody documentaries on World War 2 (more specifically, those about the atomic bomb). We could tell you more about it, but instead, why don't you see for yourself? (At your own peril, of course.)
      • The premise is that a British humorist writes a joke so unimaginably funny that anyone who reads or hears it quickly dies from fatal hilarity. The British army then translate the joke word-by-word to German using different translators (some of them fall into a coma after translating more than two words) and use it as a weapon against the Germans in WWII.
      • And that joke is: "Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!" This cannot really be coherently translated given that it involves many seemingly nonexistent words, but if searches through online German-English dictionaries are any indication then whatever they're talking about apparently involves both dogs and pinball, and one can only imagine the possibilities of what humor could be made of that.
    • The myth of the "brown note" was tested in an episode of MythBusters. For what it's worth, they declared it "busted".
    • The British Mythbusters knockoff Brainiac also "tested" the Brown Note, but they claimed it worked. On the other hand, Brainiac's unprofessionalism stems not from a preference for showing the two goofiest personalities injuring themselves to showing their scientific scrupulosity, but from their not testing anything more than once and faking results if reality proves less than accommodating. In this case, they stuffed their victim in the porta-john with a speaker; when the test was over, the host (but not the camera) looked into the john and said, "We're going to need a bucket." Take that as you will.
    • The comedy series Upright Citizens Brigade featured sketches involving the "Bucket of Truth", a plastic bucket which would supposedly force anyone who looked into it to face some undefined, horrifying truth, driving them mad (and thus lowering the price of a home that included it); the only one immune to its insanity-creating effect was a detective so jaded and cynical that his reaction was "Don't you think I know that!?!"
    • In Doctor Who, the Master was forced to stare into the time vortex as a child and was driven mad by the sound of drums calling him to war. This sound has been running through his head without a break for close to a millennium now. It preys on him so much that the last time he died, his last words were "Will it stop, Doctor? The drumming, will it stop?"
      • We find out in The End of Time that the sound is actually a signal sent back from the Time War by the future Time Lords. That's right, the Time Lords did this to him. The Master is not happy.
      • In Fury from the Deep, Victoria Waterfield's screaming defeats the weed monster.
      • In "The Time of Angels" we learn that any image or recording of an weeping angel can become an angel. This goes double if you look an Angel in the eyes...
    • Blipverts in Max Headroom, supercompressed TV commercials that occasionally make Your Head Asplode.
    • The Outer Limits: In "Music of the Spheres", the titular music is a signal from space which, in addition to being extremely addictive, ends up causing a series of dramatic physical transformations in listeners. Notably, unlike most examples of the Brown Note, the changes the music causes ultimately turn out to be beneficial - it transforms humans into a form that is resistant to a high-UV environment, which is what the Earth is about to become due to the sun undergoing a "shift".
    • In Torchwood: Children of Earth, when the frequency emitted from Jack's grandson makes the 456 explode in a shower of blood (and then somehow teleport away in their flaming pillar) and also kills Stephen.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • One episode features an alien who uses this to distract Deanna Troi from probing his mind, basically by sticking a song permanently in her head. Apparently, Troi is allergic to ethereal, tinkly music-box music, because while it's mildly annoying to the viewer Troi reacts not like she's going mad, so much as she's in intense, head-exploding pain. Brown Note indeed.
        • Troi's example doesn't really count, as there is nothing compulsive about the music. It is simply that the alien forces Troi to hear it, constantly, day and night, 24/7. No matter how innocuous the music, after a while anyone would start to crack up, begging for it to stop, especially if it was in your head. And he keeps turning up the volume. Since nobody other than Troi can hear the music, this is more of a case of Terrible Ticking.
      • There's was also the episode "The Game," which features an addictive video game which stimulated the brain's pleasure centers.
    • The short-lived show Threshold has this as the central plot, with an alien audio signal rewriting the DNA of people encountering it. In most cases it lead to those people dying horribly, but others became stronger and tougher, and most of all homicidal.
    • The music-related episode of Look Around You features the boîte diabolique, an extension to the piano keyboard containing the nineteen forbidden notes. These notes cause listeners' ears to bleed upon hearing them. Naturally, the sound in the recording is muted during the demonstration to save the viewers' own ears.
      • The Food episode of series two featured an image so frightening that it causes users of the Slimby diet shakes to sweat all of the fat out of their bodies.
    • One episode of The Middleman involves a cursed tuba from the Titanic that causes anyone who hears it to "drown in the icy waters of the North Atlantic". Including people who are on dry land at the time.
    • The Green Clarinet sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look ends with a put-upon waiter countering the Clarinet's forced-truth effect with a literal Brown Note from a red tuba. The clarinet itself may not be a literal example, but it does have the effect of compelling the listener to reveal "an embarrassing truth... that they'll be unable to deny." Call it emotional harm if you must.
    • In the Heroes online comic, a man with sound control powers ("Echo DeMille") makes use of the Brown Note. As he puts it, instead of killing the men following him, he lays waste to them.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty". Anyone seeing the true form of a Medusan becomes dangerously insane.
      • An example of the surreal, Twilight Zone-y, Space Is Magic philosophy that Star Trek started out with. The old writers didn't feel any need to "explain" everything, much less with the same Techno Babble every week. The Medusans don't emit dangerous radiation or anything, they're just supposed to look so weird that you'll lose your mind if you see one. (When traveling among mundanes they hide in little coffins like vampires.)
    • An episode of Seinfeld had to do with Elaine going out with a man who would go into near-catatonic states of bliss when he heard the Eagles song "Desperado". Irritated, she tried to get him to make a song "their song", suggesting "Witchy Woman", which he doesn't seem to particularly care for. At the end of the episode, he gets into a car accident, but unfortunately the surgeon goes into a similar state of lapse when he hears, irony of ironies, "Witchy Woman", which is playing on the speakers for some reason. It's implied the man dies as a result.
      • Let's not forget Kramer's hilarious reaction to Mary Hart's voice. It's apparently Truth in Television. See the real life examples.
    • On the Lockdown episode of The 4400, there was a fairly literal example of a brown note. In the episode, T.J. Kim, one of the 4400, had the ability to send out a frequency that caused extreme violence, paranoia and aggression... however, it only affected men. It was to the point where completely ordinary, even meek men were scrambling to kill anything that moved out of fear it would kill them first.
    • The painting in the Saturday Night Live digital short "Everyone's a Critic".
      • An early Saturday Night Live sketch, "Bad Opera", featured Dan Ackroyd as an arts presenter introducing the Bad Opera "The Golden Note". In this opera parody, the lead soprano is chosen by the Norse Gods to receive and sing the Golden Note, but the hero knows that the power of that note would kill her if she ever sang it. As Ackroyd's character explains during the performance, the Golden Note is a sustained high C of such tone, volume and length that the soprano singing the note suffers from "larynx lock", making her unable to stop singing that note.
    • More recently, an episode of Fringe involved a virus that downloads itself onto computers (and it's 666 megabytes in size, go figure). Once it successfully downloads, a popup ad appears on the screen called "What's That Noise?" Clicking on it produces a series of seizure-inducing images that place the viewer in a hypnotic state due to audio waves stimulating the brain. The viewer then hallucinates a ghastly hand coming out of the computer screen, and when it touches them, their brains melt into liquid due to overstimulation and flow out of every orifice.
      • A later episode had a frequency broadcast over the radio that completely wiped the memories of everyone who heard it. The backstory alluded to a radio broadcast that existed before the existence of radios. The broadcast itself was composed of a random series of numbers spoken in every different language.
    • An episode of The X-Files ("Drive") involved a secret Navy communication device which generated radio waves that supposedly vibrated at a frequency that matched that of a human skull, filling listeners' head with increasing pressure that would literally blow out of their ears fatally unless the pressure was relieved surgically.
    • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush", the Gentlemen could only be killed by hearing a human voice. In this case though it's non specific, any human voice will do.
    • In Angel music does not exist in the demon dimension of Pylea. When Lorne, exile from this dimension begins to sing, the locals react with pain and terror, taking it for malevolent sorcery.
    • The Twilight Zone TOS "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby". Frisby encounters aliens who are harmed by musical notes from a harmonica.
    • The only thing capable of instantly defeating Artie the Strongest Man in the World is the sound of a whammy bar.
    • In Firefly, "The Hands of Blue" pursuing Simon and River Tam would kill anyone that got in their way or came in contact with the two fugitives by pulling out a small device that emitted a noise causing anyone to hear it to bleed from, well, everywhere. "The Hands of Blue" were not affected by the device, presumably due to protective body armor under their suits (the blue armor extends to their hands, hence their name).
      • It's implied that this will not kill River either, so it's probably something the Academy does in the brain.
    • An episode of Masters of Horror titled "Cigarette Burns" revolved around a certain film, La Fin absolue du Monde, all copies of which were thought to have been destroyed after its first screening sparked a homicidal riot amongst the audience. It is revealed at the end that the reason for this is that La Fin absolue du Monde was a video of an angel being mutilated, and the evil of that horror affects all who view the film.
    • The Lost Room featured a number of objects with Brown Note effects, including a pack of cards that would cause the viewer to suffer startling visions, a nail file which induces sleep in anyone who sees light reflected from it and an umbrella which causes people to find the holder familiar.
    • The Sarah Jane Adventures has the painting known only as "the abomination" in the story "Mona Lisa's Revenge". Then somebody tries to animate it.
    • Chuck has this as its core trope, in the form of the Intersect, a pattern-recognition and confidential storage computer designed to be installed into human brains through a long, high-speed sequence of seemingly random images. Watching the Intersect installation program run paralyzes you temporarily and makes you nauseous at best, and has been shown to kill people at worst.
    • This theme also becomes an important plot point in Dollhouse. In the first season, we see an example of a "remote wipe", which removes the imprinted personality of the doll and restores him or her to their doll state. In the second season, Topher develops a device that can wipe anyone you point it at, even normal humans.
    • MTV's FurTV features an episode where Fat Ed's Heavy Metal band Stinkhole discovers the literal Brown Note. Many innocents shit themselves to death listening to the song.
    • On Supernatural, seeing Castiel's true face (and presumably the true faces of all other angels) causes one's eyes to burn out of their sockets, as seen memorably in the fourth season premiere, and his true voice causes windows to shatter and ears to bleed. In vessel form, however, they can be heard and seen normally.
      • He does mention that certain gifted people can perceive his true visage. His vessel Jimmy is one of them, and John Winchester is strongly hinted of also being one, given that Michael directly spoke to him at one point.
    • Warehouse 13 contains tons of objects that are capable of this, without even going into the really dangerous things in The Dark Vault, like Sylvia Plath's typewriter, which sucks the will to live out of a person just by looking at it. In fact, all of the artifacts in the Dark Vault are activated by some human sense.
      • Other artifacts include a song that causes a state of euphoric bliss in anyone who hears it, leaving them helpless, a bell that makes people laugh until they asphyxiate, another bell (owned by Ivan Pavlov) that makes a person drool excessively for 24 hours, and Lizzy Borden's Compact, causing whoever looks into the mirror to want to kill the person they love.
    • On The Colbert Report, due to the massive size of his balls, Stephen has a very, very low speaking voice. So low, in fact, that he is constantly in danger of hitting the brown note, so his doctor gave him a prescription for helium in order to maintain the pitch we normally hear him speaking in.
      • "My apologies to Doris Kearns Goodwin."


