A mysterious humming sound, similar to the one reported in Taos, New Mexico 9 years ago, has recently turned up in Kokomo, Indiana, where dozens of people say it?s making them ill. Like the Taos hum, the Kokomo one has affected a group of people who say they are bothered by the unexplained low-frequency vibrations.
In June, the Kokomo Tribune ran a five-part series plus an editorial based on interviews with about 40 locals who say they began hearing or feeling ?a low-pitched droning? about two years ago. Steve Kozarovich, a Tribune assistant editor whose wife wrote the series, says that since publication, others have called to say they too hear a low-pitched sound.
?Almost immediately after the noise began, nearly every resident reported having chronic and severe headaches, were awakened several times at night and were fatigued,? wrote Lisa Hurt Kozarovich. ?About 30 residents said they were also nauseated and had other symptoms - the most common being pressure or ringing in their ears, chronic joint pain, dizziness, depression and diarrhea.?
One of those interviewed for the article was Kathie Sickles of Greentown, Ind., a city of 45,000 located 10 miles east of Kokomo, who says she began feeling a low vibration in late 1999. ?When the paperwork [documenting the vibration] was first brought to me and I read it, I knew immediately what had plagued my house,? she says. ?You can feel it here. We have bedrooms that vibrate. We have people with patios that vibrate by the back door.?
Sickles has formed a group called Our Environment to investigate what she believes is an environmental condition from heavy industrialization in north-central Indiana. ?Some people think [we] are crazy,? she says. The Kokomo hum, which Sickles says has been measured at 10 to 30 hertz (cycles per second), appears to cause worse problems than the sleep deprivation and irritability reported in New Mexico almost a decade ago.
In the summer of 1992, a half dozen residents of Taos said a low-pitched buzz was keeping them awake at night. Bob and Catanya Saltzman, who lived south of Taos, hired an acoustical engineer who reported a tone of 17 hertz with a harmonic rising to 70 hertz near the area. The low range of human hearing is 20 to 30 hertz.
Bill Richardson, a Democratic U.S. congressman for Northern New Mexico at the time, stirred up speculation in early 1993 when he said the hum could be defense related. Two months later, Republican Senator Pete Domenici said the Pentagon had assured him there was no defense involvement.
Scientists and engineers organized by the University of New Mexico set up acoustical, seismic and electro-magnetic instruments near the Saltzmans? home in May 1993. But the report issued that August failed to pinpoint any source or isolate the exact vibration, which was said to be between 30 and 80 hertz. The study estimated that two percent of Taos County?s population heard the vibration.
The Taos hum became an major news story, and was reported on in the Wall Street Journal and on the cable TV show Sightings. A California rock band called itself The Taos Hum and the Range Cafe in Bernalillo named a dessert after the sound.
Taos residents who first complained of a hum have left the area or simply stopped trying to solve the mystery. Bob Saltzman and his wife moved the next year to Baja California where, they say, they do not hear a hum. Another couple, Paul Loumena and Alexandra Lorraine, sold their Laughing Horse Inn in Taos and also moved away.
Hum hearer Sara Allen, an engineer with KTAO radio in Taos, says she continues to hear it but suffers no severe symptoms and no longer tries to do anything about it. ?We didn?t get any real satisfaction or any real interest,? she says. ?I have my own theories about it that I?ve expounded on many times, and I still believe them. I think it affects people who don?t sense it, too. They?re just lucky.? She believes the hum is from military-communication signals.
Shatzie Hubbell, who lived on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, where she was bothered by the vibration, moved to a ranch near Fort Worth, Texas, where she no longer senses the noise. Hubbell has posted a map on a Seattle-based Web site (eskimo.com) showing the locations of 368 hum hearers, grouped generally on the East and West Coasts, the Rocky Mountains and upper Midwest.
Low-frequency sounds also have been reported in other parts of the world, including one case in the early 1960s and again in the late 1980s in southern England, as well as in Sweden, South Africa and Australia.
?Yesterday, it had me completely knocked out,? says Winona Whitted of Santa Fe. ?All I could do is just [lie] there in a microwave coma.? Like many other hum hearers, Whitted participates in Internet discussions where theories about the source of such hums range from UFOs, military-industrial plots, secret experiments, electric-power plants and cellular telephones to natural phenomena, hysterical paranoia, drug use, hypochondria and differences in how we perceive sound.
?It?s horrible. It?s killing me,? says Whitted. ?I went to see my doctor about a year ago, and I told him that I just couldn?t make it any longer. I?m just in so much pain. And he gave me a prescription for an antidepressant, not for its antidepressant qualities, but because it helps with what they call undefined pain and a lack of sleep.?
David Deming, an associate professor of geology at the University of Oklahoma, says he believes the hum is caused by ELF, or extra-low-frequency radio signals, used for communications between submarines and aircraft. The signals use antennae buried in the upper peninsula of Michigan and in Wisconsin, though Deming says its headquarters are at Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, about 20 miles from Norman.
When he began sensing the low-frequency vibrations in 1994, he thought it was something in his neighborhood. But after he and his wife moved to a new house a few miles from Norman, both of them began hearing it. He says it often is at its worst late at night, just before he hears the engine sounds of an airplane overhead.
After the Norman Transcript published an article about their experiences, Deming says, they heard from dozens of other people bothered by the same thing. ?I?m normally not a person who is worried about that sort of thing,? he says. ?I live underneath power lines. I use a cell phone all the time. But at times when it?s most intense and painful, what scares me is the ignorance. We don?t know what causes it and what the effects are.?
But Deming says he has stopped participating in the internet discussion groups because ?it attracts the misinformation people - the kooks.?
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