CLINTONVILLE, Wis. – Bemused curiosity is turning into worry and aggravation for families in a small Wisconsin town longing for peace and quiet after three nights of mysterious booming noises that have sent some residents into the streets — sometimes still in their pajamas.
The strange disturbance sounds like distant thunder, fireworks or someone slamming a heavy door. At first, many people were amused. But after a third restless night Tuesday into Wednesday, exasperation is mounting. And some folks are considering leaving town until investigators determine the source of the racket.
“My husband thought it was cool, but I don’t think so. This is not a joke,” said Jolene Van Beek, who awoke early Sunday to a loud boom that shook her house. “I don’t know what it is, but I just want it to stop.”
The booming in Clintonville continued Monday and Tuesday nights and into Wednesday morning, eventually prompting Van Beek to take her three sons to her father’s home, 10 minutes away, so they could get some uninterrupted sleep.
There have been no reports of injury, despite some residents saying they could feel the ground roll beneath their feet.
City officials say they have investigated every possible human cause. They checked water, sewer and gas lines, contacted the military about any exercises in the area, reviewed permits for mining explosives and inspected a dam next to City Hall. They even tested methane levels at the landfill in case the gas was spontaneously exploding.
“People in the area are certainly frustrated,” City Administrator Lisa Kuss said.
The city is also investigating geological causes. Officials plan to bring in vibration-detection devices to try to determine the epicenter of any underground activity.
Authorities set up audio and video equipment overnight but didn’t capture any evidence of shaking or booming despite at least one loud noise about 5 a.m. Wednesday, Kuss said.
About 300 people attended a public meeting Wednesday night in a local high school auditorium to get an update on the situation. Kuss assured residents that officials are doing everything they can to determine the source of the booming.
Sharon Binger said the disturbance has left cracks in her basement walls and floor, and that they’re getting worse. She said her insurance company won’t pay for the damage until she knows what caused it.
“This is an issue,” she said, demanding answers from officials at the meeting. “There is something else going on.”
Kuss urged Binger to write down when the cracks occurred and promised to send officials to the woman’s home to look over the damage.
Debby Ernst has not heard the sound or felt the tremors but said she is still considering going elsewhere until the mystery is solved.
“It worries me. I’m scared,” Ernst, a gas station cashier, said in a phone interview. “Who’s to say it ain’t going to get worse?”
However, a local scientist said nothing has surfaced that suggests townspeople should be afraid.
Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said the ground beneath them is solid, and that there are no known earthquake fault lines in the area.
Dutch said he heard some people worrying that a sinkhole might open up and swallow homes. That can happen in areas where the ground is rich with limestone and other rocks that can be dissolved by water, he said. But the rock below Clintonville is mainly solid granite that’s largely impermeable.
However, he speculated that water and granite could hold the key to the mystery. Granite has small cracks that water can fill, but if the underground water table falls especially low, water can seep out, leaving gaps that cause the rocks to settle and generate loud noises.
“Maybe the very dry winter caused more water to be removed from the water table, either through pumping or natural flow,” he said.
A seismic station near Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay, has recorded unusual ground shaking since Sunday night. Scientists say such activity can be caused by mining and heavy truck traffic, but since there are no mines or major construction in the area, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey will take a closer look at the data.
Some residents are having fun with the mystery, which has drawn media attention from around the nation.
Jordan Pfeiler said people stayed up late on the first two nights to walk around listening for booms. They came up with outlandish theories to explain the noise — for example, that the White House was building an underground bunker in the area or that mole men had found a home there.
“And the aliens, of course, there’s always the aliens,” she said.
Van Beek understands the temptation to crack jokes, but it’s no laughing matter to her.
“Everything people think it is has been ruled out. They just don’t have answers,” she said. “At this point all I want is for it to stop.”
A strange phenomenon has been affecting a small group of people throughout the world. It’s a localized, persistent low frequency hum that has been a nuisance to residents everywhere from North America, Europe and Oceania.
Commonly known as “The Hum”, it is sometimes referred to in terms of where it is located, such as the Taos Hum, Bondi Hum or the Bristol Hum.