    • Comedy example: the ("Push the Tempo") Ya Mama music video has a music that causes peoples to dance uncontrollably. Can be seen here.
    • The music video for the Radiohead song "Just" begins with a man lying down in the middle of the street and refusing to budge. As people gather, they ask him (all the dialogue being in subtitles) why he's lying there, and after refusing over and over again, he finally caves in. The camera zooms in on his mouth as he's speaking, but with the subtitles suddenly removed, the audience has no idea what he's saying. The final scene of the video is of all the people around him lying on the ground in the same posture, his words presumably having had the exact same effect on them as on him.
      • The closeup has him repeating "God help me, I'll tell you." and it's implied that he's actually saying it during the shot of Radiohead looking out the mirror. I can read lips. Trust me on this one.
    • Rhapsody of Fire has seven of these in the tales their music tells. There are seven black books, written with the blood of slain angels, which contain methods with which to summon the evil god Kron back from the hell the good gods banished him to. Finding the last one, the greatest of them all which could end the world, was the subject of two of their CDs, The Dark Secret and Triumph or Agony. It is said that the first six were found and now are kept locked away in magic towers, protected by heaven itself (although that wouldn't necessarily be a hindrance for the dark powers that be).
    • The Kate Bush song Experiment IV: "But they told us All they wanted Was a sound that Could kill someone from a distance."
      • And in the video, the scientists deliver; although the sound does not manifest anything like what might have been expected. (The video is also notable these days for featuring the then-virtually-unknown Hugh Laurie in a cameo role!)
    • The Beach Boys song Good Vibrations features an electro-theremin. At one point it plays a note so high that it's outside the range of human hearing, but it drives animals NUTS.
      • The Beatles did something similar for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
        • It's a piercing dog whistle and many humans can hear it, too: see the so-called "teen repellent", below.
    • Brian Wilson suppressed the song Fire for allegedly causing fires; see "Real Life" below for details.
    • "The Sermon II", the opening, spoken-word track on The Creepshow's album "Run For Your Life", is about a radio signal that causes a Zombie Apocalypse.
    • According to Urban Legend, the original Hungarian language-version of "Gloomy Sunday" was linked to a (varying) number of suicides. In some versions of the story "the authorities" banned the song for its allegedly triggering qualities.
    • Hawkwind's song "Sonic Attack" (actually more spoken-word with a few musical undertones) features a public service announcer giving advice on what to do "In case of Sonic Attack on your region," and describing symptoms of "imminent sonic destruction," which include dizziness, vomiting, an ache in the pelvic region, and fits of hysterical shouting or laughter (at which the announcer starts laughing hysterically, revealing that the Sonic Attack has hit his region).
    • Tim Minchin's song "F Sharp" features him singing that note (which is notoriously hard to keep up) while playing piano in F major (As he claims, at least - he's actually playing in the relative minor of D minor during the note). The combination of the two creates some definite unease and cringing.
    • The video for Kanye West's "All of the Lights" actually caused seizures in some epileptics, so a warning was put on the video and a version was posted with the seizure-causing parts removed. The beginning and end of the song feature brightly colored words flashing quickly, which can be kind of dizzying.
    • The Indian classical pieces of music known as "Raga" are supposed to produce strange effects when played in certain conditions. A story tells of the 16th century musician Tansen who, singing before the skeptical emperor Akbar, put himself (and the surrounding palace) in fire by merely singing the Raga "Deepak". His daughter came to the rescue by singing the rain raga called "Megh Malhar" to extinguish the flames. One researcher noted that the musicians still avoid performing the raga Deepak.
    • Averted by Van Halen; Eddie Van Halen's "Brown Sound" apparently didn't have any adverse effects on its listeners, other than hearing loss.


    • The root of the mandrake plant looks a bit like a tiny person. Naturally, people were afraid it would scream if cut, then that it would scream if ever dug up, and finally that if anyone heard it scream, they would die. In same cases, violently.
    • There's the Irish legend of the harp of Daghda, which could cause pain, laughter, or peace through music.
    • The Basilisk and/or Cockatrice. Depending on who you ask, they are either the same monster or two entirely different monsters that always get confused with one-another. If they are different, then they also look different: the Basilisk is either a lowly lizardy thing or a snakelike thing and the Cockatrice is essentially half rooster, half demonic monster.
      • The main points about these creatures are basically the same: they are small and can easily hide and sneak about and pop up anywhere, they are pure evil, they must come into this world by unnatural means (often by a rooster laying an egg), and to meet their gaze is to drop dead on the spot. Or to turn into stone. Or they kill/petrify you just by looking at them. Or by touching you or breathing on you. Or they leave a path of desolation ("creating a desert") wherever they walk. Or... it may be easier at this point to say that the Reptiles Are Abhorrent trope is very old, and has much to do with the wildly exaggerated dangerousness of poisonous snakes.
      • Basilisks were purported to be so deadly that even trying to stab them transmits their Brown Note to you. As Lucan wrote, "What though the Moor the Basilisk hath slain, and pinned him lifeless to the sandy plain, up through the spear the subtle venom flies; the hand imbibes it, and the victor dies."
    • Older Than Feudalism: The sight of Medusa and her Gorgon sisters either kills you instantly or turns you into stone depending on what version of the legend you read. In most versions, this power remains with her hideous visage even after she's been beheaded, and it ends up mounted on Athena's shield or breastplate for exactly that reason. Note that Medusa was killed by the hero Perseus who had (along with various god-given tools) a mirrored shield—not to reflect her gaze back Nethack style, but to look into, so he could aim his sword to kill her without looking directly at her.
    • The Sirens are like an auditory version of the Gorgons, as they lure sailors to their death with their song.
    • The Catoblepas is a hideously ugly oxlike creature who, likewise, either kills you or turns you into stone if it meets your gaze. Sometimes just looking at it will have the same effects. This monster is also sometimes called a Gorgon. Fortunately, most versions subscribing to the "gaze" version of events go on to add that the catoblepas finds its head incredibly heavy to hold up, and is thus not much of a threat to anyone who isn't lying on the ground.
    • They say that Bluebell flowers will make a sound when there is wind. They say that the bells toll your death, after you hear it, you die on the spot.
    • The cobra was long believed to be able to hypnotize its prey with its gaze and movements.
    • The Pied Piper could lure victims anywhere with his music, including to their own certain deaths. Yeah, using it on rats was hailed as a public service, but don't forget: he used it on children when their parents wouldn't pay him as agreed.
    • There are oodles of urban legends about a house of horrors exhibit which pays you back part of the admission price for every floor of the building's unimaginable contents you clear. The typical version of the legend has it that no one so far has ever fully managed the task, though some people have been found dead of fright on the fifth and final floor. According to Snopes, there is no known evidence for any real life basis for this legend.
    • The eyes of cemetery statue "Black Aggie" are said to glow bright red in the middle of the night, either blinding or killing anyone who looks into them. (source)

    Newspaper Comics

    • Li'l Abner:
      • "Lena the Hyena", was supposedly so ugly that the sight of her face would cause insanity in Dogpatch residents and the reader, so her face wasn't shown at first. Eventually there was a contest to decide what she looked like. Basil Wolverton won.
      • Stupefyin' Jones was the opposite. She was so stunningly beautiful that any male who looked at her would freeze, rooted to the spot. (She was a deadly hazard for any confirmed bachelor on Sadie Hawkins Day, and she would often use her powers then on purpose, simply for fun.) Her cousin, Available Jones (who was always available — for a price), wasn't above providing her power for a fee if anyone needed someone subdued.
    • Dilbert once exposed Ratbert to his company's marketing plan. It gave the rat a brain tumor.

