Published on Wednesday, August 22, 2001 by Agence France Presse
Mysterious Maddening Buzzing Probed in Southwest Germany
KARLSRUHE, Germany - Hundreds of people in Germany's southwest are being driven to distraction by a mysterious nocturnal buzzing noise -- seriously enough for the local authorities to decide to investigate the matter scientifically.
Many have been complaining of racing pulse and fatigue along with a sense of excitation and uncontrollable muscle quivering during their resulting insomnia.
"Often at night I feel as if my bed were electrically charged. The pillow, the mattress and my whole body vibrate, and the only thing you want to do is to be able to turn off that sound," said one of the sufferers, Carmen Mischke.
From Lake Constance to Heidelberg, the environment department of the Baden-Wuerttemberg state government has been hearing similar stories from people over nearly 24 months.
Now the authorities have commissioned the physicist Henriche Menges to take a closer look at ten out of 300 homes which have reported the phenomenon.
If one were to believe the authors of the German website www.raum-und-zeit.de, the source of the mysterious buzzing sound in the ears of afflicted citizens is a US military project named HAARP based in Alaska.
There the US military are supposed to have built a kind of giant energy accelerator whose electro-magnetic waves could be used as a super-weapon to "make a nation dance on one leg" or drive a whole city of people insane.
Menges has no time right now for such fantastic-sounding theories. "We are starting off with the likelier explanations and leaving the more speculative ones aside," he answered politely when asked what he thought about that particular idea.
The scientist is tracking down the buzzing equipped with a microphone and sensors able to detect low-frequency vibrations.
He said that such deep buzzing sounds could come from diesel motors, aircraft, waterfalls or compressors as used in refrigerators and air-conditioning equipment. But wind blowing over chimneys could also act as a giant organ pipe, he said.
The human ear can detect sounds as low as 20-40 hertz, and the microphone Menges and his team are using can detect sounds as low as eight hertz, while the vibration sensors are sensitive to as low as three hertz.
This is important because human internal organs are sensitive to vibrations as low as between six to 12 hertz and can detect them.
Menges believes that the buzzing or booming is due to sound waves because of the sensitivity of people's ears and abdomens to them. He has ruled out electromagnetic waves such as those emitted by portable telephones because they are nothing like enough intense enough.
Low-frequency sound waves on the other hand can be propagated over a distance of kilometers (miles) and can even pass through thick concrete, making identification of the source difficult.
Work in Germany on measuring the phenomenon is expected to continue into the autumn.
Whether the mystery will be elucidated is uncertain, even for Menges. A similar one in the small town of Taos in the US state of New Mexico was investigated in the early 1990s without result, he pointed out.
A "Working Group for Investigation of the Buzzing Sound", which says people in the Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia regions of western Germany have had similar experiences, reckons that the cause is likely due to low-frequency sound vibrations.
However it says that a "very long-frequency electromagnetic field" of between 0.5 to 50 hertz has also been measured in the region and could point to an explanation.
The working group has a website with the address www.ohr-geraeusch.de .
Copyright © 2001 AFP