Tales of Future Past v2

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Vladimir Gavreau

Death Rays

This is one of those devices that one comes across casually and forgets only to stumble over it again decades later. In the 1950s & '60s, Professor Vladimir Gavreau of France's Electro-Acoustical Laboratory in Marseille noticed that low-frequency vibrations in his laboratory's new ventilation system made people even sicker than those horrible paintings of puppies with huge eyes and he concluded that ultra-low frequency sound waves of about 10 Hz were just the ticket for creating a sonic death ray.

With typical Gallic logic, Gavreau constructed an apparatus consisting of a high-pressure air hose hooked up to a sort of whistle that apparently had a rather dramatic effect.  Said Prof. Gavreau:

Luckily, we were able to turn it off quickly. All of us were sick for hours. Everything in us was vibrating: stomach, heart, lungs. All the people in the other laboratories were sick too. They were very angry with us.

When accounts of this machine leaked into the popular press, it was through a handful of sensational articles that described how the French were building a sonic death ray cannon that consisted of a framework of compressed-air whistles eighteen feet across that could kill stone dead any human being at a range of five miles and crack open battle tanks like walnuts. When nothing like this ever turned up on the army parade grounds, it was put down to the prototype being too dangerous to operate and that all records had been sealed by the French government for no readily apparent reason, never to be seen again except on obscure conspiracy web pages.

It was quite a neat story and when I first saw the alleged canon sonique on a magazine cover back in the '70s the photographer had angled the camera so that the thing looked huge. It looked like it was mounted on the back of a gigantic lorry and was ready to roll into battle – or away, given that this was a French weapon. Whether or not it worked, it was impressive. Then I recently ran across the above photo of Prof. Gavreau and his brain child and it turns out that his infernal machine was about the size of a tea tray.


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