    Tabletop Games

    • Dungeons & Dragons:
      • An article in Dragon magazine described a sage who delved into the study of the Lords of the Nine, the nine arch-devils who rule the Nine Hells of Baator. He went missing; all that turned up of him were a few spots of blood on his floor. It's speculated that either he attracted the attention of the devils, who spirited him away; or that that the sheer evil of the tomes he was reading caused him to spontaneously implode.
        • Note that this is also similar to the legend of Faust, who gave rise to the term "Faustian bargain" and was ultimately found splattered all over the floor...and the walls...and the ceiling.
      • Power Word spells, single words that can blind, stun or kill those too weak or injured to resist without even a saving throw.
      • In D&D, it's possible to place spell traps on objects, which are triggered by looking at, or reading them.
        • "I prepared Explosive Runes this morning."
        • And of course, Urban Arcana takes this trope to the 21st century, by including rules on how to send spells over the Internet. Be careful next time you open that email attachment...
      • Bards can charm other creatures using singing and music.
        • Waaaaay back in the 1E era, there was a Dragon magazine article about a high-level bard ability called the 'Last Jest'. Properly delivered, this joke could make villains laugh themselves to death.
          • This ability was brought to 3.5 as a Gnome PrC ability. Took three rounds to finish the target off and the second round had another effect.
      • There are a number of monsters that can harm with sound: Wolfweres (singing = sleep), androsphinx (roar = deafness), cloaker (moaning), tyrg (howling) and so on. And banshee, of course.
      • Many magical musical instruments can affect targets as well, such as a satyr's pipes.
      • A tune played on Heward's Mystic Organ can become this if a user plays it wrong; or even worse, plays it too well.
      • There are a plethora of spells which create harmful sounds as well.
      • Also visual effects like Colour Spray and Hypnotic Pattern.
      • There's a PrC in Races of the Dragon which allows the learning of certain words in Draconic which have various effects.
      • Anyone who sees the true face of Pale Night, the Obyrith precursor of Tanar'ri (Elaborated upon below)
        • The Obyriths in 3.5 are a species of demons modeled universally on Lovecraftian concepts: to look on them is to invite madness and insane terror, even in those otherwise magically immune to such emotions. Dagon evokes terror of the sea, Ugudenk the Squirming King causes any viewer to realize he can burst from the ground at any time and thus to be terrified of the ground, etc. The most powerful of the Obyriths was supposed to be Obox-Ob, the first of the species (and thus one of the oldest things in the multiverse) who has a shape that could be very roughly analogued to something like a titanic scorpion, but with the head and tails (yes, plural) switched around, and horrible tentacle-tongues and worse. But the deadliest of the Obyriths, insomuch as their ability to cause madness, is Pale Night. Called the Mother of Demons, exactly what that title refers to is unclear. She takes the shape of a softly curvaceous humanoid female, wrapped in a billowing shroud: while translucent, the shroud is thick enough that the only sight you can ever catch of her is the obscured humanoid one. Attempting to pull the shroud aside and see her true form is difficult, but if you do manage it, you must immediately make a saving throw. Success means you failed to understand what you saw beyond the veil: your mind simply blanks for a moment before the shroud blocks your view again. Failure means you understand what you see: a shape so alien, horrifically indescribable and anathematic to all existence that you are instantly slain. As it happens, the shroud isn't even Pale Night's doing: it's something reality itself imposes on her to cloak her true shape as a way of protecting the rest of existence. Oh, and the tactic she opens every fight with? Suppressing the shroud for a few seconds. Even the Far Realm, home to true Lovecraftian horrors in the D&D mythos, is not as innately lethal to witness (though entering it can do worse than just kill you... )
        • And the Devils have their own example, from second edition up to 3.5 in the form of Asmodeus and the tale of the Serpent's Coil. Supposedly, the Asmodeus all creatures understand to exist isn't the real thing, but rather a highly advanced illusion, or an avatar. The King of Hell's true form is that of a titanic, miles-long something (in 2nd edition, an impossibly vast serpent, and Over-Deity) that was hurled down into Hell from the Celestial Realms long ago. Asmodeus' impact into Baator is what split the plane into nine layers (and bear in mind before the 3.5 retcon, each of these layers was infinite in any direction except up and down). Asmodeus' true body came to rest in a tunnel of rock hundreds of miles long created by his landing, called The Serpent's Coil. And it rests there still, slowly recovering its strength. Hearing this story didn't harm the listener at all, but anyone who told the tale of Asmodeus' "True Form" died within 24 hours. Anyone.
          • Tenebrous's/Orcus's last word was so powerful that the utterance could instantly slay even deities. In fact, it was so powerful that unless you were a true god, usage of this word would eventually burn you out. After Tenebrous's shenanigans, a cabal of greater deities greatly lessened the power of the word.
      • Cyric of the Forgotten Realms created a tome called the Cyrinishad that would brainwash anyone who read it into being a devoted worshipper of Cyric. Things got bad when he accidentally read it himself. As a result he became even crazier and came to believe his own hype. He eventually got better, but this misadventure did cost him a lot of power.
    • Symbols of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 are capable of making men nauseous at best to insane at worst, and that's saying nothing of actually gazing upon daemons.
      • This a rather favorite tactic of Chaos. There was an old story about the forces of Chaos capturing a Janitor or somesuch, and then returning him back home... after telling him a word. Cue the inquisition purging the planet continuously for a thousand years, before finally resorting to Exterminatus.
        • In addition the Imperium have their own Brown Note in the form of the Culexus Assassin. These rare mutants are like psychic black holes, whose bizarre non-presence seriously puts the wind up anyone (including their own allies) within a few feet.
      • There's a good example of this in the Ciaphas Cain novel Traitor's Hand, in which Cain witnesses an Imperial Guard trooper bleed from the eyes after staring at the symbols on the walls of a shrine to Slaanesh.
      • And the worshippers of Slaanesh in Warhammer Fantasy Battle have a word that, when whispered into your ear, can kill you.
      • Speaking of Slaanesh, any mortal who looks directly at his true form will instantly lose their soul and willingly become his slave for all eternity.
      • Basically anything involving Slaanesh would result in this. His champion, Lucius, has a set of armor that turns you into him if you kill him and feel even the slightest sense of accomplishment. Then there's also the ability to make yourself so irresistable that the enemy will lose the will to shoot at you.
      • The new Jabberslythe unit for Warhammer Beastmen apparently drives enemy units insane. Understandably, it's the only unit without a picture in its entry. Good luck modeling it.
    • Earthdawn. Simply reading about the Horrors can cause psychological problems and attract their attention upon the reader.
    • Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game). Reading Cthulhu Mythos books or seeing Mythos monsters can cause a loss of sanity and eventual insanity.
    • It's quite possible for Malkavians with high Dementation and Auspex in Vampire: The Masquerade to booby-trap books, paintings or songs with their discipline's powers. It's even possible to modify your aura in that way, to punish curious Auspex users.
      • And the Daughters of Cacophony have many ways to screw you over with their singing.
    • In 7th Sea, there is a red jewel known as "Legion's Spike". While not everyone has been affected by it, some unfortunate cases who have stared into its depths have suffered from catatonia, madness and homicidal rampages. And there's apparently more than one such gem.
    • In GURPS the Terror advantage (caused by whatever aspect of yourself you wish) can terrify victims beyond all reason. At its worst Terror can cause permanent insanity and actually make someone so horrified by the effect that he becomes stupider.
      • GURPS: Ultra-Tech has a more literal brown note. Sonic nauseators make people void their bowels as side effect of knocking them out. Just don't mix one up with a Sonic Screamer, which produces a sound that melts the target.
    • Shadowrun had the Flash Pak, a device that fired light bulbs in a random stroboscopic sequence that caused disorientation in anyone who viewed it.
    • Witnessing mad science in Genius: The Transgression can turn a normal person into a Beholden or a full-fledged Genius. One of the reasons for The Masquerade is because, well, otherwise that's just more labs to feed.
      • And, naturally, there's rules for building Brown Notes ranging from "blinding flash of light" to "self-aware infectious meme".
    • Magic: The Gathering's joke set Unhinged has a card called Stone-Cold Basilisk that can temporarily turn players to stone. The ability is triggered by reading the card.
    • Exalted features a spell called Rune of Singular Hate. It's described as a single word full of such vile and complete hatred that, when uttered at someone, curses them to debility at best, and outright death at worst. It's such a powerful word that it even affects the caster in a similar way, and can only be cast once in a lifetime.
      • Similarly, the Deathlord known as the Bishop of the Chalcedony Thurible is working on a mammoth collection of books about the theology of death. Some are used as holy books for ancestor cults, some are gibberish he keeps in his own personal library...and some describe Oblivion so seductively the reader goes insane.
        • And when it comes to damnable books in Creation, there's none better than The Broken-Winged Crane, which often instills madness in those who read it and compels them to try demon summoning and Yozi worship for fun and profit.
      • In other Deathlord wonkiness, there's the Monstrance of Celestial Portion, the cages used by the Deathlords to put Solar Exaltations through the spin cycle of evil so they come out as Abyssal shards. Solars can't even look at the Monstrances without feeling violently ill.
      • There is also the Yozi called She Who Lives In Her Name - her true name traps lesser beings into endlessly repeating it should they ever hear more than a few words of it.
    • Deadlands has the Whateley family tree shrub. Looking at it is more than enough to drive someone insane. Then there's what the Whateleys are actually doing...
    • Eclipse Phase has weaponized the brown note, in the form of "basilisk hacks", combinations of sensory input which essentially crash the human brain. Also, low exposures only cause seizures, but longer doses can cause Exurgent infection.
      • Pandora gates are also noted to be odd enough that they hurt your head and cause some asyncs to wig out. Most of the solar system bases that contain gates keep them covered at all times...just to be on the safe side.
    • In the World of Warcraft tabletop RPG, Eredun, the language of demons, is said to be inherently evil and has a will of its own; it slowly rots the brain of any nondemon who speaks it, driving them mad and corrupting them towards evil. It's one of the reasons that warlock magic is considered so taboo, as it's required for the casting of spells.
    • Second and Third Edition Nobilis both have flavour text describing a book on the true nature of beauty. Because the book is a sacrosant object not meant for mortals, it kills the first to read any word within. The vignette wraps up with "It is a statement on the nature of beauty, and the nature of scholars, that [...] over half of its text had been read, understood, and transcribed."
      • Any picture of Ananda, Lord of Murder, the Infinite, and the Fourth Age, induces physical and/or psychological damage in those who see it. Actually seeing him in the flesh is worse.
    • In Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars system (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny) the Scathing Tirade talent allows a character to inflict strain with their coercion (intimidate) skill. For non-boss enemies this is the same as shooting them (for bosses it's the same as shooting them with a stun weapon). Since there are more options for boosting social skills than boosting shooting, this is easily turned into a Gamebreaker if focused on (though range is limited).


