The world is a noisy place these days. Strange sounds abound.
The paranormal/Fortean media outlets were abuzz about the strange sounds from the sky starting in the summer of 2011. These “sky noises” are anomalous sounds that appear to be emanating from above, and do not sound like your everyday planes, trains or automobiles (so people say). Things quieted down for a while but now, they are back. Yes, it’s summer and that means that strange stories flood the local news. Yet, people really are hearing these noises.
Is it thunder, fireworks, earthquake sounds? Could it be HAARP, the magnetic poles shifting, the earth moaning cause, you know, it’s old and stuff…? Obviously, it’s horns from heaven, heralding the Apocalypse… Or alien spacecraft. Or Bigfoot. Or, maybe it’s just the normal noises around here.
Thanks to the media coverage (which is typically terrible), mystery-mongering websites and forums, and people who believe the world may really be coming to end, some people are freaking out over these events. You shouldn’t freak out. I’ll show you why. But first, some background.
Are weird sounds from the sky real? Yes. Certainly. Unusual and unexpected sky noises/unidentified sounds in nature are referenced in the scientific literature. Several locations around the world have their famous hums, water guns and noises. These are likely natural, related to small seismic events, offshore waves crashing, and particular atmospheric conditions that enhance or distort it. In addition, there are also cases of musical echoes, natural music made from geologic formations or man-made structures.
And then there are man-made sounds.
Beginning around August of 2011, videos that depict unidentified audible objects (‘UAO’ – a terrible term because a sound is not a visible, tangible “object”) appeared on YouTube. The rash of weird noises from all over the world proliferated at the start of Apocalyptical year 2012.
The video that started the whole phenomena originated in Kiev, Ukraine. This daytime scene appears to be recorded by a woman living in a city full of concrete high-rise apartments. The background noise, along with typical city noises of people and birds, includes a booming, eerie, mechanical, almost musical sound. The piece feels genuine; a child in the background asks, in Ukrainian, I guess, what those noises are. It’s eerie.
At the time, this video was debunked as nearby industrial noises, perhaps from local construction – a moving crane or underground tunneling equipment. Yet… it sounded astounding like the mysterious loud trumpet noises from the religious fundamentalism-themed movie Red State.
Just about this time, Red State was screening at film festivals in Europe after a March US release. Would a scary video of apocalyptic horn sounds that went viral online be good for the movie? Hmm. It didn’t seem to work out too well. No connection was made at that time. Marketing fail? Sure, there may be some other explanation for the Kiev video but this is a possibility to consider (more likely than trumpets of angels, wouldn’t you say?). These “sounds of the apocalypse” were a powerful meme fed by the fears of the 2012 predicted end times. According to the popularity of the media coverage and comments on various forums that I watched, many people were GENUINELY scared.
In the fall 2011, “hums” became the thing to record and get into the media. Windsor, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta in Canada were noted as having mystery hums. Roaring and rumbling events were also noted in various places around the world. At the end of 2011, the internet audience was now sensitized to the interest in these unusual sounds. As more were reported on Facebook, Twitter and, most importantly, YouTube, their popularity fed upon itself. People actively sought hums, roars and rumbling to share with the world. So, it appeared that more were occurring. Not necessarily. But more were being reported.
The sounds most often are like roaring jets and booms. There are real seismic noises that can account for some mystery booms.
Groaning noises also appeared and it was claimed that the Earth is old, so she groans. Well, kind of. But the most scary noises, the ones that cause the most media-fed “WOAH! WTF?” seem to be the metallic noises that sound like alien machinery or gears of giant robots.
Pranksters quickly picked on the idea that you could get a thousand hits by standing on your porch or balcony and playing some weird sound in the background. Several videos were put up that were obviously post production dubbing of the original Kiev sound including one in Conklin, Alberta (supposedly) that a few linked to Sasquatch communication.
Some audio folks piped up to say that these recorded sounds did not fit with the frequency responses on the cameras (typically smartphones) or that they were sped-up or slowed down normal noises, clipped from other sound files or recorded from a background speaker.
So, it’s crystal clear that many of these were hoaxes. But not everyone knew that the copycat effect going on. Instead, they assumed the sounds were OCCURRING ALL OVER THE WORLD!!!!
What did people think the source of these heavenly modulations were? Well, forget natural sounds. That was clearly not exciting and you were pooh-poohed in blog comments if you suggested it. The more sciencey blog commenters proposed that the magnetic poles are shifting (debunked here) that was causing the sky noise and imminent disaster. And even some scientists proposed some terrible theories. The conspiratorial-minded said that mad scientists were using HAARP as mind control or the secret government is upping their construction on the underground bunkers for the coming worldwide takeover by aliens, the Illuminati, or the leftover Mayans. Of course it could have been from fracking, too.
The recent Terrace, British Columbia noises were identified as industrial sounds by the city spokesperson. But people didn’t want to believe it. They insisted it was too loud, there was no metal grinding going on, and they had heard it before in other places. They want the mystery to remain. They didn’t REALLY want an answer, it seemed, and they weren’t going to be satisfied with a mundane explanation.
Living near a train yard and having some experience with quarry blasting and noise, I know how weather makes a difference. Layers of air or clouds can reflect sound in weird ways, amplifying it at some times and not others. It’s confusing, surprising, and sleep-disturbing.
But, truth be told, the world is a noisy place. Wind, metal, machines all combine to make strange sounds. There is nothing to fear. It’s not Godzilla, it’s not the alien robots. It’s just modern civilization. But if it wakes you up at night, by all means, call the authorities. Just don’t panic.