A case for X-Files: The World Hum database shows incidents and reports of the mysterious humming noise are increasing throughout North America and nobody knows what’s causing it.
Some Hum investigators like University of Oklahoma geophysicist David Deming suspect that there’s a global source responsible for the Hum worldwide. “It’s a very, very low wavelength noise, perhaps between 50 or 56 Hz,” Moir told Mic. “And it’s extremely difficult to stop infrasound because it can have a wavelength of up to 10 meters, and you’d need around 2.5 meter thick walls, built with normal materials, to keep it out. It gets into our wooden houses very easily. And part of the reason people have so much trouble identifying the source of it is because of how low frequency the Hum is: It literally moves right through your head before you can figure out which ear picked it up first.” Deming’s research, considered close to authoritative in the Hum community, suggests that evidence of the Hum corresponds with an accidental, biological consequence of the “Take Charge and Move Out” (TACAMO) system adopted by the US Navy in the 1960s as a way for military leaders to maintain communications with the nation’s ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers during a nuclear war. As part of TACAMO, military aircraft use VLF radio waves to send instructions to submarines: Because of their large wavelengths, VLF can diffract around large obstacles like mountains and buildings, propagate around the globe using the Earth’s ionosphere and penetrate seawater to a depth of almost 40 meters, making them ideal for one-way communication with subs. And VLF, like other low-frequency electromagnetic waves, have been shown to have a direct impact on biological functions. (Strategic Communications Wing One at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of aircraft utilized as part of the TACAMO system, did not respond to requests for comment.)
Scientific data and anecdotal experiences of the Hum vary so much from region the world that it’s still unclear whether VLF and ELF waves are the source of it, let alone a catalyst for mass murder. The idea of a mysterious noise driving people to suicide has given birth to all kinds of pseudoscientific conjecture, making the phenomenon a favorite for conspiracy junkies who suspect foul play by some malicious government scheme (or UFOs, obviously). The World Hum, a site devoted to exploring the “mysterious phenomenon being heard by thousands around the world,” is riddled with byzantine entries about UFOs crashing in Siberia. Dr. Glen MacPherson, a lecturer at the University of British Columbia, knows how insane it sounds. “There’s a terrible irony to the vision of a conspiracy nut in a tinfoil hat, trying to keep the government from beaming thoughts into their heads,” laughs MacPhearson, “since aluminum does protect against some electromagnetic radiation. This is why you don’t put that stuff in the microwave.”
The federally funded investigation into the Windsor Hum and the serious examination of Kohlhase’s research by Connecticut authorities may serve as a beacon of hope for Hum investigators like MacPherson, Moir, Novak and Kohlhase. State-funded tests on Hum-affected regions may yield data that could lead to a real-world solution, rather than conspiracy theories. Until then, developing a unified picture of the Hum is exactly what MacPherson wants to accomplish in British Columbia. By providing one destination for Hum data and testimony, he’s hoping that professional and independent researchers will use the collected data to help develop and execute experiments that could help identify the source of their local Hum. But until someone funds and conducts rigorous tests in an affected region, says Moir, people will continue to use the Hum as an excuse to blame modern technology, from mobile phones to telecom towers to the digital radio bands used by law enforcement. And that aura of pseudoscientific insanity surrounding the Hum has made the job of independent researchers more challenging. “In the past, I’ve contacted my representatives, I’ve contacted my governor,” says Kohlhase. “There’s willful ignorance going on about this problem and the real consequences it has.”
But should researchers like MacPherson and Moir finally pinpoint the local sources of the pain-inducing phenomenon, the Hum may transition from unexplained mystery to unfortunate byproduct of modernity, a fixture of human geography like light pollution. In the meantime, many just want to identify some relief. “A lot of serious researchers don’t want to have their name attached to that, but I’m not a formal academic researcher, and I’m quite willing to lend some credibility to this idea if I can,” says MacPherson. “This phenomenon is real and many people are suffering: I’m just trying to do the best I can to help.” -MIC