    • Bionicle has several:
      • Tren Krom and Anonna, Eldritch Abominations that can potentially drive people who see them insane.
      • The Klakk's scream, which can cure Shadow Matoran of their corruption.

    Video Games

    • For a real life example, the early copies of Pokémon Red and Blue (and, in Japan, Green) have the original Lavender Town music. While they didn't cause suicides like some legends say, they did play a rhythmic 8-bit beat at levels only children, some teens and adults, and animals can hear. Side effects include headaches, stuffy nose, stomach aches, and your dog getting gas.It is exaggerated in Creepypasta where it causes seizurs and insanity.
      • In-game, any sonic-based attack counts as this. The most potent of these would be Perish Song, a song that will make all listeners faint in three turns if they don't switch or have an immunity to sound attacks.
    • Demonica in Stretch Panic, a horror movie fanatic who was mystically transformed into a monster so horrifying that seeing her is fatal.
    • The Winter Windster in Wario World has an attack where its eyes turn red. The only way to avoid it is to keep Wario facing away from it while it flies around you. Fail to do so and it flies into Wario's mouth and inflates him like a balloon, then proceeds to hover him toward the spikes.
    • The Infocom interactive-fiction game Hollywood Hijinks features an unfinished film called A Corpse Line; the reason it's unfinished is that it's so horrific, anyone who watches it, even its creator, dies of a massive heart attack.
    • The Condemned series makes use of this in the second game. In fact, it's the main plot point of the whole series -- the conspiracy responsible for the homeless population of the City going insane relies on sounds that, when heard/felt, have effects ranging from minor cranial hemorrhaging, causing omnicidal psychosis which just happens to coincide with protecting the conspiracy -- and did I mention they're only omnicidal to people who are not Influenced? -- to causing heads to explode -- for emitters and your average conspirator, just birds, while the main character can generate sounds that explode human heads.
    • In one of the first Visual Novels, Shizuku, people in a certain Japanese city were driven insane by "doku denpa", literally "poisonous radio waves". Because of the game's popularity, the word "denpa" entered the otaku lexicon, and is now used to refer to a particular genre of Moe electro-pop songs. The connection to the game - and to this trope - is fairly obvious to anyone who's actually heard one of those songs.
    • Mystia Lorelei from the Touhou series has an unusual variation on this trope: her singing can cause night-blindness.
    • The game Rez was purposefully designed to confuse the player's neural processing of sensory input.
    • The (possibly) fictional game Polybius is attributed with the power to mess up the brain causing amnesia, nightmares and death.
    • This is the implied way Harps kill in Final Fantasy—in the earlier versions, visible music notes stream towards the enemy and cause damage.
    • In Loom, the Big Bad mentions a legend that says that anyone who looks under the hood of a member of the Weaver's Guild will die instantly. The main character (a Weaver himself) is uncertain as to the veracity of this legend, but late in the game, one of the Big Bad's henchmen succumbs to curiosity...
      • Playing the game in hard mode lets the player actually see this happening. In any other mode, the game cuts away to another scene for a few seconds, then back to the main character, who is now mysteriously alone and completely unscathed.
      • In fact, the basic premise of most of this game could be considered a Brown Note. Singing or playing certain sequences of notes (called "drafts") can have a wide variety of effects on reality, from the innocuous (Dyeing) to the beneficial (Healing) to the horrific (Unmaking).
    • In Tales of the Abyss, Tear's Fonic Hymns are songs that have a myriad of effects, ranging from putting everyone that hears it to sleep (Nightmare) to a mass healer (Revitalize) to summoning beams of firey death (Judgment).
      • It's also implied that all magic in that game is some sound- "Oh Admonishing Melody,...".
      • The seventh fonon which allows fonist such as Tear to use healing spells is the fonon for sound and can cause healing, most magic and a hyperresonance which can teleport people into new locations and destroy countries.
      • Similarly, in the Tales of Symphonia OVA, Colette begins singing some creepy song that kills an army of Mooks in the second episode. (Given it knocks her unconscious its likely her spell, "Sacrifice".)
    • Ys I and II has a corridor in Darm Tower where evil organ music is played that damages Adol. You must break the pillar on the balcony that is piping in the music to advance.
    • The MOTHER series has a lot of these. Examples include singing Giegue into submission in the first game, Frank saying something nasty in the second, or Lucky's bass in Mother 3
    • At one point in Forum Warz, you're hit by a Brown Note through your speakers which causes you to shit yourself into unconsciousness, although the intended effect was death. Later on in Episode 3, you get the chance to beat down the rogue hacker/Light Yagami wannabe who used it on you and return the favor, giving you the powerful Death Note attack.
    • Quest for Glory IV has the Ultimate Joke (apparently about the wizard and the farmer's daughter, that John Rhys-Davies calls "a killer"). Telling it will make anyone laugh, no matter the situation. It's just that funny. The catch is that you can only use it once, under the principle that a joke is less funny the more often you hear it. You use it against Ad Avis in the final battle, to distract him long enough to prepare and unleash your killing blow.
    • Zelenin's Hymn in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey.
    • In Star Control II, learning too much about other dimensions draws the attention of some rather nasty Eldritch Abominations.
    • The "Correspondence" (ancient alphabet whose purpose nobody knows for sure) in Echo Bazaar can drive you insane, or even cause your hair to catch fire.
    • In The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, when Link reaches the source of the river in Ikana Valley, he is attacked by a ghost who plays an evil melody that drains his hearts. The only way to get past is by playing the Song of Storms to counter it. This will restore the river, giving power to a giant sound system on a nearby house, and the song it plays will kill the mummies outside.
    • Near the entrance of the Bonus Dungeon of Baldur's Gate, there is a skeleton just standing there. The tour guide you're with explains that there was once an enchanted picture on one of the walls that caused whomever looked at it to continue gazing at for all time. That skeleton was one of its victims.
    • In Skyrim, the Player Character must find a way to affect the Big Bad Alduin. As it is, Alduin is an Aedric soul, above life, death and mortality. So the words of power that can bring him down to your level are Mortal, Finite, Temporary, all concepts which are foreign to dragons and are harmful to them if used as a Shout.
      • The Graybeards warn the Dragonborn against learning Dragonrend because it was a weapon forged by hatred and fury directed at Dragonkind. According to them, to learn a Word of Power is to take in everything about it into your soul. Since their leader is a Dragon, the Graybeards understandably don't want anything to do with a Shout created by hatred directed at Dragons.
    • In Exile 3: Ruined World: The dragon Khoth has a book of puzzles that are so complicated that reading them will cause the player's characters to become dumbfounded.
    • In Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly: The horror of looking into the Hellish Abyss causes the viewer to become blind.
    • In King's Quest VII, the player character dies if she looks at the undead Lady Tsepish's Nightmare Face.
    • In Anchorhead, continuing to read the Tome of Eldritch Lore in the church leads to a Nonstandard Game Over where the protagonist goes insane, calmly smiling as she claws her eyes out.
    • In Mass Effect, this is why only strong willed individuals such as Shepard are able to withstand experiencing the Prothean Beacon and keep their sanity, as the sheer intensity of the vision has the potential to "destroy a lesser mind".

