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No. 88: Jul-Aug 1993

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The Taos Hum

Over the years, we have reported on the British hum (SF#36) and the Sausalito hum (SF#42). The latter has been attributed to mating toadfish in the harbor; the former to an underground network of gas pipelines. We have resisted reporting other hums. However, a recently reported hum possesses some interesting features. It is called the Taos hum, and it has been bothering some sensitive individuals in the U.S. Southwest:

"More than a dozen people living in an area from Albuquerque to the Colorado border said in July 1992 interviews with the Albuquerque Journal that they had heard the lowlevel hum.

"A Denver audiologist said that she had recorded a steady vibration of 17 cycles per second with a harmonic rising to 70 cycles per second near Taos. The low range of human hearing is 20 to 30 cycles per second."

(Anonymous; "Defense Dept. Denies Link to Taos Hum," Albuquerque Journal, April 7, 1993. Cr. L. Farish.)

Some residents of Taos are plagued by this machine-like sound that grinds away 24 hours a day, with only occasional respites. Some cannot sleep; others complain of headaches. Most people, however, cannot hear the hum at all.

Nevertheless, it is there. Instruments pick it up. In fact, they have even recorded a higher-frequency component that pulses between 125 and 300 cycles per second.

The cause of the hum is a mystery. One hint comes from the observation that the hum seems concentrated along the Rio Grande Rift, a fault that also runs into Texas and Colorado. One theory blames the hum on the fault's rock surfaces grinding against each other!

(Begley, Sharon, et al; "Do You Hear What I Hear?, Newsweek, May 3, 1993. Cr. J. Covey.)

Reference. The world is full of mysterious hums. See: GSH5 in our catalog volume: Earthquakes, Tides, Unidenti fied Sounds. Ordering information here.

From Science Frontiers #88, JUL-AUG 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987