Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Taos Hum

Periodically, "that noise" pops up in the news.

No, it's not tRump rapping out some inane tweet in the middle of the night.  It is that infamous sound that has been heard around the world and gained its name because the first claimant to have detected the annoyance was tied to Taos, New Mexico, somewhere around 1980 plus or minus.  The Hum has been described as an oscillating drone, as akin to a diesel engine idling in the distance, as a generator running on and on, as a radio frequency wobbling through the air.  As a damned nuisance in the night, and sometime in the daylight hours.  As a penetrating, endless choral cry bent on driving its victims' insane.

Only certain people seemed able to hear it.  A female mountain climber sitting on a Himalayan mountainside said she realized that in that vast white realm accompanied only by high-altitude wind, she was hearing a distant mechanical murmur that had no source or direction: it was everywhere.  One person tried to escape from it deep inside a cave, only to find that underground the Hum was even more resonant and loud.

Over several years, acoustic scientists and engineers of various stripe tried to capture this strange Hum with microphones, without success.  Finally, someone attempted replicating the described noise.  This exercise yielded a match when it was replayed to several persons who wanted answers to what so disturbed their lives.  This is where and when the Hum was most commonly narrowed down to an idling diesel engine.  That, at least, gave some cold comfort to the sufferers.

And this is where personal verification comes in.  In the mid-1980s, at night in bed, I noticed the low-level sound of a generator running more or less constantly. Since my operating engineer husband was very familiar with all types of machinery, he agreed with my conclusion.  We estimated the distance of the source to be probably about a mile away.  However, we could not determine the direction.  As we live in a pretty rural desert area where individual house construction is still slowly proceeding, we figured that someone was living off a generator in a trailer or inside a home while building it and did not have official power company hook-up.  Since the sound was not particularly bothersome to us, we slept well and occasionally noticed it in the middle of the night if we got up to go to the can.  Somewhere over time, either we became so accustomed to the "generator" that our ears filtered it out -- or it stopped running.  We forgot about it.  We did not connect it to the Hum which we had read about.

Then, "60 Minutes" ran a segment on the Taos Hum.  We watched the program, heard that facsimile generator buzz, put two and two together and realized that we, in fact, were witnessing that very phenomena.

There is nothing so wonderful as empirical evidence.

So what was the source?  Well, the probable answer quickly presented itself.

Around 1973, I was working as secretary for Nevada Archaeological Survey (NAS), a small salvage archaeology endeavor licensed out of the Museum of Natural History at UNLV in Las Vegas.  At that time, archaeologist Dr. Richard Brooks and physical anthropologist Dr. Sheilagh Brooks ran the contract program.  They bid on various projects funded by government or commercial agencies to mitigate any archaeological sites on public land that might be impacted by ground-disruptive developments. Environmental Impact Statements are legally mandated for this sort of work.

One particular project immediately came to mind.  The Fallon Naval Air Station was contracting for an archaeological survey, which bid the NAS ultimately lost to a California agency.  But we learned that the clearance was for a narrow tract of land around the military facility.  The ground involved was 25 miles on a side for a squared-off distance of 100 miles, and maybe 100 feet in width. Odd.  Until one of the archaeology crew members, who was a naval reservist, posited that it was probably for some sort of antenna array.  We left it at that and I filed away the information in my mental archive.  It's good to have a brain orientated to assorted trivia and garbage.  It's what makes walking encyclopedias of researchers, museologists and writers.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s and a few other accreted bits and pieces of information, and I was fairly certain that I understood the Taos Hum.  It was a high-powered, extremely low frequency (ELF) signal being generated by a buried radio antenna for deep-sea communications with US Navy submarines.  Those kind of radio waves travel along and through the ground and water.  No wonder the guy in the cave could find no escape; the signal was being amplified by our planet for his unluckily tuned ears.  And the ELF radio waves were probably also torturing and/or killing sea creatures, like the jacked-up sonar signals that environmentalists are now doing battle over with our government.

A decade later, further confirmation of my assumption came from an unexpected source.  While watching "The X-Files," I was startled, also delighted to see Mulder and Scully investigating mysterious head-exploding events (including a much younger Bryan Cranston's) that, story-wise, turned out to involve exactly the kind of radio transmissions that I described above.  So I was not the only person to have nailed down the Taos Hum connection to upstate Nevada.  Other writers were paying attention.  And I'm sure other folks were, too.  But while the only known brain-mulchings have been apparently suffered by sea creatures, no one is claiming that this has happened to humans -- yet.  Unless one takes into account certain peculiar Capitol Hill and White House behaviors.

Anyway, to me, the final nail-down on the Taos Hum source came just before the Persian Gulf War.  Starting about four months before the secret launch day, the NW-facing wall of our house started to hum very noticeably, especially at night. Now, understand, we are very used to the unmistakable rumble of jet engines that rolls over the terrain behind Frenchman Mountain from Nellis AFB to resonate against our house, especially during Red Flag exercises.  This was different and it wasn't a mild dieseling.  Frankly, it was kind of ominous. Also, at the time, my husband's brother Bob was visiting.  During Vietnam and after, he had served ten years in Navy Special Operations, a lot in communications.  One night he came out of the guestroom to find my some-time insomniac husband sitting up reading.  Bob stopped and listened to the strong, steady vibration emanating from the living room wall and windows.  He said, "Does this happen all the time?"  My husband said, "Started a couple of months ago."  Nodding in his understated way, his brother said, "Something is going down."  Two months later, the sound abruptly stopped.  One week after, the Gulf War started.

Interestingly, since that time, the only sounds we have been aware of is the normal military jet engine roars.  If the Taos Hum is still active, locally it is neutralized or masked by the ever-growing metropolitan noise mix that reverberates throughout the Las Vegas Valley.  I kind of miss it, like a line of important gossip has been chopped off. 

In conclusion, I can only urge one and all to keep a querying mind attuned to everything possible, and, of course, trust no one, and remember, the truth is out there.