    Web Animation

    • In the world of The Demented Cartoon Movie, saying the word "Blah" sometimes causes your head to pop off of your neck, although the exact rules regarding this are inconsistent. Saying or producing a recording of the word "Zeekyboogydoog" causes a nuclear explosion at the location the sound originated from. Saying the word "Gleegsnagzip" causes the entire planet to explode. And saying "Kamikaze Watermelon" cues a visit from Fooby, the Kamikaze Watermelon.
      • "(Fanfare plays) Wheeee! (splat)"
    • In YouTube Poop, an Off-Model picture of Luigi, nicknamed "Weegee", has gradually developed this power. Anyone who looks at him for too long will become him. It's been used as a metaphor for how memes spread.
    • According to the Homestar Runner cartoon "Fall Float Parade", Strong Sad goes into an unexplained trance whenever he hears the phrase "covered bridges". At least until Strong Bad starts hitting him with nunchucks.
      • In this same series, there's the Creepy Painting Strong Mad keeps in his closet, which depicts a gargoyle-like creature named Rocoulm who says "Come on in here!" and causes anyone who hears those words to get "the jibblies."
        • Not just the painting saying those words, the painting itself is said to give people "the jibblies". Strong Bad is especially creeped-out by it.
    • In Dick Figures Red finds an adorable Kitten he dubs "Kitty Amazing" (because that's what he is). The kitten is so adorable it melts the hearts of all who look at it... literally. Blue recently had eye surgery so he is spared, but no explanation is given for why Red is immune.

    Web Comics

    • For a one-shot gag in Sam and Fuzzy, here, Fuzzy creates a Brown Note video to psychologically break Sid, another character. It might have worked if Sid hadn't run away.
    • In Megatokyo, the Necrowombicon was probably a Brown Note, because Largo's life can be divided in two. Before reading it, he was just a superconfident, super-spirited hardcore gamer; after reading it, he became obsessed with zombie rampages, though that Miho was the "3V1|_ Z0MB13 QU33N", and suddenly started seeing the world through the glasses of B Movies, shooter games and online RPGs. But if we consider that Largo is also a big Cloudcuckoolander, it might as well have been caused by something else.
      • This happened about the time the authors were transitioning from a loosely connected series of jokes to a more comprehensive narrative, so the clichés Largo was built on were ramped up overnight to Cloudcuckoolander status to help lead into his plot arcs. It's later mentioned that he's always been this way. In addition, the "other" Largo was becoming less influential on the comic's creation by that point—if he had not already been completely forced out—which meant it was also the point where the Largo character was being written by the other author/artist, who had vastly different tastes in humour and writing style.
    • In 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage explains that anyone who sees his face will go insane. This happens to a random passer-by which comes back to bite the Light Warriors much later. Later on, an as-of-yet unnamed Dark God tells Black Mage that hearing his true voice will cause a person's brain to eat itself.
    • Starslip Crisis has the sculpture known as "The Spine of the Cosmos". Looking at it by itself is harmless, but when its artistic context is described to the viewer, they are either granted ultimate understanding of the universe or driven insane—either way, becoming a mindless zombie. The insectoid aliens known as Cirbozoids are the only intelligent species immune to this, due to their inability to understand art.
      • Also, Cirbozoids can kill people by crying.
      • The context involves Yeats' poem The Second Coming
      • It is forever robbed of this ability, however, when its artistic context is irreparably changed by Mr. Jinx wearing it as a hat, and is thereafter described by at least one character as "the dumbest thing i've ever seen".
    • Librarian Dewey develops a book talk guaranteed to make people faint in Unshelved!
      • That's just one of the talks he's got. He has, if memory serves, book talks that make people nauseous, break out in a rash, and speak Urdu, among what must be others.
    • In RPG World, it's hinted that the four Mystic Keys are these. At least it was strongly hinted that reading the Tiger Book was what made Jeff go crazy and turn evil.
    • Kreepy Kat
    • In The Order of the Stick, the Big Bad Xykon manages to kill an entire room full of Paladins armed only with a super-bouncy ball. (Which has a magic symbol that cause insanity in anyone who look at it inscribed on it, of course.)
    • This comic from The Parking Lot Is Full describes such an occurrence.
    • In Freefall, a unique tone, not naturally occurring, from a device can make any genetically modified red wolf fall asleep or wake up. Given previous negative experience with similarly modified simians, having an "off switch" on an experimental design is probably not all that bad idea, particularly when that "design" is based on a predator.
      • Not to forget Sam's real er... face, which he theorizes triggers some sort of nurturing instinct in humans, since any time someone sees it they immediately disgorge their stomach contents. This is a big part of why he wears a full-body environment suit with an animated mechanical face.

    Helix: Remember to keep your helmet on when you're photographed. They had to take your picture down in the post office because it gave seeing-eye dogs heart attacks.

    • Even Helix's sculpture (lichen topiary) "Sam as a reclining nude" was enough to produce extreme reactions.
    • And most recently,[when?] the Sticky Notes of Doom that cause any robot who reads them while connected to the commnet to download an upgrade that lobotimizes them.

    Edge: "Who wrote this note, H.P. Lovecraft?"

    • In Jayden and Crusader, the character Third can apparently utter proofs of the non-existence of God so powerful Priests have heart attacks because of the conflict of their profession and the utter logic of the proof. We are of course not told what this proof is.
    • For Cloud in Ansem Retort, "One-Winged Angel" is this: it makes him flash back to to Sephiroth.

    Cloud: The bad man with the sword is taking over my mind again!

    • Ubersoft employes were once shown only the shadow of a new Apple product, since its beauty drove a small percentage of the population insane when they looked directly at it. When asking how big a percentage, the answer was approximately the same small percentage of the population that had been allowed to look at it directly.
    • Necessary Monsters: Jonathon tells the man on the safehouse front desk something that causes him to pull his own skull apart.
    • Rowasu of Juathuur makes his sword screech by draggin it on the ground to confuse his enemies.
    • In Homestuck, Feferi has to continually keep her lusus fed, or it'll cry out and every troll in the galaxy will die from the subsquent psychic shockwave known as the "VAST GLUB".
    • In Poharex, Eperok uses "The Call", a high-frequency sound(which he refers to as magic), to force any dinosaur that hears it to come and aid him in battle. He only used it once in order to distract Leay, allowing Poharex to get the upper hand.
    • Art in Sequential Art, aspiring to the full Mad Artist glory, "created an image that combines all known fetishes".
    • A Miracle of Science has several texts including the book "Crank Theories on Robotics", that is a known vector of Science-Related Memetic Disorder.
    • Girl Genius has The Doom Bell, which painfully knocks out all those who hear it for the first time. In the whole city and a little beyond.
      • Agatha on the other hand, only seems mildly surprised.

    Mama Gkikka: Keeds today. Kent even take a leedle existential despair.

      • Mama was surprised, though, that Gil found the sound "beautiful" as it meant Agatha was still alive and fighting. It's been implied, though, that Gil may be "modified" in some way related to the Jägermonsters, which may account for his immunity.
    • Draconic, the Language of Magic in Nahast: Lands of Strife, drives people mad if they don't learn it properly.
    • Chasing the Sunset had a moment when Feiht suddenly screamed and fell to the ground at a party. Turns out, she ran into a witch.

    Cynthia: I merely introduced her to a concept so revolting, so fearsome to the pixie mind the mere name didst make her pass out. (Income taxes)

    • Does Not Play Well With Others has an arc about "The Yellow Boy King" - something between The Yellow Kid and The King in Yellow (see a description of its effects 2 pages later).
    • Vexxarr has a creature whose whining (whether vocal or in text form) can make AIs suffer, enough that they are incapacitated or self-destruct. Advanced ones can develop resistance via exposure to small doses, however.

