Noise Of The ‘Death Rattle’ Means Someone Has Less Than 24 Hours ‘Left To Live’

Crackling noise signals that death is quickly approaching.

Cadaver on autopsy table, label tied to toe, close-up
Darrin Klimek / Thinkstock

Crackling noise signals that death is quickly approaching.

The “death rattle” is a noise to “beware of,” according to the Daily Mail on Friday. According to the Daily Mail, the noise of the death rattle is distressing to those who know what it means. The report goes on to say that it was recently revealed that the death rattle means someone only has less than 24 hours “left to live.”

While the Urban Dictionary writes that the death rattle noise can easily be imitated just “for fun,” the real meaning of the death rattle is anything but fun, according to medical professionals. The Daily Mail shared that an infectious disease specialist from Birmingham, Alabama, recently revealed that the noise of the death rattle means that someone is quickly approaching death.

More specifically, Dr. Daniel Murrell, with the University of Alabama, discovered that the death rattle signals that death is imminent “around 23 hours” from when the crackling noise is heard. The gurgling sound of the death rattle is apparently a natural part of the dying process but can be “distressing” for those who know what it means.

The infamous death rattle has been around for as long as life and death has been around, but a popular search query is still, “What is a death rattle?”

In fact, the death rattle is so scary that the plot of the 2004 horror film The Grudge was about a “vengeful ghost” whose death rattle can reportedly be heard in the “house in which she died,” according to an article on Scary For Kids that cites the Japanese urban legend about a murdered woman. So much confusion surrounds the death rattle that some even wonder if it sounds like snoring, according to Medical News Today.

The Dail Mail report on Friday the 13th attempts to clear up any uncertainty surrounding the death rattle noise and shares that the phenomenon actually occurs when people are “approaching death” and can no longer clear respiratory secretions. The inability to cough or swallow phlegm eventually leads to the death rattle, which sounds as though “they are choking.”

The death rattle is reportedly just one of the many signs that someone only has “hours left” to live, as recently noted by Dr. Murrell. However, while the death rattle typically signals certain death, a report published by the Panama City News Herald less than three weeks ago shared that a man’s death rattle was effectively reversed by a “quick-thinking deputy.”

According to the deputy, the man, who was already turning purple, had no pulse and was barely breathing, was making the death rattle.

“He was making, well, we call it the death rattle. It’s a gurgling sound.”

The deputy also noted that the man was simply turning a “deeper purple” during CPR but was ultimately saved from his death rattle by a nasal spray that is used to reverse drug overdoses. Successfully overcoming a death rattle is considered a rare occurrence. The previously-mentioned article published by Medical News Today writes that symptoms of a death rattle can be managed but “often means that death is very near.”