Monday, January 25, 2010
What is that infernal racket?
Imagine living with a persistent low noise sort of like the idling of a distant diesel engine. Its source is a mystery, and no one else around you can hear it. Ear plugs do nothing to diminish it. It sometimes disrupts your sleep and brings on chronic headaches and nosebleeds. This is the reality for those who are able to perceive a phenomenon known as "The Hum."
It is sometimes known as the Taos Hum, because of a rash of cases in Taos, New Mexico during the 1990s. The hum became such an annoyance for some of the residents of Taos in 1993 that they successfully lobbied congress to investigate. The origin of the hum remains unknown. It is very difficult to capture with microphones, though in certain cases recordings have been captured. It is not isolated to Taos and has been experienced by people across the United States and in international locations including Bristol, England and Bondi, Australia.
One theory on the origin of the hum is that it has something to do with military communications systems, especially those used to relay messages to submarines. Another theory is that certain people are able to perceive the background electromagnetic "noise" created by devices such as cordless and cellphones. However, there is still no explanation as to the exact nature of the hum, or what can be done to stop it.
People who perceive the hum call themselves "hearers." Many of them tend to hear it at the same time, and note that the sound is not constant. Rather, it has defined starts and stops. This seems to suggest that it is generated by something that is "turned on." The are several internet sites dedicated to the phenomenon, with theories ranging from the scientific to the supernatural. If you would like to hear what it sounds like, here is an audio clip.
The hum was the subject of an episode of the show Unsolved Mysteries, which was one of my favorite shows as a kid and which will likely be the subject of a later post.