    Web Original

    • Neuro-fractal patterns can induce all sorts of reactions from calmness to nausea. In some places fractals that promote immune health are used to prevent populations from getting sick.
      • Thus providing (cold) comfort to fans of Langford and his basilisks. In fact, Orion's Arm also features the Medusa Fractal. A hypothetical mathematical figure which... sets up a feedback loop in the brain... sending them into a permanent catatonic state. It is also sometimes referred to as a "flatline fractal" or (after the Julia set it is said to resemble) "the brain-eating basilisk".
    • From The Onion: "New Study Too Frightening To Release". A scientific study who contents must be suppressed or the knowledge within would likely cause "the total breakdown of societal order, including the abandonment of the current political and economic system, rioting, looting, mass suicide and even, quite possibly, global thermonuclear war." The head of the team investigating then killed himself, and many of the other researchers are "cannot be accounted for".
    • In Star Harbor Nights, a close-up look at the insanity causing molecule in Rhyme's blood at just the right angle causes viewers to scream until they pass out.
    • An Easter Egg in the Sonic Shorts collection volume 2 features an extremely terrifying version of the Tails Doll that allegedly causes grown men to scream like a little girl.
    • The SCP Foundation has enough of these to call them "memetic hazards"—a syndrome or behavior that can be transmitted by means of sensorial information, such as pictures and sounds.
    • Parodied in College Saga, where singing a corny song was the only possibility to defeat the Chocolate Tree.
    • In H-M Brown's Shell, using some type of filtration method like a peep hole or a television to see the Eldritch Abomination, will still lead you to madness.
    • The Creepypasta Smile.jpg, an image of a dog that causes the viewer to have bizarre nightmares.
      • In case you're wondering what it looks like and are resistant to the Shmuck Bait, it's a picture of a husky with demonic eyes and a photoshopped grin on its face. Said nightmares involve the dog telling you to spread the word, meaning that you have to send it to someone else in order to stop the nightmares.
    • The "full version" of the Creepypasta video "Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv" is said to drive the viewer to insanity.
    • The Choir from The Fear Mythos can distort sounds...and make them shatter glass, rupture eardrums, and hemorrhage people's brains. Luckily, most of the time they seem content to simply drive you to suicide, but if you piss them off...
    • The Doug theme tune to The Nostalgia Critic. He called the resulting brain tumor "Pork Chop".
    • Many of the eponymous creatures in S T R A N G E R S have effects on people simply by being in their presence. For instance, contact with the gazedrene causes a spike in violence and aggresion around it, and those who live with the quiet simdroni will grow more and more antisocial until they lose their ability to communicate altogether.
    • Overlapping with Suckiness Is Painful, a common response on imageboards and other sites to posts considered especially bad is to insinuate that the post gave them a deadly disease, usually signified or accompanied by an image of a character in a hospital bed.
    • In the Tom Stranger series entry A Murder of Manatees, Bill Nye's My Sex Junk is identified as this. A character notes that if this were made into an audio drama like Tom Stranger's last adventure, listeners may not realize that's a real thing that can be found on YouTube.

    Western Animation

    • The Brown Note itself appears in the South Park episode "World Wide Recorder Concert", here referred to as "the brown noise".
      • Let's not forget the deadly Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri-Lanka.
      • The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs, a novel within the series made by the boys on an episode with the same title. It causes everyone who reads it (with the possible exception of the boys themselves, who just laugh) to vomit from the Squicky parts (which we never hear) of it. Apparently, nobody has gotten past the first paragraph without this reaction, and in a game show where you try to listen to the audio books as long as you can, one person threw up after 2 seconds.
        • The twist of all this is that despite this reaction, it is agreed-upon in-universe to be an excellent work of literature.
      • Another The Lord of the Rings-themed episode has the porno Backdoor Sluts 9, which inflicts Mind Rape on Token and Butters.
    • Mightyman and Yukk is one of the Three Shorts of the late-70s Plastic Man cartoon. The titular Yukk is a dog whose face is so ugly that it is continually concealed by a doghouse; when he takes it off, whoever is looking at it would run away in terror, and it could even cause inanimate objects to break.
    • In the pilot episode of the revival... episode of Biker Mice From Mars, the Big Bad throws his little evil brother against a wall, and the sound of his claws scratching makes their prisoners wince and cry.
    • DethKlok's music on Metalocalypse has some unique effects, but they may be supernatural in origin. In "Dethkomedy", it's mentioned that the song "Go Into The Water" caused a million people to literally go into the water and drown. They summon tornadoes in "Bluesklok", a troll in "Dethtroll", and a large amount of fish in "The Metalocalypse Has Begun". All the while, they remain mostly oblivious to this ability, often acting just as surprised as everybody else at the results.
      • Let's not forget that every time Skwisgaar starts to play a solo, PEOPLE START DYING! Duncan Hills Coffee anyone?
    • In Justice League, the supervillain Ace of the Royal Flush Gang is a human Brown Note. Simply looking into her eyes, even through a television broadcast, can lead to delusions and eventual catatonia. If she really puts her mind to it, the result can last long after she's left or even become permanent. Eventually, her power expands until she is a full-blown Reality Warper.
    • The Smurfs dealt with a magic flute that caused anyone who heard its song to fall into a permanent magical sleep.
    • American Dad has Oscar Gold - a film so sad you will cry to death. It's about a Jewish, retarded, alcoholic boy, in hiding from the Nazis, whose puppy has cancer.
      • There's also an even sadder film, consisting of several hours of a baby chimp trying to revive its dead mother, but fortunately it's never released.
      • Steve Smith gets lost in the desert and meets God, who took the form of Angelina Jolie. When Steve asks to see her boobs, she agrees, though warns him that staring into the rack of infinite wisdom has been known to drive men insane.
      • It's implied (though never stated) with the Golden Turd. While it does have a lot of monetary value, seeing as how it's solid gold and encrusted with valuable gems, it drives the people who find it to do some insane things to keep it or to prevent others from having it. Let's see, the first man who finds it is with his friend, and he quickly kills the friend because he doesn't like the idea of sharing the value. He regrets it immediately and kills himself. The next person who finds it is a long-time ethical cop who takes it from a crime scene two weeks before retirement, putting his pension at risk. He immediately regrets it, but not before his wife finds out. The cop decides to return it and his wife ACTS like she agrees, but then we see her put poison in his tea...
    • Futurama has the Hypnotoad, whose penetrating gaze lulls you into a mindless catatonic state until ALL GLORY TO The Hypnotoad!
    • An episode of Batman: The Brave And The Bold has Blue Beetle use a sonic gun with incapacitating effects; he and Batman argue about its side effects.
    • An episode of Transformers Generation 1, "Carnage in C Minor", features a race of aliens who can produce resonant tones which can cause a variety of effects, from healing to destroying stuff. When working in concert, several such aliens can create a harmonic effect that can be quite devastating, and the Decepticon Soundwave attempts to record this sound to use as a weapon.
    • In World of Quest, saying "witch" near Shrieks causes them to... well, shriek. Because they have a long history with witches (which consist sentirely of folk tales). In one episode, Quest says they shouldn't use the W-word. Prince Nestor goes to the Shrieks and says a sentence ending in "...the W-word. You know, witch", causing the entire city to shriek. Then again, he's pretty stupid.
    • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Used in Gargoyles when Demona used a spell broadcast via TV to turn everybody who saw and heard the recitation into stone by night. Those who didn't catch the transmission, as well as those who did but were deaf or blind (and thus logically couldn't both see and hear it), were unaffected.
    • The first season of Code Lyoko has an episode where XANA distributes an MP3 through the Internet that sends listeners into a coma.
    • In one episode of Family Guy, Peter is warned not to watch a video that kills anyone who watches it. He scoffs and takes the Schmuck Bait, and promptly keels over. The film? Mannequin. A certain amount of Truth in Television, to be sure....
      • In another episode, Quagmire tells Peter a dirty joke with the punchline "P.S.: Your vagina's in the sink!", which Peter finds so funny he poops himself every time he hears it. So Quagmire and Joe keep telling him the punchline through various means (e.g. texting him, having Freddy Krueger tell him in a dream).

    Peter: "Stop it, you guys, you're ruining all my clothes!

    • In the animated version of Fraggle Rock, Boober finds a scroll that holds "The Funniest Joke in the Universe", which is so funny that anyone who hears it will laugh forever, literally. While most of the main cast falls victim to the curse, Boober does not, because he does not "get" the joke, leaving him the only one able to lead the search for an enchanted spring that can cure them by erasing the joke from their memory. He succeeds in the end... And right in time, because then he finally gets the joke. Fortunately for him, the spring is nearby.
    • In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, Shake's horrific self-written song "Nude Love" forces the Insanoflex to kill itself upon hearing it.
    • In one episode of Fish Hooks, Bea attempts to make friends with Albert by playing the violin. Her playing is so bad Albert's face cracks and his organs fly out.
    • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "Stars In Their Eyes" established that certain sounds could disrupt 'Moonman' Koopa's technology. In order to save the brothers from being blown up by Koopa's spaceship, the Quirks - an alien race enslaved by Koopa - use their double-snouts to toot a kazoo-version of the Zelda theme.

    Koopa: You call that music? Stop that racket!

    • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the episode "The Stare Master" features a cockatrice, with the penalty of looking it in the eyes of the "turning to stone" variety rather than "instant death" (after all, this is a children's show). And the cockatrice has the power to reverse it if one can convince it that it should stop turning creatures to stone, as Fluttershy successfully does.

