We 90s kids grew up watching ‘Sshh… Phir Koi Hai’ and ‘Aahat‘ like it was the most normal thing for a 12 year old to watch. Me being one of them. 

But of course, while I moved away from TV, towards YouTube, the need to scare the sh*t out of myself did not go anywhere. That’s when I came across the ‘death whistle’ and the history behind it, on a random Sunday afternoon browsing through YT. 

If you ever imagined what it would sound like in hell, I’m sure it would be pretty similar to what the Aztec death whistles sound like. The shriek of death, a human scream so shrill and unnerving, that the significance behind the horrifying sound has perplexed scholars for years. 

And that’s why the question remains, what were these death whistles? And what were they purpose? ASMR definitely not being one of them. 

Listen to it if you dare to.

It was in Mexico City, while unearthing an ancient Aztec temple, that archaeologists came across the remains of a man who was supposed to have been beheaded — a human sacrifice. Beheading aside, what piqued everyone’s interest were the relics hidden inside the skeleton’s hands – whistles that later came to be known as the Death Whistles. 

Cloud Front

It was not until 15 years of their discovery that these instruments were played, or tested. And with that developed several theories to help understand the purpose of them. 

Theory 1 

The Aztecs were known for their warfare and as legend goes, all the Aztec warriors would carry these death whistles around their necks like a pendant, and right before attacking a tribe or a village they would blow on these whilst hiding in the dense jungle, getting ready for attack. This, of course, invoked fear and hence was used as a means of intimidation. I mean imagine a thousand warriors hiding in the jungle, and then playing the whistle of death, I would undoubtedly put my legs on my back and run. 

Theory 2 

Some people also believe that these death whistles were used for therapeutic purposes. I know. Hear me out first? They believed that the Aztec’s used the whistles to overcome certain illnesses, meant to create some kind of hypnotic, soothing atmosphere. I guess maybe death whistle ASMR was a thing after all. 

Theory 3

Another popular belief related to the purpose of the death whistles is closely linked to the finding of the human sacrifice in Mexico City. Some people believe that it was meant for the man who was beheaded to take these whistles with him, blowing through them so that the spirit of the wind could take him through the underworld safely. 

Even though their exact purpose still seems to be a mystery, these whistles are now being given their due as works of cultural significance.