The Wind Cries Mary: The Effects of Soundscape on the Prairie Madness Phenomenon

Author(s): Alex D Velez

Year: 2018


Prairie madness is a documented phenomenon wherein immigrants who settled the Great Plains experienced episodes of depression and violence. The cause is commonly attributed to the isolation between the households and settlements. However, historical accounts from the late 19th and early 20th century also specify the sound of the winds on the plain as a catalyst. A number of conditions such as acute hyperacusis can cause increased sensitivity to environmental sounds. These conditions can result from high stress and have been known to cause behavior consistent with descriptions of prairie madness such as depression, insomnia, and violent behavior. Audiometric analysis of general human hearing patterns, combined with data on the effects of wind and open environments on hearing and communication, can be used to establish the effect of soundscapes on daily life. Thus, historic documentation and psychoacoustic analysis add to the understanding of life for settlers on the Great Plains.

Cite this Record

The Wind Cries Mary: The Effects of Soundscape on the Prairie Madness Phenomenon. Alex D Velez. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, New Orleans, Louisiana. 2018 ( tDAR id: 441632)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

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Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 652