    Real Life

    • The McCollough effect often effects the victim for over an hour and has been known to stick around 3 and 1/2 months after it is induced. If you look at an image that causes the effect for a handful of seconds you should be fine.
    • The anti-McCollough effect sticks around for quite a while too.
    • Not to be confused with the real-life "Brown noise," which is completely harmless.
    • The movie Avatar seems to be getting a reputation for this. Several people walked out with motion sickness from watching it in 3D, others suffered depression and even suicidal thoughts, and one man even died, apparently from over-excitement. [3]
    • This trope is the source of the common Fridge Logic expressed about how we know what deadly gases smell like (almonds, fresh hay, etc.)
      • Toxicity is relative; any toxin on earth is only deadly in sufficient quantities, and the quantities needed to smell it are often (but not always) miniscule enough to avoid injury. This is how Scarily Competent Trackers get away with trying to identify suspicious substances by "tasting" them.
    • Regarding the Beach Boys, one of the things that made Brian Wilson reluctant to finish "Smile" was a fear that he had created a Brown Note entirely by accident. He and his musicians had recorded a very creepy instrumental called either "Fire" or "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"; to get the atmosphere in the studio right, they had worn toy fireman's helmets and lit a firepot to emit smoke. The very night of the recording session, a building down the street caught fire and burned to the ground; someone later mentioned to Brian that an unusual number of fires were breaking out in Los Angeles that summer. The coincidence struck Brian as extremely creepy, and he became hesitant about working on the album.
      • This prompted him to not release the album for 35 years and bury the original tracks in the vaults in a fit of panic, refusing to finish the album until 2004. Some other tracks of the original song were destroyed. Brian Wilson went into seclusion for decades, fearing that his hallucination-induced music would cause more fires. Listen to it here.
    • Likewise, high frequency sound is usually considered to be highly annoying and painful to those who can hear it. Since the ability to hear higher frequencies fades as one gets older, a British engineer once created a "teenager repellent": a little thingamajig that creates a loud high frequency blast, which annoys and scares away anyone that can hear the sound, and that usually means anyone under 30 years. In an ironic twist of fate, this "anti-teenager" weapon was reversed, and turned into an "anti-adult" weapon: a high frequency ringtone that allows teenagers to listen to their phones in the classroom, without the giving-away buzz of a vibrating phone, safe from the usually 40-something ears of their teachers.
      • This "teenager repellent" is in use in downtown D.C., at the Gallery Place metro station. There have been frequent congregations of teens at that metro station, and in an effort to curtain the fighting which often breaks out, they have installed the mosquito.
      • Sadly, while this idea was first presented as an "adult-proof" ringtone, any number of teenagers discovered, to their sorrow, that it really isn't. Some people in their thirties can hear it just fine. While it is true that, in general, the older you get the harder it is to hear, there is no single point after which no one can hear it, and before which, everyone can. It depends on the degree of deterioration of that person's hearing. Since most modern youth listen to music at pretty high volumes, they'll soon stop hearing that ringtone.
      • Not to mention that for those who can hear it, it's very uncomfortable. It's high-pitched enough that you don't notice it unless you're listening for it or you're close to it, but after a while your ears and head start to hurt for no apparent reason. Some people even have feelings of dysphoria, nausea, and loss of focus. Classrooms full of high schoolers have turned people in for using it purely because it's damned irritating.
      • The problem with the teenager repellent is that babies are even more sensitive to it, and are unable to communicate the problem to their parents. On high settings, the "repellents" can cause excruciating pain and permanent hearing loss.
      • Anyone who can hear their television set or those compact fluorescent bulbs can probably hear the "teen repellent".
    • Also applies to very loud sound. The relevant tropes being Steel Ear Drums and Shell-Shock Silence.
    • In the late 1940s, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy were still not convinced that pure jet propulsion was the way to go. This led to a number of rather surreal aircraft that didn't work very well, but the king of these was the XF-84H, a turbo-prop version of the swept-wing F-84F Thunderstreak that was known to its pilots as the "Thunderscreech." The XF-84H more than lived up to its name: Its propellors spun so fast that they generated sonic booms, deafening and injuring crewmen working on the plane. Loosened bowels were in fact reported by crewmen.
      • Note that the blade tips of propeller-driven fighter aircraft (and helicopters) will go supersonic at top speed, causing a sharp, crackling noise. In some models the blade tips are shorn off to prevent this. The XF-84H's propeller achieved this even in idle running.
      • Oh yeah. This turboprop was fitted with an afterburner.
    • A 1991 news article reported that a woman suffered epileptic seizures upon hearing the voice of Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart. This was worked into an episode of Seinfeld, because it is funny.
    • An episode of Pokémon featured the "digital" Pokemon, Porygon. The surreal nature of the episode resulted in a certain pattern of repetitive red and blue flashes which are known to cause epilepsy; 685 children were taken to hospitals after complaining of blurred vision, headaches, dizziness and nausea, and some of them even had seizures, blindness, convulsions and unconsciousness. Laws now are on the books that animators can't have flashes that fast, and the episode is the reason health warnings in video games and before the beginning of anime remind the viewer to watch in a well lit room and keep back; many of the cases were due to the kids being glued to the TV and the lights turned down low.
      • Some of these cases, especially the less-severe ones, may have been caused by mass hysteria after seeing a news report on the initial cases.
      • Spoofed in The Simpsons, when they went to Japan and saw the show "Battling Seizure Robots", which had the expected result.
      • Also spoofed in Drawn Together, where Ling-Ling (himself a parody of Pikachu) proudly exclaims his motivation for participating in the show as thus: "I come to destroy all! And give children seizure!"
      • What sucks the most is that the real culprit was Ash's Pikachu. The Pokémon mascot himself caused serious health problems to all his loyal fans when he zapped those virus missiles. Because of Pikachu, Porygon has never been in the anime again (except for Poké Rap reruns, and its evolutions have never had any air time).
      • What also sucks is that the majority of Pokéseizures were induced by a later news broadcast that got the bright idea of repeating the offending clip.
      • Also spoofed in South Park, in the episode "Chinpokomon," which spoofs the Pokemon fad. At one point, the boys are watching an episode of this show, and Kenny has a seizure.
      • It should be noted that it only affected children who had a history of seizures. If a person without them watches the scene, all it does it make your eyes water.
    • Proving that the Python boys really did know the lethal joke all along, in 1989 a Danish audiologist named Ole Bentzen died of laughter watching A Fish Called Wanda. The film made him laugh so hard that his heart lethally beat upwards up 500 beats a minute.
      • Similarly, in 1975 a U.K. man laughed so hard while watching the "Ecky Thump" episode of The Goodies that he suffered a lethal heart attack. His widow wrote the producers to thank them for making her husband's final moments so happy.
      • On the other hand, there is a record of a woman suffering a fatal heart attack while watching The Passion of the Christ.
    • An urban legend has it that 70% of karaoke bar fights are caused by Frank Sinatra's My Way.
      • In the Philippines, not only does My Way cause bar fights, but also deaths. The perpetrators are either singers who get booed after singing it, or bar patrons who didn't like the victim's rendition of the song.
        • There was a report of a guy dying of heart failure immediately after singing My Way in a karaoke-equipped pub in Singapore. Eerily enough, the tragedy happened on the exact same day as Sinatra's passing and the guy shared the same first name as Sinatra.
    • According to Viscount Palmerston, the Schleswig-Holstein Question (a complex German/Danish territorial dispute of the 19th century). "Only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it."
    • Erik Satie's Vexations probably counts. The piece consists of a slow, simple theme that the composer insists should be repeated 840 times in a performance. It was first performed by a relay of 10 pianists, and took over 18 hours; reputedly, by the end the audience had dwindled to a handful of masochists. At the end, a sado-masochist shouted 'Encore!'
    • This is a wonderful interview with a researcher in search of "The Ultimate Yawn"—a yawn so contagious that nobody could resist yawning if they saw it. His results are fascinating. Yawn contagion is connected to empathy.
      • Also reading about yawning. Having stopped yet?
      • Slowpoke used Yawn! *player yawns*
    • The infamous Blaster Beam musical instrument, most notably employed in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and by Japanese musician Kitaro, has been reportedly able to cause female audience members a... climactic degree of stimulation (at least, in live performances, lest female tropers rush to their nerdy friends to borrow a copy of ST:TMP).
      • Wouldn't that be more of a Pink Note?
    • Due to the nature of work with Thermodynamics being pessimistic, statistical mechanics is infamous for the number of famous suicides among the scientific founders. One text book has this as the opening paragraph.

    Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the same work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously.

