Written by SimsAreShims.
This is something that happened to my aunt a few years ago. At the time, there were these self help sleeping CDs. You were supposed to play the CDs while you slept, and supposedly gained knowledge through some sort of audio osmosis or something. They had CDs for guided medittaion, CDs that were supposed to make you dream whatever you wanted, some that were supposed to make you quit smoking or raise your self esteem, all sorts of things. They were really popular for a while, but eventually waned in popularity for everyone except older people. It...kind of worked out, since the most popular company still produced cassettes, but after everything that happened, they went out of business.
What had happened is that a few old people had died while listening to the cassettes, and after the tenth death they started an investigation after family members started threatening lawsuits. What they found out is that some of the cassettes contained "screamers"; you know those youtube videos that have you focus on something in the background, and then have a scary picture with a scream pop out? It was the audio version of that. The tapes would being playing isubliminal messages on how to save money or something, and suddenly a person would scream. The elderly listenings would be peacefully sleeping until the screamer, and they would have a heart attack.
My aunt was part of the legal team dealing with the fallout from this discovery. She and a bunch of other paralegals were responsible for listening to the tapes to see which ones had the screamers, and which ones didn't. Of course, just listening to cassettes all day wasn't a very productive way to spend time, so they would listen to it while doing other work. The problem was, they would often fall into the same traps they were looking for; my aunt would be listening to a tape about how to throw better dinner parties, writing a cease and desist letter, when out of nowhere an ear shattering scream would be in her headphones. Or alternatively, one of the other paralegals would scream because the same thing had happned to them. Their job was to determine when the screamer came, what type of tape was it, if it was the same everytime, that kind of thing, see if there was any pattern to it. It was usually in the middle or towards the end, sometimes at the VERY end after the tape itself had finished and had just blank air for the empty cassette, so they needed to listen to them start to finish.
Eventually they found a way to narrow down the results of which CDs might have screamers and which wouldn't, so the CDs went from a one-in-ten chance of having a screamer to one-in-three, which was actually a lot worse. It went from maybe getting one screamer every two weeks, to getting several a week. It came to the point where my aunt had constant anxiety, because she was always waiting for the screamer to come. It didn't always, and my aunt hated the clear tapes. Like when yopu're not paying attention when going up the stairs, you think there's a step there, but there isn't. You know that mini-heart attack you have, the feeling of falling right up until your foot hits the ground? My aunt said it felt like that all the time, except the only thing that would end it would be someone screaming at her after trying to lull her into a false sense of security. A lot of paralegals left around that time.
After maybe about a year or so of this, the company settled out of court, and they went out of business because of it. They never really solved what had happened, but the police continued to investigate. My aunt's firm went on to do other work, but she said the anxiety never left her. She would always be waiting for someone to start screaming, and when it never came, she only became stressed out more. I think she had a prescription for it for a while, but it didn't really help. What did help was violent horror movies. She liked them because any screaming was relative to action in the movie; there wasn't anyone trying to lure her into a sense of calmness, so she was able to handle the screaming. The catch was that she still had problems sleeping because it was too peaceful.
The solution came one halloween, she discovered a CD of haunted house noises. She realized that since everything was on a loop, she could anticipate was was going to happen next. Child crying, creepy noises, woman screaming, etc. She would know what to anticipate, so she wasn't on edge all of the time. She actually listened to the CD so much that it wore out, almost wouldn't play anymore. She went looking for another one, but wanted to choose the "right" one with the "right" screams. She didn't like most of what was out there, she felt it was too cheesy, she wanted something closer to what she was used to.
She tried to find the same CD again, but it turns out it was made by the same people who made the audio books. When she realized this, she brought it to one of the partner's attention, figured it was probably just a sound recording error. She told me he turned pale, and asked her to bring the CD in the next day. The cops were there when she brought it, gave her the third degree. I guess after a while, they decided she was free to leave, she asked what happened. Like she had suspected, the audio book screamers were just a recording mistake between the self help CDs and the Halloween CDs, but the Halloween CDs were the recordings of an actual murder that had happened a year prior.
My aunt quit that day. She wears earplugs to sleep now.