Hell Is That Noise

What the hell is that noise? The noise is hell.

A character within the story hears something odd. Unnatural. When they hear the sound once, it may not be that terrifying, but as time passes, they become more and more frightened. The sound gets scarier as it gains more and more relevance. Given time, the sound comes to haunt them, even away from the source. The sound has taken on a nightmarish relevance because of the setting. The sound could come from anywhere.

The trope isn't limited to a sentence, a catch phrase, or a song. The sound that terrifies the character can be made by the living, such as footsteps, a laugh, the call of a loud little animal. The sound may be made by the non-living, such as the creak of a chair, a door, a bouncing ball, the crackle of radio static, or any one of hundreds of other seemingly mundane noises.

This isn't a Brown Note, a sound or image that causes involuntary action/harm. This trope is about the psychological effect of a repeated noise to the character(s) in the story. See also Hearing Voices, which can also be this depending on what kind of voices they are, and Nothing Is Scarier, which is almost the Visible Silence version of this. Sinister Scraping Sound is an intentional, psych-out type of hellish noise; if a noise foreshadowing a threat is produced by something attached to, or ingested by, that threat, it's The Croc Is Ticking.

Contrast Most Wonderful Sound, which people are happy to hear. Compare and contrast Scare Chord, where the audience learns to fear the music.


  • The Ur-Example may very well come from Classical Mythology.
    • The god Pan loved to scare the shit out of lonely travelers by hiding nearby and letting out a bloodcurdling scream. Ever wonder where we get the word "panic?" Now you know.
    • Pan was also pretty much the Glenn Quagmire of ancient Greece, except with the body of a goat from the waist down. So his cry didn't just sound horrible, it also warned people that they were going to get raped if they didn't run like hell.

Alternative Title(s): Most Terrifying Sound, Hell Is That Sound