      • Similarly, several of the founders of modern metamathematics - Cantor and Godel being the two most notable - suffered from serious mental problems. This lead to the idea of the "Black Theorem", a mathematical result that, once proven, drives the prover insane.
        • Given as how the non-insanity-causing theorems in that field include such gems as "there are as many fractions as there are counting numbers, but there are more numbers between 0 and 1 than there are fractions" and "there are things in math that are true but unprovable, and it is possible to prove that individual instances of this are unprovable", the existence of the Black Theorem suddenly seem a lot more plausible.
      • Now in BBC documentary form!
      • While we're on the subject of mathematics, there's a fairly mild brown note that tends to affect newer students. It's the simple fact that 0.999... = 1.
      • The Murderous Maths book The Phantom X by British author Kjartan Poskitt had a rather...intimidating prospect near the end once it had taught the reader all the basics of mathematics. It came in the form of a very complicated, yet reasonable formula which straight-up proved that any number is equal to zero. Cue collapse of time-space continuum...
      • George Cantor's studies of orders of infinity led to him being institutionalized in his later years.
    • The Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic. Imagine something so unbelievably funny that you keel over, and half-crouch half-lie, sides heaving, tears forming in your eyes, and then suddenly it's not funny and you're fighting to breathe, but you can't inhale properly because you can't make yourself stop laughing. Now imagine that's contagious.
    • There is actually a weapon currently being tested by police which they refer to a "sonic cannon" that is designed to emit a long and powerful directional sonic burst at the exact resonance frequency of cranial fluid. Supposedly, it can knock an entire floor of an average office building unconscious after 10 seconds of exposure by mimicking the effects of a severe concussion without the accompanying impact trauma.
      • Here's its debut at the 2009 G20 summit in Pittsburg here and here.
    • For a brief time in 2008, there was a rumor going around on the GameFAQs message boards (and possibly elsewhere) that watching a video entitled Mereana Mordegard Glesgorv would cause one to go insane, tear one's eyes out, and/or commit suicide. Most of the hype died down when it was discovered that the creepy guy in the video was actually a tech support worker from Florida.
    • During an Anonymous protest outside of Scientology's headquarters/armed compound in Hemet, California, Scientologists tried to drive the Anons away by using a loud organ tritone, humorously dubbed the "Gold Note" after the base, in an apparent attempt at an actual Brown Note. It didn't stop the protest, and no changes of underwear were required. They even recorded it and used it against the Scientologists at a later protest.
      • Similarly, the Anons later found that playing a recording of L. Ron Hubbard reciting the infamous Xenu story would cause any Scientologists who haven't reached OT3 to back off and leave the area. This is due to the fact that they have been told that anyone who hears it before they're spiritually ready will get sick and die.
    • In the DVD commentary for one of the Alien movies, it is mentioned that in one of the test screenings, groups of older people kept excusing themselves. Upon asking them about this, it was revealed that they were leaving to use the restroom, due to sudden urges. It turned out that apparently the composer for the score had used brown notes in the score, unknowingly. When they changed the score, the problem stopped.
    • The short story Guts from the larger book Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk has been known to have this effect in real life. According to That Other Wiki, more than sixty people have fainted while Palahniuk was doing readings. Palahniuk himself talks about it here. Note: he doesn't consider Guts to be worst, most horrifying, or darkest part of Haunted. In fact, Guts is the first of an entire book of often horrifying and/or squicky short stories.
    • The bizarre angles of the Oregon Vortex will cause most people to lose their balance trying to cross it, or even become physically nauseous. In this case, it's the mind trying to correlate the ear's sense of gravity with the eye's wildly different impressions, until it just reboots.
    • Throughout the world, it has been proven that two words that can cause unfathomable rage within many people, but only when their attention has been drawn to it. In casually noticing the words, as you, the reader have done do 9 times on this page alone, there is no ill effects. But once one's attention is brought to the words, the rage begins. The two words in question? The Game.
    • Akiyoshi's illusion pages:
      • "Warning: This page contains some works of "anomalous motion illusion", which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick. Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately."
        • One commenter asked, "Is this the Langford Fractal Basilisk department of"
      • The "koma" page has a link to "Escape from this page." It actually uses the word "Escape." And that's not a mistranslation.
    • The music of the glass armonica was said to cause both its players and listeners to go insane. Some today believe these were symptoms of lead poisoning due to many armonicas being made of lead glass.
    • The Bucha effect.
    • Merely learning the premise of The Human Centipede can leave you feeling unsettled for the rest of the day.[4]
    • The flier mentioned here, apparently.
    • Under the right conditions, parts 1, 4, 5, and 6 of Jliat's Still Life #5: 6 Types Of Silence would cause electrical fires in the sound system they were being played through. The album had to be packaged with a disclaimer.
    • The song Gloomy Sunday sung originally by the hungarian Rezső Seress in 1933, and later translated into several languages, is also known as "The Hungarian Suicide Song" for the large amount of suicides it was associated with. The original performer committed suicide in 1968. There was a gig in Paris where all members of the orchestra faked suicide during a performance of the song in Paris.
    • The Flaming Lips have a album called Zaireeka. But, to make sure this WAS A EXPERIMENT, they put a warning on the front stating that on rare occasion, some of the songs contain high frequencies that could cause listeners to become disoriented. Oh god.
    • Quite a few people who saw Cloverfield on the big screen got motion sickness from its jittery camera angles.
    • At least one positive example exists...the Lung Flute.
    • There's an urban legends about an arcade game called Polybius. According to the legend, players would become addicted and would suffer several side effects, including stress, insomnia, nightmares, and suicidal tendencies. The legend also tells of men in black who would frequently visit the area the game was in. While there's no proof that Polybius ever really existed, some believe that the rumors originated from an early, defective version of a Tempest arcade game that caused problems with epilepsy and motion sickness.
    • Breaking Dawn Part 1 was reported to cause seizures due to flashing white lights in the birth scene.
    • Anna Karkowska's violin playing
    • According to's 5 Bizarre Animal Chain Reactions Our Daily Lives Are Causing, humans' ships' sonar gives squid fatal seizures.
    • In a 1999 lecture, Douglas Adams described how human industry in China was having this very effect on the blind dolphins of the Yangtze River, and how he and his camera crew on tour there (after a frenzied search across Shanghai for condoms) dipped a microphone into the river to record how it sounds to the dolphins in there, who navigate using sound. Adams attempted to emulate the sound for the benefit of the audience:
    • Speaking of the Loudness War, a really badly brickwalled track played through a really cheap and nasty pair of speakers or headphones will put many people on the fast track to a terrible headache.
    • For sound decibels and hearing damage refer to this chart.
    • Some substances (and there are many) have smell so horrible they incapacitate long before actual toxicity have a chance to kick in.
      • Derek Lowe in "Things I Won't Work With", mentioned some of the those - next to the stuff that's horribly toxic, catches fire when someone looks at it funny (or sets on fire things that normally aren't considered flammable), explodes without any discernible reason, or all of the above. Some of the stinkiest are things mammals don't meet in any natural condition, and they have a very convincing way of telling you this.

    But today’s compound makes no noise and leaves no wreckage. It merely stinks. But it does so relentlessly and unbearably. It makes innocent downwind pedestrians stagger, clutch their stomachs, and flee in terror. It reeks to a degree that makes people suspect evil supernatural forces. It is thioacetone. [...]
    Attempts to crack this to thioacetone monomer itself have been made – ah, but that’s when people start diving out of windows and vomiting into wastebaskets, so the quality of the data starts to deteriorate. No one’s quite sure what the actual odorant is (perhaps the gem-dimercaptan?) And no one seems to have much desire to find out, either. [...]
    This reaction produced “an offensive smell which spread rapidly over a great area of the town causing fainting, vomiting and a panic evacuation”. An 1890 report from the Whitehall Soap Works in Leeds refers to the odor as “fearful”, and if you could smell anything through the ambient conditions in a Leeds soap factory in 1890, it must have been.
    «During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away.»


     ...isonitriles are not shy about announcing their alien character. Our noses can immediately tell the difference between garden variety nitriles and their evil twins. [...] And the pride of that bunch seems to be the n-butyl, which should come as no surprise. Straight-chain butyl compounds are well known to be just a poor match for human sensibilities. Butyl alcohol is stinky, butylamine foul, butyraldehyde reeks, butyric acid is famously disgusting, and butyl mercaptan is a standout even in the vile crowd of thiols.
    So butyl isocyanide is, well, something to experience. I've never had the pleasure, and will take pains not to. I can do no better than to quote the 1937 observations of one of the first groups to figure out how to prepare this noble reagent in quantity:
    «Butyl isocyanide proved to be so disagreeable to manipulate that none of its physical constants except boiling point were determined. Even when a hood with an extra forced draft was used, the odor pervaded the laboratory and adjoining rooms, deadening the sense of smell and producing in the operator, and in others, severe headaches and nausea which usually persisted for several days.»


    The chemical literature has numerous examples of people who are at a loss for words when it comes to describing its smell, but their attempts are eloquent all the same. A few years ago, Gaussling at the Lamentations on Chemistry blog referred to it as “The biggest stinker I have run across... Imagine 6 skunks wrapped in rubber innertubes and the whole thing is set ablaze. That might approach the metaphysical stench of this material.
    «The odor of diphenyl diselenide is extremely disagreeable but is not nearly so bad as that of selenophenol. [...] The odor of selenophenol is very penetrating, and is nauseating beyond description.»

    1. Magic isn't the same from world to world. So the White Witch had to spend ages learning how to use Narnian magic.
    2. Reminder: cockroaches are immune to nukes as well as damn near anything but a whole lot of blunt trauma, so it wouldn't be the end of all life on earth, just everything but cockroaches and microscopic organisms underneath the Earth.
    3. It's just a movie, you really should relax.
    4. Hope you brought your Brain Bleach...