the sunday read could i survive the quietest place on earth

Tally Abecassis and

In a room in a modest concrete building in a leafy Minneapolis neighborhood is silence exceeding the bounds of human perception. Technically an “anechoic chamber,” the room is the quietest place on the planet — according to some.

What happens to people inside the windowless steel room is the subject of wild and terrible speculation. Public fascination with it exploded 10 years ago, with an article on The Daily Mail’s website. The article left readers to extrapolate their own conclusions about the room from the short, haunting observations of its proprietor, Steven J. Orfield, of Orfield Laboratories.

“You’ll hear your heart beating,” Orfield was quoted as saying. And, “In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.”

Much of the lore about the chamber’s propensity for mind-annihilation centers on the concept of blood sounds. Hearing the movement of blood through the body is supposedly something like an absolute taboo, akin to witnessing the fabrication of Chicken McNuggets — an ordeal after which placid existence is irreparably shattered.

Despite this, Caity Weaver, a writer for The New York Times Magazine, wanted to give the chamber a go.

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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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