Case File: Extremely Low Frequency a.k.a. Taos Hum
Location: Various; mainly Taos, New Mexico
Date: 1970 to present
Description: The Taos Hum is a mysterious, unidentified humming sound that is heard at a low frequency by various people around the world.
History: Across the world, thousands of people report hearing an odd "hum," a sonic phenomenon that only they can hear. Sarah Allen has reported that the sound does not change, even if she moves around to different places. Winona Witthead claims that it sounds like the air is sizzling. Hal Runniano claim that it sounds like a diesel engine running, causing ear pain.
Hal claimed that he started hearing the hum after he moved to a small lakeside town outside of Detroit. At first, he assumed that it was just a motor sound. However, the longer the sound continued, the more it caused him to lose focus. He checked the local airport, the ventilation systems of a university, and other places where he believed the sound may be coming from. However, he could not determine the hum's origin.
A few people suggested to Hal that the hum was coming from electrical fields in the area. They suggested that he go to an underground copper mine to see if he could still hear the hum from down there. Within a few minutes, he confirmed that he could still hear the hum. Surprisingly, he said that it was even worse underground.
Sarah Allen, a radio broadcast engineer, claims to have started hearing the hum in 1992, after she was dispatched to repair a transmitter. She was able to play a digital recording of what the hum sounds like to her. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, which is where the hum is most often heard from. Some believe that the sound originates from the town.
The digital recording was played for Winona Witthead, who lives in nearby Santa Fe. She said that the recording was very close to what she often hears. She has been hearing the sound since 1990, but it has completely disrupted her life. She is currently on disability from her work at the National Parks Service.
Hundreds of people who hear the mysterious hum are now part of a support group. They believe that the hum may be caused by a radio system known as "E.L.F." or Extremely Low Frequency. The Navy created E.L.F. to communicate with the nation's submarine fleet. While underwater, a submarine cannot receive standard radio waves. However, low frequency signals are capable of penetrating through hundreds of feet of water to reach vessels on the ocean floor. The system has been in use since the late 1980s. It was first heard in Great Britain in 1970; since then, it has been heard in Canada, France, Germany, Austria, South Africa, China, Australia, and New Zealand. It continues to confuse and annoy those who hear it.
Background: The town of Taos is located in the north-central region of New Mexico and has a population of 5,716.
Investigations: The mysterious humming sound has baffled doctors and scientists. Ear, nose, and throat doctor Eugene Flaum was brought in by Unsolved Mysteries to meet with Hal and determine if the hum was due to some sort of hearing problem. Although he was found to be suffering from hearing loss, there was nothing specific to explain the bizarre hum.
A team of scientists were sent to Taos to find the source of the hum. They brought sophisticated sound and radiation sensing equipment. However, they found nothing unusual in the town.
Extra Notes: The case first aired on the May 19, 1995 episode.
Results: Unresolved. According to a group of researchers, the noise is created by nothing more than waves, albeit not the kind that hit the shorelines around the globe everyday. Some scientists argued ever since the phenomenon was first discovered that sea waves colliding with the ocean floor might be the trigger behind it. Now, in a scientific study published in the respected scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, the experts show that the Pacific Coast of North America is the strongest source for the hum.
The sound is produced as two waves, of similar frequencies, but opposite directions, meet. They collide with each other and generate a very special type of pressure wave, which travels downward towards the ocean floor at fairly large speeds. When it reaches the bottom, it slams into the rocks, causing it to vibrate, and give off the mysterious, low-frequency sound. The hum sounds to us as being generated non-stop because it happens in a lot of places around the world, and because waves of opposite directions always interact with each other.
The new research was made possible by the fact that seismographs can easily detect this low noise. Using an array of scientific data collected from such an instrument, called the USArray EarthScope, the science team was able to infer that the west coast of Europe also generates a significant hum of its own. Oddly enough, they say, there was little noise recorded as coming from the deep sea, which seems to indicate that the humming occurs mostly near coastal areas, where the seafloor is much more close to the surface than in the deep sea.
The investigation used scientific data collected between November 2006 and June 2007, and the experts believe it may be possible that the actual patterns vary with seasons. A study spanning several years is in order, if the noises' patterns and origins are to be accurately identified.