Not everybody can hear it, but the “hearers” remarkably describe the hum in the same way. It appears to resonate at the 56 Hz frequency range. It doesn’t have a natural sound and by most accounts, the hum is reminiscent of a diesel engine running in the distance. The hearers claim that the sound intensifies if you’re indoors and the vibrations can be felt through the skin. To make matters worse, the continuous hum has caused the hearers to suffer from loss of sleep, dizziness, anxiety, irritability and in one circumstance, suicide.
Although the hum is difficult to capture on audio, some of these mysterious hums have been identified. The hum on the Big Island of Hawaii is caused by volcanic activity. The hum in Kokomo, Indiana was traced to a DaimlerChrysler cooling tower fan emitting a 36 Hz tone and a Haynes International airport air compressor intake emitting a 10 Hz tone. But the other handful of word wide hums remains a mystery.
In 1993, the hearers of Taos, New Mexico petitioned Congress to investigate this unusual and most famous of hums. Their strongest theory was that the hum was artificially created by a United States Navy communication systems using ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) to communicate with submarines. In 1997, Congress directed a number of scientists from various respectable research institutes to look into this matter. Efforts to locate the cause of the hum were met with negative results.
There are a number of theories that have surfaced as to the origins of this hum.
Tinnitus has been ruled out simple due to the number of people who no longer hear the hum when they leave the localized area. Some individuals who have tinnitus and also hear the hum state the two sounds are qualitatively different.
Physics World, a monthly academic journal, attributed the Hum in Auckland, NZ as a result of the wind interacting with sand dunes.
Professor Rod Cross, Sydney University’s Dept of Physics, believes the hum may be from Earths hot interior gases and liquids making its way through cracks and cavities causing a pipe organ like effect.
Others claim the hum is due to the ever increasing amount of transmitters and electronic media that may be only be heard (or felt) by individuals with extremely sensitive hearing.
Other theories exist, some of which border on the extreme of possibilities.
The Toas Hum was aired on the television show Unsolved Mysteries and there is a mention of the Hum on the paranormal series The X-Files.
By: Jim H
Despairing residents in a remote Kerry parish have told how their lives have been made a living hell by a mystery humming noise that is disrupting their sleep and causing chaos every day.
They are pleading with the Government to investigate the source of the constant, pulsating, low-frequency noise that cannot be traced despite repeated efforts.
Frustrated locals in a rural part of Beaufort, 15km from Killarney, have been hearing the bizarre noise since early last year but cannot find what is causing it.
Resident Barry Lynch said: “The first time we heard it was in Apr 2011 and it has been there 24/7 since then. We are nearly gone out of our minds because we can’t get a decent night of sleep and it’s there all day, every day.
“There are no mobile phone masts, windmills or generators in the area and the ESB has assured us that the problem is not due to any high-tension wires in the area.
“We thought the noise might be coming from water pumps installed in the area by Kerry County Council but an engineer switched the pumps off for a trial period and the noise was still there.”
He said that neighbours over a 7km radius have also complained about the sound.
“One neighbour went to the doctor because he thought he was having a problem with his hearing. It is placing a huge strain on my own partner who can’t sleep at night, even when she wears earplugs.”
Mr Lynch said the noise was even more noticeable inside his home and despite extensive insulation, the whole building appears to vibrate, particularly in the stillness of night.
“The whole thing is very unpleasant and it is really bothering us. We don’t know what we can do. We are pleading with the Department of the Environment or some other organisation to help us before we are driven out of our homes,” said Mr Lynch.
“Not everybody in the parish has heard the noise but just because they can’t hear it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Our neighbours and ourselves can hear it the minute we step out of our cars and it’s there all the time until we drive off again.”
He said he had found out a similar mystery noise had been reported in many parts of the world.
It has become known as “The Hum” and is described in some reports as a worldwide phenomenon involving a mysterious, persistent and invasive low-frequency humming noise.
Complaints have been received from residents in several locations around the globe, including England, New Mexico, and New Zealand.
“It’s absolutely wearing us down and we are crying out for a good night’s sleep before our health starts to give,” said Mr Lynch.
By: John O’Mahony, Killarney