Sudden Fan Death

Lately the weather has become so hot and muggy that a personal fan is no luxury but of utmost necessity. Whenever I went out, I saw people carrying large packets home—instant freshness at the push of one button.

And I got one, too! Three levels of propulsion, a time switch that lasts for up to one hour, and a moveable front cap that parallels the rotations of the propeller at a slower speed.

Although this might be the answer to all sweaty dreams, I am hesitant to keep the fan turned on while sleeping. Why? I am afraid of dying a dry death… enter the Fan Death phenomen!

The eponimous fan site defines Fan Death as “the belief that if someone is sleeping in a sealed room (windows and doors are closed) with an electric fan on, they could die.” Sounds like an urban legend? Well, the English wikipedia calls it “a putative phenomenon, generally accepted only in South Korea”. The Korean version—less glamorously—talks about “fatal fan accidents”.

A lot of possible explanations are offered on the web (see e.g. this comprehensive article and this “public service anouncement”): from concrete walls that disrupt the airflow to dehydrization caused by drunkenness and the conspirative cover-up of suicides. Imagine: your breath “stolen” by the breeze of death, oxygen molecules cut-in-two by the “sharp spinning blades” that chop through the air—the stuff nightmares are made off.

I do not take any chances—never believe the oracle—and turn the fan off before going to sleep. Still, while it is running the vertigo-like effect of the whirl-winding front cap is driving me crazy. Take a look yourself! Just be careful not to fall asleep with your head in front of your computer’s ventilation…

— 15 June 2010 (火)

PS: It might be a good idea to Ask a Korean


About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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