Canada to Study Mysterious 'Windsor Hum'

Some people have described the sound as a low, humming drone. Others say it changes into a heavy "whump, whump, whump" sound. Still others have compared it to the bass rumblings of soul singer Barry White.

But whatever the mysterious sound known as the "Windsor Hum" is compared to, the residents of this small city in Ontario, Canada (directly adjacent to Detroit) agree that it's driving them bonkers.

"There's a rumble that takes place, and it is enough to shake your king-sized bed and rattle your windows and vibrate other parts of the house," Windsor resident Gary Grosse told Ontario's National Post. "And that is enough to wake you up, and it's enough to drive you insane."

Now, for the first time since the Windsor Hum was first reported in 2011, the government of Canada is taking the complaints seriously. Researchers from the University of Windsor and Western University in London, Ontario, have been given a grant of $60,000 to analyze the noise and determine its cause, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail (opens in new tab).

Hums have been reported in other parts of the world for years. The Taos Hum has bedeviled residents of the northern New Mexican town for decades. Bristol, England, Aukland, New Zealand and Bondi, Australia have all been plagued by unexplained booming, buzzing or droning noises, according to These hums have been blamed on seismic events, underground lava or industrial equipment.

And the Earth itself is known to make a hum, generated by a number of events including the rumbling of storm-driven ocean waves. Researchers now believe the Earth's hum can help them analyze the composition of our planet's interior.

No other hum, however, has set off an international diplomatic kerfuffle like Windsor's. Preliminary analyses have led investigators to believe the source of the hum is on or near Zug Island, an industrial area on the Michigan side of the international border, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Zug Island area, surrounded by chain-link fencing, is off-limits to the public, thwarting any investigation by researchers. Canadian diplomats formally raised the Windsor Hum issue with the U.S. Department of State last year, but no substantive action has come of it, according to the Journal.

It doesn't help that nobody on the American side of the border seems to hear any disturbing sounds. One U.S. resident joked that the only noise pollution he has heard recently "is Canadian singer Celine Dion," the Journal reports.

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Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.