The Quick Report

Experts Recreate the ‘Scream of a Thousand Corpses’

A group of experts has re-created a replica of an Aztec Death Whistle, describing the noise as the “scream of a thousand corpses.” Is this one of the most terrifying noises ever heard by a human? You decide.

Archaeologists discover ‘Aztec Death Whistle’

In 1999, archaeologists investigated a temple at the Tlatelolco site in Mexico City. They found a skull-shaped object in the clutches of a 20-year-old sacrificial victim, who was also holding several musical instruments.

When the archaeologists first found the object, they didn’t realize it was a whistle. Instead, they thought this small ceramic object with a skull design was some kind of toy, so they didn’t think too much about it. 

Aztec Death Whistle
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It wasn’t until 15 years later that one scientist decided to blow through the hole at the top. A blood-chilling sound came out, and the scientist realized it sounded like a screaming human. The artifact was later dubbed the “Aztec Death Whistle.” 

Some scholars have speculated that Aztec soldiers took the “death whistles” with them into battle as a way to intimidate their opponents.

However, other scholars discount this theory. Because the whistle was found in the temple devoted to the Mesoamerican wind god Ehecatl, scholars speculate the whistle was intended to mimic the sound of the wind. Scholars further speculate that its use was for ceremonial or religious purposes.

Either way, it is well-established that the Aztecs had a penchant for death and participated in human sacrifices and cannibalism.

The Aztecs saw death as instrumental in perpetuating creation. The gods and humans alike have the responsibility of sacrificing themselves to allow life to continue.

The Aztecs conducted blood sacrifices in various forms of both animals and humans. Even priests were sometimes required to provide their own blood through self-mutilation.

Some rituals included cannibalism that involved the captor and his family consuming part of the flesh of their sacrificed captives.

Aztec and Spanish sources claimed that 80,400 prisoners were sacrificed over four days in 1487 to reconsecrate the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Some scholars estimate that the Aztecs committed 1,000 to 20,000 human sacrifices annually.

Experts re-create a replica of an Aztec Death Whistle

A team of experts created a replica of the Aztec Death Whistle using 3D printing. Based upon speculation by scholars, the experts expected their 3D replica to make a sound that mimicked the wind. But the sound that came from the whistle was much more unsettling. In fact, they call that one of the scariest noises ever heard by a human.

The experts described the sound of the Aztec death whistle as sounding like the “scream of a thousand corpses.” If this was supposed to sound like wind, then it was the most howling wind ever heard.

Some likened it more to the death scream of a sacrificed victim. Some poor soul screaming in their last moments.

Putting it another way, think of the most terrifying scream you’ve ever heard in a horror movie. Then try to imagine something scarier than that. You can hear the sound the Aztec Death Whistle makes in this YouTube video.

Still, some argue that this shriek (similar to screaming bloody murder) made by the 3D replicas is not what the original Aztec Death Whistle sounded like.

Music archaeologist Arnd Adje Both claims to have tested the original evacuated whistles. Mr. Both says the shrieking sounds come from reproductions of the original that are much larger. Mr. Both claims that the sound produced by the originals is far softer, describing the sound as similar to “atmospheric noise generated by the wind.”